Classe used to be a go-to pairing with Bowers & Wilkins wherever one looked several years ago, but the brand ran into financial trouble before being rescued by Sound United LLC in 2018 (parent company to Denon, Marantz, Boston Acoustics, etc.). Now, with deeper financial pockets supporting continued R&D at Classe, the brand is enjoying a renaissance with music lovers as some of its traditional designs get both internal and cosmetic refinements.
Linearity still rules the sound signature at Classe, with wide-bandwidth presentation amplification and preampfification designs based around Class A/B topology (with the first 35 watts of 350 on tap biased into pure Class-A on the Delta mono blocs). This biasing helps explain some of the purity of tone and timbre being wrested from Melody Gardot’s “Baby I’m a Fool” off her 2009 sophomore LP My One and Only Thrill streaming to the Delta preamplifier/DAC via USB 2.0 from the Antipodes S30 music server. Antipodes is one of the original dedicated digital server/player manufacturers in what has become, in recent years, a very busy sector of the high-end audio market. Their early efforts focusing on separate power supplies, internal component shielding, passive cooling and use of parts with an emphasis on the rejection of noise in the signal path has been followed by companies who have followed. Imaging was strong on this combo, with a ghostly, holographic Gardot dead centre and well out in front of the big Amati Tradition loudspeaker’s driver plane. Vinnie Colaiuta’s brush work on the skins was revealing down to the bristle level as it floated on top of Gardot’s piano playing and Larry Klein’s bass guitar rocking steady with plucky texture. String arrangements were blush-coloured without bruising, showing off the slight tilt to neutrality that the system exhibited through its digital front end.
A system designed for every type of music or genre that delivered on speed, grunt and impact when required to do so.
The Pure Fidelity Harmony turntable came with an Acoustic Signature TA-1000 tonearm and Ortofon Cadenza Bronze moving-coil cartridge which ran through the Delta preamp MC phono stage. This signal path did a capable job of translating Morrissey’s petulant humour on “Cemetery Gates” off The Smith’s third studio LP The Queen is Dead. Being somewhat familiar with the Pure Fidelity brand, the Harmony ‘table is a visual treat as well as a sonic one. John Stratton's turntable designs often steal the show in any room thanks to the beautiful lines and luxurious gloss wood finishes available. Percussion off the LP had slam, slap and tizz off cymbal crashes and high hat with kick drum impact and real projection of rhythmic urgency. Pitch stability on languishing Morrissey vocals was of note, as was a balanced frequency response that never saw any treble sizzle or sibilance issues on inner grooves. The fleshed-out bottom end had bounce, but managed to always stay tight.
Headroom never seemed to be an issue with this combo, and it loaded the space nicely – in a way that let you know the big mono blocs had breathing room to spare on rock anthems and heavy metal cuts and massed strings off classical albums through the pre/DAC had clean separation. Overall, a system designed for every type of music or genre that brought compelling sonic storytelling with it on every cut.
Read the next Virtual Audio Festival post covering Tannoy, McIntosh and Volumio HERE.
More information on these products HERE.