No category in audiophilia is hotter than the USB DAC right this second. People have so many consumer-grade streaming, Internet-oriented products with bad audio that they need some help somewhere and somehow. Classé has heard your complaints, concerns and prayers and is about to come out with a solution that the audiophile in all of us can likely afford and/or possibly justify. It's called the Classé CP-800 stereo preamp.
The Classé CP-800 is a stereo preamp. It will be priced at $5,000, which puts it in the expensive but not stupid price category. It's a pure two-channel product. It's a stereo preamp with Wolfson 8741 DACs internally. It takes USB inputs. It also smartly takes 2.1 HDMI audio and video inputs from Blu-ray. No multichannel (that's what an SSP-800 from Classé is for) but it allows for, say, an Oppo player to pass video and HD audio from Blu-ray with HD audio and video to a real audiophile system. The unit has a network module but can't do Airplay (yet) - but the parent of Classé is a partner with Apple so it's not a long-shot.
This preamp is the best of both worlds. New school inputs can be controlled and managed in the real world including video inside of more traditional audiophile system configurations. Not everyone cares about what 7.1 surround can do for them. Audiophiles would rather spend on better left and right speakers than spend on a crappy AV receiver and side channel speaker. Love it or not - it's how they feel - and Classé gets it.
The Classé CP-800 is shipping soon - possibly as soon as April 1, 2011. This product has "game changer" written all over it. You heard it here first. Call your dealer and make sure they are getting one, as you need to see what this sucker can do. Andrew and I saw it at CES and without question, it was one of the best audiophile products at the show.