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Classé CAP-2100 Stereo Integrated Amplifier

Part I

October, 2005

Chris Groppi

 

Specifications:

● Two-Channels; 100 Watts per Channel
    into 8 Ohms; 200 Watts per Channel
    into 4 Ohms
● THD: 0.005% for Preamplifier Section;
    1% for Power Amplifier Section
● Sensitivity: 1 Volt RMS
● MFR: 20 Hz - 20 kHz
± 0.1 dB
● Single-Ended and Balanced Inputs;
    Balanced Tape Out
● Dimensions: 4.75" H x 17.5" W x 16.5" D
● Weight: 50 Pounds
● MSRP: $4,900 USA

 

Classé Audio

www.classeaudio.com  

Introduction

Integrated amplifiers have often been considered a compromise when compared to a separate preamplifier and amplifier, but in my opinion they have always offered the best combination of performance and value for all but the most expensive systems.

One of the most expensive parts of an electronic component is typically the chassis. With an integrated you only need to pay for one, which can save a huge amount of money given the same level of electronics inside. Also, integrated amplifiers need no line level interconnects between the preamplifier and power amplifiers, which improves performance as well as reduces cost.

So why aren't integrated amplifiers more popular in high-end audio circles? There are several reasons, some real and others perceived. Some believe that the separate chassis offer better performance, separating the higher voltage amplifier stage from the lower voltage preamplifier stage.

While simple distance can reduce any problematic interference, so can careful engineering in a well-designed integrated amplifier. However, an integrated amplifier prevents you from upgrading either the preamp or the amplifier; you must upgrade both, or use the pre-outs if they are present.

I manage to keep components for many years in my system. If you just have to change components of your system on month-timescales, maybe an integrated amp is not for you. But if you like to listen to your system, and get the most performance for the dollar, maybe an integrated amplifier is the answer.

Another real problem is that, until recently, high-performance integrateds have been difficult to find. Many manufacturers have only made "value" integrated amps, or have not built them at all. But products like my Plinius 8150i, their latest 9200i, the Jeff Rowland Concentra II, the Krell KAV-400i, and several others, have changed the integrated amplifier playing field. 

The CAP-2100

Classé has always offered several integrated amplifier models. My first "real" high-end system had a Classé CAP-100 at it’s heart. This amplifier was a fantastic value, combining high build quality, with great sound and features at an affordable price. Eventually the upgrade bug got me, and I moved to a Plinius 8150i, which I still have. Since the CAP-100, Classé has offered many integrated products, with ever improving sound quality and features.

Classé became associated with Bowers and Wilkins (B&W) in 2001, and Classé now has the engineering and financial might of a major electronics manufacturer behind them. Classé is now the flagship high-end electronics manufacturer in the B&W group. This has fueled the development of their super-high-end Omega product line, and the Delta series, of which the CAP-2100 is the integrated amplifier offering.

The Delta series products include many of the lessons learned with the Omega series. The Delta series is a bit of a departure for Classé from earlier product lines. Design has become a more important component of the products, and build quality, features, and level of performance have all taken a considerable step forward. And of course, like all products, the prices have also stepped forward.

The CAP-2100 is a single chassis version of the CP-500 preamplifier and the 100W per channel CA-2100 amplifier. It shares the Delta series cosmetics of the other products, with a deeply rounded extruded aluminum front panel, and a prominent blue backlit touch-screen for control.

Volume control is provided by a large knob which drives an optical encoder. All user input is processed via a microcontroller, as in many modern electronic components. The microcontroller is firmware upgradeable with a RS-232 port on the rear panel. The CAP-2100 offers three single-ended inputs (RCA jacks), and one balanced XLR input. A tape loop is provided, and one of the inputs can be converted to a unity-gain SSP pass-through simply by choosing “SSP” as the name of the input. Four pairs of high quality five-way binding posts allow for bi-wiring. The touch-screen interface allows customization of input names, volume knob sensitivity, acceleration and maximum level, and balance, among many others. An optional MM/MC phono stage is available, although the review sample did not include this feature.

Click Here to Go to Part II.

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