|Classé Delta Series CDP-300 Universal Player|
|Home Theater Audio Sources DVD-Audio/SACD Players|
|Written by Tim Hart|
|Friday, 01 September 2006|
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With so much media focus on the recent releases of HD DVD and Blu-ray, one could possibly see the demise of the current DVD hardware set just on the horizon. But early adopters beware: HD DVD is suffering from some brutal (perhaps even fatal) growing pains to overcome maladies such as painfully slow load times, frequent and amazingly frustrating reboots and excruciating integration issues with existing home theater systems, thanks to the fact that movie studios have forced HD DVD players to constantly have an HDCP handshake, which is at the root of most of people’s connectivity and switching issues. Blu-ray is better, but still suffers from many problems, including a lack of RS232 control, reported and admitted problems with the video output (even though it looks pretty good) and the fact that HDMI 1.3 offers as much as twice the video bandwidth going to your set. At this point, who could blame anyone for holding off from these potentially tempting yet definitely frustrating formats? But that doesn’t solve the issue of the need for a top-performing video source, especially one that can play back music that is true to the master tapes.
Enter the CDP-300, which is the latest Delta series DVD player from Classé, the CDP-300 ($6,500), which takes performance, a little bit of art and a lot of reliable interface, and wraps it up in one sexy package. The CDP-300 is 17.50 inches wide, 17 inches deep, and four-and-three-quarters inches tall. The rigid 26-pound chassis sits on four sound vibration-damped feet to further isolate resonances from ancillary equipment. The CDP-300 will play most of the non-HD disc formats out there, with the exception of SACD. DVD-Video, DVD-Audio, Dual Discs, Video-CD, S-VCD, MP3, AAC and WMA formats all cue up on this Classe product.
The CDP-300’s distinctive styling catches the eye, with large corner radiuses and silver brushed aluminum side panels that meet in the front with a black aluminum bezel that is consistent with other Delta products. Within this resides the three-inch by two-inch touch screen, the first I’ve seen on a DVD player, which allows you to preview the credits of a movie prior to starting up your main display or cuing up a DVD-Audio disk without having to turn on your display. To the left of the display on the black bezel is a menu button that gets you into the system set-up display; there is another standby button to left of the display button. The slot loading mechanism on the right of the display was a bit of a surprise to me, as this was the first application of this type that I have seen on high-end gear. At first, I wasn’t sure I liked it, but it grew on me. Gone is the possibility of bending or breaking the tray (done that), which is cantilevered out of harm’s way. A glowing blue light illuminates the slot when there is not a disc present in the player, so if there isn’t a light, don’t try to feed it another disc.
On the back panel, you will find a spacious and well laid-out arrangement of the connections necessary to integrate the player with the rest of your equipment. A stereo pair of balanced outputs and six single-ended RCA outputs for DVD-Audio occupies the upper left of the panel. The lower left has three types of digital outputs: AES/EBU, SPDIF coaxial and Toslink optical, which all output the same signal. The upper right side of the rear panel is for video output and is comprised of one composite, one S-Video and one set of component video outputs, as well as an HDMI connector for digital displays. The lower center portion of the rear panel is reserved for interface to system controls and other components, which includes an IR “in” and “out” that is really an electrical switch to control IR receivers, emitters and other components within your system. There is also a 12-volt trigger with one input and two outputs to control other components within your system. I used these to connect the Classé SSP-600 preamp/processor and the CA-5200 five-channel amp, which I will be reviewing in the coming months. There are also RJ-45 connectors (in and out) for future system control of other Classé products. No word yet on when this option will become available, but if it works anything like Linn’s system, ease of use will be greatly improved, especially when dealing with different formats and speaker configurations. Also, the requisite RS-232 port is present and facilitates connection to your home automation control. Last are a power switch and an IEC AC connector. The CDP-300 stays in standby mode unless you turn this switch off.
A great amount of attention was paid to the reduction of jitter. Classé’s approach funnels all things digital through a CPLD (Complex Programmable Logic Device) and sample rate converter to de-correlate them from the MPEG decoder (video) clock. In other words, all of the digital signals are up-converted to 24-bit/192kHz signals and re-clocked before being output to the D-to-A converters. The D to A conversion is achieved by the use of 8X digital filters on each of the three stereo DACs for six channels of analog, which are connected by six RCA connections, and a fully balanced stereo pair of XLR connectors for the main speakers.
The CDP-300 has a powerful processor that delivers sharp, clear images that are free from jagged edges, reduces video noise and provides better contrast and color rendition, improved chroma transients, and has the added benefit of internal scaling and de-interlacing capability for up to 1080p resolutions.
The remote is as special as the CDP-300 itself. The housing of the remote is created from two clear anodized grained aluminum extruded parts of different shapes that form the upper and lower half of the unit. The business end has a red Lexan cover for the IR port and the aft end has a black anodized end cap with tiny screws that you have to remove in order to put in two batteries. Classé thoughtfully provided the right Allen wrench for the task. It fits in the hand with a nice heft to it. The large, blue backlit buttons are well organized and lend themselves to easy familiarity. The volume and disc control buttons have a unique shape and are easy to find and the backlighting can either be activated by depressing any button on the unit, or by depressing a dedicated button on the upper left part of the unit. If you own a projection system, you’ll love this.
All of the system set-up menus can be accessed through the touch screen menu on the front panel or through the onscreen display. I found that using the touch screen worked well for system tweaking. Without even looking through the manual for the initial set-up, I was able to navigate easily and understand the menu structure for most of the system’s set-up, only consulting the manual on a few details.
Pushing the main menu button on the CDP-300 will display six menu picks for getting further into the player set-up. These include system set-up, trigger set-up, teach IR, display set-up, remote F key programming and system status. The teach IR allows your programmable remote to get the right control keys for each function of the CDP-300, so that you can set up system macros for flexible operation with your existing hardware. The display set-up customizes the brightness of the screen, how long it remains on after it is activated, a preview mode where you can cue up a movie before running it through your main display device or a DVD-Audio menu for selecting different tracks or other options without having to use you main display, and volume in absolute (0 being the lowest) or relative, which is a calibrated, reference volume (as played in movie theaters). Triggers can be set up basically as a zero voltage switch to turn other components on or as a 12-volt signal for accessories like screens, lighting, or curtains. F keys, which are labeled F1-F4, can be used as macros for functions that are often used a few layers down in the menu structure. Each F key has assigned operations that can be used for each common operation.
The display menu adjusts brightness, temporary display timeout values and other display options for further customizing the operation of the CDP-300. Don’t fear. The cost of admission gives you, the new owner, total support and installation into your unique system requirements.