Classé Omega line-level preamplifier Page 3
Reaching for Omega
While it does have an identifiable character, the Omega preamplifier doesn't have much voice of its own. That's exactly as it should be. Open, fast, transparent, and extended, it always controlled the associated amp with a linear, full-range signal. In that way it proved a perfect match for the sweep and romance of the suave, richly powerful Omega power amplifier.
When I first wired up the preamp, I heard just a few molecules of dryness in the upper-midrange/lower-treble region, as well as a hairsbreadth of grain. I was relieved when these disappeared after just a few hours. The preamp's inherent nature is nonetheless extremely linear and extended, something like the character of the Boulder Balanced 2010 preamp: flat-sounding from DC to ultraviolet.
As I harnessed the Omega preamp to the various power amps on hand, certain elements of its presentation became evident. Its dynamic palette was beautifully variegated, every small nuance of timing, pitch, and subtle dynamics laid out cleanly for the listener. The way Count Basie holds back or just leads the beat in "Rent Party," from The Timekeepers (JVCXR-0206-2), was beautifully revealed, for example. At the other end of the spectrum, macrodynamics of every kind were hugely available for any amp with the guts and wherewithal to pump it out big time.
The Omega preamp was rather stern in its way, hiding nothing of poor recordings or problems elsewhere in the system. Yet, paradoxically, it usually sounded quite attractive. The overall level of transparency was nearly as great as the YBA Signature 6 Chassis, an astounding feat given the lofty bar set by the YBA. But where the YBA components sound a touch detached and removed—perhaps a function of their palpable elegance—the Omegas, when run together, give of themselves a little more freely. They're more willing to give you a lap dance and a thrill.
Listening to Tony Overwater do Alanis Morissette's "Ironic" (from Up Close, Turtle 198119), I jotted: "The sound is sensuous beyond description, the air and reverberant acoustic open and beautifully delineated in a dimensional, spacious soundstage." Focus was excellent: I enjoyed "visually" tracking the movement of the bell on the tenor sax as the musician swayed to the beat. The soundstage was utterly transparent, extremely 3-D and wraparound, palpable and involving. The sense of acoustic space was enhanced, and while it didn't leap out at me in an unseemly manner, the midrange was "utterly luscious" (more jottings), and "rich with luster and harmonic depth." The focus and clarity made for a fast-sounding presentation that, rather than coming off zippy, allowed a heightened sense of color and vigor to develop—a bit like the Nagra PL-P.
Searching for openness in the highs, I spun female vocals, beginning with favorites like Patricia Barber's Modern Cool (Premonition PREM-741-2) and Morcheeba's Skye Edwards on Big Calm (Sire/China 31020-2). On each disc, the Omega filled out the soundstage with a sharply focused spotlight on the lady in question. "Visually" the preamp always imaged superbly well, sounding open and sunny, but not hot or even especially warm. In fact, its sound was more October-like: clear, clean, and crisp, leaves rustling in a freshening breeze. The Omega dropped both chantoosies nicely back between the speakers—very palpable, the accompanying musicians on their own cushions of dimensional air spread out to either side. The JMlab Utopia speakers utterly disappeared; the separation and imaging on the soundstage was virtuoso. Barber and Edwards came across with a lovely smoothness and a slight lift in the lower treble, especially on the AudioPrism tube amps.
Male vocals were totally boss. Try "Dreamgirl," from Ying Tan's re-release of Roy Gaines doing "I Got the T-Bone Walker Blues" (Groove Note GRV 2002-2)—a great recording. Notes: "Lots of punch and tonal color, no soggy chestiness, just BIG tight images loaded with sound and color. The palp factor is extraordinary, no element of the presentation confused or ambivalent." I felt the same way listening to my man Lou Reed do the fab "Faces and Names," from Songs for Drella (Sire 26140-2).