Stereophile

Classé Delta Mono

Canadian audio manufacturer Classé Audio was founded in 1980 by engineer Dave Reich and entrepreneur/audiophile Mike Viglas. The name “Classé” was a pun on the fact that Reich was a firm believer in an amplifier’s output stage operating in class-A, where the output devices never turn off (see sidebar). Though the brand was established with the 25Wpc DR-2, the first review of a Classé amplifier to appear in Stereophile, by Larry Greenhill, was of the later DR-3, in December 1985. This review had not yet been reprinted on the magazine’s website at the time of writing this report, but no fewer than 21 reviews of Classé products are available in our free online archive. These include the CAM-350 monoblock amplifier, which was reviewed by Brian Damkroger in January 20011 and has been used by Jon Iverson, AVTech’s self-described “web monkey,” as his long-term reference amplifier.

My own experience of a Classé amplifier dates from March 2011, when I reviewed the CT-M600 and CA-M600 monoblock amplifiers.2 So positive was that experience that, when Editor Jim Austin asked me if I would be interested in reviewing Classé’s new third-generation Delta Mono amplifier ($21,998/pair), I didn’t hesitate to say “yes.”

First, some history

Classé Audio became part of the Bowers & Wilkins Group in 2001, with Viglas staying on as chairman and the day-to-day running of the company being handled by branddevelopment VP Dave Nauber. (Reich had joined Theta Digital by that time; Viglas retired in 2010 and passed away in 2018.) In May 2016, B&W was acquired by EVA Automation; a year later, the new owner shuttered Classé’s operations in Montreal and all employees, excluding thenpresident Dave Nauber, were let go.

Fortunately, Sound United, whose brands include Denon, Marantz, Polk, Definitive Technology, and Boston Acoustics, then acquired Classé.3 Sound United resumed Classé’s operations under the leadership of Dave Nauber, now brand director.

The third-generation Delta products—stereo and mono amplifiers and a preamplifier—are the first fruits of the new ownership. Their development had started when Classé was still owned by B&W; in a video interview, I asked Nauber how come it had taken so long for these products to come to market.

“After Sound United purchased Classé, we continued to develop the Delta 3 designs but had to move the manufacturing from the B&W factory in China to the Shirakawa Audio Works about 130 miles north of Tokyo, where the higher-end Denon and Marantz products are made…. Shirakawa has the most comprehensive manufacturing and testing capability that parts that are used by Denon and Marantz, so the individual certifications were lacking, new parts had to be created in their systems, and so on. So it really took longer than any of us thought it was going to take.”

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