They are Class A and put out 50 watts in stereo and 200 watts in mono. I believe Dick Brown prefers you to work through his dealer network. I'm not a fan of the amp run in stereo. Sounds kind or boring to me. Much better in mono but that'll cost you $8000 for a pair. Not worth it in my opinion. I prefer Belles, McCormack, Ayre and Muse to Bel.
Hi, contact me off line and I'll fill you in.
Hi Narrod, the amps are not pure Class A. That's a myth. I'm not sure which version you listened to, but it's obviously not a current version. The Mk V is better than any current Ayre amp...in stereo. However, you're absolutely correct in saying that they are better in Mono block. The soundstage opens up and things become more live and natural.
Typically, when people don't like the amp it's because of what's in front of it. This amp hasn't got a sound of it's own. It just transfers what it sees from the preamp.
It may be a myth but that is how Dick describes them. I have heard the Mk V as I have all the other iterations. My opinion is based on those experiences. I much prefer the others, especially the Ayre, to the Bel. Different strokes.
Different Strokes I guess. As for Class A, I speak with Richard often (I live close by) and I've never heard him describe them as Class A. They are definitely not. However, that have many of the sonic attributes of Class A. When pressed on the matter he explains things in a far too technical manner for me to understand.
Regarding Ayre, a friend is an Ayre / BEL dealer. The team at the store, the cusomters and the various reps coming through all agree that the BEL is superior. I guess it would have to be the system you're listening in.
As always, YMMV!
Forgot to mention that using BEL cables also can make a huge difference. They're not expensive, but they are the only cable I've heard with the BEL amps that let's the sound through without coloration. Anyway, systems and rooms make different impressions.
I do seem to remember discussions back in the 90s. The amps were marketed as Class A but Richard said they weren't true Class A but not really Class AB either. My memory is shaky but I do remember the technical explanation was beyond me. I haven't seen any Bel literature in quite awhile. I do recall that early brochures described them as Class A. Of course, it's not really an issue. Buyers care about the sound and most don't think or care about the design.
Narrod: I totally agree I have listen to the Bel 1001 amps since the early 90's and yes Mikej I found the latest boring just like the others.. maybe it is just a lack of headroom or something or a lack of current... I don't know.. nothing really stood out....
You definitely need to run them in Mono.
Turek: You should really find someone or somewhere to listen to these since you are use to so much effortless power with your current setup. The Other option is to upgrade your preamp which you don't state as I find that the preamp makes an amazing difference in a system.
I just want to say that I've head a Mk II and I was very impressed, in stereo, with the BEL cables. It was a simple system: Vandersteen 2a's and and Audible Illusions Modulus 2, but is sounded damn nice!
Got to love these forums. You'll get so many different opinions to questions you end up feeling more confused. I'm with Mike as far as loving this amp. In my system it's extremely dynamic with spot on imaging, excellent low range, mids and highs. You name it, this amp delivers. Now I haven't compared this amp to a ton of others. Haven't felt the need. I do know it bettered the Bryston 4bst, 7bst and ASL AQ1009DT's I have tried. In his manual Richard Brown states " The output devices are operated at a quiescent point that corresponds to a Class A operation dissipating an approximate total of 100 watts. The determination of this quiescent point was made for the optimization of individual output devices rather than meeting any specific conventional definitions of Class A operation." Whatever the hell that means. I also remember chatting with a dealer in Oregon who also carried Edge amps. He compared the sound of the MKV's monoblocked to the Edge NL10 which I've heard is a pretty good sounding amp. Unlike Mike I don't like the BEL I/C's. They made the sound of my system dead. I do like the S24 speaker cables. I believe they are a good bang for your buck.
For what it is worth, I had a BEL mkII The Final years ago, with the BEL cable. I then tried an Ayre v3 and felt that it was significantly better. It has been many years but I have recently acquired an updated v3. These are hard to beat for the money you can get one for now.
"The output devices are operated at a quiescent point that corresponds to a Class A operation dissipating an approximate total of 100 watts. The determination of this quiescent point was made for the optimization of individual output devices rather than meeting any specific conventional definitions of Class A operation."
I love this quote. No doubt where the Class A "myth" started.
I've tried for more than 10 years to like this amp but it has always left me cold. I know that there are many, many people, who's opinions I respect, who love them. It just reinforces the need to listen for yourself.
It's interesting the responses the BEL amp gets. For me, I've had to live with each upgrade for at least a few days before I can appreciate the enhancements made in the sound. The amp just resolves more and that can make it hard for us listeners. It challenges what we're used to hearing and more clearly shows us what our front end is doing. It can also show up engineering faults in speaker designs.
In any case, Narrod is 100% correct. Everyone needs to listen for themselves. With this amp, you should be sure to plan more than a brief listen too. I've compared it to Ayre and McCormack, etc. They all have a wonderful sound, but they also had their own sound. As I've said before, this amp really lets you hear what your preamp sounds like. It's forced me to make several upgrades there as a result of lots of listening. Only after listening to the VTL 7.5, Aesthetix Calypso and Theta Gen VIII was I finally able to understand what what happening. (Thus the Gen VIII in my system.)
Bottom line: It doesn't matter what I hear or think. It's your money so make your own opinion up. ;-) Like fine wine, everyone has a different palate!
Happy Holidays all and thanks for the adult level thread! It was very refreshing.
Sincerely (if too long),
Well said. If only all the discussions here were of this level and tone. Merry Christmas to all.
Well, I know I am going to take a shellacking for this, but here goes: A "great" amp, properly designed and built, tube or SS, should not be "sensitive" to cables. C'mon, guys, people are taking your money.
Let's please not get into a cable discussion. No one, believer or skeptic, is going to be convinced.
Thanks everyone for all of the imput about BEL and thanks especially to Mikej for answering all of my questions offline.
It is interesting how many different opinions there are about these amps. I think I may try an and older version in stereo first to see if I like the sound.
I'm really looking for a great amp at a somewhat reasonable price (up to $4000 used), but I'm probably kidding myself as my amps sound pretty darn good. If anyone can think of a must hear amp in the under $4000.00 used price range please let me know.
I'm going to take your advise and listen to a BEL if at all possible before buying.
I also agree that the preamp is very important. I have a really good one. It's a Symphonic line tube pre. I've compared it to several other well regarded preamps and I like the Symphonic Line much better.
A couple of people mentioned cables and I used to think that as long as they were decent, it didn't matter much which brand you choose. Now that my system is good I hear differences in all of the different cables. I'm currently using NBS monitor 4 interconnects and Audience Au24 speaker cables.
Enough rambleing from me.
Thanks again for all of the input and if anyone knows of a great, relatively reasonable amp to try in my system please let me know.
Hi Turek, you're most welcome. I'm happy to help. Good luck with your search!! I'm looking forward to hearing what you end up with.
Turek, what did you end up doing? I too am thinking of BEL, and Ayre for an SS amp for my Merlin VSM-MXe (they like underdamped amplfiers).
Pubul57 - I'm also considering investigating the BEL 1001's for my Merlin VSMs. What did you end up doing?
I decided to try the Atma-sphere OTLs. While I want the maintenance free aspects of SS, I can't quite buy that Merlins don''t always sound their best with tubes. But either BEL, Ayre, or Pass would be by SS amps of choice. Bobby did suggest that the BEL 1001 would do well with the Merlins.
Yes, that's how I ended up narrowing down to the BEL's. I had M60 Mk II's for a couple of years. Now using Cayin 860 tubed monoblocks that I really like. Just looking to simplify with ss amps.
What would be your #1 SS amp recommendation for the Merlins?
I've heard that BEL, Belles, Ayre, and SIM work well with Merlins, by I've only personally tried the Pass XA30.5 in my system and it sure did sound fantastic. I think this Pass amp may be the best sounding amp Pass has ever made. The Ayre has Zero NFB and is likely to mate well with the Merlins that don't need or want a lot of damping from the amplifier; which is one reason they usually perform better with tubes. Among these you should find something that works well - but I loved the Pass when I had it - yes, 30 watts was enough for me.
Reading this and just want to say that I have heard the Merlins with Ayre.In a word"Transparent and layers of sound".Good luck,Bob
One more ss amp to check out with the Merlins - TAD hibachi monos. I don't know for sure, but I believe that this design violates most high end dogma (including it's relatively modest price tag): It's class A/B, won't double its output into low impedence loads, and eschews boutique componentry. OTOH it sounds very good with my VSMs.
One additional argument for the Ayre is you are very likely to find a 5 series used on Audiogon - the BEL and Pass I mentioned not as likely.
I used BEL 1001 monoblocks with my VSM-MX's for quite awhile and was very happy with them. They are much better as mono's than single stereo, with better bass articulation. I also have Odyssey Stratos Mono SE's and this is a nice combo too, though slightly less transparent/detailed and not quite the clean bass definition of the BEL's. The best I've heard on my VSM's other than the Joule VZN100's is a Bella Extreme 3205 Platinum tube amp from Response Audio. Amazingly, it's only about $1k. Something about the little 40wpc PP tube amps that just works very well with them. Lovely combination.
I second the low power PP comment. My Ars Sonum is a little 30 watt integrated and it indeed works very well with my Merlins; that in the context of CAT JL2s and Music Reference RM 9 Special Edition. The Merlins don't need a lot of TUBE power to sound superb.
Thanks to all. Fwiw, I have been happy with my Cayin EL34 monoblocs with around 40 watts triode, 80 watts ultralinear. Consulted with Sonicraft for major parts upgrades and they are really sweet.
Just considering the SS simplicity.
You may be hard pressed to find a SS amp that will satisfy you like the sweet (in a good way) sound of EL34s if you like their sound, not sure any SS will give you that very easily.