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 Classe' Audio CA-M400 monoblock amps. Priced at $5,000 each or, as reviewed, $10,000 per pair, the Classe' 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 Classe 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 Classe 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 Classe CA-M400. Its ability to reproduce vocals, especially female vocals, and specifically complex piano pieces, is most noteworthy. The bass on the Classe CA-M400 is also very noteworthy. While not as bombastic as, say, a Krell amplifier, the Classe'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 Classe CA-M400 is very well balanced.
• The Classe' 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.
• While this is nitpicking, the Classe' 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 Classe' 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 Classe' 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 Classe' 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 Classe' 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.