Classe CA-301 Amplifiers

Classe CA-301 Amplifiers 

DESCRIPTION

Balanced 2-Channel Solid State Amp

USER REVIEWS

Showing 1-10 of 15  
[Jun 13, 2008]
jng92130
AudioPhile

Strength:

massive power, deep bass, completely quiet

Weakness:

size and weight -- that gigantic, 1200VA toroidal transformer near the front of the case is necessary for the amp's power rating, of course, but moving and finding space for 106 lbs of dense metal is nonetheless a pain
most serious weakness for a $5K amp: slow and slightly artificial (synthesized) sound that's particularly noticeable when compared to more natural-sounding amplifiers... hence the low value rating. It's a lot of *mass* for the money, but not a lot of high-quality sound or enjoyment for the money.

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.

Customer Service

Customer service: superb. Armand was always helpful and quick to handle any issue.

Similar Products Used:

BAT VK200 and VK500
Classe CA-101, CAP-101, CAP-100, Classe CA-2100, CA-2200
Audio Research 100.2
Forte 4A
etc.


OVERALL
RATING
3
VALUE
RATING
2
[Nov 21, 2007]
jgm
AudioPhile

Strength:

Limitless power reserves, drop dead background, gets the midrange right, near perfect harmonic overtones and decay, great bass, easy & non-fatiguing treble, pride of ownership, value.

Weakness:

Heavy, no flight case/crate for shipping, sharp heatsink fins (see above). A nit -> perhaps a bit dark. Best performance when you let it open up.

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.

Customer Service

Unknown - have not had the opportunity (although I heard from the previous owner that Classe' was very responsive).

Similar Products Used:

Mark Levinson, Jeff Rowland Design Group, BAT, Coda, Adcom, Hafler,

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Nov 20, 2007]
John
AudioPhile

Strength:

Musical, powerful and authoritative, dead quiet, top notch power enevelope, transient response and natural harmonics.

Weakness:

perhaps a bit dark. Very Heavy. Sharp heatsink fins (see the text above).

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!

Customer Service

I have not need so I cannot comment.

Similar Products Used:

Mark Levinson, Jeff Rowland, Coda, BAT, Adcom, Hafler,

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Dec 13, 2003]
Darcy
Audio Enthusiast

Strength:

Soundstage, sweet airy mid range, power!

Weakness:

Heavy - 120 lbs!!

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.

Similar Products Used:

Proceed hpa2, Classe CA-201, B&K, Anthem,Rotel.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Apr 03, 2003]
KEN MCGLOWN
AudioPhile

Strength:

DESCRIBED ABOVE.

Weakness:

NONE.

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.

Similar Products Used:

OTHERS IN IT'S PRICE RANGE AND BEYOND.

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Feb 28, 2003]
RO106666
Audio Enthusiast

Strength:

great bang for the buck when you look at other amps. dead quiet,tons of power,well built!

Weakness:

none

Bruce from Oil City must have bad hearing. The 301 smokes the CA 300,that is unless you like a loud ground loop hum. The 301 is much more musical in every way and when I listened to it I sold my CA 300 right away. Just a much cleaner amp in all area's. DEAD quiet! More air,sweeter sound!

Similar Products Used:

Hafler Classe CA 300

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Feb 20, 2002]
jwbarney
Audio Enthusiast

Strength:

Lows, mids, highs, sounds great. Seems well built. Called customer service to ask them a question and they were very friendly.

Weakness:

None so far. . .

I bought this amp on the recommendation of several sources. I even called my speaker manufacturer, and while they wouldn''t recommend an amp brand per se, they did approve highly of this one for their speakers. Even though it was used, my amp sounded cold for the first hour or so and then started to warm up nicely. The sound has gotten better ever since. Paired with the Meridian 588 the detail and sound on Red Book cds is astonishing--better than the SACDs on my Sony (I know, I know, the 9000ES is not the best SACD player out there, but it''s decent). Some amps are said to mate well with Martin Logans, esp Classe and BAT. Email me for a short list of amps that I heard were not recommended w/MLs. While Krell amps are often paired w/MLs, I think the Classe has a great sound (maybe better?) for less money. This is a very musical amp. My system (in brief): Martin Logan Ascents Classe CA-301 Classe CP-45 Meridian 588 cd player(highly recommended) Sony DVP 9000ES Alphacore MI2 speaker cable various interconnects (AudioTruth Balanced, Straightwire Crescendo, Nordost Blue Heaven--this list is subject to change as I experiment, but sounds good enough so far)

Similar Products Used:

Listened to other very good amps (for my Martin Logans) like BAT and McCormick. They sounded great too, but the deal for this one came up and I got more watts for less $$. . .

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
4
[Feb 01, 2000]
John
Audiophile

Strength:

Very tight and smooth bass, clear midrange, excellent highs, nice soundstaging and imaging

Weakness:

Reveals any weaknesses in your system and is rather unforgiving of poor recordings

I've played my new CA-301 for just over the recommended 100 hour burn-in period and noticed the soundstaging and presentation has progressively improved from initial plug-in. The CA-301 is connected to a Classe CDP.5 CD player and CP-60 preamp and Infinity CS009 speakers (no doubt the weakest point in the chain). Using JPS Superconductor2 balanced interconnects, speaker cables, and new Kaptovator AC power cables (excellent cables), there is discernable hum or noise from the speakers. On well-recorded CDs (e.g., Ravel's Piano Concertos, Abbado, DG), the sound is absolutely spectacular. However, put on a poor recording and the soundstage can collapse like a house of cards. Well-recorded vocals are very clear, smooth, and realistic.

As you'd expect with Classe, the presentation is both vibrant and neutral, with a touch of warmth that is neither muddy or muting, a lot like a good tube amp. The volume level on my preamp seldom needs to go above 3.5, and this from someone who likes his music somewhat loud. This is a great amp for the money. Five stars for performance and five for value.

Similar Products Used:

Classe CAP-150, Classe CA-201

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Feb 04, 2000]
Dennis
Audiophile

Strength:

Unflapable clean power, "tube-like' character with no loss of detail, expansive 3-D soundstage

Weakness:

None so far....

Well this Audio pilgrim's quest for sonic nirvana may well be over--at least in the area of amplification.

I've auditioned the more expensive Levinson's, Krell's and the like, but for less cabbage, the CA301 can more than hold it's own, and how.

While sounding pretty good out-of-the-box, after about 60hrs. this baby's really starting to show it's amazing abilities. Midrange is accurate, with a tube-like "you are there" presence, highs are extended but never harsh or bright, bass is deep & powerful. Soundstage is as big as a mountain. The amp really does have an "organic" life-like character which is at times surprising.

Also can play VERY loud with not even a hint of strain.

What more can I say, I'm in 7th sonic heaven.

The folks at Classe should be congratulated!

System:
Martin-Logan ReQuests
Theta Miles (running DIRECT to CA301)
Well Tempered Labs Classic V
Balanced Audio Technology P5 phono stage
Adcom GFP-750 (run "passive" for phono)
IDOS II ac conditioner
Cardas AC power cords
Synergistic Research intrc. & spkr. cable
Alpha-Core intrc.
Sennheiser HD600 w/Musical Fidelity X Cans
Argent Room Lens

Similar Products Used:

Conrad-Johnson Evolution 2000, McCormack DNA-1, AMC CVT2100 mono blocks (tube)

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
[Nov 27, 2001]
Bruce
Audio Enthusiast

Strength:

everything class'e has to offer.

Weakness:

none for the price

Do not waste your time or money the 300 is very close,if not as good.

Similar Products Used:

class'e 300

OVERALL
RATING
3
VALUE
RATING
3
Showing 1-10 of 15  

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