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Classé CA-5200 Multi-channel Power Amplifier Print E-mail
Monday, 01 January 2007
Article Index
Classé CA-5200 Multi-channel Power Amplifier
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Music And Movies
I ran the CA-5200 for about 30 hours with Revel Ultima Studio mains, Performa C32 center channel and S30 surrounds. The Studios are a tough load to drive at 87 dB and therefore a good test for the CA-5200. I also used the CDP-300 for the source and the SSP-600 preamp/processor for this review.

There is something about the production quality of Billy Idol’s Charmed Life (Chrysalis Records) that is alluring, well-defined and very detailed. The soundstage is expansive and encompassing and the vocal tracks, especially the female backing vocals, are sweet and inviting. It’s certainly not something one would expect of the snarling bad boy of rock. “Prodigal Blues” opens with Steve Stevens’ guitar and a soul-grabbing synth bass line that will stress any amp. On weaker amps, the character of this section loses the finer grain structure of the notes and the three-dimensionality that fleshes it out. The CA-5200 made this very apparent. The female backing vocals had a bit more three-dimensional quality to them with the CA-5200. The presence on “Pumping on Steel” was more palpable than I was used to hearing. Steve Stevens’ guitar riffs had more tangibility and snap to the notes, and the drumming was commanding, taut and well-defined.

I had to play Metallica’s Black album (Elecktra Entertainment) on DVD-Audio for its in-your-face dynamics. This is an impressive remix in 5.1 and the louder it is played, the better it gets. ”Sad But True” offers some hard-hitting guitar, bass and drums that are felt as well as heard through the CA-5200. It literally made my clothes move, just what well-produced, high-energy hard rock should do. The CA-5200 never groaned once and sounded as detailed and well-defined at high volumes as it did at lower volumes. It could also carry the nuance and intricacy at high volumes as well, as noted on “Nothing Else Matters.” James Hetfield’s growl carried a lot of depth and feel on this song and it really is a pleasure to listen to through the CA-5200. I never wanted to back down on the volume once.

The midrange of the CA-5200 is stellar. Vocals and acoustic instruments seemed to benefit more noticeably from the CA-5200 than other aspects of the music I ran through it. The body of Steve Wilson’s acoustic guitar seemed to take on a new persona on “Buying New Soul” on Porcupine Tree’s new DVD Arriving Somewhere (Snapper Music). This concert was recorded in Chicago in 2005 on their In Abstentia tour and is a great live recording. Richard Barbieri’s atmospheric synthesizer opens this song with an enveloping cloud that is diffuse, yet has a defined whispery texture that benefits from the added control given by the CA-5200. The guitar adds to this effect and becomes the focal point as the song progresses. Wilson’s voice is distinct and pinpoint accurate in the soundstage. The bass line has such a well-defined texture that it almost seems like it is being performed live in my room. The CA-5200 captured the live ambience in ways I had not quite heard through my reference P5, largely by presenting more defined edges of the notes and percussion. Never did the CA-5200 sound bloated, but at times I would have liked to hear a bit more low-level presence – a personal preference, not a criticism. “Hate Song” has a lot of odd time signatures and intricate interplay amongst all of the musicians in this band; it tested the ability of the CA-5200 to keep everything dynamic and coherent at loud volumes. I was not able to cause it any stress, nor notice any congestion or distortion throughout the review period. This amp has a lot of legs.

I’ve said this number of times and it still holds true in this case: if an amplifier can produce an accurate portrayal of music, it is likely a given that the movie experience will be no less so. Case in point, Mission: Impossible III (Paramount Home Entertainment). Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has just captured Davian (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and is returning him to headquarters. Ethan loses his temper, drags Davian to the back of the plane, opens a hatch and dangles his prisoner into the air stream. The sound as the cabin depressurizes is enveloping and intense, putting the listener right in the middle of the scene. Wind noise and debris whipping around the cabin is deftly sorted out and very defined by the CA-5200. The next scene is on the bridge, where a convoy is supposed to transport Davian back to where super evildoers go. The first missile strike catches the viewer by surprise, launching the stricken vehicle ass-over-teakettle. The whoomph of the explosion and the grind and groan of tearing metal are intensely delivered by the CA-5200. I never once heard any duress or distortion during any of the high-energy portions of Tom Cruise giving it to the bad guy, providing nothing but high-resolution butt-kicking.


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