SimAudio or Classe for Power Amplifier

As I continue to upgrade my system I am looking at the amplifier as the next component on the hit list.

My current system:
- Marantz SA-14 SACD player (modified by Tube Research Labs)
- Conrad-Johnson 17LS Tube Preamplifier (Amperex Holland 60s tubes)
- Rotel RMB-1095 5X200W power amplifier
- Wilson Benesch Discovery loudspeakers

I am looking for a solid-state power amplifier with 200WPC minimum to drive the WB loudspeakers. I originally thought of getting a set of Parasound JC-1 monoblocks but realize that the heat dissipation would be an issue in my modest sized room. I will stick with a tube preamplifier however the brand/model may evolve over time.

Living in Canada, I thought that SimAudio and Classe would be two companies worth investigating. Both of these Quebec, Canada based companies have a good reputation for building high quality power amplifiers. Also both appear to be stable financially.

The current models I am looking at are:
- SimAudio WS, 190WPC
- Classe CA2200, 200WPC

If I win the lottery, I might consider getting the monoblock versions, ;-}
- SimAudio W10, 750WPC
- Classe CAM400, 400WPC

I am interested in the feedback of those who have compared the amplifiers of these two companies. Also feedback about these companies in general. I understand that Classe is now owned by the holding company that owns B&W and has a stake in Rotel. Not sure if SimAudio is still an independent company.
Hi, I am also considering the Simaudio (W7m monos and p8 preamp) and Classe (cam400 monos and cp700 preamp) amps and preamp. I recently auditioned the Simaudio paired with Dynaudio speakers. First off, the looks of the new Simaudio Evolution line is breathtaking! I would almost buy them just on looks alone. Build quality was outstanding. What I heard of the Simaudio was dynamic, musical, and clear sound. It is a little hard for me to apply these results to my personal setup because I have B&W 802D speakers. I will be bringing the Simaudio pair home for a demo soon. The found the Classe to also be very good, though not quite as "warm" as the Simaudio. I am looking for just a bit a warmth and romance in my system so right now, the Simaudio suits me better. That being said, I intend on doing a full audition of both very shortly. I would be very interested in hearing any thoughs you may have as well.

I purchased a Simaudio Moon W-5LE a few months ago and it continues to impress me. The 'LE' is a limited edition run of only 250 with higher quality parts. I suspect the non-LE W-5s are good as well, but I haven't had the chance to compare. Since this line of amps is has recently been replaced by their newer line, you may find a dealer that is willing to deal. Don't know about Canada, but in the U.S. you do not find this amps at much of a discount. The best opportunity to 'catch a deal' appears to be when the product line is switching out.

I also have a tube preamp, Aesthetix Calypso, and I found the pairing with the Simaudio with it was a great match. That being said, using the balanced connection rather than the unbalanced, made a sizeable difference. I don't know if your CJ has a pair of xlr outs or not, but in my case it made a noticable difference toward the good.

The W-5LE is a dual mono design with fully balanced differential to the output stage. It is rated at 200 wps at 8 Ohm and 400 wps at 4. My loudspeakers are JM Labs Mini Utopias (91.5 dB) and the W-5LE hardy works up a sweat driving these bad boys. Needless to say, clipping is NOT an issue.

Lastly, I purchased a demo W-5LE directly from an authorized dealer so I got a full 10 year warranty on the amp. It's built like a tank, so I'll probably never need to use it, but I think that says a lot about the manufacturers confidence in there product.

Good luck!
Get the W5, it sounds much more powerful than its 190watts, I was driving b&w N801's with it. It is sweeter, with a more shimmering top end.
Wilson Benesch speakers tends to be more polite and would work better paired with amps that are more dynamic.
The classe is a bit polite sounding too.
The control on the w5 is amazing with a fuller upper mid bass punch that is incredible.
That said, its down side is its filter caps. They are big, 8 of them, and vibrates a lot (I believe thats what gives them extra shimmer at the top end), you have to tune the sound of the amp for synergy with your system by adding weights on the top plate where they put a rubber stop that presses down on the caps.
A small freezer zip lock and some shots (8,1/2 size) mixed with 40% playsand will be a good mixture to start. add spoonfulls by spoon full and you will see what I mean. Just be careful not to spill anything. Once you determine the best weight, get a fillable ice pack and transfer the stuff so there is no chance of the ziplock breaking.

wow! so you put weight on the top of the amp and this affects the sound? to me this would be a total turn off. is this amp designed that way? is it intended to be tunable?
Almost all audio compnents will be affected by vibrations to a greater or lesser degree, especially caps and transformers in the power section.
I don't believe that the amp was intentionally designed that way but your system will never achieve its true pontential without paying attention to tuning vibrations. I do not have the amp anymore, I moved on to very low power amps and horns. Which is even more suspectible to vibraion tuning. I still miss that amp. Just before I sold it here, I was driving my avantgardes with it and it was very quiet. Simaudio components have quality and value in mind. The sound is very pleasing over the long run. It is especially sweet, I find it more so than classe, even where the omicron is concerned.
I find the emotional aspect of my system more important than analytical. It is beauty in sound that I am after, not accuracy. ymmv.
my setup is not what most people would consider as sane, especially in the vibrational control aspects. Most dealers do not promote this as they consider the difficult of tuning to be 'a total turnoff' to potential customers.
I have not compared these amps side by side but, I have experienced them both in my system driving B&W Matrix 801 S3 loudspeakers.

I'll begin by stating the obvious, they're both great amps! My initial impression of the W5 was how similar it sounded to older Classe gear, I presently own a Classe S-1000 amp, and I found the sound of the W-5 to be somewhat similar, albeit I preferred the midrange presentation of my amp a little better.

The new Classe gear is "leaner" to my ears, but I find the vast majority of mewer amps heading that way, Plinius and Krell included. I suppose it's due to the chronic desire of audio gear manufacturers to seek truth in the audio chain, no character of it's own is what they say, but some of us like a little character imposed on the signal.

Anyway, my memories are that I still preferred the Classe 2200, a little better midrange, sweeter highs, and really didn't give up much in the low frequencies.

Good luck in your pursuit, and pick the amp that sounds right to you.
I recommend you take a good look at the W-8, which is Sim's Evolution top model. It is H-E-A-V-Y. The transformers are HUGE. Basically, I'll parallel what someone else already said, that they will drive any speaker, and they have a 10 year warranty to top it off. I have compared it to the Classe 2200, and the Sim wins, easily. It has a tighter, deeper bottom end, and a huge soundstage. It also focuses better, and the top end is more detailed fast and extended. It is NOT aggressive, but very revealing. BTW, Ultra Audio, which is part of Soundstage magazine, just reviewed Sim's top three pieces, the W-8, P-8 and Andromeda, and were very enthusiastic, saying they even beat the mega-dollar Boulders in many respects. Plus, my experience with Classe dealers lately is that they seem to get very pushy, and I feel they are biased. It seems to me that Classe is only demo'd with B&W, and this seems obvious when you realize that they are both sold by the same importer. I cannot deal with a biased dealer, because I naturally feel they are not looking out for my best interests. My Simaudio dealer seems much more up front and honest. Now this may not be true for you, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Classe dealer you talk to plays you Classe with B&W. This is not because the match is excellent (although it is a good match IMO) but because they are financially bound to do so and contractually required by the importer. How can you trust a dealer like that?
I agree that Classe dealers would have a bias towards the B&W loudspeakers.

I don't doubt that the W-8 would sound better since it is twice the price of the Classe 2200. Did you have a chance to compare the 2200 against the W-5, something at a similar retail price?

It is interesting that Jeff Fritz wrote the UltraAudio review (April 2006). He gave it a 'Select Component' award:

He also did a review of the Classe 2200 (December 2004) in SoundStage. He gave it a 'Reviewers Choice' award:

Perhaps they both offer outstanding value at their price points.
thank you for the reply. I am looking very seriously at the W7 monoblocks and the p8 preamp. Do you actually have Simaudio in your system? What speakers did you hear the Simaudio with? I appreciate any feedback you can give.
You don't give a price range or a willingness to buy used, but you can pick up a pair of W10's for around $4500, which I think is a fantastic buy. I bought a used pair for around that price and have been using them to drive a pair of Dynaudio Confidence C2's, which I find to be a great pairing. I have read that Dynaudio uses Simaudio amplification to voice their speakers - no idea if that's true, but they sound good enough together to be true.

The other thing I like about the W-10's is that they run very cool - I can leave them on all the time and they don't heat the room, and you have to drive them hard before they begin to feel very warm to the touch. They are also extremely powerful. I'm sure I'll convince myself that soemthing is lacking at some point, but for now I can not imagine what would drive me to trade them out shy of a completely different system phiosophy.
I'm really close to buying a W-8, and giving up my W-5. The neat thing about the Sim sound, and the Classe sound, is that these two great companies strive to achieve the hardest, most elusive goal out there: to reproduce sound the way it was recorded. Nothing added, nothing taken away. This is in contrast to the VAST majority of other manufacturers, especially the small ones, which aim for what they call a "musical" sound, which means, euphonically colored to sound pleasant and musical, but that is NOT what is etched onto the CD that is playing. You see, when you set an alternate sound goal that you can control (such as to achieve a "soft", "rhythmic" or "round" kind of sound), this involves variables that can be determined, quantified and controlled in the design stages. So, you get a nice, homogenized sound, but one that is NOT true to the original signal. Now, if you play a musical instrument, and therefore know what "real" sound is all about, you know what I am talking about. This is why I cannot listen to products like MF, Ayre, and (sorry tube fans) pretty much the vast majority of tube gear. It does not sound like the real thing, and measurements will prove that. Sure, it can sound nice and pleasant, but not "real". Technology today allows for the design of very high performance systems, systems that can closely recreate the thrill of a live performance. Lifelike. That's why I like Sim and Classe so much - and I prefer the Sim because it seems, to my ears, that they are closer to that ideal than Classe, especially with the new Evolution stuff. Plus the fact that Sim is probably a smaller company, now that Classe is owned by the people that do B&W and Rotel, and Classe has started to subcontract a lot of parts in China, yet their prices are still very high. What I mean is that when a company gets big, the bean counters come in and control too much. That doesn't seem to be the case with Sim, and my experience with their products, talking with their staff, and seeing them at shows has so far supported my opinions. So go for the Sim, plus they've been around for more than a quarter of a century (a bit longer than Classe), so when they give a 10-year warranty, it is credible.
I am an electrical engineer and an audiophile, and I appreciate what some companies are doing - i.e. the likes of Sim, Classe and Levinson - a true push forward to the elusive goal of perfect sound. I will never buy a product from a company that says that single-ended is better than balanced, for example. It is simply not true. Balanced is ALWAYS better, when done right: good parts, good design and truly balanced (as opposed to that fake quasi-balanced we see so much on even expensive gear). I know the Sim and Classe gear is balanced when they use XLR connectors. Most, like ALL Rotel, even many Krells (not all though), are not. The only reason why a company would tell you that their S/E designs are the best is because they won't spend the money to do it right - balanced is always expensive as it requires a much more formidable power supply and twice the parts, as well as a larger chassis to fit it all in.
There - I've vented.
So, if any of all of this revealing info makes sense, my recommendation to you is to go and spend your money on a product from a company that doesn't practice marketing and voodoo. Get the Sim or Classe, my preference strongly towards the Sim but that's personal opinion.
how do ayre amps compare to sim and classe amps?
I listen to music daily, I don't measure it.
I am in agreement with the response from Audio4ever and how he sees these 2 fine companies except that I am completely the reverse in my findings specific to which is closer to musical truth. I would give that slight edge to Classe, primarily because of the midrange and the total lack of glare in the high frequencies.

Also, just for clarity, Classe Audio of Quebec has been around an awful lot longer then Simaudio.

Good listening.
audio4ever and rjhalla:

I find your opposite opinions very interesting. What speakers have you heard the Classe and Simaudio on respectively? I have B&W 802D speakers. Also, do both mind if I ask what kind of music you listen to and what your preferences are in terms of music reproduction?
audio4ever, I own B&W Matrix 801 S3 loudspeakers, I had a long audition with the W-5 and the CA-2200 driving these speakers. At the same time I had the opportunity to have a CA-300 and CA-401 in my home. I also auditioned a Bryston 4B-SST during this time but removed it from the competition very quickly, it was far less musical than the others.

The order of preference I had for these amps is in the following order: CA-300, CA-2200, W-5, CA-401.

The CA-300 was really an enjoyable amp, very musical, almost sweet. The CA-2200, I would describe it as pure, nothing added, nothing removed...very, very fast. The W-5 had great bass control, leaned a bit toward that sweet sound, but could be a bit edgy on the top end. The CA-401 was truly a brute, tons of power, but a bit much for me.

In the end however I still prefer my Classe S-1000, warm, sweet, and when needed it will kick like few amps can.

As far as music, mostly classic rock, lots of Zeppelin. I do enjoy music by the Corr's, Chicago, Whitney etc, but generally I find myself back into Classic Rock after the first hour of listening or so.
I've heard Sim and Classe on B&W, Dynaudio, Thiel, JMLab, Martin Logan and some more. I am most familiar with the B&W, Dynaudios and Thiels. The Dynaudios are a match in heaven with the Sim. To my ears, the Classe sounded slow and a little bit fat with the Dynaudio's. The B&W's mate well with the Classe, but again I find something is just not right - a little bit 'dry' and not totally musical. The Sim which is a much faster amplifier brings the B&W's to life, and at all volumes, high and low, fills the room in a way the Classe cannot. This is not a big difference, just a small one, but it is noticeable. I like to hear music as it was recorded - a good recording, hear all the benefits, micro-information, hall reverb, detail at frequency extremes. A bad recording, hear all the flaws, but at the same time "see into the music". That's why I (and those who play musical instruments in general) don't like equipment that homogenizes sound - because everything then sounds the same, and you don't have a true reference. I listen to some Classical, but my main interest is good 'ol rock and roll. Obviously a lot of bad recordings in rock music, but to me the benefits outweigh the costs.
I know the S-1000, it was a great amp, and IMO, better than what Classe makes today. But I can tell you that if the W-5 sounded edgy, it wasn't because of an intrinsic quality of the W-5. It was either a bad match for the preamp you used, or speaker cables, or even the speakers. Dynamic speakers simply don't have the speed of ribbons or electrostatics, and the W-5 will reveal the "slowness" of the B&W tweeter by comparison. Don't misunderstand me - their tweeter is amongst the best and fastest domes around, but all metal domes have faults in the very high frequencies, which are revealed by a fast amplifier. Contrary to the Classe which uses feedback to, in part, correct for this (but adds coloration in the process in the form of smeering fast transients so you don't hear them), the W-5 has no feedback and stable into any load. Of course, personal opinion accounts alot for what I'm saying, but I've seen measured results of this phenomenon in general, and it is true. You and I listen to the same music, so perhaps you should consider another listen....and keep in mind that unless the Sim is fully broken in, you won't enjoy it to its full extent. These amps unfortunately take a damn very long time to fully run-in.
Actually, Rjhalla, on the issue of years in business, Classe started in 1980 and Sim in 1978. Sim started in the pro business, and then moved to address audiophiles in the early '80s.
I respect your opinion in which you prefer - like I said, it is personal opinion, and both companies make very nice product. If you wonder how I know so much information, it's because in the mid-90's I worked as manager at a high-end audio retail shop, before I left the industry (I was also in school at the time). I was an authorized dealer for both Sim and Classe, and know them well, including the people in both companies, so my info about their history is correct. The difference is that while Classe made the smart move to get into the US market early on, Sim waited a lot longer, so they may seem like a younger company, but are actually a bit older.
Hey what about Bryston, another great Canadian amp manufacturer, albeit not Quebecois? They should also be considered.
True, Bryston is a very, very good product, but it is not in the same category as Sim, Classe, Levinson, Krell, etc...
A 4BSST sounds flatter, duller and much less lifelike than a Sim W-5, Classe 2200 or example. But then it is also have the price of the Sim and Classe. The Bryston has a much smaller power supply, and although very reliable, it is not built to the level of craftsmanship of the Sim or Classe.
But I think they have the best warranty in the business!
Audio4ever ( or is it SimAudio4ever?)Your statement that Bryston is not ''in the same category as Sim, Classe, Krell'' has got to be one of the most biased borderline-mean point of view from a Sim Audio promoter (virtually ALL of your posts are endless praises of ALL Sim products).

Hardly convincing since there is NO way you have owned and properly evaluated ALL these Sim products that you rave about. Gimme a break here !

Work for Sim ? Work for a dealer? (or worked for a dealer in the past?) C'mon, I think the OPPOSITE is true, not being sure if Sim belongs as far as sound is concerned (OK for looks, and the high price though). SIM is good-looking gear, buy WAY overpriced and overhyped.

Not saying that Bryston is the best, but it is a very solid, honest performer that deliver the goods, and belongs up there, ABOVE Sim in many respects, including of course customer respect with the Bryston 20 year warranty.

I owned the mighty 7 B's and a Sim W-5. Not a fair match I admit, the 7 B's being effortless and refined, compared to Sim's house sound, meaning dry, dark, an drier still.

Not evaluating Bryston to be included at least in that select group makes fools of all of us who ever owned this great brand - Be fair will 'ya ? That's the Audiogon spirit.
I must agree with Audio4ever. I had a 3BST and then a 4BST, I currently have the 5BST for my home theater, killer amp. But For two channel, not even close to my W5, never mind the new W7 or W8 out now. Comparing them is not even fair. The new SST stuff is a bit more refined IMO but I would never trade. That said, love Bryston stuff...just down the street from my house, IMO the best for home theater.... explosions and dialogue, IMO not for the ultimate in music reproduction. It is true that for their price points not much can touch Bryston amps except if you go tubes or more expensive SS like Sim - Classe etc.... Thats just from my own experience YMMV

Good listening
I too am considering Classe (CA-5200) and Simaudio (Moon Titan 5 channel) amplification. I am still in the process of finishing my listening room / HT. I have a pair of Wilson Sophia's and have heard the Classe CA-5200 with the Sophia 2 but neither amp with my Sophia's since they are still in the crates until I finish my room out. Any thoughts on these amps with the Wilson Sophia's or any other suggestions? Thanks
My two cents. Bryston is not in the same class as Sim imho . Its not a question of being fair