Bel Canto Ref1000 MK2 Or Ref 500m ?

Dear All,
apart from the power (I don't needs 1000 watts into 4 Ohm),
which sounds better between these two?

I read that the Reference mk2 series improved on the sonics of the Reference series.
The two amps use totally different ICE modules so you would expect they sound different. If you haven't alreadt done so, check here for info on the two modules. Plenty of specs for you to go through but IMO the newer ASX2 series modules used in the 500M have better specs.
BTW I am currently using the 500S amp in my system with good results. Although I have used several amps (300S and 300M) with the 200ASC module, I have not heard the Ref 1000 which uses the ASP series modules.
I have the Ref1000 mk2 and they sound phenomenal. Effortless dynamics, bottomless power reserves, articulate delineation of every note. Deep lows, smooth mids, and clean highs. Never lose composure in the most complex passages you can throw at them. Run cooler the louder you play them and idle at only 15 watts each. They take a LONG time to break in (I honestly think over 1000 hrs) but when they do, you get an incredible amp setup that can compete with much more expensive amps. I advise setting up dedicated outlets for each. I am running 20 amp circuits for each with 10 gauge 30 amp copper wiring with no power conditioner (I have surge at the main). These babies sound better than ever now (with 50 amp peak draw, they need some serious power supply). Who says you can't have too many watts ;-)
I love the Bel Canto Ref 1000 Mk.2, now renamed Ref 1000M. I have reviewed it for PFO:

I have heard the Ref 500M at shows at significant length, but not in my system. I have heard unconfirmed reports that the Ref 500M may sound even sweeter than its more powerful brother. As far as I know, Ref 1000M is driven by ICEpower 1000 ASP modules, while Ref 500 M may contain ICEpower 500 ASP modules, which yield up to 250W over 8 Ohms.

Unfortunately the BelCanto web site does not seem to mention the modules contained in their amps. I know my info on Ref 1000M is correct, but I am not completely sure about Ref 500M. I will call Bel Canto tomorrow and will find out.

Guido, The 500S uses the newer ASX2 module. I was curious so I opened mine up for a look. As for the 500M, I would be interested to know. It would be nice if Bel Canto were a bit more forth coming with this info on their web site.
I think Guido is correct about the type of ice module in 500M. Keep us posted!
Hello Timrhu,
for what I have read from the specs, the ASX2 seams capable to produce only 2x250 watt on 4 Ohm, where the ASP500 reach 500watt.

Guido, keep us in touch, it will be very interesting to know some official position from Bel Canto.
Just a curiosity, Guido are you Italian?

Some update from my previous post.
I see an internal picture of the ref500M from an Italian magazine (Fedeltà Del Suono), and the internal ICE module look like this one:

I read specs more carefully and the power rating of this module is 550W, 4Ω
I think Timrhu was right.
Granosalis, thanks for that info. The module shown in the Fedeltà Del Suono pics looks like the one in my 500S. The 500S has two of them.
Looks can be deceiving though as the modules used in the 300S and 300M look alike until you look closely. The module used in the 300M is a beefier unit. Too bad Agon doesn't allow pics to be posted or I'd show mine.
Thank you Giuseppe, yes I am as Italian as they go. . . now living in not-that-particularly-warm Texas.

The 250 ASX2 appears to be an interesting device. At least in principle, it is bridgeable to mono. Whether this remains true for the Ref 500S implementation, is something I will attempt to find out from Bel canto.

One cautionary note: the fact that the 250 ASX2 is a smaller device than the 500 ASP is not necessarily an indication that ASX2 is a 'lower' level series. The more likely explanation is simply that ASX2 -- being a much newer design than ASP -- uses a higher degree of function integration and smaller geometries than ASP. . . hence yielding that 'shorter signal path' that so many audiophrenes are obsessing over. For one thing, ASX2 appears to be implementing a form of 0 voltage 0 current switching power supply technology which may be new to the ICEpower standard toolkit.

I'll try to post an update later today.

Saluti, G.
Timrhu, if you send me the picture I can drop it on a server and post the link.
But only if this will not go against the forum policy.
my mail is my nick

The ASX series is a half-bridge design so it is brigeable. The ASP series is a full-bridge design so it cannot be bridged. Or to put it another way, it is already bridged. Hope that helps.

Thank you Henry, you are absolutely correct. I have since called Bel canto and asked further information about differences between Ref 500M and Ref 500S.

* Both amplifiers make use of the ICEpower 500 ASX2 modules in bridged configuration. They do not use ASP series parts.

* the Ref 500M uses additional power regulation over the 500S, hence it actually yields slightly higher power: Unless I am getting this all wrong, approx 250W over 8 Ohms for Ref 500M and 200W over 8 Ohms for 500S.

* the BC Ref 1000M is the only Bel Canto amp to utilize the older ICEpower 1000 ASP module, because there is no ASX2 module to yield the power rating of 1000M.

* Unless the very high throughput of 1000M is required for proper control of particularly power hungry speakers, the Ref 500M may yield the most refined sound of the lot.
Ciao Guido,
Thanks for the precious clarification. As described in the ICE Power web site, the ASX2 is the 3rd generation technology, so what you said about sound quality make sense.

from the Ice Power web site: "The advancements include extended bandwidth, improved dynamic range and exceptionally low distortion, achieved through our novel and proprietary HCOM amplifier topology."

I have in audition a couple of ref100 MK2, powered from 2 days, and I wander how much better it will sound the 500M.

Ciao e grazie.
Giuseppe, I have not yet conducted a sonic comparison of Ref 1000M with 500M. . . at this point I am only guestimating that 500M may be a little sweeter. If you are testing the 1000M (or Mk.2) ensure that they have enough hours on them. They are likely to require about 600 hours of playing time before giving you their best. Besides that, keep them on at all times. . . their idle power consumption is only approx 15W each. Saluti, Guido
Thanks Guido, so I'll do.
Granosalis, I sent you some pics as requested. Let me know where you post them.
I have both the 500s and ref500m's. I like both. I was told that the 500m was redesigned from the ground up since it was the lastest design Bel Canto made.

They are a noticeable improvement of the 500s although the 500s sounds quite good. I exchanged email withe someone recently who upgraded and he said he couldn't hear a difference. Not the case with me. I heard it right out of the box. Didn't notice any break-in issue - maybe a day or two and they sounded even better but I think it was more just getting used to the sound on my main system.

I spoke with John Stronczer several months ago and he suggested the ref500m's were the the unknown treasure in the Bel Canto lineup.

My dealer said not many were being sold so I couldn't really tell how much was marketing on John's part at that time. In any case I'm happy with the monoblocks. The do a little better at higher volumes that the 500s - no doubt due to the enhance power supply. I like the nice clean solution of the 500s single box but the dual boxes aren't much of an issue.

As far as the ref1000's, I would say it depends on how loud you're going to play them. The 1000s wouldn't be too much for my somewhat low sensitivity Aerial speakers though I doubt I'd use that much power. Ears can't take it.

As new-tech as the Class D amps are, they certainly sound good. I think they'll keep refining them over the next few years until the easily rival class A if not already. They do have a little different sound but to my ears they've a good balance between detail and smoothness. Worth a try if you get a chance.
I have just received pictures from Timrhu

This is the module from PS Audio Trio A-100

This is the 300M

An this is the Bel Canto 500S

I let Timrhu to comments if needed.
Sorry but I do not find a way to create the link, you needs to cut and past the url.

Warning, pictures are LARGE!
Here are links to the various modules inside.
Trio A-100

Bel Canto 300M

Bel Canto 500S

Bel Canto ref500M

Aren't we getting fancy.
To view pics of the Ref 500M on the Italian web site you have to click on the tab for the Bel Canto 500M. Thanks to Giuseppe for the info.
Dear All,
It is one week now that the two ref1000 MK2 are always on, on my system.
I made a small comparison between Bel Canto and my Modwright KWA 150. I do not do a real A/B comparison, because the Modwright is on service for repair. I find the ref1000 a very good amplifier, but the MW seams quite better on my system. More Dynamics, more details and a bigger soundstage are, in brief, the differences. Despite of 500 Watt Vs 150 Watt, the MW seems to have double the power of the Bel Canto. Bass on the Bel Canto seams no existent in comparison of the KWA 150. This is not so bad for my small room, because the reff1000 MK2 do not create any major resonance as the MW did.
Giuseppe, bass of Bel Canto Ref 1K should start to come in after 400 hours of making music. Just powering them up without a signal going through may not be very effective. You can use the white noise from FM interstation to exercise them when you are not listening to music. Are you running them balanced or single ended? the amps are best used in a balanced configuration. G.
Cia Guido,
yes you are right. The two brand new Ref1000 MK2 do not do many hours of sound. Just to precise, the bass of the Bel Canto are right, very balanced. Simply the MW seams more heavy on this region.
I wonder how much better it will be the reff 500m. I should have a pari for test, soon.
Sorry, I forgot to answer to your question.
I'm using only balanced interconnect from the CD2 to LS 36.5 (double box), and from the preamp to amp.
Grazie mille Giuseppe. . . keep us posted as the BC Ref 1000M continue to break in. . . and of course everyone is very interested in your upcoming direct comparison with 500M. Saluti, Guido
The Ref1000MK2 are breaking-in VERY well, and the performance increased from good to great! Now I'm very satisfied about the sound. Great transparency with dense tone ad details. I should do the comparison with the 500M this week end.
I really like the low end of the ref1000mkii's. When I first heard them, they sounded lean in comparison to my prior MF a3cr on the OHM Walshes. Once my ears adapted I determined that the low end was actually quite clean, tight and articulate. The term I have heard used that describes it is that they seem to take a vice like grip on the big OHM Walsh drivers, which is just what the doctor ordered! I can't imagine it being better. We'll see.....
I think that much of the fit as to what amp is right comes down to the match with the other components as well as the room. In my room, I started with the Bel Canto 300IU Integrated and had some bass issues at high volumes. I believe I was asking the amp to do to much with the speakers. I then went to the Bel Canto Ref500s stereo amp which had increased headroom and the bass issues did not occur. I now have the Bel Canto Monoblocks Ref 500 and that seems to be the best match. Plenty of power and headroom and very dynamic sound. They play with ease within my system. The other change I made was going to balanced interconnects. I changed from Cardas Golden Refence unbalanced to Cardas Golden Reference Balanced and in my system, it made a dramatic change. Much more fullness and slam to the sound. In addition, more bass and more extended lower bass. I got more db's and play the music at lower volumes. Everyones equipment is different and balanced is not necessarily better for everyone. It is component dependent and that is why the amp choice is not the same for everyone. What works best in one system and room is not the solution in another room with different mating components. Stephen
I agree... I think the Bel Canto's sound lean at first. However, it doesn't take long to realize how good the bass is once you have them in your system. It's a tight articulate bass that gets you involved with the body of the music. I am always changing gear and feel that Bel Canto just sounds right. The Ref 1000MkII's are the ultimate in the Bel Canto line. Recommend Bel Canto due to the size, power consumption, and flexibility.
today there was the comparison between the Ref1000 MK2 and the Ref500M.
The source was the Bel Canto CD2+DAC3Vb, Modwright LS/PS 36.5 combo and Gemme audio Katana. All Cables was Oyaide Tunami.

Ref1000 was leaved always on, where the Ref500M had only 30 minutes of warm up. Despite of this, the ref 500M was better in every aspects. The 500M sounds sweeter on the voice, more detailed on the bass and far away more extended and refined on the highs.

Another test we made, clearly show how better was the RCA versus the Balanced interconnection. RCA sounds more transparent and with an improved controlled bass.

I will certainly go for the 500M!

I read with interest your comments about how RCAS were better than the balanced cables. I had the complete opposite experience. I just changed to balanced cables and they were far superior in terms of bass and bass extension. In addition, the fullness of my sound was improved and i got an increase in db's also. It just goes to show you that these changes are system sensitive. I am using the Bel Canto Ref500 Monos with the Capri Pre amp and Ayon Cd player and have Tyler Acoustic speakers.
Pettyfeversk, I'm reading with interest your comments too.
I have also noticed the increase in DB, that for sure is due to the different voltage output. But on my system, the difference in transparency and bass control was immediate. During the test I have exchanged both CD to pre e pre to power amp at the same time. Both was the Tunami Oyaide Terzo XX that I have exchanged with a pair of Terzo RR (unbalanced version)
Do you made the test with the same cable brand/type?

Yes, it was the samme cable going from unbalanced to balanced.

Maybe your change was really a better fit with a better cable in your system vs balanced or unbalanced?
>> Maybe your change was really a better fit with a better cable
>> in your system vs balanced or unbalanced?

Sorry but english isn't my mother language and I do not get the question.
Could you please rephrase?
I think your change in sound may be due to the fact that you changed the cables you were using, not that you went from unbalanced to balanced. Unless you used the same exact cables in balanced and unbalanced versions.
Thanks for the clarification.
As I said, I have used the same cable, just changing from balanced to unbalanced type.
I think that differences between my results and yours can be re-conducted to the different equipments used during the test. The cable length can also be an explanation. My cables are one meter length.

Well, for me it's a good news, because RCA is cheaper and better.
A very uncommon happening for this hobby :-)
Another interesting test we made, was exchanging the digital interconnect between CD2 and DAC3Vb.

1) A cheeper optical cable
2) Bel Canto AES/EBU balanced digital coaxial interconnect
3) Oyaide DB-510 digital interconnect BNC (pure silver)

The optical one was the worst of the tree. The Balanced interconnect was good, but the silver BNC was great!

On this test cables are clearly different, so nothing in common with the previous discussion.
Again, this is just my test, and results may vary depending on the system.
Still waiting for the new high powered Bel Canto amp that has been in the works for the past two years. Not sure what class it will be put in. Its an Ice Amp with the switching module removed replaced by a very innovative high powered D.C. power supply that delivers current just as effectively and as fast as a class D switching device without the need of pulse modulation. Will be the first of its kind. If anyone has updates on this amp please share.
Audiozen, why don't you give a call to Bel Canto, and then let us know the scoop?

Guido..I already tried..the info was leaked to me by a Bel Canto source in 2011. They are stealth but did admit the amp is in the works and demanded from me the source in their company who leaked the info which I will not provide.
Hi Audiozen, if the design project is still active, and BC decides to show or talk about this aledged new amp at RMAF, we will know about it soon enough.

Saluti, Guido
Does the 500M amps need HC AC cables? What is the Max draw on the amps?
Glory, I looked back at my REF500M review on PFO:
I quoted peak current for REF500 at 30 Amperes. This value may not be correct. The BelCanto page for the amp asserts peak current to be 35 amperes instead:
Like a lot of other amps, REF500M do benefit from high current power cords... e.g. the Furutech I discuss in the article. One thing to consider is that while class D amps have negligible idle/bias draw, they can instantly draw a lot of current on louder/complex passages and transients. After the review was published, I tried Shunyata King Cobra CX on them with very desirable results. I suspect that current Shunyata Python Z-Tron may work as well while being price more commensurately with the amps. Shunyata wires in the CX series and beyond appear particularly apt at blocking potential hash generated by some ICEpower amplifiers, without ever acting as frequency-limiting bandpass filters.
Some how I got my LC/HC AC mixed up and ran the 500M amps on LC wire. I then realized my blunder after being depressed I made a bad move buying the amps. Installing the HC wire instantly corrected the lean weak sound to that of having drive and authority.

Driving the Pioneer/TAD S2Ex speakers with a Placette passive Pre amp/Lampi L5.

Have you any positive results with stands/footers under the amps.?