Stereophile's Products of 2011 AMPLIFICATION COMPONENT OF THE YEAR

2011 AMPLIFICATION COMPONENT OF THE YEAR

Classé CT-M600 & CA-M600 monoblock amplifiers ($13,000/pair, CT-M600; $14,000/pair, CA-M600; reviewed by John Atkinson, Vol.34 Nos. 3 & 9 Review)
Note: The CT-M600 and CA-M600 are essentially the same amplifier, the latter housed in Classé's traditional Delta-series enclosure, with its brushed-aluminum front panel curved around to form the side panels.)

2011 RUNNERS-UP (in alphabetical order)
Ayre Acoustics K-5xeMP line preamplifier ($3500; reviewed by John Atkinson, Vol.34 No.6 Review)
Musical Fidelity AMS100 power amplifier ($19,999; reviewed by John Atkinson, Vol.34 No.9 Review)
NAD C 316BEE integrated amplifier ($379; reviewed by Stephen Mejias, Vol.34 No.7 Review)
Parasound Halo JC 3 phono preamplifier ($2350; reviewed by Michael Fremer & Brian Damkroger, Vol.34 Nos. 3 & 10 Review)
PrimaLuna DiaLogue Three line preamplifier ($2599; reviewed by Art Dudley, Vol.34 No.8 Review)
Soulution 710 power amplifier ($45,000; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.34 No.8 Review)
VTL MB-450 Series III Signature monoblock amplifier ($18,000; reviewed by Michael Fremer, Vol.34 No.4 Review)

This was a bit of a surprise. My top vote went to the budget-priced NAD C 316BEE integrated amplifier, but in my heart of hearts, I knew that little 40W wonder wouldn't win. I was just trying to be subversive—like Sam Tellig. (I laugh his evil laugh.) But I didn't see this coming: Classé's CT-M600 and CA-M600 monoblock amplifiers separated themselves from an impressive field of contenders, beating out the magnificent (and magnificently silly; see the review) Musical Fidelity AMS100, the groundbreaking (and soulful) Soulution 710, and the mesmerizing (and logical) VTL MB-450, among others, to win Amplification Component of the Year.

Delivering an incredible 700W into 8 ohms, the CT-M600 employs Classé's Intelligent Cooling Tunnel, in which internal heatsinks are mated to a microcontroller to actively ensure a thermally stable environment. (And you want a thermally stable environment.) All the audio circuitry, including the 36 output devices, is carried on two six-layer boards, allowing signal paths to be very short and keeping the amplifier's noise floor very low.

The exceedingly neutral CT-M600 was the "consummate chameleon," said John Atkinson, drawing the best from a wide variety of loudspeakers, providing enormous dynamic range, dead-silent backgrounds, and intensely saturated colors. (Mmm . . . saturation.) Even when driving the most demanding speakers, the Classé kept its cool, and in doing so managed to make our demanding editor surprisingly hot: "They are the best-sounding amplifiers I have auditioned in my system."

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Comments
soulful.terrain's picture
Surprised..well, sort of.

Never would have guessed the Voxativ Ampeggio would have garnered this awarding from Stereophile. Especially since this speaker is a single driver unit. Who'd a thunk it?

I too, was fortunate enough to hear them at Axpona in Atlanta this year. I remember saying to a buddy of mine that attended with me, "I can't believe the level of musicality I'm hearing from this somewhat minimalist speaker"?

If you take a look at all the German engineered speaker systems, the question begs to be asked: Are there any German made products that fall short of the sublime? If so, I haven't encountered any.

FranklinFQ's picture
Headphones

Interesting choices in your headphone category. Among users on HeadFi as well as other headphone enthusiast circles the UE18 is seen as somewhat of an Also-Ran product, released as a response to the JH Audio JH13 and the "driver wars". Very few people who have experience with the category would choose the UE18 as their top choice. 

There have been lots of significant advances in the headphone world of late. Audeze LCD-2 and now the new LCD-3. HiFiMAN HE-6 and HE-500. Westone ES5. Unique Melody Miracle and Merlin. Even UE's own Reference Monitor is more highly regarded than the UE18. I really can't see why you chose it. 

Regarding your comment about the "True Blood" headphones. Those are the V-MODA V-80 headphones, and are actually very highly regarded. You might check with your own headphone expert Tyll Herstens - he recently gave them a rave review, as have many other HeadFi members. I agree that the marketing seems goofy but you might want to look into things a bit before commenting. And speaking of Tyll - why wasn't he involved in this? You have one of the world's foremost experts in the field of headphones on your staff, and you don't bother to consult him?

Stephen Mejias's picture
something to consider

 Regarding your comment about the "True Blood" headphones. Those are the V-MODA V-80 headphones, and are actually very highly regarded.

I know what they are and I've read Tyll's review. I was just making a joke. I do, however, think it's funny to market a headphone around an HBO show about sex-starved vampires and mind-reading fairies. (Yes, I watch every Sunday night with the girls.) The press releases for the headphones do include the bit about "supernatural sound" and "immortal durability," so, they're clearly having fun with it, too.

And if audiophiles start wearing True Blood headphones, I will laugh. A lot.

And speaking of Tyll - why wasn't he involved in this? You have one of the world's foremost experts in the field of headphones on your staff, and you don't bother to consult him?

Something to consider for next year. 

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