Classe CDP-502 Reference Disc Player


Nobody does high end AV industrial design better than Classe these days and at the top of any Classe rack – along with a brand-spanking-new Classe SSP-800 AV preamp – should be a Classe CDP-502 Reference Disc Player. The machine’s name is somewhat of a misnomer implying that it is only a Compact Disc player but the Classe CDP-502 is both an audiophile grade CD player as well as a capable, upscaling DVD player. The Classe CDP-502 also will play DVD-Audio discs along with a host of other discs including DTS CD, DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, Video-CD, CD-R, CD-RW and more.

Additional Resources
• Read audiophile CD players and source components from Classe, Meridian, WADIA, Audio Research, Benchmark Media, EMM Labs, Mark Levinson, Krell and many others.
• Read a review of Classe’s SSP-800 AV preamp used by’s Jerry Del Colliano and Dr. Ken Taraszka.

From an audiophile standard, the Classe CDP-502 can hang with many of the big boys costing even more money. At $8,500 in retail price, you should expect audiophile performance and you get it in spades. Most relevant is the Classe CDP-502’s ability to play back Compact Discs. While DVD-Audio discs without question sound better than traditional CDs, the fact remains DVD-Audio is a dead format and we are all stuck with the discs we have. Compact Disc is far more relevant to the music lover and the music lover is who this player is aimed at. The flavor musically is not forward but very detail oriented. As compared to my former reference DVD-CD player, the $24,000 Meridian 800, the Classe isn’t as liquid sounding; however the player is rock solid in the bass. The sound stage is simply foundational and realistic while the highs gleam with musical energy. If you are looking for better Compact Disc players – you can find them in the $20,000 category. That’s where the Classe CDP-502 sits in the pantheon of Compact Disc players right now when it comes to music.

The Classe CDP-502 isn’t just a one-trick pony as it is a very capable DVD player. One of its best features is its front panel screen, which helps you cue up discs and prepare them for playback. Increasingly discs take longer and longer to load and this feature really helps out with getting your system playing what you want when you want it. The Classe CDP-502 is not a Blu-ray player so it doesn’t play native high definition discs; however it will capably scale discs from any number of standard definition resolutions to as high as 1080p output. I set my player to output 1080p via HDMI as I thought the resolution was better from the Classe than going further downstream to my DVDO VP50 Pro video processor which has other challenges for video scaling in my system. The differences in the two scalers are for videophiles to argue about, as they both were quite good. The additional simplicity in my equipment rig was the difference maker.

Under the hood technically, there is a 24/192 DAC for all audio formats. There are both balanced and unbalanced audio outputs, depending on the needs of your system. Most home theaters run unbalanced yet many audiophile systems run using balanced XLR connectors. With the Classe you get both options, which is useful. On the audio side, the CDP-502 uses much of the reference level CD player, the Classe CDP-202’s internal processing, transport technology and infrastructure while adding quality video playback and upconversion to the performance of the reference Compact Disc player.

Read The High Points, Low Points and Conclusion on Page 2


High Points
• The Classe CDP-502 gives you the performance of the company’s reference Compact Disc player with videophile upconversion for DVD-Video along with DVD-Audio as a kicker – all in one unit.
• The video upconversion is nothing short of excellent. It’s not like 1080p on Blu-ray but it is leaps and bounds better than what you get from a traditional DVD-Video player. That includes many of the higher end players.

Low Points
• The lack of SACD in this player is the most major issue. Many of the remaining audiophile record labels still release high definition music on SACD despite the format’s infinitesimally small market penetration. However at $8,500, you can expect and should ask for it all.
• The Classe CDP-502 Reference Disc Player can run a little warm to the touch. Be sure to give it plenty of room and or to pump a lot of cool air into your rack as I do via fans on both sides of my rack.
• Some might argue that, at the price, there should be Blu-ray functionality. That’s not completely fair as this player was designed in an era right before Blu-ray. If you want native HD files, you are going to need another player. The good news: most Blu-ray players today aren’t very expensive.

While an expensive unit, the audiophile soul and videophile upconversion make an argument as to why the Classe CDP-502 is a relevant source component in today’s gaga for Blu-ray market. The legacy of your collection is likely in Compact Disc and DVD-Video software. While you can replace many of your DVD-Video discs at tremendous cost with Blu-ray, you can’t replace your music with an HD format. For that reason my system starts with a Classe CDP-502 Reference Disc Player. For the music and most of the movies I care the most about – it plays them back with ease, accuracy and power – and I like that. I like it a lot.

Additional Resources
• Read audiophile CD players and source components from Classe, Meridian, WADIA, Audio Research, Benchmark Media, EMM Labs, Mark Levinson, Krell and many others.
• Read a review of Classe’s SSP-800 AV preamp used by’s Jerry Del Colliano and Dr. Ken Taraszka.