In the past decade-plus of reviewing topnotch audiophile and home theater gear, I can think of few products that have caught my attention more than the Classé' Audio CA-M400 monoblock amps. Priced at $5,000 each or, as reviewed, $10,000 per pair, the Classé' CA-M400 is certainly expensive but still not anywhere near the price of top-of-the-line audiophile reference amps from the likes of Krell (Evolution), Halcro and Mark Levinson. Upon first glance, you can't help but to be impressed with the industrial design of the Classé CA-M400. Its rounded edges and off-while/silver coloring, dressed with stylish black trim, makes the amp look like it belongs in the Museum of Modern Art, as well as potentially on the floor of your listening room.
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• Find some audiophile speakers to match the caliber of the CA-M400.
Getting past looks, the Classé CA-M400 is a 400-watt powerhouse that has a clean, open sound. The highs aren't overly warm, but have a nice air to them. The mids are what really sing about the Classé CA-M400. Its ability to reproduce vocals, especially female vocals, and specifically complex piano pieces, is most noteworthy. The bass on the Classé CA-M400 is also very noteworthy. While not as bombastic as, say, a Krell amplifier, the Classé's 400 watts per channel can take any speaker, in my case, the often tough-to-drive Revel Ultima Salon2 loudspeakers, and power them with ease to rock concert volumes. Overall, the sound of the Classé CA-M400 is very well balanced.
• The Classé' Audio CA-M400 offers ultimate audiophile monoblock performance, on par with the most expensive options from Krell, Mark Levinson and Halcro, at a fraction of the price.
• The fit and finish of the Classé Audio CA-M400 is as good as you
will find anywhere with any audiophile product. It is simply stunning
and anyone who tells you that you are being too foo-foo about
considering the way an amp looks can kiss your ass. The look of a
statement amp like the Classé' CA-M400 matters.
• I love the
midrange performance of this amp. Some people are bass freaks. Others
want a little more brightness on the high end, but take my word, and
audition the Classé' Audio CA-M400 with Sgt. Pepper's at your local
dealer or, even better, at home, and you will know what I am talking
about. This is a serious audiophile amp.
While this is nitpicking, the Classé' Audio CA-M400 is so well balanced
that no one thing really sticks out about it. With a Krell amp, I can
say it has the best bass. With an Audio Research reference tube amp, I
can talk about the magical highs. With the Classé' Audio CA-M400, the
performance of the amp is so consistent that there is no one element
that jumps out. You will have to decide if that is a plus or a minus
before you make the investment.
I know you are going to think I am crazy, but I believe the Classé'
Audio CA-M400, at $10,000 a pair, is an outright audiophile bargain.
Yes, you can buy a NuForce digital amp for a fraction of the cost,
which is a very nice option at its price point. However, when you are
nearing the top-of-the-food-chain prices for audiophile gear, things
start to get stupid expensive - think NetJets stupid. You do not need
to have a 25-hour card with a Hawker 800XP to be able to afford the
Classé Audio CA-M400. You just need an audiophile system that strives
to reproduce music in your listening room that can legitimately make
you believe the performers are actually in the room, or you need a home
theater system with the latest surround sound codecs like Dolby TrueHD
and or DTS Master Audio that can resolve detail you never thought was
possible across seven channels of surround sound. In the end, the
Classé Audio CA-M400 is about as good of a reference power amp as you
can buy at a fraction of the price of the uber-reference mono amps
currently on the market today.