When I started my company in 1981, Crest Audio was already a strong presence in the world of power amplifiers. A brand used by many sound companies for both touring and local markets, Crest Audio now offers the CC series.
The CC Series features four models; for this evaluation, Crest sent us the top-ofthe- line CC 5500.
The CC 5500 is a heavy little beastie, weighing in at 47 lbs., yet is only two rack spaces tall. Crest rates the output at the following: 1,150W RMS per channel at 8 Ohms, both channels driven; 1,800W RMS per channel at 4 Ohms, BCD; 2,750W RMS per channel at 2 Ohms, BCD; and 5,500W RMS mono bridged at 4 Ohms.
The CC 5500 has an excellent layout: The front panel includes large air-intake screens; rotary input sensitivity controls; LEDs to indicate clip, "signal present," and overheat mode; and an on/off switch. The unit's rear panel houses input connections via combo XLR/TRS jacks, output selector (mono, stereo, or bridged), and output connections on either standard banana jacks or NL4s.
The internal workings of these new CC Series amps are impressive, and Crest made them pretty much idiot-proof. First, there's a clip-limiting circuit designed to keep the amp from damaging speakers by things like sustained feedback or overdriven inputs, the latter of which can create damaging square waves. The CC Series has a feature that auto-senses impedance and lowers the output levels accordingly when impedance hits below 2 Ohms in demanding applications, and most often when delivering lower frequencies (for example, more often in subwoofer over midrange driver applications when the impedance/frequency combo is too much for the amp); this keeps the power supply from shutting down at inopportune times.
CC Series outputs also feature an output shorting protection circuit, placing the power amp in a protection mode when opposing polarities touch the banana jacks or NL4s when the amp is live. Another feature that will warm your heart: the output disconnects while powering ON and OFF, eliminating the associated "thump." When the amp has been shut off with signal still being applied, such as during a power outage, the amp has an "auto ramp" mode that momentarily disconnects or protects the outputs, then reconnects and slowly returns signal, eventually attaining the previously set volume.
Oh, how I love to torture power amplifiers, and living in the Arizona desert while writing amplifier reviews supplies a nice torture chamber. Upon lifting the CC 5500 from its shipping box, we wired it to some unpowered A-Line Acoustics line-array boxes and a small Yamaha mixer, using an iPod to provide the input source. We left it running in the shop for three days continuously, at approximately 10 percent power — a gentle torture to start. (The real torture comes when we have the amp screaming at full soundcheck or show load, out in the sun, at 110 degrees F.)
I don't know what the shop ambient temperature was (no air conditioning), but the outside temp was 118 F. The amp was a little warm, but cruised right along with clean sound.
Our next test was to take it to a few gigs and employ it in several modes. Our first gig with the CC 5500 was a full roof, audio, lighting, and stage gig with country music icon Marty Stuart. We were using our A-Line Acoustics powered line-array cabinets for the main system and our unpowered boxes for front fills. We wired channel A to the double 10-inch woofers and channel B to the HF driver. This amp puts out tons of power, so we were forced to dial back the input attenuation, especially on the HF driver. Once proper balance between HF and LF were obtained, the system ran perfectly, providing very clear fill for the folks down in front. I listened to the fills numerous times throughout the show, and I have never heard vocals and guitars more clearly in such a setting.
One week later on the 4th of July, we did the same level of production for country act Emerson Drive in front of about 10,000 people. Again, we employed the CC 5500 with the A-Line line-array boxes, except this time, the amp ran the outfills — a line of eight boxes. We wired the HF and LF similarly to the last gig, this time running the CC 5500 down to 2 Ohms, letting it power all eight boxes in parallel (all 16 Ohm components and networks in each box). The sound quality was amazing, with full range replication sound as sweet as our A-Line ICE module powered boxes. The CC 5500 offered excellent attack on drums, very smooth response on vocals, and was crisp and succinct on the guitars, especially acoustic guitars.
On several other casino-type shows, we used the CC 5500 for subwoofer power. This is where this power amp excels; it processed the large real-estate waves in the 35 Hz to 40 Hz range with amazing authority. We tried to get the amp to bottom out, powering two double 18-inch A-Line subs in one of our casino lounge gigs, but the CC 5500 just would not clip. Incidentally, this is where we tried the protection circuits by turning the amp on and off repeatedly while signal was pounding through it, and the CC 5500 did everything Crest Audio designed it to do.
If you are the purveyor of quality audio for concerts, clubs, tours, or installations, this new line of Crest power amps is the ticket. If the other three CC Series models run as efficient and solid as the CC 5500, you cannot lose. On occasion, I have been known to open a piece of electronicgear to see what makes it do its thing. I did this time, too; this power amp is incredibly well constructed; in my opinion, it will survive the miles of trucking and loading docks that power amps face every day in this business. I give this Crest power amp an "A" and my enthusiastic recommendation. The CC 5500 upholds the Crest Audio name that has stood for topshelf quality for three decades.
Will James, owner and chief engineer of Atlantis Audio and Lighting, is a longstanding PAR contributor. www.atlantisaudio.com.