Nobody does high end AV industrial design better than Classe these days and at the top of any Classé rack – along with a brand-spanking-new Classé SSP-800 AV preamp – should be a Classé CDP-502 Reference Disc Player. The machine’s name is somewhat of a misnomer implying that it is only a Compact Disc player but the Classé CDP-502 is both an audiophile grade CD player as well as a capable, upscaling DVD player. The Classé CDP-502 also will play DVD-Audio discs along with a host of other discs including DTS CD, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, Video-CD, CD-R, CD-RW and more.
• Read audiophile CD players and source components from Classé, Meridian, WADIA, Audio Research, Benchmark Media, EMM Labs, Mark Levinson, Krell and many others.
• Read a review of Classé’s SSP-800 AV preamp used by HomeTheaterReview.com’s Jerry Del Colliano and Dr. Ken Taraszka.
From an audiophile standard, the Classé CDP-502 can hang with many of the big boys costing even more money. At $8,500 in retail price, you should expect audiophile performance and you get it in spades. Most relevant is the Classé CDP-502’s ability to play back Compact Discs. While DVD-Audio discs without question sound better than traditional CDs, the fact remains DVD-Audio is a dead format and we are all stuck with the discs we have. Compact Disc is far more relevant to the music lover and the music lover is who this player is aimed at. The flavor musically is not forward but very detail oriented. As compared to my former reference DVD-CD player, the $24,000 Meridian 800, the Classé isn’t as liquid sounding; however the player is rock solid in the bass. The sound stage is simply foundational and realistic while the highs gleam with musical energy. If you are looking for better Compact Disc players – you can find them in the $20,000 category. That’s where the Classé CDP-502 sits in the pantheon of Compact Disc players right now when it comes to music.
The Classé CDP-502 isn’t just a one-trick pony as it is a very capable DVD player. One of its best features is its front panel screen, which helps you cue up discs and prepare them for playback. Increasingly discs take longer and longer to load and this feature really helps out with getting your system playing what you want when you want it. The Classé CDP-502 is not a Blu-ray player so it doesn’t play native high definition discs; however it will capably scale discs from any number of standard definition resolutions to as high as 1080p output. I set my player to output 1080p via HDMI as I thought the resolution was better from the Classé than going further downstream to my DVDO VP50 Pro video processor which has other challenges for video scaling in my system. The differences in the two scalers are for videophiles to argue about, as they both were quite good. The additional simplicity in my equipment rig was the difference maker.
Under the hood technically, there is a 24/192 DAC for all audio formats. There are both balanced and unbalanced audio outputs, depending on the needs of your system. Most home theaters run unbalanced yet many audiophile systems run using balanced XLR connectors. With the Classé you get both options, which is useful. On the audio side, the CDP-502 uses much of the reference level CD player, the Classé CDP-202’s internal processing, transport technology and infrastructure while adding quality video playback and upconversion to the performance of the reference Compact Disc player.
Read The High Points, Low Points and Conclusion on Page 2