HE2006: Bel Canto

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by Josh Ray on June 14 '06

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Bel Canto provided the components for the killer Pioneer room. Quickly becoming the frontrunner for reasonably-priced digital products, Bel Canto tamed the Pioneer 2-1EX speakers using the $1995 REF1000 monoblocks, $4995 CD-1 transport and $1995 DAC3. Amps, player, DAC. Amps, player, DAC. Seems like something is missing, no?

If you screamed out "preamplifier!" then you get a shiny gold star. That's right, there is no preamp in this rig. That DAC3 changes the volume in the digital domain, providing the perfect one-box solution in a slim package. Of course, if you're rocking a turntable, you'll need a standard analog preamp. But the DAC3 has a hot-rodded USB input so stack this guy up with their same-sized $1395 S300 amp and you have a killer desktop package under $4000. Someone is thinking about the future of audio. Check it out.

Also, hit up the Bel Canto site to register to win a PRe3/S300 package. One of you will be a happy boy!


I haven't heard a digital amp yet, mainly because they are not very popular with the traditional audiophiles. (If its not analog it's CRAP crowd.) I have read and heard they tend to putter out at the high end. These have great specs in comparision to some I have seen. How do they compare?
I've heard the S300/Pre 3 combo with a little-known speaker called an ASW Genius 400. Stunning...
Hey Fred, "Digital" amplification is an interesting subject. The Bel Canto amps are ICEpower, which aren't digital technically, but switching. I wouldn't be able to explain the difference to you, but switching power has been around for decades, with the Brits like Linn and Chord using it for their unbelievably good amps. Other switching amps include NuForce and Hypex. True class-D amps are rarely seen because, really, they're not very good. There are other pseudo-D amps like the 47 Labs chip amps. Chip amps can put out 50 watts of power and are kind like solid state tubes. Strange stuff. So, yeah, switching amps are back in force, but it's kinda funny since they've really been around for a good while. With ICEpower being a snap in module, you're seeing many, many more people jump on the switching power bandwagon, rather than going the Linn route and developing it yourself.
How about Flying Mole? They rate their stuff wierd. All their specs are based on 1/2 current input. Which leads me to belive they are true class D stuff. That will distort at the high end. At least their monoblock stuff. I have read good stuff about them though. EE101 - The digital part of the switching amp comes in with what is controlling the switching. You need to use some sort of IC or Transistor to switch. I was on the ICEpower site, reading one of the datasheets they are owned by Bang & Olfsen.
I am very happy to hear the new DAC-3 has a volume control. I wondered about that with the first picture I saw, but couldn't tell if it was source-select or volume. Thanks for the info, Josh (and please look for my old equipment on Audiogon).
Flying Mole is interesting stuff. They had an interesting demo at CES and HE (though I missed it in LA) where they ran the power through a 50 foot spool of cabling. The demo showed how there was no loss at any distance. Wild gear and wild name.