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Listening Impressions
Slotting the amps in our system was a matter of plonking them on spiked timbre platforms on the floor in front of the Finite Elemente equipment racks, as these monsters are physically enormous. I ran the amps both in balanced and single-ended modes.

Sonically, one thing that's noticeable straight off the bat is the Classés' smoothness throughout the midband and top end. The amps manage a balancing act that retains resolution and separation of musical strands while maintaining a level of detail that impresses. There's no grain or etch here, none of that 'coldness' that is sometimes evident in technically complex high-powered solid state amplifiers.

Jazz ensemble recordings are a great medium to test and reveal these particular qualities. In the Round Midnight soundtrack, a Herbie Hancock production, a group of musos is headed by Hancock himself and tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon, all apparently recorded live within the film set, an authentic reproduction of the real-life Blue Note Jazz Club. Here the CA-M400 amps revealed all the instruments in tight focus and in an airy space within the wide and deep soundstage. Herbie is on a large-sounding and tonally accurate piano, Dexter's sax is equally well reproduced and really swings dynamically.

Playing the wonderfully re-mastered JVC XRCD version of Lightin' Hopkins' Goin' Away (originally recorded in 1963), Lightnin's deep vocal growl was rendered with precision and accuracy as if the man and his guitar were placed in our listening room. If your speakers are up to it, then the Classé amps will deliver the full measure of information. Bass guitar and stand up bass packed a real punch with these amps. It's here that the massive power supply contained within really proves its worth. All bass-heavy music was controlled and powerful.

The CA-M400 amplifiers performed outstandingly in all areas, however being a seasoned nitpicker, I noticed a deficiency in PRaT or Pace, Rhythm and Timing. For example, Porcupine Tree's well-produced In Absentia has an opener that could easily make the top 50 all-time best guitar intros. The CA-M400s ever so slightly slowed the rhythm and pace, taking the edge and tension off this killer rock riff. This is only noticeable when compared to some valve and class-D designs that excel at speed. At the time, my reference system featured the Wilson WATT/Puppy System 6 (I have since upgraded to the current System 8 and all I can say at this juncture is, whoa!), very revealing speakers coupled to the extraordinarily dynamic and fast Nuforce Reference 9 SE V2 analogue switching amplifiers. Only when compared within this context was the PRaT issue evident. However, I experimented a little further. For those "cables don't make a difference" doubters, a change to a short run of reasonably priced silver cable almost totally redressed the PRaT situation. Returning to the Porcupine Tree's killer riff now had me toe tapping and air drumming to an improved sense of transient attack and pitch accuracy. And this increased rhythmic flow applied to the frequency range at large and serves to highlight the CA-M400s' revealing and accurate sound when mated to appropriate speakers and ancillaries.

Classical music was reproduced superbly via the Classé amps. Recording permitting -- as in Decca Legend's recording of Solti conducting Beethoven's 3rd -- such music sounded powerful and dynamic and orchestras were placed within a vivid semblance of the venue in which they were recorded. The instrumental groups were clearly resolved by the amplifiers, greatly enhancing the impression of being at a live performance. Similarly, with chamber ensembles as illustrated on the Wilson Audio label recording of Debussy and Bartok sonatas, the Classé amps were captivating in the way they separated and resolved the piano, violins and cello, all with realistic detail and presence.

A classy act
The Classé CA-M400 monoblock amplifiers are superbly built and -- as far as amplification devices go -- comprehensively featured. They have the hallmarks of expertly engineered electronics and they are bound to last a lifetime. What's more, they have an engaging sound that is dynamic, smooth throughout the frequency range, accurate in detail and spatially massive. Classy indeed.
Quality of packing: Very good.
Reusability of packing: Infinite if care is taken.
Ease of unpacking/repacking: Made easy by the modular packaging.
Condition of component received: Demo model but as new.
Completeness of delivery: All was as it should be.
Quality of owner's manual: Very good manual with comprehensive instructions.
Human or web interactions: Australian distributor is a large and extremely professional company.

Classé website