They are, typically, the most visible part of any entertainment system and, while they exert the most perceptible impact on sound quality, loudspeakers are but dumb, mute boxes without the electronics that go before them.
CD and DVD players are the start of the audio chain and, as source components, deliver audio and video signals to an amplifier. Its job is to take the weak electronic signal from these source components and boost it so that it’s powerful enough to drive a speaker. Generally, the more powerful an amp, the louder it’ll go with any given pair of speakers, and that, we know, is good.
But good sound is not just about volume, it’s about quality. In terms of audio reproduction equipment, the theoretical guarantee of this is a signal that is the same going out as it was coming in. When graphed on paper, then, that opera playing through your speakers should look – and sound – identical to when it was recorded in the studio, regardless of how many pieces of equipment it has passed through. For a power amplifier this is tricky, as every time it boosts the signal it risks altering that signal. Any change to the original signal means distortion and that, we know, is bad.
Take the lid off an audiophile-grade power amplifier such as those from Canadian manufacturer Classé and you’ll find a complex mass of wires and circuitry components. It’s a jungle in there but it’s a requisite setup for ensuring that every part of the audio signal is handled accurately as it zings along the pathways that transport it from input to output socket. For detailed, dynamic, high-fidelity sound, precise control of every itty-bitty part of the amplifier?s inner workings is required, and this is what Classé promises.
Its Delta family encompasses stereo, multichannel, and monaural power amplifiers – each presented in a curved and sculpted metal chassis – plus a number of preamplifiers with a ‘you can’t miss it’ volume knob. A range of paired combinations is possible and, together, they integrate pleasingly with a choice of like-styled, highly engineered CD and DVD players. Matched with suitably well-credentialed speakers, a Classé ensemble delivers sound with meticulous finesse.
London’s Abbey Road studios, site of the Beatles most famous recordings and, more recently, hundreds of acclaimed classical, pop, and film-score sessions, sure likes them. It has 33 of the company?s CA-M400 mono power amplifiers (400 watts and 35 kg a piece) and around 40 loudspeakers from the Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) 800 Series.
Music for Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was created at the studios using B&W 802 speakers, with each one powered by its own Classé M400 mono amp. The score for the Oscar winning Australian film, Happy Feet, was also written, arranged, recorded and mixed at London’s Abbey Road and at Sydney’s Fox Studios production centre using the same brilliant reference system.
The CD-M400 costs $12 000, and you?ll need one for each of your stereo speakers, plus a preamplifier which, assuming you want to keep things in the Classé family, will cost between $8,500 and $15,000. Classé CD and DVD players, which come with a touchscreen interface for cuing and previewing video and navigating menus, cost $7,500-12,000 and, if it’s surround sound you’re after, the marque’s multichannel power amplifier promises to deliver 200 watts to each of your five speakers for $18,000.