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Classe CA-301
15 Reviews
rating  4.53 of 5
MSRP  4995.00
Description: Balanced 2-Channel Solid State Amp


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Reviews 1 - 5 (15 Reviews Total) | Next 15

User Reviews

Overall Rating:3
Value Rating:2
Submitted by jng92130 a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: June 13, 2008

Bottom Line:   
I bought a CA-301 brand new from my local dealer, expecting that it would be about three times better (at around 3 times the price of) my Classe CA-101. I was sorely disappointed. The 301 is an enormous slug of an amp. It is indeed quiet and well-mannered, handsome and finely-made. But compared to the CA-101, a less-powerful model, or even to an older Forte 4A, the CA-301 sounded slow, lugubrious... just plain boring. I kept it for quite a while, buying other amps and hoping and trying to make myself believe that it was some other factor, that the 301 just needed time to open up or just needed a different preamp or cabling or source or whatever. Finally I had to conclude that it is just not a very exciting amp. It produces deep and prodigious bass, seems accurate and detailed until it's A/B compared to a truly quicker amp such as the 101, and has limitless reserves. It did liven up a bit with a Conrad-Johnson PF-R, a preamp known to be full of vim and vigour when it's turned past 9 o'clock (roughy quarter volume), but the PFR has a very sensitive volume control and I grew tired of playing the system at high volume just to heat the CA-301 sound, at last, semi-alive and kicking. Others have said in these reviews that it sounds "laid back". That's exactly right; I waited and hoped that it would come to life, but it always sounded distant, kind of lazy, and finally, through with the frustration, I sold it at a substantial loss.

I have no doubt that the amp sounds wonderful with certain other components, but in my experience it's just a big, slow, dull, and colossally heavy amp. For the same money or less you can get an ARC 100.2, a BAT VK-200 or (better) VK500, a Forte 4A, a Classe CA-101 or a newer CA-2100 (which is livelier than the 301 but not nearly as powerful), a lovely little CJ MV-series tube amp, or any number of other, more enjoyable amplifiers.

In absolute terms it is a reasonably good amp, but relative to the many others I've tried, it's not better than 3 and 2. As I said in my review of Classe's CA-2100, I know that less than a 4 or even a 5 will generate flames and low rating-ratings, but this is the truth of the CA-301 as I have seen and heard it.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2003

Price Paid:    $5000.00

Purchased At:   Stereo Unlimited



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by jgm a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: November 21, 2007

Bottom Line:   
I purchased this amp to replace a Jeff Rowland Model 5 Balanced. I use it to drive inefficient, 4-ohm nominal electrostatic panel speakers in a large, damped room. I have used many comparable products. It has been driven by Anthem, Pass Labs and Mark Levinson preamplification. I use a variety of source components. There are several things to mention about this wonderful amp.

1) Power: This thing is a bottomless pit. Limitless reserves (although I don't spend a lot of time listening at ear bleeding levels).
2) It gets the midrange right. Human voice, acoustic piano, guitar and acoustic percussion are all handled superbly.
3) Background silence: this amp is dead quiet. I don't think I have had a more quiet amp (save a little ML 29 I used for years). In combination with the seemingly endless power reserves, this background silence contributes greatly to scary transient response. Well recorded percussion simply jumps down your throat. There is no background hash, haze, glaze or etch calling attention to itself. I think this also contributes to both the micro- and macro- dynamic response being so true to life.
4) Bass is killer: quick, authoritative, deep. Slam ->check. Congestion -> nope.
5) Harmonic overtones and decay are clean with a nearly perfect envelope (decay may be just a tiny bit quicker than the real deal, but this is very slight and most liklely related to:
6) It can be ever so slightly dark...although this may be related to my transducers/room more than the amp itself.
7) The casework is beautiful and the quality of the casework is without reproach.
8) The used market price makes this amp a huge bargain. If you are in the used market, you should seriously consider this bad boy (or girl if that's the way you go). For comparison, I paid over $3k for my little (but wonderful) 50 wpc ML No. 29 when I purchased it new ca. 1991.

I purchased this amp in 2005 and I have been extrememly happy. We get our share of electrical surges in my semi-rural community and the amp has thus far tolerated these with aplumb.

The usual criticisms of really big amps apply with regard to being heavy (and a bit hard to maneuver due to the lack of front end handles). I think Jeff Rowland got it right with crates and flight cases...packing one of these behemoths in a cardboard box just seems...a bit chinsey and always unnerving. It does get warm when driven hard. Also, as I found out when changing some cables this past summer, the heat sink fins are quite sharp and they will produce a nice gouge in a clumsy lower leg. This would hardly be the amps fault, but it might have implications for those with small children.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2000

Price Paid:    $2500.00

Purchased At:   Audiogon



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by John a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: November 20, 2007

Bottom Line:   
I purchased this to replace a Jeff Rowland Model 5. I use it to drive large electrostatic panels in a large room. The sound is smooth but not overly warm. Power reserves seem limitless and bass control is terrific. The most striking thing about this amp is how quiet it is. This think is simply dead quiet so transients almost jump down your throat. The effect is truly impressive. The background silence helps not only macrodynamics but also benefits microdynamics with no evidence of electronic hash or haze. This amp DEFINITELY gets the midrange right - human voice, piano, acoustic guitar are all renderedwith graceful overtones that are true to life. The casework is drop dead gorgeous although if you accidentally scrape your leg against a fin from the heat sink it will slash you (I found out when changing cables). If there is any criticism, it would be that the amp is a tad dark (althought this is really a nit I am picking). This is a GREAT item used!

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2000

Price Paid:    $2500.00

Purchased At:   Audiogon



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Darcy a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: December 13, 2003

Bottom Line:   
Purchased this amp to replace my Proceed HPA2. I found the Proceed to have great power and super detail but at a price... It was a little thin in the top end and tends to being a bit harsh on some music. I had a Classe CA201 a year ago and found it to be sweet in the midrange very detailed but seemed to sweat a bit in the bottom end. The Classe CA301 has a completely different level of control. The mids are liquid and as detailed as the Proceed but not hard to listen to, I find that I can listen for hours and become involved in the music where the Proceed was too analitical, the Classe has a much wider and deeper soundstage. Full body sound with complete control over the bass, the ability to pinpoint each instrument. Bass is tighter and completely true with outstanding impact. The 301 powers my Studio 100's without raising a sweat. I can't imagine a load that the Classe can't drive. Some people have said they find the Classe laid back, I don't find that at all. It is so smooth that when compared to an in your face amp like the Proceed it may seem laid back but after several hours of A/B comparison, I can say that the Classe sounds better in every regard and lacks none of the detail. My ears never get tired of the sound like the Proceed. Only my opinion but the Classe is well worth the extra money.

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2003

Price Paid:    $6500.00



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by KEN MCGLOWN a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: April 3, 2003

Bottom Line:   
THE CA-301 IS ONE OF THE ABSOLUTE BEST VALUES ON THE MARKET. IT DRIVES MY REVEL SALONS EFFORTLESSLY. THIS THING HAS ENDLESS POWER RESERVES AND SOUNDS SMOOTH!!!, SWEET, SUPER QUIET, AND SUPER CLEAN. I'M VERY PLEASED WITH THIS AMPLIFIER.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2001

Price Paid:    $4000.00




Reviews 1 - 5 (15 Reviews Total) | Next 15

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