Processors

Classe SSP-800 Surround Sound Processor

ARTICLE INDEX

In Use

The first thing I did was update the software. It involves going to the Classé website, then CUSTOMER SUPPORT/SOFTWARE/DOWNLOADS/OPERATING SOFTWARE. Download the latest firmware (*.pkg) and the downloader.exe file. Run the downloader, and make a note of which COM port it is connected to by going into your device management menu and search for "Silicon Labs CP210x USB to UART Bridge Controller (COMx)" Then connect the SSP-800 to your PC with a USB cable, and when it asks for the COM port number, use the one you noted. The installation is guided, and I experienced no problems. Here are a few screen shots of what is seen during the process.

Here is a list of files that I downloaded:

Classe SSP-800

In the next screen shot, note that COM8 is the port to select during the firmware upgrade.

Classe SSP-800

Selecting the process of updating the firmware.

Classe SSP-800

Detecting the device (the SSP-800 is connected to your computer via USB).

Classe SSP-800

Device detected.

Classe SSP-800

Firmware is being transferred.

Classe SSP-800

Firmware has been transferred to the SSP-800.

Classe SSP-800

Going to the next screen, you will be asked to locate the *.pkg file, and the installation process will begin. It takes awhile, so hang around and follow any instructions that appear on the LCD screen of the SSP-800. It turns off and on again, but don't panic. It's like installing updates to computer software, where you have to reboot your computer to compete the installation. The process of firmware update is finished when the blue LED on the front left hand side of the SSP-800 is no longer blinking.

I configured the SSP-800 as 7.2, with stereo subwoofers, using one of the Aux channels as the second sub. Crossover was set to 60 Hz for the front left/right speakers.

After going through all that, what about the performance? I turn the unit on. It takes two hand-wringing minutes to boot the firmware. The blinking blue light stops blinking. I hit the Standby button, and it powers up. I feel underneath the SSP-800 to see if I got any change, or maybe a lottery ticket, but to no avail.

So, I turn on my 55" LED-Array HDTV, my OPPO BDP-95 which I have connected to HDMI input 1, my Classé CA-5200 multi-channel power amplifier, and pop in a movie. I watch. I listen. I pop in another movie (some people sure have greasy fingers whose remnants should be removed before they drop the movie off at the Blockbuster store). I watch. I listen.

There are not very many 7.1 movies out there, but those that do exist truly make use of all the channels, because they recorded 7.1 channels on purpose (5.1 is sort of a default codec, and many, many films make little or no use of the rear channels, when using them could add so much to the experience).

The 100th Universal Pictures Anniversary series release of the 1975 movie, Jaws, had another thing going for it besides being a 100th Anniversary celebration. It is one of a dozen or so Universal films that was not only meticulously restored (as in nearly as much money spent on restoration as it was to make the movie), frame by frame, dust spot by spot, torn frame by frame, sullied color by red, green, and blue, yellow, magenta, and cyan, but the music tracks were re-mixed for 7.1, and I mean real  7.1, not some cooked up tom foolery that gives you a sense of more surround than there really is. Musical scores are recorded on 16-32 tracks, and then mixed down to whatever the producer wants, even if it were to be mono. In this case, they mixed it down to 7.1 instead of stereo, which is what the original was.

Classe SSP-800

The fantastic musical score for this film is an experience in itself in seven-channel DTS-HD Master Audio (approximately equivalent to 24/96 PCM). The paranoia grip on your throat with those opening bars is all the more terrifying, when you really are engulfed in the sound. I still can't look at the screen when Quint goes down the shark's throat, but just the sound of his screams in high resolution sound is enough to keep a person awake at night. Sharks can't live out of water under your bed, right? OK, then, to sleep, but hopefully not to dream in red.

This Telarc SACD of various pieces of organ music, in multi-channel surround, was recorded with most, or maybe all, of the microphones close to the organ. The auditorium in Paris where the organ resides is large enough that ambient reverberation is picked up by the main microphones anyway. So, what we have here is an organ with five microphones placed across the stage of pipes.

Classe SSP-800

The difference in clarity of the smaller pipes with their high frequencies, as well as the mechanical sounds of the pipes as the valves opened and closed, between the SSP-800 and any processor or receiver I have ever encountered (I have used this SACD for quite a few years) was jaw-dropping, and I don't like to use platitudes, but I can't think of anything else that emotes that feeling than, "jaw-dropping".

I listened to many discs of varying types, such as Redbook CD, DVD-Audio, SACD, DTS-HD Master Audio music, and some great soundtracks from lousy movies. This piece of electronic marvel is simply a delight.