I have to admit that what first attracted me to the SSP-300 was not the fact that it's made by Class?, one of the top names in high-end audio, nor its sleek, elegant appearance, wide range of features, or even its THX Ultra II certification. No, it was that most superficial of features: the front panel LCD display!

The first surround preamp-processor with an LCD display that I saw was at the Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show in 1998. Tom Norton and I were checking out the new products from Mark Levinson (then Madrigal, now part of the Harman Specialty Group), and after we had a look at the equipment and picked up the press releases, we were ushered into a small room adjoining the main product demonstration room and told in hushed tones that we were about to see something we could not write about yet. It was the prototype of what was to be the Mark Levinson No. 40 preamp-processor, and it had a front panel LCD screen on which there was a movie playing.

The screen was small and the picture was not all that sharp, but it was showing a movie! Is that cool or what? The projected price of the No. 40 was $30,000, and I remember joking afterwards that having spent so much money on the processor, some consumers would have no money left for a video display, so they'd have to watch movies on the processor's screen!