Classé Audio Revived

In May of 2016, Bowers & Wilkins (B&W) was sold to EVA Automation in a deal that included Classé Audio and the US distribution of Rotel Electronics. Since then, production and distribution of B&W and Rotel products has continued but not so for Classé. Initially, the new management announced that production and distribution of current products would continue but that all newly announced products, prototypes of which had been shown at the previous CEDIA, would be put on hold. However, in July of 2016, Classé operations in Montreal were shut down and all employees, including President Dave Nauber, were let go. Apparently, several efforts to sell to the company had failed.

Today at the CES in Las Vegas, it was announced that Sound United (Denon, Marantz, Polk Audio, Definitive Technology, Polk BOOM, HEOS, and Boston Acoustics) had acquired Classé Audio and that operations would be resumed under the leadership of Dave Nauber.

This looks like it will be an excellent marriage between Sound United's existing range of products and technologies and an iconic high-end brand. It will give Sound United the opportunity to expand and to increase "its footprint in the consumer audio space." Perhaps equally significant is that it will provide Classé Audio with access to product-sourcing and the kind of technological development, particularly in DSP and networking, that only a large entity like Sound United can offer.

Nauber says "it's a great outcome from what was turning into a complete debacle" and that he is "beaming with optimism." He is now busy reassembling the design team in Montreal but he will be at CES this week at Sound United's suite at the Venetian Hotel.

James.Seeds's picture

Does this mean that future components will be developed by Nauber's team in Montreal and be manufactured in China?

Kal Rubinson's picture

Nauber replies:
Yes (Montreal) and no (China).

We will move manufacturing to a specialty high-end electronics manufacturing facility in Shirakawa Japan where some of the higher-end Marantz is built. It's a relatively small facility so we hope to consume quite a bit of its excess capacity.

supamark's picture

Their support for older Boston Acoustics products is zero (BA still provided drivers for their older, like 20 years old, speakers until they were sold around 2008 - now, FU), I doubt you'll get any support for older Classe' products from them either.

Classe' will be another once heralded brand name used to push lower quality gear. Too bad they couldn't synergistically partner with another Canadian company like Paradigm or PSB looking to expand out into electronics from a primarily speaker focus. Classe' amplification in active Paradigm speakers would've been something to see happen.

Are the products offered by any of the brands of D&M Holdings (parent of Sound United) near the quality offered before the brands were bought out? No.

Kal Rubinson's picture

Paradigm's corporate partner is Anthem Electronics and PSB's corporate partner is NAD. I don't know if either of them has a reason to expand out into electronics from a primarily speaker focus.

Mike-48's picture

Thanks for the writeup. As a CP-800 owner, I consider the CP-800 one of the more (technically) successful attempts at simple DSP in an audiophile preamp. Though audiophiles seemingly have to be dragged into the late 20th century, DSP (especially used with attention to room acoustics) offers effective and cost-effective routes to better sound. I'm flabbergasted at how few preamps offer even crossovers for subs, though apparently manufacturers sell enough subs to make it a going segment. Glad to hear Classe will survive and, I hope, move the techniques forward.

classelover's picture

This is fantastic news!!! I've owned their monoblocks and a SSP800 for years and have been debating having to change AV preamps for something that supports full 4k with HDR (sigma doesn't). I am hoping this provides options for a classe solution in the future vs having to insert someone elses preamp into my system or at least making the sigma upgradeable again! Can anything be shared on this front?

spacehound's picture

In reality it never even got started. I have no idea why as it was quite nice equipment, but the fact remains that it didn't.

And now the potential customers all know that it went bust they are even less likely to buy anything called 'Classe' as sensible people are wary of known market failures even if the new equipment is different.

I'm in the UK. I liked Classe stuff but never bought any as I could see it was doomed some years ago. Simply because B&W never advertised it. And this change of ownership won't revive it.

It's just a 'trophy wife' like Harmon Kardon, known only for it's mediocrity, buying Mark Levinson. Which now has near zero market presence.

Distinctive's picture

This sounds promising.
My Sigma SSP MKII is riddled with software bugs (latest software onboard) so I hope Mr. Nauber can confirm that the Sigma series existing Classé customers will be taken care of and that the Sigma series portfolio will survive the Sound United transition.

Thanks in advance.

deralte's picture

hope they deal with following problems: input switching does not work sometimes, digital clicking when source is off an the IOS app does not work either.
see also this

allhifi's picture

Classe: The debacle at "Classe" has been management itself over the past 15-years.

Havung the same guy (Nauber) if in fact he called the shots) is the problem.
Classe has made some absolutely wonderful equipment pre 2011. Problem is, when it has an absolute stunning dsign/sound, it throws it to the trash bin thinking their modern approach shall conquer all -an imagination not supported by critical listener's.

Good god there must be more capable folk than Nauber ?

Under his watch, Classe will continue to flounder as we've seen the good part of the past 20-years.

And I was hoping for some good news.

peter jasz

Garryh16's picture

Classe needs new leader ship to bring back Quality control and they have been way behind the competition in the last 20 years in new ideas. I do love my older Classe preamp and amplifier but the new stuff is just fancy cases that look cool. Maybe they can learn a lot from the engineer folks that engineer Integra DRC R1.1 preamplifiers They have so many features and use such high-quality parts. I have both and love the warm sound of Classe and the great features Of the Integra.