Classe CP-800 Stereo Preamplifier


The Classé CP-800 In Use

I tested the CP-800 with an OPPO BDP-95 universal player, with the XLR analog out from the player to the CP-800, Classé CA-M600 monoblock power amplifiers, Carver Mark IV ribbon speakers, and Wireworld cables.

I played mostly SACD in two-channel mode, but also some CDs. There was a low frequency hump in the particular listening position I was using for the CP-800 tests, and I found that by using the DSP EQ, I could get that hump to disappear. I also tried out some boost in higher frequencies (~ 3 kHz) to add "presence", and it worked, but I ended up just using the low frequency attenuation. I really could not detect any differences in the sound quality with or without DSP, so I settled in for the remainder of the listening with the DSP engaged, and the low frequency EQ active. As for the EQ, it is adjustable in 1 Hz increments up to 200 Hz, then 10 Hz increments up to 2,000 Hz, then 100 Hz increments up to 20,000 Hz. There are five EQ bands for each channel, with adjustable frequency, gain (how much of an increase or decrease you want), and Q (the width around the chosen frequency that the EQ band is to include).

There is also a feature in the EQ and Tone Control category, called "Tilt". You can leave the EQ settings at 0 as well as the tone controls, but when Tilt is activated, EQ is added at 200 Hz and 2 kHz, which works well when you are listening at low volume. Keep in mind that all EQ is applied in the digital domain. For Bass Management, there is a menu where you can select the crossover frequency, slope, and whether you want to use one subwoofer or two subwoofers (either in stereo or mono). I didn't need bass management active, as the Carver speakers are full range, with each speaker having four 12" woofers.

Anyway, to the music:

As you can imagine from the cover art, this is not a background music album. Through the CP-800, every instrument was clearly delineated, due to the extremely low IMD. Dynamics were robust and without any apparent limitation. It helped to have 600 watt monoblock power amplifiers to use with the CP-800, because there are plenty of demanding passages on this, and many of the other albums I listened to (including some great Big Band music). The sound was as neutral as I have ever heard when the DSP was not engaged, and even with the DSP on, I was only dimming that low frequency hump, so the rest of the spectrum was not affected (except during my experimentation with high frequency boosts to add presence).


Full symphony orchestras are one of the best tests for IMD, because if the preamp (or power amp) has significant amounts of this type of distortion, the midrange is mushy, and detail is obscured. That simply did not happen with the CP-800, and if you take a look at the IMD spectrum in the Bench Tests page, you will see why. Neutrality, detail, dynamics, inaudible background noise - these are my descriptive terms for the CP-800.


I listened to a great deal of music with the CP-800 because it was such a pleasure. I did take the opportunity to listen to chamber music, which is what I would call background music, and the CP-800 - I can say with all sincerity - sounded marvelous at low volume as well. I connected an iPod to the front USB port, and I don't think I have ever heard music from an iPod digital dock sound so good. This was due both to the fact that I use *.wav encoding as well as Apple Lossless Encoding for my music files, but also because the USB circuitry in the CP-800 is asynchronous, which basically means that the bitstream comes into a buffer, where it is reclocked and then sent to the DAC, having used the CP-800's clock to eliminate the large amount of jitter that is present in USB audio bitstreams.