For such a big amplifier—and the Classic Stereo weighs in at 108 pounds—there isn’t much to it in the way of fancy doodads. Quite the contrary. A pair of XLR inputs on back, plus speaker connections. Push one green backlit button on the faceplate and you’re off and running. This is truly a plug ’n’ play amplifier. But my word, how it does play!
Dan D’Agostino’s latest creation is a throwback in looks (can you say industrial design?) but not in performance. No, it’s not as bruising as the famous Krell amplifiers of yore that D’Agostino used to build before he exited to start his new company. I have seen grown men’s knees turn to jelly as they whimper about their memories of a particular Krell amp they once owned. Those days are long over, particularly in an era when more than a few manufacturers are concerned with producing diminutive amps that fit into home décor rather than questing for the absolute.
To his credit, D’Agostino has ventured back to his origins. Go heavy or go home, so the weightlifters like to say. Mr. D. has done the former. The fully balanced Classic Stereo, which D’Agostino constructs at his factory in Arizona, has real cojones. It is a brawny and manly amplifier, one that D’Agostino is proud enough of to emboss his name on the faceplate. The amplifier is part of his new Master Power Series.
The Master Power Series offerings are all one amplifier in different configurations. The Classic Stereo amp reviewed here is the basic stereo amp, the Master Power 2+ has a crossover and can be bridged to become a 1000W mono amp, the Master Power 3+ has crossover on two of its three channels for daisy-chaining, home-theater use, etc. All amps have RS232 control.
The Classic Stereo is, to use an old-fangled term, a gas to use. It had me pulling out the big stuff, whether orchestral or soul music, to remind myself of what the Wilson Audio XLF loudspeakers can deliver in the nether regions, especially when mated to an amplifier that delivers a hefty amount of current like the Classic Stereo. Power may corrupt, as they saying goes, but I didn’t hear much corruption here. What I heard was the abundant plusses that a powerful amplifier can offer—unflappability, smoothness, and dynamics. The days of abrasive solid-state, folks, are over.
And if you’re into power, check out the ratings on this amp. Naturally, it has a very high damping factor and, unlike some amplifiers that don’t double up power from 8 ohms to 4 ohms to 2 ohms, this one does. It goes from 300 watts to 600 watts to 1200 watts. Short of an Apogee Scintilla, I doubt there are many speakers extant that this amp can’t drive with aplomb.
As D’Agostino himself emphasizes, the aim of the Classic Stereo is to deliver a lot of performance for a reasonable (by, I hasten to add, high-end standards) price. This amplifier contains as many of the parts and as much of the sound of his top-drawer Momentum Series as possible. One area he hasn’t skimped on, for example, is build-quality. The amplifier features what is known as through-hole construction. This means that the leads on the capacitors, resistors and other parts extend through the circuit board rather than being surface-mounted—for better sound and reliability.