Stereophile's Products of 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 subversivelike 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."