Bel Canto Dealer disclaimer***
I have a demo unit here that I have used quite a bit and really like what it does. I've also sold several of them and those that purchased like them also.
Any particular questions you have on the unit?
I was told when I bought my DAC 2.5 that the smaller Bel Canto converter which was available at the time was mostly for those using a long USB wire. Was I misinformed? Could you tell me a little more about what it does precisely?
There is barely any review on the web of this yet... Thank you.
The primary function of any of the 3 Bel Canto convertors is to allow the connection of a USB input and turn the single in to a spdif/toslink/st output for connection to a DAC.
It allows you to play 24/192 files (your USB input on the 2.5 is 24/96) and runs in an asynchronous mode.
I have heard it, and connected to the Bel Canto dac 3.5 mk II vbs, (whew ) it was the first time I have heard a computer sound BETTER as a transport than a high quality conventional cd spinner. (bel canto cd2) It really surprised me, as I have heard countless claims before and all ways liked the old fashioned cd spinner over a computer or music server. It has to be the new low phase noise clocks they are using, truly astonishing low jitter numbers. Taken from the web sight white paper ( figure 3 shows the single sideband phase noise of our ulpn oscillator. Note the extremely low -170 dbc noise floor that is critical for the clocks best sound quality. Phase noise from 100 hz to 1000 mhz is only 5o fs (femtoseconds)
or 0.05 ps , thats 100 to 1000 times lower than typical audio clocks.
Thank you both.
Chrissain, did you have a chance to listen to the 3.5mk II without the converter as well? I have no doubt that this DAC sounds great, but I wonder whether it would be worthwhile for me to spend that money on the converter to use it with my DAC 2.5. I think that ultimately only a visit the Bel Canto store here in New York will enable me to decide, but I was curious of what people have to say here first.
I own the dac 3.5 mk2 so I am very familiar with its sound. but I use a belcanto cd transport. The only time I have heard the new usb links was with a dac3.5 mk2 . It sounded better than belcantos own cd2 as a transport.
That is very useful information. I am quite eager to have a chance to listen to it.
I ran into this on the web:
While the e.One DAC2.5 sounded exceptional with 16/44.1 recordings, it was no surprise that it sounded even better playing hi-rez files. It recognized 24-bit data at both the 88.2 and 96kHz sampling frequencies. (It can accept sampling frequencies up to 192kHz through its S/PDIF inputs, but I had no such files on hand.)
That made me wonder: 1) how can I find out whether the music stored in my computer have a sampling frequencies higher than 96kHz? ; 2) Assuming that I have such files, wouldn't it be more convenient and less costly to use the S/PDIF inputs instead of buying the REFLinks for USB input? Can we even use S/PDIF inputs from a computer? Please enlighten me!
In fact, I am looking everywhere in my files and it seems that I don't have anything higher than 16bit data at 44kHz! What is wrong with me?
The REF Link is a USB-SPDIF converter.
A smaller/less featured USB-SPDIF converter is built into the DAC2.5
The external uLink mLink and REFLink provide some form of isolation of the noisy computer signals from the DAC itself. One end plugs into the computer's USB port, the other is a SPDIF type connection to the DAC (coax/optical or AES).
Besides the isolation, the new external devices also provide
a. asynchronous USB protocol (less prone to jitter)
b. 24/192 support that matches the SPDIF input capability of your DAC2.5
If you don't intend to upgrade the DAC2.5, I think it might be more cost effective to look at the lower end devices from Bel Canto
If I understand you correctly, isolation if one part of what this converter does, the other one is allowing frequencies higher than 90kHz. So if I all my files are 16bit data at 44kHz, there would be no point in getting such converter and I would be much better of by buying the lower end device to get some isolation. Is that correct? That is how I understand you last sentence.
Bel Canto has 3 new USB Link devices.
All 3 are asynchronous USB vs synchronous on yr DAC2.5 And I feel any of the 3 should work with your DAC2.5 to provide an upgrade in SQ.
FWIW, I have found big differences going from synchronous to async USB devices more so than going from 16/44 to 24/96
I bought the REFlink and is using it with my DAC3.5VB MKII.
Yes,the REFlink is giving the best sound I ever heard from my DAC 3.5. I was using the lightLink and subsequently the Weiss INT203 before. Also, I understand you will not get a better sound from the Bel Canto CD2 because it's internal upsampling. The CD2 will not provide you the native raw data from the CD, that is, 16 bit / 44K. It lowest bit rate is 48K.
I also tried it on another DAC, a Meitner MA-1. Between the the output of the Bel Canto CD2 and a Bel Canto CD3t, which output 16bit /44K only, the CD3t sounds superior. This could be due to the CD data having gone through 2 rounds of upsampling, once in the CD2 and then the Meitner MA-1.
"So CD2 lose to CD3T?"
Yes, when compared through the AES input of the Meitner MA-1.
You bought the CD3T?
Have you tried it with the DAC3.5VBII?
Earlier this year, I owned a DAC2.5 and was originally using its USB input. A couple months into ownership, I put a Audiophilleo2 (with PurePower) in the mix and the improvement was unexpectedly dramatic. It honestly made a world of difference.
Since then, I sold the DAC2.5 and Audiophilleo and picked up a DAC3.5 VB and a REFLink. Needless to say, the new setup kills it.
To answer your question, adding a REFLink would be a huge step up for you.
I posted my experiences with the REFlLink on another thread as follows: As an Audiophile for the last 20 years, it is rare to have a couple of WOW moments in a three week period. Recently acquired an Esoteric K03 (was using an Ayre QB9) and although I was pleased with the performance of the QB9, the K03 sounded remarkably (Jaw dropping) better. I am not proficient at explaining what I heard, but; clarity, transparency and overall presentation left me star struck. The Async USB input and accompanied DACs are special. After reading a few posts that exist and speaking to friends in the business I decided to demo the new Bel Canto RefLink. I have a modified headless SSD Mac Mini feeding the Bel Canto via USB and use the RCA/BNC Adapter with a Transparent Reference 75ohm Digital cable connected to the K03 Coaxial input. I honestly was skeptical after the improvements I heard with the K03 USB input vs the QB9, but;....thats what this crazy hobby is all about I guess. The damn thing made my Avalon Indra's sing like never before.
My comments to the dealer I acquired it from are as follows: I had a chance to listen to a few tracks and compare using direct input into the amazing new Esoteric K03 A sync USB input and The Bel Canto Ref via Digital link to the Coaxial input of the K03. Rest assured you will not be receiving this back. Played both HD Tracks Hi REZ recordings and a few top quality Redbook CD's and all I can say is WOW! Micro & Macro transients are improved, transparency and soundstage is more realistically positioned. Greater separation of instruments has all taken me closer to being in the recording studio. I do not know about taking me closer to analog (perhaps overused as a way to explain great sound), but; this unit has found a new home from an otherwise skeptical audiophile.
Kudos to Bel Canto....TRULY A GREAT PRODUCT.
Thank very much all. I'll definitely make an appointment to listen to that RefLink soon.
I just installed a REFLink today. Amazing.
Great to hear. What were you comparing it to?
Great to hear. What were you comparing it to?
ULink. I moved the ulink to the Bel Canto DAC2.5.
The uLink and REFLink reduce jitter to 50 femtoseconds. This jitter reduction is their finest feature and results in an improvement in the source, which is a bigger improvement than, say, a step up in amps.
I have had the REFLink for about a week and a half and I'm pretty impressed. I've been running it 24/7 and probably still breaking in but in my system the improvement to stringed instruments has been significant. Sense of space has also improved as well as localization of individual sounds in space. Transients are still precise but the digital edge has been removed. I've heard it described as being organic sounding and I would very much agree, organic with greater detail. Is it analog sounding? I would say it is very, very good digital. I can say that my computer based system with the REFLink is the best digital I have owned.
Using with an Esoteric AI-10 integrated/DA converter, 09 iMac with Decibel media player, and Tyler D2 speakers. Power, speaker, and digital cables are all Acoustic Zen Absolute. USB cable from iMac to reflink is Audioquest cinnamon.
The uLink and REFLink reduce jitter to 50 femtoseconds.
This is not true. The value you are quoting is a clock (crystal oscilator) jitter. The clock is just a part of a greater whole, chence the total jitter, as measured at SPDIF out will be much greater.
The converter with the lowest measured jitter at the SPDIF out I have seen is the Audiophilleo - 2ps or thereabouts.
The problem in measuring jitter on such a low level is the cost of the equipment needed, which can easily exceed $100k. Very, version few hifi companies even have such an equipment.
That said, the BelCanto REFLink seems to be a very well engineered product. It uses the ultra low phase noise clocks, made by Crystek. The first converter that used those were BADA Alpha USB, which is even more elaborate in trerms of measures taken to isolate the computer from the DAC. The downside - it costs $300 more.
I highly recommend anyone interested in top quality converter to include the BADA Alpha USB on his short list.
Ok, so I am using the Light Link with the Bel Canto Dac 3.5 mrk ll VBS. Using Amarra Symphony, I am really impressed. So, I would like to hear from those of you that have had a chance to compare the two. Also, I would like to know how
long the run in time is for the Reflink. Interestingly, when I had my Dac 3.5 upgraded to the mrk ll version, it took a good 500 hours for it to settle in.
When I bought my e.One DAC 2.5 3 months ago, I asked a salesperson at Audio Vision SF which Bel Canto converter he would recommend as an upgrade for the 2.5's USB input, he said "the mLink will give you the most bang for your buck".
My interpretation of our conversation was that the uLink would be OK for the 2.5, but not a big enough jump in sound quality to justify the uLink's price. And for the price of the REFLink, that would be too big of a price to pay for the (limited) upgrade to the 2.5.
Point being is that you would be better off buying the 3.5 DAC VB II than buying the DAC 2.5 and the REFLink together.
Interestingly, I have had the chance to audition the Berkley alpha usb and dac
for about a month from the cable co. Curiosity got the best of me. Needless to say, the bada usb used in conjunction with my Bel Canto Dac 3.5 VBS was not a
joy to listen to. The sound was as hard as nails digital sound as compared to my light link. I could not sit down and enjoy one song in its entirety. Listening fatigue was instant. This may work with a system that is really dull sounding, but I have zero tolerance for digital glare. In addition, the bada usb and bada dac had the same effect in my system. Bright, in your face digital sound. Unfortunately, the cable co does not have the Reflink for audition. So, I think I will just have to take a chance and get one.
Without a doubt, with the RefLink, your DAC3.5VBMkII will be significantly improved, right out of the box. Just simply base on the 192K capability on the RefLink over the LightLink 96K limitation is good enough reason for you to upgrade. The RefLink provide me the best sound I could get from the DAC3.5VBMkII.
I think you are missing the point with your reply to my post. While the numbers are indeed difficult to ascertain using instruments ($150K for an Agilent 5052 for example
we prefer to let our key suppliers amortize this expense) the proof is in the listening. While design decisions are informed by the numbers and engineering decisions driven by those numbers, the final decisions are driven by listening tests! We easily hear the improvement between the excellent clocks in the mLink versus the uLink, close in phase noise (below 100 hertz) is nearly identical but the phase noise from 100 Hz to beyond 1MHz is some 10-20dB improved on the Ultra-Low Phase-Noise clocks in the uLink and REFLink. This phase noise represents some 250fS (0.25pS) in the mLink and some 70fS (0.07pS) in the uLink and REFLink. The REFLink improves on the noise floor of the clock by offering further isolation from the computer (the USB Input section and processor are isolated from the clock section yet they are still self-powered with a low noise isolated internal supply-unlike the BADA which powers this function from the computer) and overall lower noise power supplies in the REFLink. The results of these 2 improvements are easy to hear between the uLink and REFLink (although difficult and expensive to measure as you state). My conclusions are that simple measurment of jitter is no longer adequate to understand the impacts of clock noise on audio reproduction quality. You reply also understates the critical importance to audio quality of advancements represented by our new Links and products like the BADA.
I asked John Stronczer for his input
Ok, I have now run in the Reflink for about 180 hours, and it has now transformed into perhaps one of the most profound audio products I have encountered in conjunction with the Bel Canto Dac 3.5 VBS mrkll. The sound is lush and warm with staggering detail. The sound stage is huge, left to right, front to back, floor to ceiling. And most importantly, it has amazing timing, flow and pitch that connects the emotions of the artist with the listener. Truly,
and break through genius product from the wizards at Bel Canto. Bravo!!!!
Hi Scott, are you using the RefLink and DAC3.5VB MKII with ST Fiber?, have you compared this combo using spdif and ST Fiber?
Right now I'm using the older bel canto 24/96 link from my ipad playing MOG to the onboard dac in my Mcintosh MCD 500. What would be the best bel canto link to use?
I am using the ST fiber with the Dac 3.5VB MKII. I tried the spdif output only
briefly. The ST fiber had a better sound stage, both in width and layering.
I current use the REFLink and a DAC3.5 MKII VB, which was a huge step up from the DAC2.5 when using the USB input.
Can anyone comment on if USB cables affect the sound of the REFLink? And, if so, any USB cable preferences?
Scottmac62 - your comments are very interesting. Two people at Computer Audiophile came to the oposite conclusions.
User Blake had written:
"I rank the converters as follows:
1. BADA using aes/ebu output.
2. BADA using s/pdif output.
3. Tie between the Legato and REFLink using aes/ebu
4. REFLink s/pdif
5. uLink with iFi iUSB
6. uLink without iFi iUSB
The BADA with aes/ebu really stands out from the rest and is the clear, undisputed sonic champion by a very noticeable margin."
That was from former mLink and uLink owner, who initally wanted to upgrade to the REFLink.Original post
User guydebord also came to similar conclusion, where he found the Berkeley Alpha USB to be superior to REFLink. He said: 'The Berkeley Alpha USB interface is in a league by itself, I just called the dealer to let him know that Im keeping it.' He ended up getting one as well.Original post
It seems that there is some special synergy in case of Bel Canto REFLink feeding Bel Canto 3.5 DAC via the ST connection.
Hi Scott, are you using the RefLink and DAC3.5VB MKII with ST Fiber?, have you compared this combo using spdif and ST Fiber
I had the REFLink connected to DAC3.5VB MKII with the ST fiber cable and using a Audioquest Hawkeye SP/DIF. I don't think there was a clear winner for me. The ST fiber cable did have better resolution but seemed thinned out the lower registers a bit when compared to the Hawkeye. The Hawkeye did not have quite the clarity of the ST but added some extra weight to the bass and presented the highs with extra smoothness. Ultimately, I went with the ST fiber mainly because I wanted to free up some cash and sold the Hawkeye. I think ideally it would be nice to have both though.
Quick question to REFLink owners: any opinions on aftermarket power cords?
A2x024, I will have to revisit the st fiber vs spdif. My first brief comparison had
too many variables in the chain. I have recently had a power outage, and the
Reflink can take up to 180 hours to settle in after shut off. Also, I was using the
inexpensive Stereovox digital cable. I will have to plug in my Synergistic Research D2 RCA cable in the mix.
As for USB cables I have auditioned several. A Wireworld cable at around 1000$. A DH labs at around 60$. A Synergistic Research at 500$. In my system, I did not hear a big difference between the DH labs and the wire world.
Now the Synergistic Research Tesla cable is in a different league. More air and sweeter highs. Highly recommended. My power cord is the Synergistic Research Hologram D. It is also amazing. Another finishing tough is Stillpoints
I have a wyred 4 sound dac-2 which has the asych usb. Anyone tried one of these convertors or similar with the wyred. What were the differences observed and do you feel the price was justified? Right now I prefer the toslink out of the mac mini to the usb. Thanks
I have the Reflink and Wyred DAC-2. The Reflink is a significant upgrade in terms imaging, detail, and transparency. I use the Reflink's AES/EBU output to the Wyred DAC-2.
I tested the W4S DAC2 with its own internal USB as well as the Wavelink HS. The Wavelink HS was IMHO better. Less veiled and with a better sense of imaging and soundstage.
I think it's worth digging past threads a bit. I recall several people saying your DAC was a stellar performer when fed through the I2S input by a high quality USB converter. I remember the Off-Ramp was one, because Steve Nugent suggested this way before it was mentioned in these forums. But I also recall the Off-Ramp was not the only one.
Have fun hunting that data.
Thanks for the suggestions. I am now looking at converters with the I2S output. Looks like it may be the best route to take with my dac.
Just thought I should update my previous posting on ST fiber vs. s/pdif. My initial brief comparison was carried out with an anti jitter device in the chain.
This combo interfered with bit perfect playback. Long story short, my Synergistic Research D2 with RCA ends and G-MPC is far superior to the ST fiber. Its actually no contest. Much more air, depth and analog sound. This is
a disappointment for me because the SR D2 retails at $1200.00. I was hoping to sell it. However, at only $100.00, the ST fiber is a no brainer, and a nice option to have. I also did a brief comparison with a BNC Stereovox cable. The ST fiber is a tad more softer sounding with a little bit more weight. I did get a little bit more depth with the Stereovox.
After using the Lightlink via ST fiber, I was under the impression that the ST fiber was the way to go. But I was mistaken. Every variable is system dependent, so take this with a grain of salt. My system leans on the warm, magic carpet ride side of the spectrum. So, result will vary, and it is advantageous to experiment with different digital cables.
As for the BADA alpha DAC/BADA USB and BADA USB/Bel Canto DAC 3.5 combos, they made my ears bleed. Keep in mind, this is from a personal perspective, and not from a marketing perspective. Component mismatches
do happen, and it always pays to try before you buy.
thanks for the ST fiber vs SPDIF comparison, its a question I have been asking, especially since the Bel Canto 3.7 DAC is on the market now, and offers ST fiber.
Ok, I probably will have to start a new thread, but had anyone had the chance to compare the Bel Canto 3.5VBS MKll to the DAC 3.7??? If so, please do share your comparisons.