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Classe Sigma 2200i Integrated Amplifier

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Almost 3 years ago now I wrote my first 'real' review for SNA

https://www.stereo.net.au/reviews/classe-sigma-2200i-integrated-amplifier

 

And I liked the amp that Marc sent me to review.  I liked it a lot.  So much in fact that when the opportunity came up to buy one for a 'measly' $3500, I took it.  That ebay transaction fell through and my money was refunded, :( which disappointed me no end :(, so I was forced to soldier on.  With the news that Classe was closing down I was hit hard, no more Classe meant that when I was ready for it there might not be a Sigma 2200i ready for me.  Then came the news that Classe was being bought, followed by the news that the Sigma range was probably not going to be continued, which made me happy initially but then just as sad. 

It looked like there would be no Sigma 2200i for me.

 

So I was pretty damn happy when one popped up on SNA for the same price I was willing to pay via ebay.  After all, this is the integrated amp that sits at number one on my list of favourite all time amplifiers.

 

So, to celebrate my acquiring of what is highly likely to be my end game integrated amp * I've decided to release the scores I awarded it in my initial review.  I didn't put them in to the initial write up as that sort of thing is just not done in official reviews.  But, just because the scores I give to each and every amp I review may never see the light of day in any official capacity doesn't mean I don't evaluate and award them in the first place.  They just stay on my sheet of notes.

However now that I'm an owner it's less official and more personal, so those numbers are about to be set free.

 

I'm going to see if I can copy the original review and then add in the numbers in the next post.  Hope this works.

 

* Yeah I know, I didn't think it would ever happen either.  

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Error 404!  Oh come on computer, work with me here.

 

OK, plan A is a bust so on to plan B.  I'll copy from my original word doc, paste that in a different colour and then add the score and any more info in plain old black and white.

 

The Top End.

The top end is beautifully rendered with excellent resolution, the highs have a very natural feel to them and they are very easy on the ear, no traces of hardness, harshness or glare.

 

Trumpets are a touch soft and yet still maintain their full brassy stature. Triangle is a delight, it sounds very much like the instrument that little silver bells want to be when they grow up. Softly played piano is even more pleasing than usual. The top end is very, very nice and yet, even having said that, it doesn’t feel particularly extended. It sounds extremely good but it doesn’t seem to be trying to stretch its performance, almost as if Classé are playing it safe and sticking with the range they know the Sigma can do properly.

 

It isn’t really necessary as the upper treble is, as I said, very, very nice but I can’t help but feel that it could be just that bit better with just a little more effort. I really hope Classé push the envelope in this area when it comes time for a revised model to arrive.

So, even though I had a criticism of the Sigma in that I didn't feel it was adventurous to go 'all the way up' I gave it an 8.0.  With more listening I've increased that to an 8.25 but that is more of a technical score, if I try to ignore the technical and focus only on the enjoyment aspect then it's an 8.75, maybe even a 9.0.  

 

The Mids.

The Midrange is where the magic starts to happen in earnest. The lead instrument mids are some of the best I have heard. The Sigma just brings out the most in every instrument in every tune I could throw at it. Electric guitars seem just slightly more electric, acoustic guitars hold on to that note decay for an extra few tenths of a second, while violins come across with more flair and piano down here is even better than it is in the top end. Truly excellent. Even music that I know has been seriously compressed comes across better in the mids than I was expecting.

Love that mid range, to the tune of a 9.0.  Love, love, love it.  The Sigma is one of the very few amps that can play albums that I know have been loudness war affected and yet still allow me to really enjoy them.  Definitely worth every bit of a nine-point-oh.

 

The Bass.

The Bass is strong, deep and very articulate, dynamic and addictive without ever feeling forward or overly focused on impact. I say articulate because this bass is very nuanced, there is as much detail and variety within the Bass region of the Sigma as there is in the mid-range of many lesser amps. Acoustic bass and non-electronic drum kits are so much fun to hear on the Sigma.

I've actually got a 9.5 written on my notes sheet.  A Nine-Point-Freaking-Five!  Looks like I liked it even more than I remember liking it.

 

Vocals.

Vocals are very honest, with no smoothing, sweetening or softening going on here at all. Voices sound so real that small variations in words, tiny inflections that are barely noticeable on most amps, become easily heard on the Sigma.

 

This can work both ways of course, there are no divas or goddesses of song on the Sigma, there are only very talented human beings singing. If you can’t appreciate the little imperfections in vocal tracks, then you may not enjoy what the Sigma brings to the table.

 

Personally I love being able to hear the slight changes in Amy Lees’ voice as she changes from one syllable to the next, and being able to pick when Plumb moves her head slightly further from the microphone for just a few words and then moves back into position for the rest of the verse.

 

The fellows aren’t left out either, Mark Knopfler’s gravelly drawl is almost seductive in its delivery and if I throw on a few tracks by Queen then I am reminded firmly of Freddie Mercury’s opera album (which I seem to have lost, darn it!).

Well I found Freddie's solo album, quite nice but it does suffer a little from not being the slickest album to be produced.  Unfortunately many of Queens albums seem to suffer from average mastering.  Anyway, I gave the vocals a 9.0 for honesty and an 8.25 for sweetness and breath.  

 

Sound staging.

The most enjoyable (and memorable) audio components that I have heard have all had one thing in common. There is one thing about their performance that they do extremely well, one aspect of their sonic personality that stands out as truly exceptional. With the 2200i that would have to be its stereo dimensionality. The Sigmas’ soundstage is a little bit different to most in its delivery. There is no razor sharp separation of stereo effects on display here, more an “at ease left/right separation”.

 

Both left and right very much feel a part of one full 2D sound stage. Instrument from instrument, and instrument from vocal separation is very effective with either the vocals or the lead instrument typically taking the centre space, and the other instruments staying off centre or slightly forward (or in a few cases behind) of centre.

 

The 3D effect is fairly subtle so the sound stage doesn’t feel particularly deep but it is deep enough for every instrument (and vocalist) to stay out of the others’ way. This may sound a little odd but I assure you it is very effective. One effect that impressed me in particular is the placement of overdubs and echoes within the sound stage, they do not necessarily all come from the same place and that threw me off balance, in a good way.

9.25 for the sound stage.  That would be divided into a 9.5 for the 2D and about an 8.25 for the 3D.  

 

Overall Performance Integration.

Overall I would categorize the 2200i’s personality as an amp that loves dynamic music. My older CDs (stamped prior to the dynamic-range-crushing loudness wars) have never sounded better and my newer ones were rendered at least as well as I remember them sounding, and often better.

 

The Sigma just seems to be able to give 110% effort on every instrument in every song. There is a ton of PRAT on tap but it doesn’t feel like it is due to the amplifier as much as it is the music as its nature changes with every song.

I don't seem to have written a number down for the overall performance integration.  Sometimes I do that if, for whatever reason, I feel it has already been dealt with elsewhere.  I'm sure it would have been north of an 8.25.

 

Ability to Emote.

As far as the ability to evoke emotion, the Sigma can really pull on the heart strings when we are talking about instruments. However, when we talk vocals it just doesn’t quite bring the tears, chills or goose bumps as easily. I believe this is part of the honesty effect; real voices just don’t quite do as well as ‘perfect’ voices in evoking an emotional response. The effect is still there but it has had the edge taken off it.

On instruments a 9.0, vocal emotion was only an 8.0.  

 

80's Rock Test.

On older recordings the Sigma really goes to town, all that incidental sound that is so indicative of pre digital recording and mastering really assists with the overall enjoyment of the music. Some of my favourite, not really “audiophile recordings” have never sounded better. The drum work on David Essex’s “Rock On”, the girl’s vocals on Lou Reed’s “Walk On The Wild Side”, the instrumentals on “Sweet Home Alabama”, “China Grove” and “Radar Love” all work wonders for my musical soul.

9.25.  It just loves those older recordings.  I think part of that may be that the older recordings give it more to work with, that 'incidental sound' can really work for some songs if the amp is capable of utilizing it properly.

 

I didn't include an Electric Guitar Test in the original review.  I can't remember why, maybe it was left out or just not copied at some point.  Unfortunately the electric guitar score was only an 8.0 (yeah, 'only').  My notes say:

"The sound itself is delicious but it just isn't quite raw enough score better.  Needs a little more rebelliousness to score higher."

But that's OK, I'll forgive it this one 'low' score.

 

So there you go.  This isn't everything from the original review, that's on the link (or at least half of it is, not sure what happened to the second page) but it is all the numbers that were missing.

 

Cheers Everybody!

 

 

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The question must now be asked: if this is your favourite integrated amp of all time, are you going to sell off all your others?  Why hang onto other equipment when you've found something that you prefer above everything else?

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4 hours ago, Bronal said:

The question must now be asked: if this is your favourite integrated amp of all time, are you going to sell off all your others?  Why hang onto other equipment when you've found something that you prefer above everything else?

Let's not get carried away.  I'm still not sure I know how to be a one amp man.

Edited by Cafad

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9 minutes ago, Cafad said:

Let's not get carried away.  I'm still not sure I know how to be a one amp man.

Do you intend to shout "Classe Forever "  at passing strangers?xD

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19 minutes ago, rantan said:

Do you intend to shout "Classe Forever "  at passing strangers?xD

Well, that's a Sansui thing so I'd probably do something different for Classe.  Maybe get a banner I can mount on the aerial of the car, I'll come up with something, I just need a little time.

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Just now, Cafad said:

Well, that's a Sansui thing so I'd probably do something different for Classe.  Maybe get a banner I can mount on the aerial of the car, I'll come up with something, I just need a little time.

Here's an idea. You can get your car vinyl wrapped with a huge picture of the Classe amp . Gets seen, preserves voice.🤣

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7 minutes ago, rantan said:

Here's an idea. You can get your car vinyl wrapped with a huge picture of the Classe amp . Gets seen, preserves voice.🤣

Maybe I could find an old Chrysler or Mitsubishi Sigma and then have "Classe" painted along each side.  How's that sound for an idea?

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Hmmm, I don't seem to be getting any support for my car idea so maybe I'll try something else. 

 

Perhaps a tattoo.

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would it clash with your "Sansui Forever" tattoo

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No, I had a "Sansui Forever" polo shirt printed.  The tattoo idea is a new one.

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I didn't get much of a chance to do anything audio related this weekend just gone, for various reasons, so I've only had a few hours to get to know the Classe on the ML2 Limiteds.  But I like, I like very much.

 

Maybe next weekend I'll be able to work out just how much.

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All I can say is I better not hear one of these amps otherwise I may end up without house and home and wifey!

The Sansui Alpha is my end game amp so it is with excitment and trepidation that I am hearing that their may be another player in Town!

Dammm! :)

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