14 responses Add your response
I had a pair of Belles MB-200 mono amps for a couple weeks driving a pair of Sonus Faber Amati speakers. The result was tonally coherent, no obvious peaks/valleys, not fatiguing, but overall just plain and rather boring. Not much in the way of 3D or powerful dynamics. There was no hint of some of the magical attributes that often come with tube amplifiers. The Symphonic Line RG1 amp at about 2/3 the power rating had far a more powerful presentation, bass control, dynamic contrasts, and indeed some of that tube amp magic.
I also run a pair of BAT 600SE mono amps and these bring so much more life to Sound Lab A1 speakers than the Belles and this is long before the BAT amps really start to get in their groove. The Belles is just too relaxed of a sound for me.
If you like the BAT sound, and don't need all the power of the VK-500, I would suggest getting a newer BAT model, perhaps the VK-250 or even the 255 in the SE version as the additional capacitor banks would likely make up for the reduced power rating and these later amps bring on many refinements over the 500.
Ok here’s my quick review:
Belles 350a Reference (in comparison to the VK-500)
The Belles is more detailed and clearer layering more apparent. Absolutely no mud but also no ‘glue’.
The amp comes off as all midrange and highs, which makes sibilants feel a bit less obtrusive, more integrated.
It’s not a ‘transportive’ amplifier, it doesn’t take you anywhere. Feels like a clean cutting surgeon in a stainless steel room, clinical and not very sexy.
Definitely a wider more holographic presentation. But not as full frequency as the VK-500. The Belles is missing that foundational low end. Perhaps it is too dampened...?
Even at lower volumes still very clear and forward. Maybe a bit better dynamics in the upper mids/low highs. Lot of energy here makes the amp feel a bit faster than the VK-500. This is the only area of real excitement in this amp—think Baba Oriley rebellious guitar strums really jumping.
When you aren’t being pushed always by the aggressive upper mids it’s very easy to hear into any mix. There is more air than the VK-500 with some nice specificity of instrument placement.
...I was hoping the Belles would replace my VK-500. The VK-500 is a beast of an amp, at about 110 lbs it is the largest heaviest machine I have owned, not including automobiles. But the 500 makes music—warm, rich, intensely impactful in the lows, setting up an incredible foundation for the rest of the soundscape to be intoxicating and inviting. It’s rare to stop thinking about the gear and to be swept away by the music. The VK-500 achieves this.
In summation, the Belles would be extremely useful as an ‘in-studio’ amplifier. With silk dome tweeters and a more mellow, woody speaker, it would promote effortless appreciation of any mix.
The bat is an excellent amp and incredible in low end. I dont think you found a replacement for it. Van alstine VISION SET 400 AMPLIFIER (2199.00) made in USA, you may want to look into this amp and I believe they have 30 day trail. I've read great reviews about it. One reviewer did an a/b comparison with his x250 pass. And enjoyed just as much as the pass. Keep me posted I have the vk200 but looking to get more power with out losing what my bat already does, which is excellent music.
I just demoed an amp this weekend, it's in my home right now. I really believed it would out class my vk200 in every way. I figured at 6k and 400 watts it would. Apparently it was quite the opposite. The 200 is ? I guess I can say musical. I thought I wanted to replace it for something new, but now I think that maybe a bad idea. Maybe, just maybe I already have my perfect amp. Possibly the only place to go is the vk600 se.
@Brettmcee, please let me know if you do find something better. And if u want can you be more descriptive in comparison between 200 and 500. Am I better off with my 200 vs 500? I think u are the first person I know of who has both. Thanks
I only listened to my VK-200 as driving the top end of my incredibly difficult to drive Infinity Kappa 8's. Please keep that in mind as I ramble. Currently running Kappa 7's so might get the 200 out again and see whats what.
The VK-200 is different than the 500. It immediately seems more 'live' and immediate. It more forward and has more 'swing' than the 500. I have a feeling since it has less power you can hear the ebb and flow as it works against the speakers. The 200 gets your toes tapping. Initially in the add here for the 200 that I am selling I said something like, "it makes James Brown and Genesis (the band) both 'get up an move' sounding. Sound stage was similar to the 500 but i remember a bit more separation and air, but this might be due to the upper mid and lower highs feeling a bit 'dry' or 'papery'.
The VK-500 is luscious, fleshy, grand, feels more recessed but not less forward (in comparison to the 200). The 500 is a like listening in a larger room. The bass seems to launch the rest of the music into your room or at least is provides a marble foundation upon which everything else plays. Can be scary real. I do not have a typical/standard tube amp in my collection, just a more esoteric David Berning amp, but I imagine the VK-500 get close to that organic inviting tube quality.
Both amps have that startle factor where you get so lost listening that something will happen in the music that will make you jump. Both are perfectly built. The 500 is absurdly heavy--110lbs about. THe lights do subtly dim when you turn it on... The balanced power design of these amps is a godsend! DIrty power is no longer a problem as long as you are using a balanced power conditioner with the rest of your gear.
You could monoblock two 200's? Monoblock 500's is really an endgame setup.
I'm not sure how to monoblock thing. I did see u had the 200 up for sale and I did think about it. I just got my 200 back from bat in February for a thorough inspection and refresh, which it needed with many new parts. My speakers are by wired. Bat is excellent amp. I've always thought about the 500, heard they are different and some prefer 200 and some the 500. Thanks for the info.