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I've asked around a few times and tried to understand if a dedicated Amp would really make a difference in my setup or not, and never got a clear answer... Here's my review of Classe CA-2100 and how it works for a setup like mine.

Current Setup
  • Pioneer Elite SC-67
  • B&W 805S
  • B&W XTC (center)
  • B&W M1 (rear and 2nd Zone)
  • B&W PV1 SW
  • Xbox, HDBox, Pioneer Elite Bluray
  • Pioneer Elite Pro 111FD

I was quite happy with the SC-67 Receiver, the best Receiver I've ever had, with a ton of power, D-amp, lots of features, runs cool, and look great. The new Elite SC-series have also been reviewed very positively and one of the higher end models was deemed to be as good as separates (can't remember which reviewer it was), and I was content that it should just be fine for my setup... but as I said earlier was always curious if another amp would sound any different with my speakers. I once tried a Rotel model for a cpl of days as a loaner from my Hifi shop and didn't notice much difference (can't remember the model, it was the A/B older models)...

So, this time, I thought should only go after a premium model and see if it makes a difference. I was going the route of Emotiva for a bit, and then looked at Bryston, and Classe used products and a cpl of weeks ago found a Classe CA-2100 on eBay and pulled the trigger, below is a quick review after just 2 days of use!

Box
Best packaged product I've seen! Very nicely padded and I highly recommend anyone buying a Classe to keep the box.

Weight and size
This thing weighs 55 pounds! It is a definitely heavy, but not too heavy for most stands or cabinet (most could support to 75 pounds). The weight is also very balanced, I remember the Rotel was very heavy towards the front, but this is quite balanced so easier to manage. The size is quite manageable for smaller cabinets, but one needs to measure to make sure.

Looks and body
This thing is a BEAUTY! We literally just stood there looking at it for a bit after taking it out of the box. The body is ALL Aluminium, of the highest quality possible. It is an absolute work of art and feels incredible, just like a super premium commercial or medical equipment if not better. Event he black part upfront is brushed aluminium and it just feels as premium as it should (for the cost). The radiator like fins on the back do a great job to dissipate heat without a fan and the whole thing feels like it's made out of block of Aluminum. By far THE BEST made amp I've ever seen!

Setup
I basically used my Receiver pre-amp out for fronts connected via RCA, and speakers connected directly to the amp. I will also connect the Trigger (need a new wire) so it turns on/off with the receiver. The amp has output for bi-wiring, but I only had one pair, so will get some new cables later to try bi-wiring.

Audio Performance
After setup, we played the new Pink Floyd Bluray to see how this thing would sound.... and WOW, just WOW!!! I could NOT believe the difference this thing made. It literally opened up the speakers and for the first time I could get the real performance out of these B&W 800 series! The difference was specially profound in the bass as well as highs, and in general in separation of various tones was incredibly different! Imaging was improved 10-fold, you could literally place instruments, the vibration of Piano keys could be felt very clearly, and it just sound soooooo much better than my top-of-the line Receiver!

Overall the sound was noticeably warmer, clearer, more balanced across volume range, and much better at low volumes. I haven't even tried any audio adjustments via MCACC or what not, and just played in Pure Direct. It is not working as great for a 7-ch audio as I haven't equalized the audio yet, will do so later. BTW, at 100 watts rating, it's plenty loud and I typically listened at around -20 to -15dB.


Heat
This thing gets hot after a long period of play! As much as the heatsinks do a great job, I'd be careful in placing it in a cabinet without much air flow.


Summary
By far the BEST audio equipment I've ever owned, the first amp that actually made a marked improvement over my receiver (i.e. Rotel didn't), and a PERFECT MATCH for B&W 800 series speakers. I am not sure if it would make that big of a difference running other speakers or other systems, and this is in now way a negative for the Pioneer Elite receiver... it's simply another league of performance, and A/B vs. D amp quality which DOES make a difference with speakers like mine that need POWER! Thanks to Classe to making such an amazing product (albeit discontinued now - replaced by a D-amp).

Curious to know others feedback or comments too. I know this thing is too old to be reviewed in 2015, but thought it's a good re-visit for a classic product that still does a great job.
 

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Hi:

I am interested in going a similar route an av receiver with a hi end two channel amp for music or an integrated with home theater bypass.

Have you equalized the channels for theater? Is the sound across the L R and center seamless with amps of such different character?

Thanks!
 

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Great Post/Review !

I've asked around a few times and tried to understand if a dedicated Amp would really make a difference in my setup or not, and never got a clear answer... Here's my review of Classe CA-2100 and how it works for a setup like mine.

Current Setup
  • Pioneer Elite SC-67
  • B&W 805S
  • B&W XTC (center)
  • B&W M1 (rear and 2nd Zone)
  • B&W PV1 SW
  • Xbox, HDBox, Pioneer Elite Bluray
  • Pioneer Elite Pro 111FD

I was quite happy with the SC-67 Receiver, the best Receiver I've ever had, with a ton of power, D-amp, lots of features, runs cool, and look great. The new Elite SC-series have also been reviewed very positively and one of the higher end models was deemed to be as good as separates (can't remember which reviewer it was), and I was content that it should just be fine for my setup... but as I said earlier was always curious if another amp would sound any different with my speakers. I once tried a Rotel model for a cpl of days as a loaner from my Hifi shop and didn't notice much difference (can't remember the model, it was the A/B older models)...

So, this time, I thought should only go after a premium model and see if it makes a difference. I was going the route of Emotiva for a bit, and then looked at Bryston, and Classe used products and a cpl of weeks ago found a Classe CA-2100 on eBay and pulled the trigger, below is a quick review after just 2 days of use!

Box
Best packaged product I've seen! Very nicely padded and I highly recommend anyone buying a Classe to keep the box.

Weight and size
This thing weighs 55 pounds! It is a definitely heavy, but not too heavy for most stands or cabinet (most could support to 75 pounds). The weight is also very balanced, I remember the Rotel was very heavy towards the front, but this is quite balanced so easier to manage. The size is quite manageable for smaller cabinets, but one needs to measure to make sure.

Looks and body
This thing is a BEAUTY! We literally just stood there looking at it for a bit after taking it out of the box. The body is ALL Aluminium, of the highest quality possible. It is an absolute work of art and feels incredible, just like a super premium commercial or medical equipment if not better. Event he black part upfront is brushed aluminium and it just feels as premium as it should (for the cost). The radiator like fins on the back do a great job to dissipate heat without a fan and the whole thing feels like it's made out of block of Aluminum. By far THE BEST made amp I've ever seen!

Setup
I basically used my Receiver pre-amp out for fronts connected via RCA, and speakers connected directly to the amp. I will also connect the Trigger (need a new wire) so it turns on/off with the receiver. The amp has output for bi-wiring, but I only had one pair, so will get some new cables later to try bi-wiring.

Audio Performance
After setup, we played the new Pink Floyd Bluray to see how this thing would sound.... and WOW, just WOW!!! I could NOT believe the difference this thing made. It literally opened up the speakers and for the first time I could get the real performance out of these B&W 800 series! The difference was specially profound in the bass as well as highs, and in general in separation of various tones was incredibly different! Imaging was improved 10-fold, you could literally place instruments, the vibration of Piano keys could be felt very clearly, and it just sound soooooo much better than my top-of-the line Receiver!

Overall the sound was noticeably warmer, clearer, more balanced across volume range, and much better at low volumes. I haven't even tried any audio adjustments via MCACC or what not, and just played in Pure Direct. It is not working as great for a 7-ch audio as I haven't equalized the audio yet, will do so later. BTW, at 100 watts rating, it's plenty loud and I typically listened at around -20 to -15dB.


Heat
This thing gets hot after a long period of play! As much as the heatsinks do a great job, I'd be careful in placing it in a cabinet without much air flow.


Summary
By far the BEST audio equipment I've ever owned, the first amp that actually made a marked improvement over my receiver (i.e. Rotel didn't), and a PERFECT MATCH for B&W 800 series speakers. I am not sure if it would make that big of a difference running other speakers or other systems, and this is in now way a negative for the Pioneer Elite receiver... it's simply another league of performance, and A/B vs. D amp quality which DOES make a difference with speakers like mine that need POWER! Thanks to Classe to making such an amazing product (albeit discontinued now - replaced by a D-amp).

Curious to know others feedback or comments too. I know this thing is too old to be reviewed in 2015, but thought it's a good re-visit for a classic product that still does a great job.

Hey Alexb: What a fantastic post/review. You got lucky with the Classe CA-2100 --IT IS a SUPERB amplifier --easily comparable to the best available, regardless of price.

From personal experience the CA-2100 is far, far superior to the "replacement" CT-2300. Why Classe has discontinued such a superb amplifier is simply unbelievable.

Nevertheless, What you have before you is both awersome and world class. With this level of (amplification), you'd benefit from a CAREFUL choice of AC Power Cord and Interconnect (pre-to-power); Acoustic Zen Silver Reference II, Kimber SELECT KS-? (newest copper --or Copper/Silver), I think it's part of their 6000-series.

Always ensure that your analog equipement is plugged in to one outlet (even if using a power bar) and that ALL digital is plugged into the other AC-receptacle (assumiung you are using a single duplex AC wall receptacle.

Although skeptical, old-school dinosaurs may quiver and revolt, you yourself noted in your post " ... It's in a different league". and you are right. Once you hear equipment/cables of this caliber you soon realize that lesser equipment represent a very weak replicas of the recorded event.

I have some suggestions if you'd like ...

Enjoy !

pj
 
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