Classe CA-5300 Five Channel Amplifier Reviewed

Classe_CA-5300_multi-channel_amp_review.gifClasse is on a roll lately and their newly updated Delta Series products continue their quest for high end, hi-fi dominance. I recently reviewed Classe’s CA-2300 two-channel amp and found it to be “one of the best high-end sounding amplifiers under $10,000 that I’ve ever heard.” High praise, but what if you’re a multi-channel guy? What if two channels of high-end amplification simply aren’t enough? Well, thankfully, Classe offers the CA-5300 five-channel amplifier for all your multi-channel and home theater needs.

Additional Resources
• Read more multi-channel amp reviews by HomeTheaterReview.com’s staff.
• Find a pair of floorstanding speakers or bookshelf speakers for the CA-5300 to drive.
• Explore AV receiver options to pair with the CA-5300.

Retailing for $9,500, the CA-5300 is the most expensive amp in the new Delta Series lineup; however it also offers the most channels of amplification at five. Each of the CA-5300’s five channels churn out an impressive 300 Watts of power into eight Ohms and 600 Watts into four. The CA-5300 features Classe’s new, microprocessor controlled, ICTunnel cooling system, which keeps the amp operating at peak temperatures internally without having to rely on unsightly heat sinks. The CA-5300 has a reported frequency response of 1Hz to 100kHz with total harmonic distortion rated at less than one percent using either balanced or single ended connections. The CA-5300 is also a little eco friendly with a standby power draw of less than a single Watt – however during vigorous listening sessions Mother Nature isn’t going to like the CA-5300 power draw, which can reach figures in excess of 1,000 Watts.

In terms of looks the CA-5300 is all Classe all the time. Clad in its smooth white finish with matte black accents, the new Delta Series amps are among the more beautiful audiophile and home theater products around. The CA-5300 measures in at 17 and a half inches wide by nearly 23 inches deep and almost nine inches tall. It tips the scales at a hefty, but not unruly, 105 pounds. Connection options include five sets of both balanced and unbalanced inputs along with five sets of robust five-way binding posts.

As far as the CA-5300’s sound quality is concerned it sounds largely identical to its two-channel brother the CA-2300. I say “largely” because I didn’t have the CA-2300 on hand to do a direct comparison so I’m commenting from memory. The CA-5300’s bass performance is textural and deep with excellent control and finesse even under demanding situations such as the attack on Pearl Harbor in Michael Bay’s historical action epic, Pearl Harbor, on Blu-ray (Touchstone). The CA-5300 midrange is clear, open and natural, sounding neither artificially warm nor lean. Dialog tracks via the CA-5300 sounded live versus reproduced and were always clean and intelligible when the source material allowed for it. Films such as Morning Glory (Paramount), which seem to live almost entirely in one’s center channel, really showcases the CA-5300’s smooth midrange demeanor. The CA-5300’s high frequency response is too very smooth and non-fatiguing, though it achieves this by not trying to push the envelope too much for there are more airy and extended solid state amps out there – the CA-5300 just isn’t that amp. Instead, the CA-5300 errs on the side of caution at times choosing to be “just right” for a wider variety of source material. A good example of this can be found in the often harsh high frequency sounds of the film Burlesque (Screen Gems), which other amps deliver like an axe to the head whereas the CA-5300 manages to smooth them out a bit and make the whole experience enjoyable. Dynamically the CA-5300 is solid, though not an amp that is likely to bowl you over or surprise you. Its dynamic capabilities are not less than its competition; it just doesn’t enhance dynamic swings for the sake of shock and awe the way some amps do. The CA-5300’s soundstage is very nice, possessing equal parts depth and width with good detail and separation throughout.

Read about the high points and low points of the CA-5300 on Page 2.

Classe_CA-5300_multi-channel_amp_review_back.gifHigh Points
• The CA-5300 is one of the more beautiful looking multi-channel amps
on the market today
, which is good news for those of you with exposed
equipment racks.
• The CA-5300’s 300 Watts of power should be more than enough for even the most demanding loudspeakers.
• The CA-5300’s sound is one of control, finesse and detail and isn’t
one that is keen on losing its composure. If you have difficult to
drive or somewhat forward sounding loudspeakers, the CA-5300 should fit
the bill nicely.
• The CA-5300 sounds as good with music as it does with movies, making
it more versatile than other amps in the Delta Series line, including
the CA-2300 that I loved so much.

Low Points
• The CA-5300 is a big amp and while its 100 pound girth may not sound
like a lot compared to some, it’s an awkward 100 pounds and should be
moved with the help of a friend or installer.
• The CA-5300’s feet are sharp and are more than capable of scratching the living hell out of your rack and/or your hands.
• I don’t like the CA-5300’s stacked binding posts for it makes
connecting large gauge wire such as my Transparent Reference speaker
cables somewhat of a chore. Also because of the CA-5300’s ICTunnel, the
binding posts are arranged in a odd manner.

Competition and Comparison
At $9,500 retail the CA-5300 faces the same problem the CA-2300 did in
terms of competition, for it competes directly with another one of
Classe’s amps, the CT-5300, which is the same amp, albeit not as
dressed up, as the CA-5300 but costs $500 less. If the CA-5300’s
aesthetics are worth an extra $500, then by all means buy the CA-5300 –
but if sound quality is all you’re after then save yourself some money
and get the CT-5300.

A few non-Classe amps that square off against the CA-5300 are Mark
Levinson’s No 535H, which at $12,000 costs more than the CA-5300 and
offers up less power with 200 Watts across all five of its channels.
Krell‘s S-1500 multi-channel amp
also deserves to be mentioned, though not a direct competitor for it’s
a more flexible amp, able to be configured in five, six or seven
channels with amplification of 150 Watts per channel. Configured as a
five-channel amp, the S-1500 is cheaper than the CA-5300 at $6,500
retail.

Of course there are quite a few affordable five-channel solutions
out there from the likes of Anthem, Parasound, Emotiva and Outlaw worth checking out as well. For more information on multi-channel
amps including the latest news and reviews please check out Home
Theater Review’s Multi-Channel Amplifier page
.

Conclusion
At $9,500 retail, I’d argue that Classe’s newly redesigned Delta Series
CA-5300 five channel amp is all the high-end multi-channel goodness an
audiophile or home theater enthusiast will ever truly need. The
CA-5300’s 300 Watts per channel is more than enough for even the most
demanding home theater systems. While the CA-5300’s sound isn’t always
going to grab you by the short hairs, exciting it is – for lack of a
better description – just right and serves the needs of a wide variety
of source material nicely. The only caveat I have about recommending
the CA-5300 outright is the fact that you can buy the same amp in the
CT-5300 for $500 less, which if you can live with the CT Series’
somewhat subdued aesthetics, makes it a better value in my opinion.
Still, for what Classe delivers under $10,000 in the CA-5300 is well
worth an audition.

Additional Resources
• Read more multi-channel amp reviews by HomeTheaterReview.com’s staff.
• Find a pair of floorstanding speakers or bookshelf speakers for the CA-5300 to drive.
• Explore AV receiver options to pair with the CA-5300.

SOURCE:http://hometheaterreview.com/classe-ca-5300-five-channel-amplifier-reviewed-1/