Classé Omega monoblock power amplifier Page 3

With all that power and that huge power supply, you'd think the Omega would be nothing short of explosive—all thunderous orchestral crescendos and cracking rim shots. Well, yes and no. Yes, the crescendos and rim shots were there; no, they never seemed "thunderous" or "explosive," nor did dynamics of any sort seem to dominate the Omega's performance. The Classé didn't sound big and bold or polite and reticent—it didn't sound any way at all, but simply did what the music asked, no more, no less.

I think part of it was that there was so much more information with the Omega that I ended up listening to the system at lower levels than usual—when I switched in other amps, I inevitably found myself turning up the volume. Certainly, the Omegas could pressurize even my huge listening space when I cranked up my beloved AC/DC and Stevie Ray Vaughan LPs, but more often than not, the amps would totally immerse me in a musical event with a lot less fuss than other amps I've used.

Amp swapping
I was hard-pressed to assign the Omega an overall sound or tonal character, particularly when I tried to triangulate in on them by swapping in the other amps I had on hand. The Omega, for example, had none of the Mark Levinson No.20.6's dark, silvery character or slight liquid texture—but they certainly didn't sound tonally cool or light. Similarly, my VTL Ichiban sounded warm, rolled-off, and a little syrupy in comparison to the Omega, and didn't have their precision or detail, particularly at the frequency extremes.

But the Classé was in no way over-etched, nor did it accentuate the top and bottom ends at the expense of the midrange. The VAC Renaissance 70/70, when matched with an appropriate speaker, most reminded me of the Omega but was softer overall, and had a slight golden coloration—and again, their performance didn't extend nearly as far to the frequency extremes. No matter how I approached it, the Omega simply sounded neutral—or, rather, didn't sound at all.

The Classé Omega monoblock is an extraordinary amplifier—extraordinary in its appearance, its engineering and construction, and, most of all, in its sonic performance. But despite its over-the-top power and energy reserves, it is in the handling of details that the Omega is most impressive. However, in spite of the apparent incongruity, I think that it is precisely because of the Omega's prodigious power, and its ability to precisely control a speaker's motion, that it could do such an incredible job with the subtleties. Prior to the Omegas' arrival, my system's tiniest details had been lost in the slight blurring that arose from the speakers not quite keeping up, or in the faint overhang and back EMF resulting from the drivers' momentum overmatching the amplifier.

My experience with VAC's Renaissance 70/70 amplifier follows along the same line. The VAC, too, is capable of a level of refinement and subtlety, and a speed and harmonic accuracy, beyond those of most other amps—but only when matched with a speaker that it could control when set to Zero Feedback. Throw the wrong speaker at it, one that needs more than 70W to sound its best, and I could hear the VAC's performance degrade and the sound become audibly less controlled. I suspect that, at the limit, the Omegas would suffer the same fate, though with their vast power and reserves, you'd have to look long and hard to find a speaker that would overtax them.

The Classé Omega is not only the best power amplifier I've ever auditioned, but in many ways it exceeded my ability to evaluate it—I found myself instead evaluating associated components, setup details, the system's response to changes in the weather, even characteristics of a recording itself. The Omega simply got out of the way, providing a clear conduit, a straight wire with gain—a lot of gain—between my system's front-end and loudspeakers. And because of its ability to absolutely control a loudspeaker, a finer level of detail was able to pass through this conduit than through most other amplifiers. The result, for me, was a level of system performance and musical involvement beyond my previous experience.

I don't have firsthand experience of all the other super amplifiers out there, so I can't really put the Omega's $25,000/pair price in the context of its direct competition. However, in a world of $17,000 preamps, $15,000 CD players, and $10,000 turntables with $5000 cartridges, the Classé Omega doesn't seem out of line, particularly given its construction quality and the overwhelming excellence of its performance. The realities of a California mortgage preclude my buying a pair of Omegas, but I'll miss them for a long, long time. Even Trish said, "So they have to go back? You know, they really don't look so bad there..."

Even if you'll never be in a position to afford the Omegas, you owe it to yourself to give them a listen. You won't be disappointed. Very highly recommended!

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