I recently won a one owner mint condition 101 on ebay to power my Aerial Model 5's. The reviews all recommended the Classe as a great match for the Aerials. I really tried hard to like the Classe as it is one gorgeous piece of gear. Sadly I was not impressed with it's somewhat sterile sound. It does have nice bass slam but I don't need that with trio jazz. When compared to the tube warmth and detail of my $500 Bada hybrid the Classe came up short. Sold it on ebay to finance a foray into set amps and high efficiency speakers.
Having owned & listened to the CAP-101 for several years with several speakers & as both an integrated and as a preamp only, I am writing my first-ever review simply to encourage you, if you're considering it, to buy this amp with no reservations- it's more than great, it gives more and more satisfaction the longer you own it. I have found it excellent in three main ways:
- Upgrade path. The CAP-101 has plenty of power, but you can use it as a preamp only if you want to make the transition to a pre/power amp setup in stages, or just add a power amp for more muscle. This is very helpful for the economy-minded (like myself). Furthermore, it does an admirable job as a pre.
- Quality. It's easy to forget how much that matters, and how it shows up in the small things... but it's those things that impact you a lot when you live with the amp for a long time. In particular: the remote is rugged (never breaks, or even dings up, even when dropped off the bed onto a hard floor, etc), aesthetically pleasing, and very well laid-out- you can easily find the mute, volume up & vol down buttons with your fingers in the dark/half asleep/etc, which is really nice. Also, the mute fades the music quickly off or quickly on- no harsh cutoff/on to wreck an ambiance or a mood. The amp is pretty to look at in an unpretentious but long-term satisfying way. Oh, yes- and the volume knob uses optical encoding, so you can just spin it without ever worrying about hitting a stop. And the longer you hold down the remote vol up/down button, the faster the volume changes... the amp is very pleasant & easy to live with in ways you miss when you upgrade to other, more expensive stuff w/less well-thought-out interfaces.
- Sound. It's fantastic. Not more so than what I finally replaced it with, but those bits were in a pretty different price range; what's more relevant is how little the CAP-101 was embarrassed by the upgrades, 1st to add a power amp, then switching it out for a dedicated pre. The sound is smooth, engaging, and not at all fatiguing even over long listening sessions. Were I buying again at the same price-point, I'd buy it again unhesitatingly (still can't bring myself to part with it). Worked very well with my ProAc speakers, both monitor & floorstanding models.
My only proviso is that the CAP-101 is a little underpowered if you want to drive big, 87db efficient speakers in a huge room at very high volume w/big bass... if that's you, get the CAP-151. Also, the volume # can be deceiving; the amp (actually, it appears to be the preamp section) starts to clip off CD/line-level sources at over about 35 out of 60 on the dial... so you think you can go "to 11", but actually you're already too far. In fairness, it's running ear-bleed loud at that point, and the amp has a lot of reserve power; replaced w/a very fine 150W power amp I get more control, but not noticeably more volume- the CAP-101 stands up well in comparison.
Sounds best with jazz, blues, vocals, but handles power techno with aplomb as well.
I've found myself quietly more & more satisfied over time. Well, now not so quietly, with this review :)
I have heard one of these side by side with the CAP-100. As with most people here have stated, no doubt this is a great amp but when you compare this with the older model the CAP-100 is better. I don't know why since newer models replacing older ones are supposed to be better in sound quality reproduction but this is the other way round.
The CAP-100 is by far more dynamic with better highs and transient attack. The only good thing about the CAP-101 is the cosmetics. If you're serious about sound, get a used CAP-100. If you are looking for an equally good amp (that loses out a little to the CAP-100) but want to put it in the living and impress the guests get the CAP-101 instead. BOth amps won't dissapoint but the 100 is better.
A fine integrated amp, at this price point, the CAP-101 drives my Paradigm Studio 20's v.3 with ease. I also tested, and enjoyed, the Musical Fidelity integrated, but got the Classe as a demo, and hence, at a lower price. I thought those two amps were quite comparable. The MF was perhaps a little more liquid in the mid-low range and smoother, but also a bit muddier. The Classe was tighter, with more bass definition, while still putting out a very musical and emotionally involving sound. Certainly, compared with the HT receivers and multi-channel separates, you cannot reach this kind of sonic refinement without spending thousands more.
With SACD, clarity and detail is extraordinary and soundstage is huge and well-defined. With the right source, I listen for hours on end without fatigue, and at volume. Piano music and vocals, especially, shine. Murray Perriah's SACD recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations is so crisp and sweet with this amp I can't stop listening. And female vocals, in Verdi operas for instance, now cut through me and leave me melted and gasping for air. I *had* to buy after this happened in my home demo.
I have only two complaints, and both are really my own fault. First, in my room, the amp is a little on the bright side. That's primarily because I have some glass and lots of wood floors with little in the way of soft furnishings. It might also be because I'm using a cheap source, an entry-level denon universal player (dvd-2200). My Yamaha HT receiver, which this replaces, was much brighter, so take my judgment in that context. Second, the amp has pre-outs, but not pre-ins. So it can be used as a pre-amp, but not as an amp, with another pre. This means that you can never use the amp as part of a HT or multi-channel setup, driving two of the channels, and also that you cannot use an outboard bass manager between the pre- and amp stages, which would let you spare your main speakers the low frequencies and send them only to a sub. On this latter problem, if anyone can tell me how to solve it with the cap-101, I'd be happy to know (firstname.lastname@example.org). As far as I can tell, the only solution is to use full range speakers. My moniters go only to 39 Hz, and are quite rolled-off in that range. So, really deep bass just isn't happening for me.