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Classé Introduces New Reference Preamp/Processor, the SSP-800 Print E-mail
Friday, 16 May 2008
ImageCanadian high-end audio-video manufacturer Classé Audio has established an enviable reputation for producing truly reference-standard audio and A/V components. It’s SSP-300 Preamp/processor, and SSP-600 Preamp/processor have become internationally accepted benchmarks representing the current state of the art for these technologies. Now, Classé has raised the bar again with the introduction of the new SSP-800. “In recent years the development of high definition audio and video has accelerated, rendering many relatively new home theater components incompatible or obsolete.” says David Nauber, Executive VP – Brand Development. “The early adopter’s quest for the latest technology is never cheap or without risk. But those who have sought out the highest quality components have been able to relax and enjoy them. They know that the latest technology is rarely a threat to genuine quality. “

“When a new component is released which wraps important new technologies in a package of superior quality, it is time to sit up and take notice. The introduction of the SSP-800 is just such an occasion, when enthusiasts should consider upgrading their systems.”

The SSP-800 is a ten-channel preamp/processor, offering both balanced and single-ended connections for all channels. Audio Digital Signal Processing (DSP) is handled by a Texas Instruments-based platform, which operates in 64-bit double precision. It uses floating point arithmetic for all audio signal calculations to ensure the most accurate results possible.

All bass management filters, level adjustments and parametric filters also benefit from the added precision. To ensure the SSP-800 retains its value and competitive edge, the Classé Design Team has designed the DSP onto a replaceable module to accommodate a planned future upgrade. 

Superior audio performance is achieved by combining powerful DSP with balanced topologies, advanced component parts and meticulous circuit layout. A dedicated linear power supply using a low-noise toroidal transformer powers the analog audio circuits. Digital and control circuits are powered by their own dual-output, low-noise, high-current switching supply.

High quality digital-to-analog converters and output stage components are configured to ensure exceptional dynamic range and resolution. Audio circuits are isolated from video and control circuits by optocouplers and low voltage differential signal (LVDS) pathways. Digital and analog circuits and grounds are isolated from each other among and within circuit boards.

Throughout the SSP-800 there are examples of HD technology executed at the highest quality level. It is the combination of advanced technology and genuine quality sets the SSP-800 apart. And while technology and quality give the SSP-800 its intrinsic value, we measure its true worth first on the test bench and then in the sound room.

Music First
Music listening remains the most reliable method of judging sound quality. In fact, no surround processor can accurately reproduce movie sound if it fails to reproduce music properly. At Classé, our first priority is developing components that perform exceptionally well with music. We then turn our attention to processor decoding capabilities and developing features that enhance flexibility and in-room performance.

With musical performance as its benchmark, the SSP-800 was conceived as a high-performance multichannel preamplifier. For two-channel listening both balanced and single-ended analog sources may bypass all analog-to-digital, DSP and digital-to-analog stages. Alternatively, the full range of processing capabilities including bass management and parametric equalization is available for both analog and digital sources.

The SSP-800 changes the game by doing what no preamp/processor has done before: it performs as well with music as a dedicated stereo DAC and preamplifier. The secret of its breathtaking performance lies not in some new parts or special features, although it has many. What sets the SSP-800 apart is the depth of experience never before brought to bear on a multichannel design.

Analog to Digital
Modern source components are increasingly optimized for use with digital interconnections and the SSP-800 capitalizes on this trend. Older surround processors are typically equipped with a vast array of analog inputs. These have been minimized in the SSP-800 and largely replaced by digital connectors. Four HDMI 1.3a (High Definition Multimedia Interface) inputs for audio/video sources are supplemented by standard SPDIF (coax) and EIAJ (optical) digital inputs for audio.

HDMI is the connection standard adopted for high definition A/V sources. An HDMI cable may carry 1080p HD video signals and uncompressed multichannel LPCM digital audio as well as the latest HD audio codecs (Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio) and certain control signals. Several versions of HDMI have been introduced, each surpassing the other in bandwidth and support for additional features. While the hardware used to transmit and receive on HDMI may be labeled by its version number (the SSP-800 uses version 1.3a for all HDMI inputs and outputs), there will be differences among products’ actual capabilities.

The SSP-800 uses HDMI 1.3a primarily to support the component’s long life in an evolving market. As new sources emerge, the SSP-800 offers the potential for transferring more information into and through its circuitry. For example, the video signal path supports 36-bit Deep Color video, even though Blu-ray Discs are only 24-bit video sources. In general, the bandwidth of components and circuitry in the SSP-800 is sufficient to accommodate all current and proposed next-generation sources.

Touchscreen Control and More
Classé Delta series components were the first A/V products to offer touchscreen control. Since then, touchscreen control has become an integral benefit for other consumer electronics products. Touchscreen control is more reliable and infinitely more flexible than the older style controls using push-buttons with fixed-segment displays.

The SSP-800 is custom installation friendly. It is equipped with bi-directional RS-232 control and status, rear panel IR, front panel IR transmitter/receiver, CAN BUS and DC triggers.

Video sources of all HDTV resolutions including 1080p are available for viewing on the touchscreen. On Screen Display (OSD) messages can be overlaid on all video signals. Older analog video sources are converted to digital and made available on the HDMI outputs. For displays lacking digital video connections, a component video output is available for analog video sources.

Real World Applications
In addition to quality and technology, the SSP-800 has flexibility built in. Its ten-channel design creates the possibility of configuring two channels for additional subwoofers or as mirrors of the front left and right channels for bi-amplifying the front left and right speakers. Alternatively, these two channels may be devoted to delivering audio to a separate room or system, with source selection shared with the main theater and either fixed or variable output.

Five-band parametric equalization is provided for each of the ten channels to help tune the system to its environment. Classé has elected to offer the system EQ as a manual feature. While several automated systems are available on the market, the complexity of room acoustics guarantees that no automatic system can achieve consistent, optimum results. Our experience is that the best results are obtained by combining measurements with human judgment. The filters used in the EQ are rendered accurately by our processor, which uses floating point arithmetic operating in 64-bit double-precision.

The wealth of knowledge applied to the SSP-800 design and the inspiration for its execution do not come from a textbook—they come from the passion and dedication of those who have spent their lives in the pursuit of higher performance. Classé offers the SSP-800—the definitive preamp/processor—for those who share our singular passion for performance.

Available May 2008.
MSRP - $8,000.00

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