BURSTING WITH LIFE
In use, driving flagship B&W 800 D3 speakers [HFN Oct ’16], the Classé amps immediately impress with the mighty power they can deliver, and the sheer refinement with which they do so. Opening up with Dr. Lonnie Smith’s cover of ‘Why Can’t We Live Together?‘ [Breathe; Blue Note 3546174], the Classé PRE/MONOS present the track, one of only two studio recordings on the album, with a real sense of ‘musicians in the room’. That’s assuming, of course, you were ever lucky enough to have a bunch of crack musicians, complete with a very restrained Iggy Pop on vocals, round for a bit of a jam. The sound here simply bursts with life – and this turns out to be an abiding characteristic of these amplifiers.
I have encountered few amplification systems in my time so readily able to draw the listener in to what’s being played, and create that Hi-Fi ideal of a tangible impression of listening to a performance rather than an artifice created by a collection of electronics and loudspeaker drive-units. Even better, these Classe amps do so whatever you choose to play: I have never heard the simple two-track recording of The Beatles’ ‘And I Love Her‘ [A Hard Day’s Night; Apple/Parlophone 0946 3 824 13 2 4] sounding quite so vibrant, with every nuance of the percussion and the studio reverberation so clearly defined. Similarly with soprano Jodie Devos’s luminous take on Freddie Mercury’s ‘You Take My Breath Away‘, from her romantic And Love Said … recital [Alpha 668] where both the voice and the accompanying piano of Nicolas Kruger have that marvellous ‘reach out and touch’ quality.
The last element, and the winning goal scored by the Classe PRE/MONOS: The Michael Stern/ Kansas City Symphony recording of ‘The Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra‘ [Britten’s Orchestra; RR-120]. It’s a self-explanatory test of any system’s ability to convey orchestral timbres, scale and dynamics, and one these amplifiers pass in a blaze of glory. From the finest of percussion, string and woodwind textures right through to the hefty drums, the Classe amps deliver a superb sense of the orchestra laid out before the listener. They’re lyrical and smooth when required, then able to turn on that massive slam for the great conclusion to the fugue. And if that doesn’t thrill you, nothing will!