Classé Sigma 2200i Stereo Integrated Amplifier Reviewed

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Classé Sigma 2200i Stereo Integrated Amplifier Reviewed

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Classe-Sigma2201i-225x140.jpgWhat are you looking for in a two-channel integrated amp (assuming that you're looking for one at all, that is)? Good value and decent connectivity? If so, you're in luck because the market offers a number of such solutions. Retro appeal? You're pretty well covered in that department, too. How about HDMI connectivity in addition to the usual digital audio inputs, networking features (including AirPlay and DLNA), and an all-digital signal path that eliminates the need for DACs entirely except for the subwoofer output?

Wait. What?

I'm going to guess there are a fair number of audiophiles in the audience looking at me right now like I did my business in their kitchen sink; however, for those of you who aren't turned off by a product that rejects tradition and actually embraces the way a lot of people are enjoying their entertainment these days, let's talk about the Classé Sigma 2200i stereo integrated amplifier ($5,500), whose name is just about its only predictable feature.

First, let's spend a few minutes unpacking the last sentence of that first paragraph. In a two-channel market where a sizeable contingent views video as icky at best, Classé has embraced the future by packing the Sigma 2200i with four HDMI inputs and one output, with HDMI 2.0 support for UHD video up to 60 Hz, Audio Return Channel, 3D, Deep Color, and xvYCC support (but not HDR). It also supports HDCP 2.2 via one of its inputs.

In effect, that makes the Sigma 2200i an audiophile-caliber two-channel AV receiver, which isn't even really a thing. But it should be. It should have been a thing a long time ago.

Add to that the fact that (in typical B&W Group form) the Sigma 2200i embraces Apple the way cats embrace empty boxes: wholeheartedly, enthusiastically, in a way that we could all stand to learn a thing or two from. In addition to a front-panel USB port that turns your iOS device into a direct source, the 2200i is also an AirPlay receiver, assuming you can feed it a wired network connection. In other words, instead of telling the younger generation that they're Listening To Music Wrong, Classé has recognized the way people actually consume their entertainment and is striving to make the experience better.

Here's where things get really crazy, though. (Crazy like a fox, in my opinion.) The Sigma 2200i borrows the stereo section of its Sigma SSP AV preamp and routes its DSP output into its amplifier DSP, meaning that the only DAC within its signal chain comes at the very end, and only if you use a subwoofer. And the only ADCs are there to convert input from its trio of analog inputs (one XLR; two RCA) into the digital domain at 96/24. The amps, by the way, are 2 x 200W RMS into eight ohms and 2 x 400W RMS into four ohms, and they are the equivalent of what you'll find under the hood of the company's Sigma AMP2 or CA-D200. In terms of other inputs, you'll find a Type B USB input, two optical inputs, two coaxial digital inputs, and IR in and out.

The Hookup
For the bulk of this review, I relied primarily on a pair of GoldenEar Triton One speakers connected to the Sigma 2200i via a pair of Kimber Kable 12TC speaker cables--although at times I also subbed in the pair of Triton Two+ towers I recently reviewed. Toward the end of my testing, I replaced the GoldenEars with a pair of Markaudio Sota Viotti Ones, augmented by an RSL Speedwoofer 10S.

The one thing that you can't help but notice when hooking up the Sigma 2200i is that pictures of the unit do it no justice. Having reviewed gear from what used to be called Classé's Delta Series, I have to admit that I've always found the Sigma Series to be disappointingly drab from photos alone. In person, though, it's hard to deny the 2200i's simple beauty. Its black brushed-aluminum casing plays with light in ways that can't be captured in static images, and the overall build quality is simply impressive.

It's also a beautiful marriage of form and function. The case is designed to transform effortlessly for rack-mounting. You simply remove the side panels, flip them around, reattach, and pop on magnetic inserts to hide the screws. There's also a large air intake vent along the bottom of the faceplate that adds more visual interest to the all-black design.

For sources, I relied mostly on my Maingear Vybe media PC connected via USB, with a decent amount of listening via my iPhone 6S Plus (via both direct USB connection and AirPlay fed by by a CAT-6 connection from my Cisco 866VAE router) and a few cuts from an Oppo BDP-83 universal disc player connected with HDMI. Tapping into the 2200i's USB input does require the download of a driver, which for some reason isn't available on Classé's website, but you can find it on the B&W Group website.

Describing the speakers and sources I used--and how I connected them--only tells a fraction of the story in terms of the Sigma 2200i's setup. Unlike most stereo integrated amplifiers, there's a ton to adjust here. Like most Classé gear, this piece is graced with a recessed front-panel touch screen that grants access to a wealth of tweakable features, like a fully featured parametric EQ; a configuration setup that allows you to set, store, and recall different combinations of full-range, full-range-plus-sub, and 2.1, with your choice of three crossover slopes and crossover points that range from 40 to 140 Hz in 10Hz increments; source setups that allow you to mix and match AV connectivity and set default speaker configurations; tone control tweaks; volume control tweaks ... Just about the only thing you won't find in the setup menus is a way to set a static IP address for the 2200i, but you can easily do so by dialing into its assigned IP address in a browser on any device on the same network.

Note that I said "just about" there. There is one potentially troublesome omission (the keyword there being "potentially"), but we'll touch on that in the Downside section.

Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...

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