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Classé Sigma SSP and AMP5 Sound Quality Tests

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Dave was kind enough to let me review the Sigma SSP and AMP5 over a period of a few months.  I got to know the electronics fairly well.  I did a portion of my listening using the excellent RSL CG4 and CG24 monitors and Speedwoofer 10 subwoofer that I had in for review (forthcoming).  However, given the price point and target clientele, I also paired the Sigma series with same Revel Ultima2 Salon2 setup as in my Red Dragon monblock amplifier review.  Regardless of which speaker system I paired the Classé units with, the Sigma SSP and AMP5 were exceptional performers on all counts.

From the first listen, I felt as though there was something instantaneously remarkable about these Classé electronics.  The soundstage just opened up. The amplifier was noticeably free of the analytical sound I’ve previously experienced with Class D amps.  In fact, it struck me that the AMP5 was the first Class D-based amplifier that made me forget I was listening to a Class D amplifier—it sounded like a Class AB amplifier.  No matter what I played, the sound was always clean, smooth, and sounded great from top to bottom.

Music

Ray CharlesDuring one particular listening session, I chose to listen to some Ray Charles.  Ray Charles’ Genius Loves Company is a compilation of songs from different musical genres between Ray Charles and some of the notable names in music.  The album, which cleaned up at the 47th Grammy Awards, was released posthumously after Ray’s death in 2004.  

The album opens with a magnificent duet with Norah Jones on Ray Charles’ signature song, “Here We Go Again.”  As the song opened, I just exclaimed, “Oh wow!”   The entrance of Norah Jones's voice was mesmerizing.  Her breathy and intimate yet lush and smooth-textured vocals came through in all their glory.  The hairs on my arms stood on end.  Ray Charles’ voice was likewise spot on. The paradoxical raspiness and clear tonality of his voice rung out beautifully. The organ notes, snare drum, and kick drum were clean, crisp, and precise with resounding control.  

On the rendition of “Sweet Potato Pie,” James Taylor’s voice had a life-like quality to it—clean, pure, and well-defined—while also exhibiting some of the cues that you often get in a “you are there” performance. 

Holly ColeThe duet between Ray Charles and Elton John on the track “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” emotionally drew me in.  The smooth warmth of Elton John’s signature vocals through the Classé combo made that easy.  Instruments were placed within a solid soundstage with superb definition.  

“Fever” with Natalie Cole rocked.  The song opens with a deep, beautiful bass line.  Once again, I blurted out, “Wow!” as that bass note kicked in.  Finger snaps, no pun intended, just “snapped.”  Natalie Cole’s voice came through with excellent dynamics.  The song exuded a superb energy. The Classé combination transported me into an instant, club-like atmosphere. 

When “It Was a Very Good Year” came on I got completely lost in the music. I just became pensive on the lyrics—from the solo guitar to the orchestral complement, I became so engrossed that I stopped taking further notes, sat back and just listened. 

Kasia Lins

The vignettes on those songs carried through on countless artists and genres.  Classical music was especially engaging.  The deeper soundstage and superb dynamics were an exceptional complement to any classical work.  I played several symphonies from Brahms, Verdi’s Requiem, and the exquisite album from the movie Amadeus by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields.

Female vocals were beautiful.  I went through my usual mainstays such as Adele, Dido, Norah Jones, and Sarah McLachlan among others.  But it was Kasia Lins and Holly Cole who rocked the foundations.  Kasia is a soul and jazz singer/songwriter from Poznan, Poland.  Her jazz cut, “Go Away” from her album, Take My Tears was a siren-song through the Classé and Revel combo.  The body and texture of Kasia’s vocals, the immediacy of the instruments, were all irresistible.  Likewise, the bass lines on Holly Cole’s rendition of “I Can See Clearly Now” were wonderfully rendered in full body and Holly’s beautiful voice had a clean, articulate, and inviting presentation.

If you doubt that a multichannel processor can nail two-channel audio then you haven’t heard the Sigma SSP and Sigma AMP combo.  It was always engaging and deeply satisfying.  

Movies

Movies and multichannel content carried over the Sigma’s two-channel pedigree—they all sounded great.  I didn’t experience a single issue passing 2D or 3D signals through the Sigma SSP.  HDMI switching was uneventful. 

The Theory of Everything chronicles the life and relationship of world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife Jane.  The movie, which is based on Jane Wilde Hawking’s book, Traveling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, hangs on your ability to decipher dialogue.  Any muddiness in the electronics and you’ll have a tough time making out parts of certain scenes.  The Sigma SSP and AMP5 combo easily delivered the goods where other AV receivers or processors would have had you cranking up the volume simply to make out the dialogue.  At one point in the movie, fireworks spray the screen.  I was taken aback by the stark sensation of openness.  Not only did the fireworks have a realistic pop to them but their delicate decay in a deep, three-dimensional space was uncanny.

Tron Legacy  Theory of Everything

 

From the first listen, I felt as though there was something instantaneously remarkable about these Classé electronics.

Tron Legacy is an easy go-to disc when you want to give your system a workout or floor your friends with an intense top to bottom audio experience.  The Sigma electronics mastered the show rendering a flawless, enveloping, three-dimensional sound field.  Again and again, I was taken aback by the increased sense of space and depth that the Sigma combo rendered on just about everything I threw at it.  The audio assault from the Recognizer that comes to pickup Sam Flynn was intense.  At all times, the Sigma SSP clamped its grips on the audio track and not once did I feel like the AMP5 was running out of steam.  You want raw, no-holds-barred, authoritative multichannel audio? Look no further than the AMP5. It delivers the goods. 

Oh wait! I completely forgot, this is a Class D amp, right?  Even with a full-on pounding, the AMP5 only got very warm to the touch.  I do not think I could pay Classé a bigger complement than to say that the amp didn’t call attention to itself sonically at any point.  It simply got out of the way.   

I threw everything at the Sigma Series: TV, Netflix, and movie trailers, including the new Avengers: Age of UltronStar Wars: The Force Awakens, and Batman v. Superman trailers at house-throttling levels.  No matter what I played, the Sigma SSP and AMP5 didn’t flinch.  

 

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Recent Forum Posts:

Alexandre posts on June 27, 2015 11:41
Alexandre, post: 1087631, member: 73792
Because the 2 components are in different rooms (the power amp is in a closet a little further away), I still want to go the trigger route. I'm going to play around with an Arduino but this also looks like a great option: http://www.nilesaudio.com/product.php?prodID=CS12V

I just installed the Niles Audio plug and it works perfectly! It even learns the standby draw of the device you're plugging to it which is really handy.
Alexandre posts on June 26, 2015 01:46
slipperybidness, post: 1087509, member: 56559
Get a power-sensing auto-on power strip for the amp. Problem solved.

Because the 2 components are in different rooms (the power amp is in a closet a little further away), I still want to go the trigger route. I'm going to play around with an Arduino but this also looks like a great option: http://www.nilesaudio.com/product.php?prodID=CS12V

Alexandre posts on June 25, 2015 13:58
slipperybidness, post: 1087553, member: 56559
You have a mistake in your logic. You avoid ground loops by insuring that you have only 1 return path to ground. One way to accomplish that would be to have all of your electronics plugged into the SAME outlet.

Right, thanks for the correction. And yes, I'm probably going to go the arduino route.
slipperybidness posts on June 25, 2015 13:09
Alexandre, post: 1087549, member: 73792
Thanks for the advice, in my setup, the amp is in a closet nearby while the SSP is under the TV, the 2 are plugged to different wall outlets so I'm not entirely sure the auto-on outlet would work for me but maybe (I was hoping to keep the amp plugged to a separate wall outlet to avoid ground loops and to avoid overloading that one outlet).

The other approach I'm thinking about might be a DIY arduino/CAN BUS/relay system… that could be a fun project… if I had time on my hands that is.

Alex.
You have a mistake in your logic. You avoid ground loops by insuring that you have only 1 return path to ground. One way to accomplish that would be to have all of your electronics plugged into the SAME outlet.

Yeah, an arduino or similar system would also do the trick, it really wouldn't be too tough to build at all.
Alexandre posts on June 25, 2015 12:36
slipperybidness, post: 1087509, member: 56559
Get a power-sensing auto-on power strip for the amp. Problem solved.

Thanks for the advice, in my setup, the amp is in a closet nearby while the SSP is under the TV, the 2 are plugged to different wall outlets so I'm not entirely sure the auto-on outlet would work for me but maybe (I was hoping to keep the amp plugged to a separate wall outlet to avoid ground loops and to avoid overloading that one outlet).

The other approach I'm thinking about might be a DIY arduino/CAN BUS/relay system… that could be a fun project… if I had time on my hands that is.

Alex.
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