Classé Omega Super Audio CD player Page 4

Next, I turned to the hybrid SACD/CD Lyrinx disc of pianist Caroline Sageman playing Chopin. Morbidly, perhaps, I played Scherzo 3 in C-sharp minor, Op.39. You know...dumm dumm dee-dumm, as the imaginary casket moves toward the loamy earth. I always liked the slow stuff. And I was surprised to read in the booklet that, "even as a child, [Sageman] preferred slow movements, the more dramatic pieces....Still today she has a particular affection for these works which allow her to penetrate the music more easily, to be able to isolate herself." The SACD layer communicated this feeling exquisitely by its superiority of playback. The sound of the piano was in every way remarkable—it seemed to enter my soul. (Yes, I still have one.)

This recording's SACD layer sounds much better than the rather more homogenized "Red Book" track. But then I had a flash—and burned myself rather badly. I pressed the SRC button on the remote for 24/96 sample-rate conversion, yet found less body, even as I appreciated the greater transparency over 16/44.1. But it sounded more brittle, too.

So—back to straight, non-upsampled 16/44.1. I was happier with the immediate gain in body. In my view, the Omega SACD did "Red Book" CDs so well that I didn't need the 24/96 option. It might help on some CDs, but my vote would be to, in general, leave it off.

Another flash (this time I held my arms away so they wouldn't get singed): Into my Linn CD12 CD player went the hybrid Chopin disc, which at first the Linn refused to acknowledge, arms crossed over chest. I ejected the disc, inserted it again, and—success!—Scherzo 3 played. It sounded way better than the CD section of the Classé (or the Accuphase, for that matter), and I could hear Sageman's sharp inhalations. More detail, less roughness.

I then flipped the Scherzo into the Accuphase and heard, in the beginning of the work on the SACD layer, Sageman hum or sing to herself as she stroked her instrument. Lovely, just lovely...a capacity of the DP-101/DC-100 for nuance and small detail that makes it eternally satisfying in some ways. And at $28,000, it better be! Fellow travelers looking for the best, there it was. Regarding acoustic space, ease, the flowering of the music, the detail of Sageman's sharp intake of breath before certain passages—all were more finely rendered via SACD, along with more power evident throughout the frequency band.

SACD like this was like a License to Quiver, as I found out listening intently to Vladimir Horowitz play Schumann's Arabeseque (Sony Classical SS 9671) and hearing how those last few notes faded out at the end of the piece—sheer, unadulterated ecstasy.

The Classé wasn't a "softener" in the classic sense, like the Accuphase in CD mode. This One's for Blanton, with Ray Brown and Duke Ellington (Analogue Productions CAPJ 015), exposed piano strings as the metal they are. The Omega wasn't exactly kind to this recording, especially where the Duke's piano is a bit tinkly—it added a slightly silvery quality to the highs. Ah, but Ray Brown's bass was divine—so perfect, especially through the Linn Klimax monos. Sharp focus, leading-edge transient info as detailed (if not more so) as the Linn CD12's, dynamics up the hoo-hah in CD mode, fabulous micro- and macrodynamics, and sweet and compelling highs when run through the Krell 350Mcs, no less.

Finishing up, I played the SACD of Rapsodie espagnole from Boulez Conducts Ravel (Sony Classical SS 89121) and found it more excitedly rendered by the Classé in comparison to anything else around here. The Omega was more brash, more ready to make sweeping emotional gestures that left me gasping for breath. You've been touched, Scull, I remember thinking. Maybe you won't forget it.

I also tried the Classé Omega single-ended. Great sound, but run it balanced if you can, and with a fully differential preamp, if possible—that combo offered the best sound for SACD and CD.

The Classé Omega SACD/CD/CD-R player takes the perfect swing at getting everything right. Its overall balance in SACD and, importantly, in CD were so much to my taste that the Omega's the one I declare closest to what I expected when this whole high-resolution thing started. Yes, I have the Linn CD12 for when I wanna rock out in 16/44.1, not to mention the dCS upsamplers, and all them will soon go back in the system—not to mention the wonderfully nuanced Accuphase SACD player.

But if I didn't have the Accuphase and the Linn and the dCS, the Classé Omega would be my choice for the one machine that does it all. Highly recommended.

5070 François-Cusson
Lachine, Quebec H8T 1B3
(514) 636-6384