Classé Audio Fifteen power amplifier Associated Equipment
My listening room is 26' long by 13' wide, and has a 12' semi-cathedral ceiling. An 8' high by 4' wide doorway at the back of the room opens onto my 25' by 15' kitchen.
The Classé Fifteen amplifier was driven by a number of preamplifiers, including my favorite, the Classé Six Mk.II set to Bypass mode. I compared the Fifteen with my well-broken-in solid-state Mark Levinson No.27.5. I conducted additional gain-matched listening tests with a Krell KSA-250 and a pair of Woodside M50 monoblock tube amplifiers. I focused on low-frequency extension, imaging, soundstage presentation, and instrumental timbre. The Madrigal's strengths were its vividness, speed, and bass definition, the Krell's were its bass definition and depth of soundstage.
I set all amplifiers up on a solid workbench in a basement room immediately below my listening room, with easy access to AC outlets with 200A service. This arrangement allowed me to switch rapidly between the Classé, Madrigal, and Krell. Speaker cable was bi-wired Sumiko OCOS, and Cogelco Yellow balanced interconnects were run between the preamplifier—the Classé Six Mk.II with an internal moving-coil module—and the amplifiers.
CDs were played on a Krell MD-1 turntable driving a Krell SBP-32X D/A converter; balanced interconnect cables—including Levinson HF-10C and Cogelco Yellow—connected line-level sources to the preamplifier; and a Day-Sequerra FM Reference stereo tuner provided music from WQXR, our local New York classical station. Albums were played on a Linn Sondek LP12/Lingo turntable, an Ittok arm, and a Spectral moving-coil cartridge.
I used a variety of loudspeakers, including Quad ESL-63 electrostatics on Arcici stands, Snell B minor full-ranges, Chario Academy Ones on sand-filled Sumiko Franklin and Lowell Stands, and Totem Model 1s on sand-filled Target R-1 stands. Each speaker was set up separately in the listening room and placed 4' from each side wall and 3' from the back. I sat either 8' from the speakers, or in my favorite spot an additional 10' into the room.
I evaluated the Classé Fifteen's audio performance using the same suite of CDs employed in my September '92 review of four FM tuners (Vol.15 No.9), as well as those I've nominated for Stereophile's annual "Records to Die For" feature. Because of their ample bass, dynamics, and woodwind timbre, I added five Mercury Living Presence CDs.—Larry Greenhill