Classé Audio CDP-502 Reference Disc Player

Classé Audio CDP-502 Reference Disc Player
Elegance For The Eyes And Ears


January 2009



I have to begin this little treatise by admitting up front that I have long admired the designs of Classé Audio. I mean going all the way back to their legendary DR3 Ultra High Current amplifier, I have often had Classé products as part of my reference system. For me Classé epitomizes what high-end audio is all about: high quality construction, thoughtful, brilliantly conceived design and drop dead gorgeous looks. Every piece of Classé gear that I have encountered was as stunning looking inside as it was on the outside. You could always hear and see what you were getting for your money with Classé. To top things off, compared with many of their high-end brethren, the Classé gear was a friggin’ bargain.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of spending some time with a few of Classé’s “Delta Series” products, the CP-500 preamp and CA-2200 amplifier. I liked these products so much that I named the pair to our 2005 “Most Wanted Component” list. A year later Classé brought to market their first Delta Series disc player the CDP-102, which not only played red book CDs but also played DVDs as well, very well in fact. I liked the CDP-102 so much that it displaced the venerable Electrocompaniet EMC-1 CD player as my reference. But since then Classé has actually come out with two other players: the top-of-the-line audio disc player, CDP-202 and top-of-the-line video disc player, the CDP-300. The 202 was designed to provide state-of-the-art audio performance while the 300 was designed to be Classé’s statement product on video playback. But now, not being ones to rest on their laurels, Classé has combined the strengths of both the 202 and the 300 and made … you got it, the CDP-502.

Physically, the 502 looks identical to its predecessors. It still has the lovely curved soft silver metalwork, touchscreen functionality, and TEAC slot-loading, DVD-ROM disc drive mechanism of the other players. But the 502 also uses Classé’s excellent digital decoding technology which creates a 24-bit/192 kHz sample rate conversion signal. The 502 plays red book CDs, DVDs, high-res DVD-Audio recordings, and numerous other formats including DualDisc, MP3, WMA and AAC audio-encoded discs, as well as Video-CD, S-VCD and JPEG discs.

The Delta Series products are the ultimate “lifestyle” component because not only will they actually make whatever room they’re setup in look better, you will not be asked to sacrifice any music or video reproduction quality. In fact, the CDP-502 is capable of achieving a level of musicality that is simply astonishing. 

In the interest of brevity I will not get into the usual description of the physical aspects of the 502. Besides, the 502 is functionally and physically identical to the CDP-102 that I reviewed a couple of years ago. Feel free to re-visit that review for a more detailed description of the new player’s external looks and features.

Guts and Glory
When I compared the 502 to the 102 the first thing that got my attention, oddly enough, was the fact that the 502, despite being in an identical chassis, weighed eight pounds more than the 102. What did this tell me? Bigger power supplies, larger circuit boards, more resonance control, cleaner signals, greater musicality, greater video image focus.

Musically, the improvements in the 502 over the 102 translate into a level of music enjoyment that is on par with that of the 202. In other words, if you enjoy good live jazz club recordings like I do, then you’ll appreciate the higher resolution afforded by the 502. On Brad Mehldau’s Live at The Village Vanguard (Warner Bros 9-46848-2), the space surrounding the stage was so palpable that it seemed to dissolve the walls of my listening room. This was especially true of the third track, “Monk’s Dream.” This tune starts out innocently enough but about midway through the song Mehldau’s playing becomes so frenetic that it sounds as if there are two pianists. I don’t mean to imply that it sounds as if there’s an anomaly in the recording, I mean the recording is so well resolved by the 502 that you can hear all of the detail in this fast-paced and brilliant performance. By the time you get to the fifth track, Moon River, you become completely aware of the venue. This performance was recorded during the summer of 1997 and at times I swore I could hear the HVAC system kick in especially during Mehldau’s wonderfully extended solo on this song. What a great disc this is.

Sticking with the live music theme, I put on Prince’s, One Nite Alone Live! (NPG Records). Despite some rather mediocre music, this is actually one of the better live recordings I own. Those of you who have followed the career of this brilliant musician may remember that he made a couple of critically, though not commercially, successful jazz recordings under the group name Madhouse. He uses the first disc of this two disc set to explore this part of his being. He enlists the aid of contemporary artists such as saxophonists Najee, Candy Dulfer, and the great Maceo Parker. What the CDP-502 does for this recording is allow you to appreciate the difference in the venues. The Village Vanguard is a classic jazz club, relatively small and intimate, but the Prince concert takes place in a much larger auditorium. There is decidedly more deep bass on this recording but the 502 doesn’t let it dominate your room, it’s tuneful and easy on the ears. Probably the most worthwhile tune on this disc is track ten, “Avalanche.” It’s actually a very good piece of music and the highly resolved way that the 502 renders it, particularly Prince’s vocal, is delightful.

The second disc is mostly the Purple One playing solo piano on some of his greatest hits. Normally, pop artists don’t do justice to their hits in a live venue, but Prince is just the opposite. Unencumbered by the trappings of his full band, Prince shines in this more personalized performance. The track that truly stands out is his performance of the soul ballad “Adore.” Prince so enraptures the listener and his fans that when he reaches silent pauses in the song, you can literally hear the sound of female under garments landing on top of his piano … Okay, that was a bit, much but you get what I’m saying, because of the 502 the quiet was quiet.

The final piece of music that I felt was made all the more enjoyable by the CDP-502 was The Magical Journeys of Andreas Vollenweider (KIN KOU Music 17597). This is a collection of live performances by the Swiss harpist who along with the likes of Kitaro and Vangelis was one of the stalwarts of the “New Age” music scene. The track that most stuck with me was the final track called, “Pyramid.” This is one of the most beautiful pieces of music that I have ever heard. It was recorded in Zurich, Switzerland as part of the Live at Sunset concert. The stage for most Vollenweider recordings is huge, and accompanied by Sinfonia Varsovia, it’s gargantuan. Forget deep bass, we’re talking about bass the inhabitants of Dante’s Inferno could hear. And Vollenweider’s use of bells, chimes and all sorts of small percussion instruments are not lost in the musical mosaic that he creates. The CDP-502 resolves even the most complex pieces of music brilliantly.

From a video perspective, I have to admit to not being the biggest videophile but I do feel compelled to mention one particular experience that I had with the CDP-502 that I felt was noteworthy. I was browsing the reduced price DVD bins at a Virgin Megastore when I came across a copy of Mel Brooks’ classic Blazing Saddles. I have loved every single joke in this movie since childhood (it’s twu, it’s twu!). But had never paid much attention to just how well shot it was. The rich colors in Governor William J. Lepetomane’s office and the gorgeous texture of the blonde suede outfit worn by Sheriff Bart just seemed to pour out of the screen. Sonically, the sound effects (not the campfire scene) and the musical score by John Morris were wonderful.

In the CDP-502 Classé has once again created a piece of equipment that is faithful to musical and visual quality while providing seemingly limitless functionality and at a price well below its competition. And did I mention it is drop dead gorgeous to look at? Highly recommended!



Technical Specifications:
Model CDP-502
Frequency response 10Hz – 22kHz ± 0.1dB 
THD + Noise 0.001% ref 1KHz @ 0dBFS
0.001% ref 10Hz- 20kHz @ 0dBFS
Signal to Noise ratio >107dB (unweighted)
Channel Separation 126dB @ 1kHz
115dB 16Hz – 20kHz
D/A converter 3 x Burr Brown PCM1792
Audio Sample rate 192 KHz
Output level balanced 4 Vrms
Output level single ended 2 Vrms
Power consumption 72w
Audio Outputs 6 x RCA
2 x XLR
Coax S/PDIF 1 x RCA
Optical 1 x Toslink 
Video Outputs HDMI
Component (progressive scan)
S Video
Internal Scaling 480i (via all video outputs)
480p (via component & HDMI)
720p / 1080i / 1080p (via HDMI)
Formats Supported CD, CD-R, CD-RW, DVD Audio & Video, VCD, SVCD, MP3,
Dimensions Width: 17.5” (445mm)
Depth (excluding connectors): 16.5” (419mm)
Height: 4.75” (121mm)
Weight Gross weight: 35lbs (16kg)
Net weight: 26lbs (12kg)
Mains voltage Specified on rear panel

Price: $8,500.00

Classé Audio
5070 Francois Cusson
Lachine, Quebec
Canada H8T 1B3
+1-514-636-1428 (fax)
E-mail: cservice@Classé

Website: http://www.Classé


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