|Classé SSP-600 AV Preamplifier/Processor|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers AV Preamps|
|Written by Tim Hart|
|Sunday, 01 October 2006|
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For this review, I used the CDP-300 player and CA-5200 multi-channel amplifier in conjunction with the SSP-600 to test the synergy of the Classe gear, integrating with my DirecTV HD receiver, my new Sony 60-inch SXRD KDS-60A2000 RPTV and my Xbox 360 game console.
The SSP-600 is extremely flexible in its set-up. It is advisable that you let your dealer do the set-up integration for you, which comes with the price of admission. But I found that I was able to get the SSP-600 up and running with very little help from the well-laid-out manual, which goes through all of the set-up features on the SSP-600, from component assignments to software navigation. The remote contradicts the sophistication of the SSP-600 by its uncluttered array of blue backlit buttons, which are nicely spaced. The shortcomings are only apparent when you compare it to the newer remote of the CDP-300, which has a superior look and feel, as well as some added functionality. I found that once I had the SSP-600 running, I abandoned its remote entirely, relying on the CDP-300’s remote to run the system.
The initial set-up requires you to push a dedicated set-up button on the left of the TFT screen to enter the system set-up menu and start with configuring your speakers, using the provided microphone and cable to automatically set up the speaker level matching. I started out using the remote with the On Screen Display to navigate to the system set-up menu, only to migrate over to the TFT display on the SSP-600 to finish the set-up. The display endeared itself to me immediately. The touch screen makes way more sense than a dumb display and was easy to read and operate.
As suggested, I plugged in the microphone and cable provided with the SSP-600, placed it the location I would be in while listening or watching, hit the auto-calibrate and waited for the routine to do its stuff. The SSP-600 started with low-level pink noise in each channel, increasing incrementally until reaching a desired SPL level of 75 dB. After a few minutes, it came back with an error message which stated speaker levels were too loud. Hmm, not a good start. Apparently My Definitive Super Cube Reference subwoofer was set too loud. Once I toned it down, I ran the routine again and it worked fine. You can use this feature to capture up to four listening positions and assign these positions to each input of your system – i.e., for movies, gaming or music – and name them as such. I named one for my sweet spot, called “critical listening,” used this setting for all of my inputs, and left it at that. I didn’t feel I needed the added positions. But it’s there if you do. I set the speaker distance and size and was ready to move on to the next step.
The system set-up, which is selected by a dedicated button on the left of the display, brings up six menu selections that get you further into the detail set-up of the SSP-600. Here you can configure your inputs and speaker parameters, program the triggers to operate other aspects of your system, in this case, the CA-5200 and the CDP-300. A novel feature is the programmable volume control knob that can set the maximum volume the SSP-600 can reach. This can also program the response of the volume knob on the SSP-600 for default volume level at start-up or for things like very fine attenuation, fast low-range adjustment, setting maximum volume, or to slow down the response when the knob is twisted extremely fast, protecting your speakers from possible damage. The ability to do this is interesting. I tried several different settings and found that I wanted it to respond to the movement of the knob at the end of the experiment. One setting I had it on would allow you to turn up the volume, but the response lagged, fooling me into thinking I hadn’t turned it up enough, only for it to catch up and be way too loud, so I would prescribe caution when setting up this feature.
Inputs can be named and set up to run your favorite processing scheme, which decoding scheme you want for matrix material, either Dolby PLII or DTS Neo:6, the number of speakers you want to use, if you want it to use analog or digital audio inputs, delay for lip syncing and video input type (like standard-definition TV or bypass for HDTV inputs) and setting up control of the front panel display. You may want the display on all of the time (I did), or have it time out, or set the brightness, or you may want it to display the video you are watching. You can likewise use it to cue said video prior to turning on the main display.
The remote offers four “F” keys that can be assigned as hot buttons for functions that you use frequently but which may be imbedded in the menu structure. Each F key has a list of possible functions that it can perform. Pick the function you like, select it, and the F key will perform that task. Now let’s take the SSP-600 for a spin and see how this baby handles.