|Classé CA-5200 Multi-channel Power Amplifier|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Multi-Channel Amplifiers|
|Written by Tim Hart|
|Monday, 01 January 2007|
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Classé has thrown the gauntlet down in the multi-channel amplification arena by introducing the CA-5200, a five-channel, 200-watt-per-channel amplifier whose sole intention is to raise the bar high enough in both aesthetics and sound to make everyone swoon, from the design-oriented to the hardcore audiophile. One look at the CA-5200, even unplugged or without a preamp, and you’d be hard pressed to suggest Classé hasn’t accomplished at least half of its mission. The CA-5200’s sleek lines and nontraditional metal work beautifully matches the stealthy pose of the lauded Classé CDP-300 DVD player and the SSP-600 AV preamp.
The size and stature of the CA-5200 is certainly a head turner, with heat sinks on either side of what appears to be a solid block of aluminum, refined to a blended front face with large rounded corners asymmetrically bisected by a vertical black anodized aluminum panel that is consistent with the rest of the Delta product line. The bulk of the 17.5 inches wide by 21 inches deep and eight-and-three-quarters inches tall chassis is supported by four cushioned feet, which are in line with the rest of the CA-5200’s appearance and isolate its 121-pound bulk from unwanted vibrations and resonances. The packaging of the unit is very specific so as not to damage it (or you) during the unpacking process. Moving the CA-5200 into position is at least a two-person affair. Be prepared to have the right stand or rack to accommodate this behemoth. I think I heard a small whimper from my Lovan Sovereign stand once the weight of the CA-5200 settled onto it. Be advised that there are no means to hold onto the chassis, such as handles, so you might want to rig some block and tackle or hire a piano mover to do the maneuvering. Actually, forget that – make your local Classé dealer do it. Do you change your oil on your S65 AMG Mercedes?
Under The Hood
The sexy front panel of the CA-5200 is simply stated with a low-profile blue LED lit standby switch located on the lower left side, with a row of five blue LEDs in the center, one for each channel, bracketed by a select switch on the left side and a mode switch on the right. During the initial power-up, you are asked to set up the interconnect scheme you will be using, either XLR or single-ended RCA. Each LED flashes until the desired mode is selected, then moves on to the next. Once they are all set up, you are ready to roll. When next you power up the unit (the CA-5200 stays idle, drawing 348 watts in standby), the CA-5200 starts one channel at a time at about five-second intervals, avoiding a huge inrush current that could blow your breakers. It’s kind of like a NASA countdown to blastoff. Did I mention that it looks really cool as well?
The back panel has five high-quality XLR and RCA connectors, five-way binding posts for speaker connections, an RS-232 port (DB-9 connector) for software upgrades (yes, this amp is software-driven) or other system automation controls, such as Crestron or i-Command. DC input and output triggers allow other gear (Classé included) to turn the CA-5200 on and off. Also present are one IR input and output for IR remote control operation, a RJ-45 CAN bus connector for future control of Classé gear (see my explanation in the October SSP-600 review of the CAN bus system ), a single fuse and an IEC connector for a detachable AC cord.
The chassis of the fully balanced CA-5200 uses steel, combined with the single extruded aluminum front plate, which forms a very rigid structure supported by four Navcom™ LimbSaver® inserts within the radiused feet. Classé obviously spent some serious time analyzing the effects of vibration on their products.
Within the CA-5200, you will find bulletproof engineering, with top-quality components delivering a clean signal path, and a fault protection system that doesn’t adulterate any of the circuitry with fuses and such. Shorts and over-current conditions are kept in check by using hall-effect rings around signal cables. This requires some tricky monitoring of current conditions within the conductors to differentiate between high current excursions due to dynamics in the music or soundtrack, or fault conditions like crossed speaker cables. Spiky DC voltage is tamed using a DC servo to control degradation of the sound and helps protect your loudspeakers under extreme conditions.
Along with total harmonic distortion of 0.0003% and a frequency response of 10Hz-22kHz +/- 0.1dB, the CA-5200 will deliver 200 watts per channel at eight ohms times five and nearly doubles that output at four ohms, which requires the ability to have large power reserves immediately available. The CA-5200 uses a large toroidal transformer with separate secondary windings, which is said to enhance channel separation. The filtering to the power supply is handled by banks of different-sized capacitors, which homogenizes the input voltage and provides instantaneous power when needed. So what does all of this mean to the listener? Let’s find out.