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Classe SSP-800 Preamp/Processor Preview

Classe SSP-800 Preamp/Processor

Classe SSP-800 Preamp/Processor


  • Product Name: SSP-800 Preamp Processor
  • Manufacturer: Classe
  • Review Date: May 16, 2008 08:00
  • MSRP: $8000
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool

Inputs and outputs
HDMI 1.3 4 in / 2 out
Component 2 in / 1 out
S video 2 in
Composite 2 in
COAX 4 in / 1 out
Optical 4 in / 1 out
Analog XLR 1 pair in / 5 pair out
Analog RCA 1 set 7.1 in / 2 pair in / 5 pair out
DC trigger out 2
IR 1 in / 1 out
CAN Bus 1 in / 1 out
RS-232 1

Video measurements

  • Input impedance 75 ohms Composite / s video / component
  • Output impedance 75 ohms Component
  • HDMI Fully 1.3 compliant supporting 1080p @ 24/50/60fps, 36-bit deep color and xvYCC

Audio measurements

  • Maximum output level 8vrms Single ended, 15vrms Balanced
  • Maximum input level 2vrms Single ended via DSP, 6vrms Single ended via bypass, 4vrms Balanced via DSP, 12vrms Balanced via bypass
  • Output impedance 56 ohms
  • Input impedance 100kohms
  • Total harmonic distortion 0.001% Digital source / Bypassed analog source, 0.002% Processed analog source
  • Frequency response 20Hz – 200kHz <0.1dB Stereo analog bypass, 20Hz – 20kHz <0.2dB All other sources
  • Signal to noise ratio 102dB Bypassed analog source, 100dB Processed analog source, 105dB Digital source

Audio formats
Dolby Digital Surround EX
Dolby Digital 5.1
DTS-ES discrete
DTS 3/2/1
DTS 96/24
24bit/32-192kHz PCM

  • Dolby True, DTS-HD Master Audio decoding will be supported after after free DSP upgrade

Post processing modes
Dolby pro logic IIx
DTS-ES matrix
DTS Neo:6
Mono plus
Stereo (downmix)
Music plus
Movie plus

Video conversion
Composite / s video to component and HDMI
Component (upto 720p-1080i) to component and HDMI

Width 17.5” (444mm)
Depth 16.5” (419mm) excluding connectors
Height 6.75” (172mm)
Net weight 29lb. (13kg)
Gross weight 38lb. (17.25kg)

One doesn't have to be interested in Home Theater for too long before they come across the name "Classe." And from an aesthetic viewpoint alone, the name is apt. They make some of the best looking gear out there. Classe is taking processors to a new level with the release of their new SSP-800 - a 10 channel preamp/processor that promises bells and whistles that you didn't even know you wanted with some fairly interesting omissions.

Classe is of the opinion that any piece of equipment that can do music well, can more than stand up to the "rigors" of movies - and I tend to agree. The SSP-800 has both balanced and singled-ended outputs for all channels. All internal processing can be bypassed if you want but there is bass management and parametric EQ adjustments available for both analog and digital sources. Rather than have a slew of useless analogue inputs, the SSP-800 sports mostly digital with four HDMI, Coax, and TOSLink a piece. It also has a set of 7.1 analogue inputs, a pair of balanced analogue inputs and two pairs of RCA style audio inputs. There are two each of s-video, composite, and components inputs. Outputs include one each of component video, coax audio, and TOSLink outputs and two HDMI. This compliment of audio and video inputs is something I'd love to see more receivers and processors adopt. The back panel also has a USB port, two 12 volt triggers, and IR input and output and a RS-232 port.

Classé Audio recently unveiled new HDMI 1.4 video capabilities in its updated SSP-800 and CT-SSP Surround Sound Processors. They are now available with the new video board. The new board has five full-featured HDMI 1.4 inputs and two outputs, which support all standard 3Di video resolutions and formats plus HEC (HDMI Ethernet Channel) and ARC (Audio Return Channel).

"The SSP-800 and its rack-advantaged twin, the CT-SSP, are the most successful products in Classé history," said Dave Nauber, Executive VP, Brand Development. "They have the right technology, performance and price. Adding new HDMI 1.4 capabilities will ensure they remain the processors that everyone wants to own."

According to Classé, the original video board was designed in such a way that it could be easily replaced, making upgrades to existing units both possible and straightforward. The new video board fits in the original rear panel space. It adds a fifth HDMI input by eliminating two S-Video inputs, deemed no longer necessary. Upgrade kits sell for $1,500 and are available through authorized Classé dealers.

The DSP is handled by a Texas Instruments platform which not only operates in 64-bit double precision but is also mounted to a removable (and theoretically upgradable) module. According to Classé, early adopters who won't have access to onboard high definition audio format decoding can look forward to a free upgrade of the module when one is ready. We've seen receivers/processors before that were "future-proof" that didn't get the support they were supposed to. It will be interesting to see if Classé follows through with their promises.

Each of the HDMI inputs are not only the latests and greatest (version 1.3a) but also support 36-bit Deep Color - something that Blu-ray can't even provide yet! The two additional channels (from the 8 used for your general 7.1 configuration) can be assigned to a Zone 2, as duplicates of the front channels for bi-amping or buy-wiring, or just for additional subwoofers (and we all know we could use a few more of those in our lives). Classé has provided manual five band parametric equalization for each channel. The front of the unit has a touchscreen giving the user complete control without marring that classic "audiophile" clean look.

The price tag of the Classé SSP-800 is steep and as such, we would be remiss not to mention some of the shortcomings. While we understand the reasons Classé  gave behind the decision not to have an automatic room correction system (in short, they say that auto calibration doesn't work since every room is unique), we don't buy it. At $8000 we'd expect some sort of high-end (Audyssey MultEQ or similar) AND manual adjustments. There is also a disturbing lack of video upconversion on the SSP-800. We understand that audio is most important to Classé but it isn't the only thing that people look for in a processor. Sure, you can expect people that would plop down $8000 for a processor to have good source components but Classé decision seems to require it. With Denon's AVP-A1HDCI having almost everything the SSP-800 does plus more AND costing $1000 less, it really is going to be interesting to see how the Classé fairs in its search for those rare high-end customers.

For more information please visit http://www.classeaudio.com.

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As Associate Editor at Audioholics, Tom promises to the best of his ability to give each review the same amount of attention, consideration, and thoughtfulness as possible and keep his writings free from undue bias and preconceptions. Any indication, either internally or from another, that bias has entered into his review will be immediately investigated. Substantiation of mistakes or bias will be immediately corrected regardless of personal stake, feelings, or ego.

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