The long awaited Classé Sigma SSP processor ($5000) has finally started to ship.  I had the pleasure of going to set up the first one delivered to us.  It could not have been more fun.

To give a bit of history, when Classé introduced the SSP-800 a few years back, it quickly became our favorite surround sound processor for its great decoding capabilities and excellent audio characteristics.  Classé is known for making great sounding gear and this was no exception.

We were very excited a couple of years ago when we saw the first Sigma SSP prototype.  We knew it would be an incredible value, but I had no idea how much I would like it until I got my hands on one in a system in real life.

First, the Sigma SSP has more inputs than anyone could ever need.  There are 7 HDMI, 3 coax digital, 2 optical digital, USB, Ethernet, one balanced analog audio, and finally, 2 RCA audio inputs.  In the set up software you can assign these any way you want.  There are a total of 18 assignable input buttons!

Classé left off nothing that made the SSP-800 a success, and actually added more!  There are still 6 configurations which allow you to do totally different speaker set ups.  For example: the system I set up needed to be a high performance two channel system along with a full surround sound system.  The main speakers were B&W 802. I set up one configuration with just two speakers running full range, and another with all the surround speakers, including the sub, crossing over the fronts at 40hz.  This very flexible set allows you also to do such things as late night set up where you turn up the center level and turn down the sub level, or to set up a party mode where all speakers play the same thing on a specific input.  It’s super flexible.  In addition to the full parametric EQ, Classé has added tone controls that are extremely adjustable.

A pet peeve of mine has been how difficult many vendors make it to name things on a processor.  You normally  toggle through with a up/down/left/right to spell something and it takes 5 minutes.  This is even true of the original SSP.  Not so in the new Sigma version, you get a full qwerty keyboard on the front panel touchscreen, so it takes only seconds to properly name things.

If you are getting into computer audio, the new SSP also offers two possible ways of access that the original SSP does not.  You can connect your computer directly to the USB input or you can stream from your network vie and Ethernet port.  For those of you who love to use Airplay to display photos or videos, no problem – the Sigma SSP has full support of Airplay.

Okay – so you probably get that the new Sigma SSP has everything needed to be the heart of a great surround sound system. But how does it sound?  Really good!  The tracking of special effects is just incredible for something in this price range.  You are enveloped in a very 3 dimensional sound field that flows seamlessly from front to back as effects wash over you.  This was literally true, as I tested it with the storm scene in Life of Pi!  Two channel audio performed equally well.

I think the Sigma SSP is the perfect crossover product for those of you who have a great two channel system that also provides surround sound.  If you are interested in exploring computer audio, an added bonus is that you will not need to buy another box with the Sigma SSP.

Classé also has some new amps, both 2 channel and 5 channel to couple with the Sigma SSP.  Please come check them out in our Raleigh and Charlotte showrooms!