Classe is one of those AV brands that many AV enthusiasts lust after. A gorgeous industrial design, innovative technology, forward-thinking features, and overall great sound have made the brand a killer for decades. Today, you can add value to the long list of Classe accolades, thanks to the recent rollout of the brand's Sigma Series--which includes a two-channel amp (the AMP2, $3,500), a five-channel amp (the AMP-5 reviewed here, $5,000), and a smoking-good little AV preamp also priced at $5,000. Basically, for the price of a Classe SSP-800 reference AV preamp, you can assemble a full 5.1 theater package. That's a value proposition that many will have to consider strongly when the next urge to upgrade hits, as this is a meaningful upgrade over anything that even the best, most pricey AV receivers can provide.
Having owned (and loved) the Classe SSP-800 and a pair of Classe's CT600 powerhouse mono-block amplifiers, perhaps I come into this review a bit jaded. The Classe SSP-800 is one of the finest AV preamps on the market today and has stood the test of time in an ever-changing home theater market. The CT600 is one of the finest amps I have ever opened a Word file to gush over. It has more power than one would reasonably need, with the accuracy of uber-high-end amps costing tens of thousands of dollars. I would have never sold my reference Classe setup but for the fact that I moved from my home and knew that I would be without a large-format AV system for at least 18 months. Roll the tape forward to today, and the time came to start putting together a new system. Dolby Atmos, DTS:X, Crestron-this-that-and-the-other-thing, power-over-IP, enterprise-class Internet switching and routing, lighting control, DVRs, pool and irrigation controllers--all packed into my two larger Middle Atlantic equipment racks. When it came time to look into some new AV electronics, cutting-edge technology was one draw, but so was smaller, more rack-friendly gear. Enter Classe's Sigma products, including the AMP5.
Priced at $5,000, the Classe AMP5 reminds me a lot of my trusty old Proceed AMP5 from nearly 20 years ago. The Classé is a modern version of that under-rated workhorse amp. It's a 200-watt-per-channel (times five), two-rack-space Class D amp that can respectfully drive nearly any and every type of speaker. Because I needed more channels of power, I also added a Classe Sigma AMP2 ($3,500).
I know what you are thinking: Class D amps sound clinical and lifeless. They have no real bass and are more for utility than audiophile applications. Years ago, I might have agreed with those clichés, but not today. There are a whole host of Class D amps out there that sound simply fantastic, and I say this as someone who has recently owned big Class AB amps and even a 30-watt Class A amp.
Installation was a snap, as the Classe Sigma AMP5 can be easily fitted for rack mounting. If you are not rack mounting it, you are still in for a cakewalk of an installation, as this Class D amp runs cool to the touch--thus no need for special accommodations for heat, as is the case with nearly every other multichannel power amp. And for weight, the entire amp weighs 23 pounds out of the box. Amazing.
I mated the Classe Sigma AMP5 with the Classe Sigma AV preamp (without the EQ engaged). My speaker system featured Focal Diablo Utopia speakers up front and Sonance eight-inch in-ceiling speakers in the surround positions, with an SVS SB-13 subwoofer.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...