The TFT touchscreen allows you to preview standard-definition video, making it ideal for accessing a DVDAudio menu or otherwise monitoring a program without powering up your bigscreen. The LCD screen can show any standard definition video-component connection. Further, an input source can be defined as both a bypass and an SD source. For those inputs, the ED/HD video is routed directly to the component output while the SD connection is available on the LCD. Kudos: Classé is truly serious about software upgradeability. Two SSP-600 updates have already posted and are available as downloads from www.classeaudio.com. Classé cautions however that, unless you’re handy with a PC and the RS232 port, the job is best left to a knowledgeable dealer. Irks: Touchscreen response-time lags especially when making input or mode changes. While the display is adjustable for brightness, the contrast could be stronger and the labeling crisper. The blue-lit aluminum remote control employs an arbitrary layout and its tiny buttons require a good set of peepers. And, hey, Classé, how about giving the high rollers the option of a hand-held TFT remote? Classé is fully compatible with Creston, AMX, i- Command, Philips Pronto, Universal’s MX-300, and others. Codes are posted on the company’s Web site.
The SSP-600 has a quiet and assured character that makes it eerily similar to the CP-500 preamp. I noted the same pillowy cushion in the upper mids and lower treble that produced a slightly relaxed, non-showy presentation. On a song like “Misty” [One On One, Chesky] I enjoyed the rich, full upper-bass structure that seemed to darken piano in the octaves below middle C, and also the roundedness in the treble that tamed the most aggressive transients. Holly Cole’s seductive vocal on “Take Me Home” [Temptation, Alert] had a burnished, late-night quality that conjured up memories of barstools, Old- Fashioneds, and high heels.
In spite of the shared DNA, an A/V multi-tasker like the SSP-600 can’t quite match the two-channel CP-500 for transparency or preternatural stillness of black, velvety backgrounds. Prime examples are solo voice and piano. During Norah Jones’ “The Nearness of You” [Come Away With Me, Blue Note], transients seemed slower off the mark, lacking the crisp response that bridges silence and song. The window into the layers of the chorus during the Rutter Requiem [Reference Recordings] was not quite as squeegee-clean as it is with my reference Plinius stereo electronics. Expensive AVRs however, beware: Few in my experience can match the channel separation, articulation, and low-level resolving power of the SSP- 600—traits that were exemplified in the murmured conversations following the graphic airport terminal shootout in the newly remastered Bullitt. As McQueen stands over the body of gangland embezzler Johnny Ross, a horrified and enthralled crowd forms around the scene, exchanging theories (“He’s a cop; that’s what he is.”) about what went down. From the tiny oxygen bubbles ascending to the ocean’s surface in Open Water to a shifting wind patterns across the bleak plains in The Missing, the SSP-600 extracted a wealth of weird and wonderful details that added weight and resonance to film-watching.
The Classé Audio SSP-600 is a luxury controller that performs at the highest levels. It combines remarkable multichannel performance with a slinky, seductive user interface. There is, however, a downside to owning this touchscreen sexpot. It’s such a blast letting your fingers do the walking that you’re never going to want to take your hands off it.