Classé Omega line-level preamplifier Page 2

Using high-quality, gold-plated WBT connectors, inputs and outputs are ranged across the slimline rear panel of the control chassis in balanced XLR (pin 2 hot) and single-ended RCA configurations. There are three inputs and a tape loop for each connector format, along with two pairs of output connectors, also in both formats. Front-panel adjustments include Volume, Mute, Input selection, Power, and Standby. The handsome, weighty remote controls volume, input selection, tape, display characteristics, and mute. You can also turn the Omega power amplifier on and off with the remote when the IR inputs on the amp's back panel are employed.

The preamp is good-looking, even rather sporty, in a contemporary, high-tech way—anything, please, but another bland box. If you're a tactile type, you'll love the nicely weighted volume-control wheel protruding horizontally from the housing riding the chassis' right side. You grasp the rim of the solid semicircle and give it a push one way or the other. Your position along the gain continuum is indicated by red LEDs in the display window, along with other operating parameters. But despite the fun of spinning this Wheel of Fortune, I mostly used the remote. There's a seven-second auto-mute function on turn-on, and everything worked smoothly and without problem.

Like the Omega stereo amplifier, the Omega preamp arrives in its own nicely turned-out traveling case, which more closely resembles photographer's kit than anything I've ever seen in audio. The leather-bound manual also speaks volumes about the thought, quality, and preparation behind the entire Omega presentation. Classé's chef d'orchestre, Mike Viglas, knows how much well-heeled audiophiles like their little touches of luxury. Spending this kind of money, why shouldn't the tactile senses be part of the bargain? I rest my case.

Setup matters
It certainly does. The control unit's top panel is a relatively broad expanse of metal, somewhat stiffened by the volume control's additional wraparound housing. I plopped a Shakti Stone in the middle of the panel, more for its weight and damping characteristics than for any electrical field-related matters. Suggestion to M. Viglas and the Classé design team: stiffen up the top cover, or damp it in some way, on general resonance principles. It would, as a result, "feel" more like the extraordinarily inert and completely unflappable Omega amplifier, and the solid brick that is the power supply.

While the power supply and control unit can be stacked, I'd advise keeping them well separated, as I did. Because of the relatively undamped metallic "sound" of the preamp chassis top when knuckle-rapped, I found that using a footer with slightly more compliance sounded better than those made from harder materials. Black Diamond Cones and 'Things proved best under the control unit and power supply (footnote 1).

A Bright Star Air Mass 2 and Big Rock sandbox kept the La Luce turntable beautifully, serenely independent of the environment. It was a pleasure clomping around without affecting the spinning vinyl. The turntable's separate Bauhaus-style motor assembly sat primly decoupled from the madding crowd on a Signal Guard II anti-resonance platform, and the entire front-end was installed in and on the highly recommended PolyCrystal equipment racks and shelves.



Footnote 1: Let's keep this in perspective. I begin by auditioning a component stark raving naked, as delivered. (The equipment, not me!) Over time, as I come to hear its voice, I make changes in associated components, cables, power cords, footers, and accessories in an effort to bump up the level of performance. The more revealing the individual component, the more these changes become evident. Inasmuch as $10k preamps are unlikely to be dropped onto rickety old shelves, these machinations are mostly optional, and largely unneeded to get the base level of sound quality described.
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