Classe, like Krell, Mark Levinson, Pass Labs and McIntosh, is a brand that needs no introduction for if you fancy yourself an audiophile at all, then you no doubt are aware of the Canadian manufacturer. Since 1980, Classe has been making some of the finest two-channel and home theater electronics the industry has ever known and in the last few years they've stepped up their efforts; producing components that can only be described as beautiful - both sonically and visually. Don't get me wrong - Classe has always been about sound quality but their newest offerings, such as the Delta Series CA-2300 reviewed here, are simply in a league all their own.
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Retailing for $7,000, the CA-2300 is one of the most visually striking amplifiers I've ever seen. Clad in white aluminum complete with rounded edges and a black air intake, the CA-2300 has a decidedly tailored look that, when combined with other Classe products, specifically other Delta Series electronics, makes for a stunning visual statement. Seriously, you owe it to yourself to Google an image of the Delta Series products rack mounted with custom faceplates in a Middle Atlantic Rack - it's gorgeous. The CA-2300's visual appearance goes a long way in disguising its actual girth, for the CA-2300 measures in at 17.5 inches wide by 19 inches deep and just under nine inches tall, which coupled with its 88 pound net weight makes it a heavyweight, albeit a nicely dressed one. The front fascia features only a standby button, which glows red when in standby mode (drawing less than a single Watt thanks to its new power supply) and blue when operational.
Around back the white aluminum is lost though the CA-2300's attention to detail is not. There are two sets of five-way binding posts per channel (to facilitate bi-wiring) surrounding the CA-2300's large air vent. Below each pair of binding posts you'll find both single ended and balanced analog inputs. All of the inputs are neatly spaced and clearly labeled, making the CA-2300 supremely easy to integrate into an existing system. There is an AC mains input to the left of the binding posts and running along the far left side of the CA-2300's back panel are inputs for Classe's own CAN Bus (Controller Area Network) as well as a RS-232, USB Control Port, 12-volt triggers and a IR input and output.
Twice I've mentioned the CA-2300's unique venting system and for good reason for the CA-2300 employs the same ICTunnel cooling system found in Classe's CT series of components, allowing the CA-2300 to perform at its peak while remaining largely cool to the touch. Another nicety about the ICTunnel is the fact that it's internal, drawing cool air in through the front while expelling warm air out the back and thus eliminating the need for traditional heat sinks that are unsightly as well as dangerous in some cases.
Beyond its microprocessor controlled, wiz-bang cooling system the CA-2300 boasts some pretty impressive specs. The CA-2300 has a stated power output of 300-Watts per channel into eight Ohms and doubling down to 600-Watts per channel into four Ohms. The CA-2300's frequency response is 1Hz-80kHz, -3dB and it has a reported harmonic distortion of less than .002 percent via a balanced connection and .004 percent through a single ended one. As I stated earlier the CA-2300's idle power draw is less than a single Watt though its operational power draw can reach upwards of 420-Watts.
Integrating a two-channel power amp into one's system is hardly complicated and the CA-2300 is no different. Unboxing the CA-2300 is simple enough thanks to Classe's ingenious box design, which quite literally falls away from the CA-2300 once the packing straps have been cut and top has been lifted off. Moving the CA-2300 from his foam throne to your rack is a job more easily tackled with two people but not impossible if you're flying solo. I placed the CA-2300 on the bottom shelf of my Omni+ Vent Home Theater Cabinet.
I connected the CA-2300 to my reference preamp, Classe's own Omega Preamplifier, via one meter runs of Transparent Reference interconnects with the rest of the system comprised of a Sony ES Blu-ray player, Apple TV and Cambridge Audio DACMagic. I let the CA-2300 play for a good week before sitting down for any critical listening, which according to Classe wasn't really necessary for the CA-2300 is ready to perform after only 15 minutes of warm up, thanks again to its unique construction and cooling system.
Starting with two-channel music I cued up Moby's Play on my Apple TV, which I imported, uncompressed, from the CD (V2). Track 14, "Everloving", is a track that I am intimately familiar with and I thought it would be a good jumping off point for which to acquaint myself with the CA-2300. The opening guitar, which is almost monaural coming from the left speaker, was very articulate but possessed a subtle delicacy that bordered on haunting. The transition between monaural and stereo, half way into the opening guitar solo, was seamless and smooth, a feat few amps get right, instead presenting the listener with a hop, skip and a jump transition.
Once the song picks up the CA-2300 was able to flex a bit though it never lost it's delicate touch, exhibiting great poise and control and in some instances restraint where other amps would've gone for broke. The CA-2300's way with "Everloving" made for a far more textural and nuanced performance that was more indicative, at times, of my single ended triode system than a mega-Watt solid state rig.
Dynamically, I wouldn't categorize the CA-2300 as explosive but instead I would say it was appropriate, possessing a bit more urgency and snap than say, the recently reviewed Mark Levinson No 533H but lacking the sheer attack I found in the Krell 402e. The CA-2300's soundstage was very nice, extending well beyond the outer edges of my Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Diamonds with excellent spatial detail and air ensuring that none of the instruments impeded upon one another. While the soundstage did recede back several feet, it never encroached upon my listening space the way some more forward sounding amplifiers often do.
Read more about the performance of the Delta Series CA-2300 on Page 2.