Classé CT-SSP Surround Processor and CT-5300 Amplifier Page 2
Unlike more affordable AVRs, including my three-year-old Marantz SR8002, the Classé doesn’t feature a consumer-oriented, automated room EQ system like Audyssey where you plug in a supplied microphone, sit back, and watch the show. On the other hand, I’m not really satisfied with the results I get from Audyssey, and I usually leave it off. (Only Pioneer’s proprietary MCACC system, which it uses in its Elite SC-27 AVR, has ever impressed me.) Properly EQ-ing a system without a built-in analytics program is best left to professionals.
User unfriendliness aside, the Classé’s proprietary EQ system is deep, highly configurable, and holds the potential for getting better sound than many automated EQ systems. There are five parametric bands for each speaker—not just each speaker group—so you can EQ your main left and right speakers differently. The center frequency for each band is highly adjustable and sensibly sensitive to the peculiarities of each frequency band. For instance, below 200 hertz, where the largest problems usually exist, center frequency is selectable to the nearest cycle, while above 2,000 Hz, center frequencies are an even 100 Hz apart. You can tailor the Q, which controls the width and slope of the adjustment band, for each of the five EQ points selected.
You’d think a flagship surround processor like the CT-SSP would be loaded to the gills with video processing. In fact, it’s nearly devoid of any. If I didn’t already lose you at, “No 3D,” then like me, you probably don’t care. Classé hits all of the important bases when it comes to video switching, though. It cross-converts analog video sources to the HDMI outputs, and a black-level control is available (set to either 0 or 7.5 IRE). There’s no upconversion; signals come out at the same resolution they come in. And don’t look for a rash of color, luminance, and sharpness settings or the presence of video processors like the HQV Reon-VX found in numerous high-end AVRs. The CT-SSP is designed first and foremost for world-class audio performance, and video processing appears less a victim of the accountant’s pencil than an intentional omission. My guess is that most people with a system of this caliber would prefer to calibrate their display directly and wouldn’t use the image adjustments and video processing in this surround processor anyway.
The backlit remote is a minimalist, carved-out-of-a-billetof-steel (well, thick aluminum at least) affair that feels right in your hands. For being so minimalist, though, it gives you access to some key features that are often either buried or nonexistent on the huge multi-function remotes that come with most AVRs. For instance, both lip sync correction and Night mode have their own buttons. In the case of lip-sync issues, if you have a particular source component that exhibits a consistent audio delay, you might not even need the remote’s lip sync feature. You can add audio delay to any source (or different delays to different sources) in the CT-SSP’s configuration.
Unlike some AVRs that only let you associate an HDMI input with a single source, the CT-SSP has no such limitation. It allowed me to define my Toshiba HDDVD player as both a DVD player with discrete multichannel audio decoding (it would select Dolby Digital or Dolby TrueHD, etc., depending on what came over the pipe) and as a CD player, which defaulted to a stereo mix when selected.
Another nice feature of the CT-SSP is something Classé calls Profiles, which are customized menus that you can assign to function keys on the remote. You can create two such Profile menus, and each can have up to six commands. I created one named Source. It included the five sources I had defined in the configuration, so I could switch from my DVR to the PS3 directly without using the remote’s source up/down buttons. I named the second Profile menu Sound and put in buttons for various music and movie surround modes I frequently use.
All is not perfect, of course (it’s technology, remember). When you switch between HDMI sources, there’s a 5-to-10-second delay before both the picture and sound engage, which is typical. Occasionally when you “rewind” a Blu-ray Disc, you’ll also get a little popping as the audio resyncs. It’s not tweeter threatening, just annoying. Also, with the CT-SSP set to an HDMI source that wasn’t powered on, I wasn’t able to see the onscreen GUI on my display to choose a source that is powered up. Classé suspected a configuration snafu and was looking into this at press time.
The CT-SSP offers legacy audio and video capability, but Classé doesn’t waste a lot of rear-panel real estate on those dying breeds. On the video side, you’ll find two inputs each for composite, S-video, and component, as well as one component output. There are no S-video or composite video outputs and no reason you’d want them. The CT-SSP isn’t intended to be the core of a multiroom system, just one really spectacular single-room system—and it pulls this off with ease.
Analog audio inputs include one balanced XLR two-channel input, as well as two more traditional single-ended RCA pairs. There’s also a 7.1-channel analog input. I wouldn’t recommend this for movie soundtracks since it relegates bass management to the often inadequately designed and frequently buggy firmware in the player, but I would use it for an SACD or DVD-Audio player. On the digital side, there are four TosLink (optical) and four coaxial (RCA) inputs, all capable of receiving up to 24-bit/192-kilohertz streams (although Classé wisely recommends against pushing the optical to the limit). The CT-SSP also provides one digital output of each style.