should be a great unit. Some initial information:
After a 15 year hiatus the B&W Group has once again put a display booth on the CES floor. Unfortunately, all they are showcasing is B&W based products. The most popular attraction being the Jaguar demo followed by the Classe' powered Liberty system. Therefore, there won't be any photos of Classe' only equipment to share. However, there are some other very surprising things to talk about. Pay close attention Minardi2.
Delta Series Updates
The SSP-800 is poised to be a killer product. Recent economic shifts within the high-end AV community has given Classe' an opportunity to seize the moment. They are still on target to release the processor to manufacturing in March with product availability planned for April. However, they are nolonger prepared to offer it at the $10K - $12K price point. Instead they are shooting for an $8K price tag! That's right $8000 dollars.
In the midst of all the recent price increases coming out of corporate, I never saw this coming nor would have I expected it. While no decisions have been made they are reviewing the prospects of a trade-up program, but don't get your hopes up. Given the new price margin it may not be financial feasible but they are considering the possibilities.
The DSP will be an upgradeable MDS DAE-7 module which is based on the TI Aureus processor chip. Unlike other DAE kits all of the DSP support architecture and circuitry including power supplies, ADCs and DACs are engineered by Classe'. The DAE-7 will not support the decoding of the high-definition audio codecs like Dolby Digital Plus and TrueHD and DTS-HD HRA and MA but it will support all the standard audio codecs and multi-channel LPCM. HDMI 1.3a is included as is support for Deep Color video.
Classe's supplier of the DSP's could not make a solid commitment to produce a high-definition compatible module in time for the SSP's launch. Later when MDS makes an upgrade available that supports the new codecs Classe' may offer it to their customer's for no extra charge. Classe' is expecting something later this year, perhaps in the fall sometime but it's still up in the air.
Then again they may not offer the upgrade at all. There are a number of dependencies as to why. One such factor is due to the high-definition formats specification that all decoding take place on the player. Time will tell but the lack of SSP onboard decoding should not be viewed as a deal breaker for anyone. Sony and Toshiba designed it that way!
The SSP-800 will not include a self-calibrating parametric equalizer but will include manual equalization that will require third-part support. Classe' evaluated the popular Audysse MultEQ and found that its inconsistent results made it an inadequate option to include in the next generation processor. Therefore, room correction features are accessible but geared to those that are less timid and well initiated.
Two-channel and multi-channel audio performance is claimed to be the best to date to come out of Classe's development programs.
There are still a few SSP questions that I hope to have an answer for soon so stay tuned. There will be more to come later regarding high-definition players, and the future development of the Delta and Omega Series lines as well. I'm just too tired to report it all at this time. Sorry.
The SSP-800 is going to be one helluva high-performance machine for both two-channel music and multi-channel movie sources. The processor has been designed to use up to 10 layer PCBs which will provide better isolation between power and ground planes and will reduce potentially harmful interference thus improving signal integrity. There is a linear relationship between multi-layers and increasing costs but the net result will be much better performance. I have been told that the internal board layouts are stunning but this information may only matter to gear heads like myself. However, it should be understood that board design is crucial to squeezing out the most from the electric circuits and accompanying components but many people do not know this. It's this kind of attention to detail plus the combination of component choices and implementations that make all the difference in the world between SSPs.
The DAE-7 upgradeable module used in the SSP-800 is capable of supporting the optional THX Ultra 2 post-processing feature set but I have yet to confirm from Classe' that they will implement it. The DAE-7 also supports Dolby Pro Logic IIx; DPLIIx was missing in the first generation of SSPs. Another missing feature of the 1Gs that should also make it into the SSP-800 is dts-96/24.
Other than these and other previously posted technical aspects, what makes the SSP-800 a potential kick-ass product? One word, Proceed! Anyone familiar with the legacy of the Mark Levinson processors and Proceed AVPs knows how important a statement this is. The Proceed AVP2 is still recognized to this day as being one of the best if not the best processor that has been made. While the SSP-600 that Classe' produced can go toe-to-toe with the AVP2 the SSP-800 will deliver the knock out punch. Why? Because the principle engineer behind the ML and Proceed processors is part of the Classe' Design Team that built the SSP-800 from the ground up to be the best processor ever made. The SSP-600 already carries some of the ML/Proceed heritage but the SSP-800 is a direct descendant from the ML/Proceed gene pool and is the culmination of its prized legacy. When you consider the SSP-800 is the combination of Classe's prowess for high-performance stereo and bequeathed ML/Proceed multi-channel surround sound genetics, but better, you have yourself one helluva high-performance machine!
In the past Classe' has been pretty tight lipped about their plans for an HD player. But in recent weeks shifts in the format war have put Classe' into a position where they can begin to make some decisions about it going forward. While Classe' doesn't know whether they will build an HD player they do know they will make a decision about it within the next six months. Classe' is not interested nor are they willing to re-brand an HD player just to have one in their arsenal. They believe such a choice would compromise what they are all about so they just won't do it. They have a deep passion to better the existing and if making it better can't be done or if it would be to costly to do it then they won't attempt it. Classe' has formed strategic partnerships to assist in their goals of taking high-end audio to the next level and such would be the case with an HD player. If the potential investment they make can be amortized over the life cycle of a product and a profit realized while achieving the desired design goal of the product then Classe' will build an HD player, otherwise they won't. Classe' is currently working with it's partners to determine the feasibility of building a high-performance HD player and if it's doable then we should know some time later in the year.
As for the Omega Series it will be discontinued. The Omega SACD player and pre-amplifier have already been dismissed. No further SACD development or product releases will occur for either the Omega or Delta lines. For the time being Classe' is focused on filling out and improving their Delta Series line-up so no attention to the Omega Series will be paid at present. However, long term plans includes a new vision for the Omega line which will no longer be titled as such. Instead the Omega name will be reincarnated into something else yet to be determined. Development efforts for the new line are on hold until then as the team continue's to channel their efforts on the Delta Series.
Classé has caught up with the reset of the processors in terms of HDMI. The SSP-800 which will ship in the somewhat near future will support HDMI 1.3 with 4 inputs and 2 outputs. It will support OSD on all video signals including 1080p and will support 36-bit color. While it will not support scaling of the video signals it will switch them and pull off the audio which is the part we consider to be the most important. And it keeps the cool screen in the front.