Bel Canto 1.1 - Convince Me.

What are the sonic differences between the 1.0 and 1.1 version of the Bel Canto DAC? I have been using the 1.0 for a while now and am wondering if I would like the sound of the 1.1 more. I have heard that the upgrade is around $150 and would like to confirm this as well. I realize that I could just call Chad at BC for this info, but am really interested in user's (such as myself) opinions.
THe upgrade is $150 including shipping back to you. The upgrade was well worth the money and made an audible improvement in performance, overall openess, detail, and weight and definition in the bass.
Dekay, I have a DAC 1.1 on order. While I have no experience with either version, I have heard other people attest to the sonic benefits of the upgrade that Chelillingworth mentions. Being that I have no experience [yet] with this DAC, I was wondering how version 1 of this DAC changed the sound in your system. Thanks.
Hi! Mind if I ask how long it took Bel Canto to perform the upgrade, Chelillingworth? My system sounds pretty good with the DAC-1, though I'm always open to improvements.
They were very fast with the upgrade, less than a week.
Chelillingworth: Thanks for the info, it sounds like a good go. I am looking into very expensive upgrades to my SET amp at this moment in regard to those very areas of sound and may just first upgrade the BC and go from there. Gunbei: I went from the AR Complete and CAL Icon MKII players to the Bel Canto DAC 1.0 (I preferred the sound of the CAL as a stand alone). The BC has a deeper sound stage, improved separation between instruments (especially on more complex material and at higher volumes), reduced but more defined bass than the CAL (the CAL was too bass heavy in my setup and I prefer the balance of the BC) and last but not least I just like its smooth sound and overall balance. I also discovered at a later date that the BC's phase switch can come in very handy with some music tracks. I use the BC DAC with the CAL as a transport, a BMI Whale power cord and Mapleshade and Homegrown Audio IC's in a 300B SET based system with Reynaud Twins.
Here is response I got from e-mail to BC about Dac 1.1

>>The DAC1.1 upgrade (now standard in our current production) consists of bigger and the highest quality transformers. Improvements most notably are in dynamics, micro and macro. Music seems to be fleshed out while retaining the DAC signature smoothness in every way, evoking an amazing sense of realism. As you are aware, the sound is outstanding and I feel worth every penny of the $150 cost to upgrade. I can assure anyone of the value of upgrading. Thanks for your input and time. <<

I also asked when new Dac with 24/192 upsampling would be available and got no response. A guess a phone call is only way to get more info on future developments.
Thanks Sam: I should probably send mine in now, while the rest of the system is still in a state of turmoil.
A follow-up e-mail from BC regarding my question about any future new DAC design using 24/192 up sampling.

>>Dear Sam,
I didn't respond to the second half of your email. Here goes; We are always looking into new technologies and we are currently in the design stage for our next digital products. The earliest these product(s) will go into production would be late Fall. I hope this helps.
Craig Bleeker <<
Thanks Dekay for the review of your DAC 1. I can't wait to get my DAC 1.1. I hope it makes a noticeable improvement over my current setup. Funny you mention the BMI Whale cord, that's something else I'm looking into. New DACs from Bel Canto by fall? Will the spending cycle ever end? :)
Without getting too technical, what advantage does 192 up sampling have when one is playing back standard (Redbook) CD's? I mean, does it effect the playback of this type of software?
Standard CD format (redbook) is 16bit/44khz data, BC and others increase this data to 24bit/96 khz by upsampling standard CD which when done right with proper technology/design sounds much better and more natural than 16/44 ever could. New chips are now available which allow designs of 24bit/192khz and higher which may give even better sound if designed properly.

For instance MSB Link Dac offers 192khz upgrade now, and their top of the line Platinum Dac has 46/384 upsampling!
This is just one aspect though of how good a DAC can sound,
if you read the FAQ and white papers at BC website they describe other important considerations to acheive great sound.
Chad no longer works at BCD. The upgrade costs $150 and includes return shipping. Turn around time is about a week. The sonic improvements are primarily in dynamics, micro and macro. This upgrade includes bigger and much higher quality transformers. You can contact me, Craig Bleeker 612-317-4554
Thanks Craig: I will give you a call this week. Best regards. David
Megasam: Mathematecally, both upsampling and over sampling is the same (identical). in practice, upsampling is done in separate chip whereas oversampling is done within digital filter. All arguments is where interpolation (which is another way of "cheating"0 and noise ditching is better (better for sound, for profit I don't know) Now, total sampling rate is equal in CD to 44.1kHz x upsampling x oversampling. Thus, MSB Platinum upsampling data by itself without oversampling data is incomplete answer. Just listen, if platinum is to your liking its doing something good. Happy Listening
Send your unit to: BCD 212 Third Avenue North #345 MPLS MN 55401. Enclose a check for $150 and a short note specifying the upgrade. Thanks, Craig. ps. call me if you want to pay by c.c. (612-317-5445)
Thanks Craig: I will get it out this week, just need to dig out the shipping box. Best regards, David Keil.
Hello everyone, sorry this took so long. I had a problem with the first 1.1 unit that I received (which turned out to be a cold solder joint). The upgrade took one week and the repair of the cold solder joint a little less than a week (back and forth). Customer service at Bel Canto was both positive and timely. I was not that impressed with the second unit that I received (in regard to how it compared to my original 1.0 version) - But Don't Stop Reading Now. We had also assumed that since I had run the first unit 250+ hours that following the repair of the cold solder joint that the unit would not need to be broken in again. Well, this was not the case as at the 200 hour point the unit has opened up sound wise to what I now feel "is" an upgrade to the original 1.0 version. When I first received the unit (not broken in a second time) I found the sound to be somewhat recessed in the mids with less harmonic detail than the 1.0 version. The receding midrange made the high frequencies sound tipped up and unnatural to me (again compared to the 1.0 version). Bass was about the same (though a little tighter) and the sound stage was not as wide nor as deep as the 1.0 (again the recessed midrange). OK, this was then, but in the past 40-50 hours (I am at approx. 200-225 hours of play now) the midrange and sound stage finally opened up and bloomed (hope this is a good word for it, it got bigger and fuller). The sound is no longer on the thin side and in contrast the high frequencies no longer sound out of balance, though they are a bit more extended over the original version. The bass response is much improved on the 1.1 as it is not only tighter, but it is deeper as well, which is apparent on "Contate Domino," a new reference and pipe organ CD that I now use, (thanks Charlie). The harmonic information (that had me hooked on the 1.0 version) is back on voices, strings and brass percussive, but overall the sound is not quite as warm as the 1.0 version. It is however more dynamic and perhaps the added dynamics just gives the impression that there is less warmth as the presentation is still very smooth and natural sounding (again what originally attracted me to the BC DAC). Sensing less warmth could also be because of the high frequencies sounding more extended on the 1.1 version, in any case I do not find this a fault, but felt that I should mention it and once again the unit is very smooth and analog like. The overall sound also has a bit more air (which I call reverb) than the 1.0 and does not congest at all that I can tell on complex material given that I listen at moderate levels due to the power limitations of my system. Speaking of the system, it can be viewed in the "Virtual Systems" area and is listed under "SET Hide Away System." All in all the 1.1 version is enough of an improvement to keep me sedated until SACD and the other striving formats run their course.
Dave thanks for the excellent review, I will agree completely with all your points having owned both DAC1 and 1.1 version. Yes any equipment needs about 1 week of break-in before any final judgements are made, as your report confirms.

I suppose you could describe the DAC 1.1 as less warm, but really it is more a function increased dynamic range, and opening up further of the treble. I would still say Dac1.1 is warmer sounding than say Perpetual P1a/P3a combo, because of its slow roll-off filtering. I use an Acoustic Zen Mc2/Absolute power cord with DAC 1.1 and am very pleased (for now) with the results.

GUMBEI we await your report on BC DAC 1.1
Thanks Sam, and yes the unit is not to be considered bright at all. I think that they have done a nice job of adding detail and dynamics while still holding on the the natural and realistic sound of the first version. I stayed up until 2:00AM unable to tear myself away from the music as it has been a while since the system sounded this good.
Dekay and Megasam, thanks for steering me in the direction of the DAC 1.1 in my quest for finding audio nirvana on a budget.

As this newbie is finding out, many variables contribute to the overall character of the sound in ones system. Along with the addition of the Bel Canto DAC, I have gone through a two month journey of buying and auditioning different interconnects, and digital as well as speaker cables. Amid all this cable swapping I've also included the addition of various isolation products and power cord upgrades. And I can't forget my speaker upgrade too. All of this has occured almost simultaneously, and therefore I feel I cannot comment as definitively as Dekay and Megasam on the character of the DAC 1.1.

I have made only one before and after comparison, and that was when I first installed the DAC 1.1 fresh out of the box. The areas I noticed differences were in the superior bass reproduction and soundstaging over my Musical Fidelity E60's built-in DAC. Being that the DAC 1.1 was a brand new unit, I was aware of the same tipped up treble and initial overall sizzle that Dekay spoke of.

After all the experimentation and owning this DAC for over a month, I can say that my system is more capable of producing a lifelike and sonically enjoyable experience than I ever imagined possible. All this while losing much, but not all of the electronic sound I endured for so long.

I'm sorry I can't more confidently comment about the virtues of the DAC 1.1 upgrade. But I will say that my impressions are that this is definitely not a product with a laid back character as it's predecessor has been described. Even with it fully burned-in, my system is very lively. Sometimes too much so. The blame for that may lie with my associated equipment, a SIm Audio Moon I-5 integrated amp and a pair of ProAc Tablette 50 Signature speakers. I must note that prior to all this mass chaos I was primarily listening to a pair of Sonus Faber Concertinos. Now I mostly listen to the ProAcs. I have A/B'd the SFs and ProAcs, and the Concertinos are definitely much more forgiving and less fatiguing. So it actually may be a tribute to the Bel Canto that my system is more detailed and at the same time smoother even while using more revealing speakers.

My advice would be to assess your current system and think about what you hope to gain through the upgrade. If you like the character of the Bel Canto, but are yearning for more life and energy from a system that you feel is veiled and lifeless, I would say go for it. However, if you're happy with the performance of your DAC 1, I would try if possible to audition an upgraded unit before having the irreversible operation done. The upgrade may result in a system that isn't as relaxing as it once was. Karen Carpenter just might turn into Christina Aquilera.
Gunbei: Very good advice, and I second it. I did not find the 1.0 version lacking in dynamics once I replaced the stock power cord (first with a Harmonic Tech Pro 11 and then later with a BMI Whale Elite) and also after I stopped resting it (on its stock feet) on an MDF shelf (as recommended by a pro reviewer of the unit) as this muddied up the sound. I did not mention it in my review above, but I have also auditioned the 1.1 version with a Musical Fidelity X-A1 integrated solid state amp (I use both the SET and this amp on everything that I audition although the SET's main use is in the living room system where the BC DAC resides as well. This particular MF amp is warmer sounding than the newer models and when kept running at 3-5 watts it runs in Class A. I did not get digital glare with this setup either, but once again this is not what I would call a high definition solid state amplifier, such as the Bryston sound for example and from what I have read your Sim also has an extremely detailed sound. If you want to reduce the HF's a bit on the DAC 1.1, resting it on a couple of Vibrapods with a small amount of top weighting will do the trick (no cones, just Vibrapods between it and the shelf and approx. 8 oz. of top weight). I do not have enough Neuance shelves for all of my equipment and am still playing around with this on the DAC (which is on one of the stock shelves in the equipment rack). I have mine on Pods and cones again, but did notice that this other setup killed some of the HF's which may be beneficial in some systems.
Dekay, I've tried a few iso-tweaks with my DAC 1.1.

I tried placing some #3 Black Diamond Racing Cones beneath the DAC with little perceptible results. I bought a BrightStar Little Rock [approx. 8" x 12"] to try out on top of some of my gear. It seemed to deaden the overall sound in most instances, especially the Sim Audio. My guess is that it overdampened the chassis removing all the air[reverb] that I like. Right now the Little BrightStar is UNDER the Bel Canto. I like this. It seemed to have smoothed the sound a bit and only deadened the air slightly. I have one little Clearview HeavyHat weight on the DAC. I'm not sure if I hear anything different, but it's more peace of mind.

I'm thinking of changing out the shelves on my Target Beta rack to 3/4" birch plywood or MDF. I'm gonna try only one shelf at a time, probably on the DAC first and see what happens. I'll give the Vibrapods a try as they're pretty cheap too. What are the Neuance Shelves? I've never heard of these.

I've been trying isolation tweaks with the BC DAC and other equipment as well, but that's probably more appropriate for a thread on isolation tweaks. :)
Gunbei: Do a search under Neuance and you will find my recent review of the shelving. You might want to consider one for the new Theta, for a start (if it can be placed on the top shelf of your rack). Does the top shelf rest on upturned spikes as I am pretty sure that this is the best support for the shelving (and is what I use)? Funny, I don't ordinarily top weight anything either, for the same reason (it kills harmonics). I have not tried the DAC on the Neuance as I only have two shelves at this time for the amp and player/transport. Try placing the DAC on a mouse pad and see what it does to the HF's. This is not the same sound as the Vibrapods, but will give you a good idea of what a soft footer does to the HF's.
Thanks for all the info, gentleman. I think I will sit on my regular ol' DAC1 for a bit longer. I sure hope you might try the DVD and toslink combo sometime with your DAC1's, just for fun. I'm happy as a pig in slop. [:)] Charlie

p.s. David, I am so glad you like that Anglican super cd of Cantate Domino. It's a top ten of mine, for sure.
It kills Charlie. Thanks again.