RE: Better...Classe CA-2200 or Levinson 333-5-6?

For the last two years, I've had a used ML333 amp that had been paired with a pair of Apogee Duetta Signatures. With the loads that those speakers need, the ML333 was one of the few amps that wouldn't get fried in handling those speakers. Unfortunately, my cat decided about a month ago to sit on top of it and let loose with cat urine that fried the components to where the estimates to repair the unit start at $2,600 and could go to $4,000.

At first, I was committed to getting another ML333, or a 335 or 336 because I loved the ML so much.

After turning over numerous rocks in trying to find a replacement and coming up dry on those fronts, I'm leaning heavily toward making a massive change to my system. Knowing that my amp choices are significantly limited when paired with the Apogees, I came across a pair of Martin Logan Prodigys that I'm considering making my primary speakers in place of the Duetta Signatures. The Apogees had been part of a system that included a pair of Vandersteen 2Ces, and two Vandersteen 2Ws (one powered and one not). To power the sub, I had an Aragon 8002 to handle that job, along with sending the signal to the powered one as well. The 333 easily powered the Apogees and 2Ce's in tandem.

From what I've been told, if I went with the Prodigys, they are much easier to drive than Apogees, so my range of usable amps would be significantly larger. In place of my fried ML333, I've been told about the Classe CA-2200 could handle the job, with one offered that would come with the full 5-year warranty.

With the added bass that the Prodigys I think can handle, I'm thinking of trading in my unpowered 2W, along with the Duetta Signatures, and even possibly the Aragon amp.

I'm wondering how much of an upgrade people think I would be achieving, going from a system that had a ML333, Aragon 8002, Apogee Duetta Signatures, Vandersteen 2Ce's, and a pair of Vandersteen 2Ws to one with Martin Logan Prodigys, Vandersteen 2Ce's, a single powered Vandersteen 2W, all working off the Classe CA-2200. The investment for the purchased equipment will likely be in the area of $9K, and the return on what I would sell would likely be in the area of about $2,750, netting a total investment of slightly more than $6K. If I went with holding steady in getting another ML amp, I'll likely have to spend another $3.5K to $4K, so a difference of a couple of thousand between the two.

Any thoughts?
Though I cannot comment on your particular combinations my testing a few years ago might help. The speakers I was using were the Verity Parsifal Encores, newest version.
Sim W7, great dynamics, excellent "slam", very fast and dynamic
Pass 250.5, much like the Sim but perhaps a bit smoother in the midrange, seemed a bit more balanced, perhaps a bit more air in high range than the Sim but similar detail
McIntosh 402, another nice amp, seemed to draw attention to each instrument but struggled to make them sound well together, perhaps a little roled off at the peakrs.
Classe CA-2200, spend some time with it, very subtle, not as dynamic as the sim or Pass, midrange to die for, very musical. I can see where people say it does not have "slam" as it is more of a musical speaker, very rich, great air, very musical, all instruments stand out like the mac but sound wonderful together. By far the best at getting timbre correct, especially with piano and strings. Definetely takes an audition to choose. I thought that they were all about the same price, (they were 4 years ago) and was pleased to find out the classe was the cheapest of the bunch. If I had to choose #2, it would be the pass for my tastes, another neutral amp, easy to listen to for a long time. Sim and Mac are a toss, but both very nice amps as well.
Don't write off your Duetta Sigs so quickly. They are not nearly as tough a load as the original Apogee Full Range and Scintila, which went down to 1 ohm. The Duetta Sigs are a 3-4 ohm mostly resistive load. Lots of amps including tubes can drive them successfully.

I used Duetta Sigs for about 5 years. At first I used a pair of Krell KMA100 MKII Monoblocks but replaced them with a pair of Pass Aleph 1.2 monoblocks. The Alephs are not the best amps for driving ultra low impedance loads but did fine with the Duetta Sigs. They were a sweet sounding combination.

I upgraded the Duetta Sigs to Apogee Studio Grands about 7 years ago, and the Alephs are still in use and making glorious music.

I think a lot of modern amps will handle your Duetta Sigs with no problems.
how are you going to keep the cat off the new amp?

All ways a fear of mine and one reason I have not replaced my Proceed HPA2 yet... (sealed on top)
To Davt:

I spent some "time with it" yesterday, first at the store to test it with the Prodigys that are on consignment. I wasn't floored by the Prodigys, though, as I found them very detailed on songs full of detail, and with impressive bass that were heavy in that department as well, but when songs were complex, with a mix of highs and lows, I found the Prodigys to emphasize the bass moreso, with the highs getting lost in the shuffle.

I decided then to take the CA-2200 home for further listening (as that was easier than getting the Prodigys home for a listen), but in my own room and my own system. I was impressed with how it worked there, particularly with how it made the Apogees sound. I'm not look for an amp with a "slam," but one that doesn't lie, and is very exacting in its reproduction.

I think you are accurate about your "timbre" comment, as I came away with the same sense when I listened to the CA-2200 in my home setting.

For what I was willing to spend on a Mark Levinson that is anywhere from 10 to 15 years old, the Classe seems to be a great value in being new with a full warranty and being less than $1,000 more than the used Levinson.

To Ghostrider45:
While I was at first enamored with the idea of getting a set of Logans, I have come away more torn in not wanting to "write off" the Duetta Signatures. The only problem is that a few months ago, I began to hear some vibrations from one of the panels (the one that was repaired in 1996 by ADS when I stupidly tried to install the feet while sitting down and resting the speaker on my knee, only for it to slip and fall into a stack of equipment, damaging the bass panel) and I'm thinking that the foam in that panel needs to be replaced. The other panel has no such resonances. So the consideration of that repair cost/time is now bouncing around in my head as well.

From what it sounds like, the CA-2200 should, by itself, handle the Duetta Signatures load, even if it can't handle the combination of both the Duettas and the 2Ce's together, as a Classe rep told me by e-mail himself.

To no_money:

Keeping the cat off will be a challenge. I have a rack that has 9-inch spaces, and while the CA-2200 does "fit", it only leaves a quarter-inch gap above it. Classe on it's Web site cites the need for at least six inches of space, so I'm thinking of putting it on the top of my rack, which would keep it open, but at that height of about three feet, I don't see my cat ever making that leap, as she never even tried in the seven years I've had her. Where the Levinson was on the floor, largely because of its 125 pound heft and my concern of that weight on the top of my rack, she just had to climb up. The Classe is "lighter" at 92 pounds, and I think the rack can conceivably handle that weight at the top.
as far as the bass overiding the highs and mids on complex parts... on my Ascents I had that issue, great bass but just "too much" for my room. I used the attenuator on the back to drop the bass by -3db and it worked wonders. I am not that familiar with the Prodigy but there should be an adjustement on the back. Give it a shot.
cover the top of the amp with a piece of carpet imbedded with razor blades (just don't block the any airvents); I'll bet that keeps the cat off the amp.
Hey Musicnoise:

I don't know if the wife will go for that...even though I agree that would certainly do the job. I'm thinking with the top of the Classe amp more than 3 1/2 feet off the floor should do it without the need for razor blades.

To no_money:
I'm pretty much decided on going with the Classe amp and will give the Prodigys another listen, maybe this weekend (especially considering the switch you mention that's likely on the back of each speaker), even though I'm very positive in keeping my Apogees, even if I might have to do some work on them in the near future. I'm hoping to hear some costs associated with some tweaks to one of the speakers that might be necessary.
I have been wanting that same amp for some time now!

I would give it a shot with the Apogees.
Throwing a potential wrench in the equation...A 333 that I had only been considering only slightly, as the price was out of my range has been dropped to less than (about $600) what the Classe would be if I bought that amp. The 333 evidently had significant work done to it to update/upgrade it, so one could almost argue the 333 is almost sonically new.

While I'm not too afraid of road trips, I'd have to get in the car to drive 6 to 8 hours just to listen to the 333 to then decide on whether to buy it, versus where I've already had the CA-2200 on loan in my home the last two days in my system to get a sense of what it can do.

Should I still go with the new Classe, with the full 5-year warranty, over the 333?


So far, we've only heard one side of the story regarding the criminal act. I think the cat should have an opportunity to defend itself.

I owned the 333 for 8 years, bought it as a demo from a dealer. During my ownership, the capacitors blew up twice, and I found out from ML that it had already blewed up once when the dealer had it. This has been discussed quite a bit on various forums. Are you sure it was the cat?

The ML tech told me over the phone that this issue was due to two parts: a design issue and also the capacitor supplier. They had since switched to a different supplier after Harmon took over. Under the new practice, there is a price cap for repairing ML products. When I sent mine in 3 or 4 years ago, it was around $1200 for the amp. But they had a shady practice by telling you that it would not cost that much, but you had to authorize it to that amount for them to start the work. They would come back afterwards and tell you that you got lucky because the cost would have been $2500 without that policy and you were lucky to walk away with only paying $1200 + shipping both ways. They did the same thing to me around the same time on my transport and charged me $1800 + shipping both ways when all I needed was a quick recalibration (per their published internal document that someone sent me afterwards, all I needed was to push a few buttons on the front panel).

I'm not sure who provided you the original quote. But if you are keen on keeping the ML 333, it might be worth calling Harmon and inquire about the cost. But maybe they've changed their policies. Per some owners ML had extended the warranty policy for an extra few years after this issue went public on discussion boards. So you might want to check to see if it is still under warranty. The amp DOES sound better with the new caps though.

And there are NO upgrades. Whoever told you that is When I sent mine in, I asked whether it would be possible to upgrade it to the 333.5. But the tech told me they no longer provided the parts to do so. So the person is probably trying to cover up the fact that the caps blew up and went back to the factory for repairs. And no independent tech would touch this amp. I had asked several highly recommended repair shops across the country.

So that's another con for the ML333. If you buy another one, you never know when the caps will blow up and cost you more money to fix.

It might be a stretch financially, but I would also recommend the Pass X350.5. I ended up trading my ML333 in for one and never looked back. It can handle lower impedance well. I've heard some great successes from owners using it to drive various Apogee behemeths.

I read Davt's post above with great interest, because not long after I switched the amp, I also switched speakers to the Verity Parsifal Encore with the latest version of the tweeters. Previously I had owned the Thiel 3.6 for like 10 years, and before that Thiel 2.2 for about the same amount of time. I've not heard the X250.5 myself. But I have read equal amount of opinions from (supposedly) people that have compared the X250.5 and the X350.5 that one is better than the other.

I have not heard the 350.5 but with the parsifals I don't think it would make much difference to me. I don't listen to music load, don't require vise like base control and really enjoy the sweetness of music in the mid range. Now if I could I would love to hear the XA60.5 or even the stereo XA30.5. I think one of the things I like about the Classe is the Class A bias. It is not pure class A like the XA but at my volume levels and with my music I probably have never run my amp out of class A bias. (I have gotten it pretty hot though). I also like the neutrality of the Classe and the Pass did that better than the others I tried.
To Gundam91:

While I know my cat has had a fancy or two to try to walk across my computer keyboard, she's yet to master the skill of typing.

From what I was told by both my salesperson and the tech guy who talked to him, the cat urine is what did the unit in. And the time from when the cat had sat on the unit to the time (and I saw her and shooed her off) and the amp coughing up black smoke was barely a few minutes.

Understanding the costs associated with getting Levinson gear fixed, and the times associated with that, I've come to the sad conclusion that I could have invested $2,600 to $4,000 to fix the 333, only for some other issue, even non-cat related to require another hefty bill to be paid.

That's why in part I've come very close to a sad acceptance that the next main amp in my system will not be a Levinson.

It troubles me to hear about the recalibration of the unit that ended up costing you $1,800. But from the horror stories I've read in many places at how Levinson service has degraded to, I'm in some ways not surprised.

I'm confident that had I had the work done by Levinson and had it sent to them, I'd be looking at a number closer to $4,000, as it's the whole board (at a cost of at least $1,600) and not "just" capacitors that needed replacing.

I'd have my doubts about the unit being under warranty, at its age, especially with from what I've been told was the cause, that's certainly not covered.

The tech that would have repaired it works in conjunction with a store that had been a Levinson dealer, but with so many issues, has dropped the brand, but will continue to try to service the brand in some fashion that's better than the aggravations that exist when sending it directly to Levinson.

And while I was leaning strongly toward getting another 333, I've come to the conclusion as you so rightly say, "If you buy another one, you never know when the caps will blow up and cost you more money to fix."

In my having tested the Classe CA-2200, and done some research on the brand, the horror stories that have so colored my view of Levinson don't seem to be the case with Classe.

While your suggestion of the Pass X350.5 sounds like a good amp, I was having trouble with the idea of spending $9K on two pieces (the Classe AND a set of Prodigys I was thinking would replace my Apogees), when the Pass by itself runs that cost.

When I get that next bonus check, I might consider such an option, but for right now, spending slightly more than $4K on the CA-2200 will be enough of a punch to the chest, er, wallet.