Case Closed: Classé Closing October 6th

Classe logoMultiple sources are telling us that on Friday, October 6th, the Montreal headquarters of Classé will close their doors for the last time and all remaining employees will be let go. This includes the dismissal of Classé President Dave Nauber, who has been with the company since 2002. Classé is part of the B&W Group, which itself is going through a major restructuring in the wake of the dismissal of President Doug Henderson as we reported to you back in July.

See more on what we’ve learned about the situation at Classé…

According to our sources, a recently percolating deal to purchase Classé from B&W fell through, leading the company to decide to shut the doors on October 6th. Getting information from Bowers and Wilkins is about as easy as giving a Bengal tiger a dental exam, as the company has been very tight-lipped about their plans. However, sources have come forward to paint a picture of radical transformation of B&W’s historically significant brands.

We have learned that the company has ceased manufacturing all of the Classé lines, and is sitting on significant inventory of certain models. However, the company may push the button on a small additional manufacturing run of select models in order to better balance out their inventory to help make their remaining stock more saleable. Beyond that, there are no plans for future manufacturing.

A Small Additional Manufacturing Run…Then Done

In late July, the company sent a letter to dealers assuring them that the company will continue to offer “full service, warranty and support” for Classé models. And although this letter made a reference to “potential” future manufacturing – this was based on the need to “fulfill any additional demand in the market as needed.” This last phrase may in fact be a reference to that small additional run of manufacturing we mentioned above.

Sigma SSP MkII

That letter to dealers, crafted by new Chief Revenue Officer Richard Campbell, also informed dealers that in reviewing their new product roadmap, they have decided “not to pursue developments” for future planned replacement models that were sorely needed to refresh the Classé brand. Our sources have confirmed all development work has been dropped.

B&W Staff Takes Over Classé Support Functions

This ongoing service and support for the Classé products will be handled through the B&W infrastructure – North America will be handled out of the B&W New England offices, the European market will be the responsibility of B&W in the U.K., and Asia will be handled by the B&W folks in Hong Kong.

The company is said to be sitting on some millions of dollars worth of what are now useless parts, some of which will likely be returned to suppliers. But much of these parts are not returnable and will need to be destroyed or otherwise scrapped at a total loss.

Not a Surprise…A Sucker Punch

Our sources told us that the decision to shut Classé came as more than a huge surprise – a sucker punch really. The company had just come through a major restructuring in March, a painful one that included layoffs and significant changes to plans and process. At the end of that restructuring, Classé had assurances from management that they would move forward on this newly reorganized basis. Then, seemingly out of the blue, the plug was pulled.

Why would you spend the time, effort and money to restructure, if you’re just going to shut it down anyway, one source asked us rhetorically. That is a question to which we will likely never get an answer.

In the meantime, the company’s remaining handful of employees in Montreal, really just a skeletal crew these days, find themselves left to wind operations down, turn out the lights, and lock the doors for the last time.

We reached out to the company for comment on this story but did not receive a response by the time this post was published.

Learn more about Classé at:

About Ted

A sales and marketing specialist - primarily in the technology industry - I've experienced a sort of "circle of life" in business. I've been a mass merchant retailer, a specialty retailer, a specialty manufacturer, a large volume manufacturer, a distributor, and even represented sales representatives. Now the owner of a marketing company that works with a variety of businesses on improving their strategic marketing and business development - I analyze issues from all angles to develop holistic solutions.


Case Closed: Classé Closing October 6th — 23 Comments

    • Since B&W has committed to warranty and support these products, I’m sure they’ll retain some parts for that purpose. But my understanding is they have a lot of parts, millions of dollars worth according to my sources, perhaps collected for a future production run that is not now happening.

      Some of those parts are returnable, and they’ll do that. But some partial assemblies or parts specific to Classé products (like, for example, a faceplate) are not returnable and will need to be disposed of or otherwise destroyed.

  1. What goes around will come around. B&W makes superb products but that huge amount of quality in their enclosures for instance, is not necessary for superb sound. It is only a matter of time that they will go under because they cater to the investment banker/hedge fund manager class. Their, affordable class of speakers are poor compared to others at the same price range.
    Maybe it is time to thin THEIR company out.

  2. Over the past few years there have been disasters w/company changes Thiel and Classe. But on the good side Conrad-Johnson seems to have done it right.

    • Frode,

      None that I am aware of. In fact, they have parted company with their long time public relations agency – who would typically be the ones who would write and distribute their releases – at the end of September.

      But, the company has been publicly silent about all of their changes. We have regularly sought statements from them and never received much beyond a “we don’t comment on rumors” kind of comment.

      I don’t expect one now.


    • Frode,

      I think you’re probably right. Remember, as I reported, they are sitting on significant inventory that they need to sell.

      I heard a report similar to yours that dealers are simply selling their inventory as though nothing’s changed.

      I can’t blame them, there’s no reason they should have to eat the markdown.


  3. I have owned a classe ssp sigma mkll for 8 months. I have experienced inconsistencies in the sound output. For example, on several occasions, the quality and depth of sound initially sounds like a blanket covering the speakers. I switch to a different processing mode and subsequently switch back to the original processing mode and the sound appears fine. The Dealer that I purchased it from is going to apply a firmware upgrade that will hopefully address the problem. This assumes that a firmware fix has been developed to correct this issue. If there isn’t a firmware upgrade that has not been developed, what options or potential fixes are there for problem resolution?

    • I’m in the same situation Scott. Often I have to restart the mkll because the levels are low like you say, a blanket over the speakers. Also it can take a while to pick up the audio format before it finally passes the signal. And the HDMI will not pass on HDR to the television so I have to run separate cables for video and audio. I was ok putting up with these discrepancies as this is otherwise a great box of tricks and was expecting another upgrade from classe to solve these issues as they have previously done. I am already running the latest firmware so there is still some tweaking required from their end. But unfortunately it looks like this will not happen now…..B & W can suck arse

  4. Scott and James;
    I have reported a vast amount of bugs in addition to this one on AV Forum (Classė thread) under the nick Extreman.
    What strikes me is how few that are reporting similar experiences and how few that can verify my findings. I guess it has to do with a low number of MKII sales?
    Maybe I need to produce a compiled post with my findings.
    I had a hope that the new owner would pick up from where B&W left, however nothing has happen and my unit is still severely flawed.
    A real bummer….

  5. Frode, James, and all who are concerned about this matter: As it currently stands, the local dealer that I purchased the Classe MKII from, has been in discussions with the the President of Classe about my issue. Apparently Classe is in the process of trying to duplicate the problem. I will give them a few weeks to achieve problem resolution and then follow up directly and will let you know the outcome. The local Bowers and Wilkins dealer is a reputable firm and has told me that they will make it right with me one way or another. So we shall see. Stay tuned……

    • Any progression on this one, Scott?
      To me the line ‘make it right’ most likely means ‘dealer will replace it with another brand’.
      Waiting in suspense……

      • Yep I’m starting to get rather feed up with having to restart the sigma all the time and waiting ages for it to audio sync.

  6. My local dealer has been in communications with the President of Classe. Classe is currently integrating and testing new DSP in the Sigma MKll. That update was communicated to me a couple of weeks ago by the local dealer.

    Scott McGrew

    • With my problems, the DSP work is like putting lipstick on a pig wrt. priorities. Let’s hope they are also working with remedial actions on the bug issues.

  7. One comment to one of my reported bugs;
    The IOS version of the Classe app is still not working (my unit is discovered but does not react when invoked inside app). However, when trying the Android version of the Classe app on my phone everything works! So, it is the IOS version that is faulty.

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