Bel Canto DAC 2 or Ikemi?

I know the digital front end is so subjective, but I thought I'd solicit feedback.

I have listed to a lot of players now (Moon, Adcom, Rotel, Meridian, Musical Fidelity, Audio Research, Krell KAV, Classe, Denon...) and the Ikemi is the one I liked best. So why am I even asking? Because I have seen the Bel Canto compared to an Ikemi in sound, and it costs a lot less.

There are no Bel Canto dealers near me, and I don't know anyone who has heard both.


Joy Elyse
I haven't heard the two side by side but my sense is that the Ikemi is the better unit. Although Bel Canto has suggested that transports don't matter that much they DO make very audible differences through the DAC2. With a great transport and digital cable MAYBE the two are in the same class. I'm not knocking the DAC2 which I really like for the money.
I would suggest that you give a listen to the Ayre CX-7 which I bought in preference to the Ikemi. If the ARC unit you auditioned was the CD3 then I'm somewhat surprised that you preferred the Ikemi. I would also give a listen to the Audio Note and Wadia products before spending my money.
Thanks for your response!

While, I recognize that the CD3 had technically supperior performance (more dynamic range, more space, etc.), it didn't make me want to keep listening like the Ikemi did. It didn't get my heart pumping. Isn't that actually the most important factor?

Ayre doesn't have any dealers in New England, so that explains why I've never heard of them. Audio Note would be about a 2 hour drive, so I'm not sure I want to make the trip. Are they that exceptional? I don't know why Al didn't play be the Wadia. Only the 301 is in my "price range," so that might be why. I'll ask him to set it up for me.

Greenman I totally...............AGREE WITH YOU.......
Joyelyse, I'd make the drive to hear the Audio Note products.
They are non-oversampling, no digital filter, tube output designs and are widely praised for their musicality. Try to listen to the AN-CD3.1x CDP ($2650.00) and if you can possibly consider the financial stretch the AN-DAC2.1x Balanced ($4K).
Thought you'd like to know...

Bel Canto DAC2 vs. Ikemi
First we set off to decide which we preferred, the Ikemi or the Bel Canto DAC2. We started with Tori Amos’s “Under the Pick.” Our first thought was the Bel Canto kicks the Ikemi’s a**. Then we sat down for some serious listening. We used Diana Krall’s “Love Scenes,” Shawn Colvin’s “A Few Small Repairs” and a Puccini opera. We thought the Bel Canto was deeper, more transparent, and far more detailed. There was more air. The Ikemi was more intimate and smoother. With the Ikemi, it sounds like Diana Krall is playing in your living room, with the Bel Canto in a small club. Where the Bel Canto really stood out was in creating a sense of space. The cymbals rang out longer, the music echoed as if in a large space. The Ikemi was much flatter. If you haven’t figured it out already, we’re keeping the Bel Canto. At a third of the price, it’s an amazing deal.

The short of it is, the transport matters. We may not have been able to tell the difference between the DVD player and the carousel, but we had no problem telling the Ikemi from the DVD player. We used Tori Amos’s “Under the Pick” and Indigo Girls self titled album (two copies of each). Within just 2 or 3 A/B’s with each, the difference was easily apparent. The Ikemi was more full bodied and detailed. I was hoping it wouldn’t be the case. Now I have to shop for a transport. Any suggestions? We can’t afford the Ikemi for a transport. :)
The Vecteur D2.2 ($1490) gets very good reviews (I have not heard it). The caveat is that the importer(there are very few dealers), Mutine, seems to be either an arrogant jerk or hopelessly disorganized or both. Aside from the Vecteur well regarded transports for <$2K are a very scarce commodity. Hopefully someone else will have a better suggestion.
For what it is worth I really like the Stealth Varidig digital cable.
Like Greenman I also chose the Ayre CX-7 over ther Ikemi-even though here in the UK the price of the Ayre is very expensive.
My point is,if it helps you, is that I think the Ikemi is great with acoustic type material-with rock or more complicated modern recordings I think it lacks performance.
I would try hard to hear a CX-7 if there is a way you can.
Ignore my last post-I misread your audition.

I'm enthusiastic about the DVD 963 SA/DAC2 pairing. Before I used an Audiolab 8000CDM as transport, but the (cheap) Philips offers immensely more detail. Its downside is its not very audio-friendly handling.
I ended up going with the Denon 5900 as a transport. It's more than I was looking to spend as a transport, but since it has beautiful video and fairly good SACD, it was the perfect choice.