Classé CDP-202 CD Player 
Home Theater Audio Sources CD Players
Written by Brian Kahn   
Thursday, 01 March 2007

Believe it or not, the market for high-end CD players is alive and well. Despite the introduction of new high-end formats such as DVD-Audio, SACD and now HD-DVD and Blu-ray, the fact remains that there is more music available on CD than on all the new high-resolution formats combined. The music lovers who have a large collection of music on CD still need high-quality players in order to fully enjoy the music that they have spent so many years amassing.

The CDP-202 ($6,500) is the latest and greatest of the stereo-only “CD player” options in Classé’s Delta series of products. The Delta Series is the first new product series from Classé Audio since Classé became part of the B&W group. I place CD player in quotes when describing the CDP-202, as it will actually play just about any non-high-definition disc format other than SACD.

The new Delta Series CD player screamed “well-made high-end audio component” from the moment it arrived. Once I removed the player from its well-packaged wrappings, I was impressed with the industrial design and build quality of the CDP-202. The industrial design of the CDP-202 is virtually identical to the previously reviewed CDP-300, but is worth going over again. The design is the brainchild of Morton Warren and Native Design Studios.

The front and side panels feature a “U” shape extrusion. The aluminum panel features a fine brush finish and large radius corners. There is a large black aluminum bezel toward the left side of the front panel that surrounds a three-by-two-inch LCD touch screen. The bezel runs the full height of the unit and is consistent in appearance with the rest of the Delta Series. Another piece of black aluminum approximately half an inch high bisects the height of the CDP-202’s front panel. The aluminum accent line extends to the left of the bezel by approximately one inch. This portion forms a standby button with a small status LED. The line extends to the right of the bezel across the front of the unit and contains a slot for disc loading. The slot glows with a blue light when empty and ready for a disc. The bezel itself has two discrete black aluminum buttons, one on each side of the touchscreen, a menu button on the left and an eject button on the right. “Classé” is laser engraved above the panel and “CDP-202” below. The overall effect is unique and stunning.

The advanced industrial design is not limited to the player’s good looks. The top panel is vibration-dampened black anodized aluminum. The solid black back panel is busier than one would expect for a CD player, with single-ended and balanced analog audio outputs, digital outputs both AES/EBU, optical and coaxial varieties, composite and s-video outputs, trigger inputs/outputs, IR input/output, CAN Bus in/out, IEC power plug and, lastly, a power switch.

Opening up the CDP-202 reveals an interior that is as gorgeous as the exterior. In the front left corner is a transformer for the audio board. To the right of that is the transport power supply. The TEAC DVD-Rom drive fills out the front of the player. The entire right rear portion of the player is filled with a circuit board that contains a 24-bit/192 kHz upsampling chip, and triple Burr-Brown PCM1792 digital to analog converters. Miscellaneous other daughter boards fill out the remainder. The entire package measures 17-and-a-half inches wide by four-and three-quarters inches high and 16-and-a-half inches deep. The CDP-202 weighs a respectable 26 pounds and rests upon shock-absorbing feet.

The remote itself is worth a mention: it is made out of heavy gauge aluminum, flat across the top and semi-circular on the bottom, so it fits nicely in your hand. The front panel allows the transmission of IR signals and the back piece is black anodized aluminum. A special screwdriver is provided to remove the back piece to change batteries. The keys are well laid out and illuminated with a soft blue light. All in all, it is an excellent remote that is an appropriate interface for a player of this caliber.

The video section of the CDP-202 is somewhat limited and is primarily meant to be used as a control interface for the both the player’s functions and navigating menus on a DVD-Audio disc. While the S-video and composite video outputs are completely satisfactory for what they are, in order to get video that matches the level of the audio quality, one should explore the Classé CDP-300.

Classé has long recognized timing accuracy or jitter as a substantial factor in the sound quality of digital audio systems. Classé works hard to maximize timing accuracy by routing the digital signal through what they call CPLD, (Complex Programmable Logic Device) and sample rate converter, which converts the signal to 24 bit/192 kHz and re-clocks the signal before it goes to the D to A converters.

The stereo DACs contain 8x oversampling filters. There are separate DACs for both the single-ended and balanced circuits. The single-ended circuits are topnotch, but the balanced circuits take it to the next level by operating in a true “double balanced” mode, wherein each half of the balanced signal is treated differentially.

In addition to the plethora of high-technology features to achieve optimum sound quality, the CDP-202 is replete with numerous convenience and control features including, but definitely not limited to, variable channel outputs, two-channel mix-down of multi-channel recordings, numerous control modes and easy to navigate menus.

I placed the CDP-202 in my two-channel system, which consists primarily of a Krell FBI driving Martin Logan Summits, with Cardas’ Golden Presence balanced interconnects and bi-wired speaker cables. I also used the CDP-202 with the new McIntosh Laboratories C-220 pre-amplifier (review forthcoming) and Halcro MC-50 amplifier, driving Krell Lat-2000s with Monster Sigma Retro speaker cables.

The menu system was direct and easy to navigate. I quickly went through all the options for triggers, displays and outputs. While my system was very simple, it would be quick and easy to configure the unit to integrate into any system.

Music Listening
When I first got the CDP-202 up and running in my system, I had an easy time running though all the options and menus. This player can be set up in a few different ways in order to match your needs and tastes. When playing Michael Penn’s album March, I paid particularly close attention to the track “This and That.” In this track, Penn’s vocals are accompanied by an acoustic guitar, both cleanly recorded. Listening to this track through the Classé, I found that the soundstage was appropriately sized, placing the listener close to but not on top of the action. Imaging was sharp and solid without any float. The guitar was reproduced with a great amount of finesse and detail. There was a relaxed sense of ease while listening to this track, but not at the cost of any detail. The Classé maintained a good sense of rhythm, well-timed but more relaxed than analytical.

I then listened to U2’s War album (Island – Mobile Fidelity). “Sunday Bloody Sunday” is a pretty forward recording and can be abrasive on lesser systems. While listening to this track through either system sourced by the Classé, there was never any harshness. I noted that the highs were extended and open, with a clear and smooth decay. The soundstage on this track was notably and appropriately larger than on “This and That.” The vocals were extremely clean and it was fairly easy to pick out the many details and layers in this recording.

I then listened to a female vocalist whose disc I had used on my recent review of the Martin Logan Summits. Playing the very well-recorded “Dat Dere” from Rickie Lee Jones’ album Pop Pop (Geffen), I was thankful for the extremely revealing Summits. I played this track back through the CDP-202 and also used the Perpetual Technologies P-1/P- 3, DSP/DAC combination. I found that the CDP-202 seemed to have more air in the highs and a bit more detail providing greater texture. The Classé seemed to be a bit warmer overall, yet maintained a proper balance. The soundstages were similar in size, but the position of the listener was different. There was no question that the Classé’ sounded more musical on its own.

Dynamic contrasts, on both large and small scales, were very well-rendered. On the reissue of Nat "King" Cole’s The Greatest Hits (DCC), "Orange Colored Sky" begins with soft piano, bass and voice orchestration. These relatively delicate and low-level pieces were well-detailed against a quiet background. Within the first minute, the background singers and brass open up with a large jump in dynamic range.

I moved on to a DVD-Audio disc, Missy Elliot’s “Miss E. So Addictive” (WEA/Elektra). While listening to one of my reference tracks, “Get Ur Freak On,” the soundstage remained very wide, despite the down-mixing to two channels, due to my system configuration. The vocals of Miss E. and her background singers were clean and well-defined, yet also warm and full. I ended up listening to this track several times, as I found myself noticing various details that I had not previously noted, even though I have heard this album through quite a few DVD players. The Classé was detailed enough to portray the sharpness of the synthesizers, but captured the warmth of the vocals at the same time. Like much of this album, this track has a strong bass track. While paying attention to the bass, I found that the lower registers had a bit of bloom and, in comparison, perhaps just a touch less of an edge than the Perpetual Technologies combination.

I also listened to one of Classic Records’ high-definition DAD discs, John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom.” The title track did a phenomenal job with Hooker’s voice. The soundstage was intimately sized and the images solidly anchored. I was able to hear more detail through the Classé than I had ever heard on this album through any of the DVD players previously used.

Overall, the CDP-202 was consistently musical. The sound was detailed, but not overly so. Where some audio components control the sound reproduction with rigid total command authority, the Classé seems to gain control over the sound with seduction. The sound does not feel forced, but rather relaxed without sacrifice of detail, providing a musically revealing picture. The midrange was relaxed and slightly recessed in position, with the highs well extended and smooth. The CDP-202 was completely devoid of the glare and grain that plague lesser players.

The Downside
The CDP-202 is one of, if not the, finest CD player I have had in my house, and it is hard to criticize. I wondered if HDCD would have provided further sonic benefits with HDCD-encoded discs. My experience with other players indicates that this is quite possible. My other wish is that the player would accommodate SACDs. Over the past few years, I have collected a few SACDs that have great stereo tracks, and I was sorry that the CDP-202 could not accommodate them.

The CDP-202 at $6,500 is not inexpensive, but it is far from being the priciest CD playback system on the market. The player greatly benefits from a balanced system and I would definitely use it with a balanced preamplifier to get the most out of the CDP-202. As with the great debate between tubes and solid state, everyone has their own sonic preferences; some people prefer an iron grip, whereby the component exercises its complete command authority, while others prefer warmth and liquidity. I found the Classé to be more or less a careful proverbial blend of solid state and tube components. The CDP-202 displays wonderful balance and poise with all types of material, providing plenty of detail while getting out of the way and letting the music capture your soul.
Manufacturer Classe
Model CDP-202 CD Player
Reviewer Brian Kahn

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