Ayre vs Bel Canto?

I've currently an Ayre V5Xe that is in for repair and the dealer let me borrow a Bel Canto S300. Now, in a lot of ways it doesn't come close to matching the Ayre, but in many ways it also injects a lot of good things into my system that it seemed to be lacking. Not sure if this is because my amp was dying or just something the Bel Canto does better. Despite some of it's shortcomings I'm enjoying it quite a bit.. and this has me thinking about Bel Canto's better amps, specifically the REF500Ms or the REF1000M mkIIs

Has anyone ever compared these with the Ayre??? Used them in concert with Ayre equipment (I have a CX7e-MP and K5Xe-MP)? Or do you own them and can give me a mini review? other amps you compared them too etc?

Speakers are modded maggie 1.6s, cables are Synergistic Research.

I have not heard the Ayre gear in my system.

I am currently using Bel Canto DAC3vb, VBS1, and M300 amps and my system has never sound so natural and musical with digital sources.

Check out the review of the S300 Pre3 and M300 at 6moons dot com. The reviewer notes the differences between the s300 and M300 perfectly IMO.

I tried both amps with a variety of speakers and liked the M300 better with all of them. The S300 is very pleasant, but sounds a little soft at all frequencies and uninvolving compared to the M300. I assume that the latest 500M or 1000M amps are better yet (there is a review of the M300 vs REF1000 S1 at Stereo Times) and would sound quite good with the 1.6 which I owned for a while.

Happy Listening

I have no direct experience with AYRE amps, but have reviewed Bel Canto REF1000 Mk2, and more recently Ref500M on Positive Feedback. The Ref500M article is a comparative review discussing audible differences with Ref1000 Mk.2 (also called Ref1000M). The article can be found at:

I have not heard Ayre, but tell more about what specifically you like and not about the BC in comparison to the Ayre and I might offer an opinion regarding how the ref1000M2 might compare.
As just an injection of advice only. I would wait till you get your Ayre back. As mentioned it was failing and may have been deteriating the sound quality of a period of time. And as we grow older a day at a time, we don't recognize the differences as much as one whom hasn't seen us in two to three years. You may find once the repaired Ayre is back in your system that the differences are not as wide spread as you notice now. I am sure your dealer may allow you to do an in home A-B if he sees an opportunity for a sale.
I would agree with Theo's advice. I've had both Bel Canto 1000's (original version) and the VX5e in my system and personally preferred the Ayre there. Music seemed to have more weight and substance as I recall, BUT I did NOT do a direct comparison and it was not with the newer 1000M. I would wait and compare yourself to your repaired Ayre before making any commitments.
Thanks all.

The S300 has much better imaging, layering and soundstage depth and more natural height. It's more stable in that area as well. It's more detailed in mid bass. Compared to the V5Xe though, the S300 is a bit grainy, lacks some very low low end and sweetness of the mids and highs and is a touch on the cool side. With the S300 though I find I don't have to crank the volume to get things going, where with the Ayre I listen to at a good 10db higher... it seems to lack low volume resolve, but at high volume it sometimes becomes too forward and a bit screechy.

So I don't know. It was just in for repair of the left ch cutting in and out in the fall... and it's the left ch that has failed completely now this time. So I'm not sure what is going on.

I won't toss it to the wayside... but I am curious now if the BCs are something I should consider demoing. The imaging on the S300 is almost magical, the Ayre has never imaged that good.

I'd say the sound of the ref1000m2s in my system is not unlike what you describe. I do not detect any noticeable graininess if it exists and the low end is extended yet articulate and among the best I have heard. This model BC incorporates improvements on the stock Icepower power supply and also provides higher input impedance that will match better with many tube pre-amps in particular that tend to have higher output impedance than most SS pre-amps, if that applies in your case. The result should be a cleaner, more dynamic sound with lower distortion.

Some might find the top end a bit laid back in relation to the rest in certain systems, which can be good or bad depending.

I find teh overall presentation very smooth and dynamic yet non-fatiguing top to bottom and hard to fault in comparison to other good rigs I have heard.

The rest of a system will affect the exact flavor of sound that results, and Icepower in general is probably not for those that prefer a warmer more pronounced tube-like sound.

Bottom line is the re1000m2 is a very good amp in a small energy efficient package that is worth auditioning. It may not be everybody's cup of tea (what is) but I think it is a very solid piece that discriminating listeners with a good variety of personal tastes might build a highly satisfying system around.