Moving from Mark Levinson to Classe
I am a little hesitant to ask this because of the highly subjective nature of most (all?) things audio, but here goes.
I work for a living, so money for hi-fi toys is not something that is spent lightly. Certainly, I have the benefit of being single with no dependents, but hey..
I have owned a mix of the old Madrigal Labs (Mark Levinson, Proceed) gear and Lexicon for many years and been very happy with it. There have been upgrades over the years, of course, and some trials and tribulations along the way.
First I had a Lexicon MC-1. Then an MC-8. Then an RV-8 (many channels for cheap). All of these were used with a Proceed HPA2, which is probably the best money I EVER spent.
Not long after the MC-1, I bought a Mark Levinson No. 380 preamp (the MC-1 digitized all inputs, so a separate preamp was essential for music).
Then I added a Proceed PMDT DVD transport, which was simply the finest DVD player and CD transport I had ever heard, regardless of cost. But it broke. Twice. And could not be repaired. But, they took care of me. GAVE me a Lexicon RT-10, which was an OK player but really it was a washed out shadow of the PMDT. They also promised a MASSIVE discount on the NEW Mark Levinson player, the No. 51.
The No. 51 finally arrived. I sold the RT-10. I still have the RV-8, the No. 380 and the HPA2.
The No. 51 is a very fine player indeed. Then it developed this very annoying clicking sound. Back it went, but again they took care of me: they loaned me an Engineering sample until MY No. 51 came back. Which took 11 months. But came back it did and it works just fine now.
"So.. What's your point?" you ask?
With the exception of the No. 51, all of this gear is getting very long in the tooth. It's not that the HPA2 still doesn't sound just as good as it ever did, it's that "thew new stuff" FINALLY sounds significantly better and it's time to think about an upgrade. Analog bypass on most good processors is so good these days, the No. 380 is no longer necessary. And the RV-8 has no HDMI.
When I first saw the new Classe gear a year or so ago (remember, I work for a living, so I can't afford new toys but every several years), I was like "WOW! That's sexy!' And it sounded good. REAL good. And VERY familiar.
I'm told that a very good number of the engineers from Madrigal went to Classe when things were shaken up a bit with the Lexicon merger and then again with the Harman Specialty Group turmoil. Which explains why it sounds SO MUCH LIKE Mark Levinson and Proceed gear. This is a plus.
A little digging reveals that Lexicon is "expected" to introduce a new processor to replace the MC-12 line in a year or so. There are rumors everywhere, of course, but this much seems to hold true, as the MC-12 platform itself is getting VERY old.
"Still, long-winded fellow, what's your point?"
The replacement is expected to cost MORE than the $14K MC-12HD. I can't afford that. Well, I suppose I COULD, but to be blunt, I'm at the end of my rope in paying tens of thousands of dollars for a piece of equipment that sounds every bit as good as the one that costs HALF as much (or less).
Like the Classe SSP-800, for example. With a touchscreen, the CANBUS so it can talk to its comrades in arms without me having to worry about it, etc. And it has every useful feature I care about.
With stablemates that have things like a preview screen so I can cue up movies without turning on the big screen, etc. And it sounds sweet. And it costs WAY less than Mark Levinson or Lexicon.
My ears tell me the Classe sounds every bit as good. My eyes like it better. My hands like using it better too, and my brain tells me "dude, it also has more useful features."
So my question becomes.. Can anyone think of a good reason I should not switch to Classe?
Thanks for the input.