Thanks for your fine review Phd. My audiophile partner just replaced an Audio Lab amp with a Hotrod version of the Belles 150 with the result that his whole system went up another notch towards the sound of real music. The Belles amps are great pieces period, but when you factor in their price their one of the great bargains in high-end audio. Thanks for sharing and enjoy the music as I know you will.
If you get a chance, listen to the Belles 150a Reference amp. It is not an upgraded 150a but an entirely new amp based on the 350a. Talking about a spetacular amplifier, it takes music to another level.
Phd, your short review (and other's impressions) certainly indicate that many listeners find the Belles a great amp & an impressive value. My own experience with a Hot Rod 150a was far less positive. I found it to be almost no improvement over a old Adcom 125 watt amp in the context of my system. I say this not to dispute your impressions or evaluation, but rather to point out that I've found system synergy elusive and hard to predict. In my case, replacing the Belles with a PS Audio HCA-2 gave me the audio magic carpet ride. It could be that the Belles didn't react well to the 4 ohm resistance of my Magneplanar 1.6's. To further complicate impressions, I found that changing the output gain from my Music Reference preamp also drastically changes the sound. Using 3db of output gain sounds vastly better than higher gain settings. It's such a question of luck (or a good dealer) finding the combination of components that work well together. I would also have to mention in passing that I had a very sour experience with Belles warranty repair service. I had to send the amp back for blown mosfets and when it came back from that repair, it still wasn't working. Had to send it back again at my expense. It was out of service a long time, and shipping was expensive.
Thankyou Teajay, Bigtee, & Photon46 for your responses, they are all appreciated! Finding a budget amplifier that does most things right is a real plus & there is no such thing as the "one" perfect amplifier for everyone especially when you take in account the type of speakers you will be driving. My speakers are efficient & very revealing. A 100 watt per channel amp will drive these speakers to intolerable levels, well almost. Anyway these efficient speakers allows me the luxury of being able to invest in lowered powered, lower cost amplifiers. Photon46 I have owned Magneplanar speakers (fine speakers) before & know they may require more power than the 150A to drive them satisfactorly, to constantly overdrive them with the 150A could result in amplifier failure. The HCA-2 is a fine digital power amp, & because its digital, may be less prone to higher demands & impedances in this regard, the HCA2 will shut itself down completely before clipping, requiring the amp to be reset. On the other hand the 150A does not shut itself down at the very point of clipping requiring more immediate action by the user. However I have yet to clip it with my speakers at sane volume levels. My only & (I do mean only) criticism would be that the HCA-2 does not offer a weighty sound that a conventional amp has. Never the less I love the sound of the HCA-2 & wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. Your right, matching & finding the perfect components is what this hobby is all about. I have not had any problems requiring specific service through Belles so I can't comment on their quality of service. The Belles 150A is currently driving my speakers without a hint of strain. For now, I am using this amp as an alternative to my tube power amp & that says alot. I will not make any direct comparisons between the two as they are both very special in their own sort of way.
Phd, nice accurate review. I have the Hot Rod version which I have been told by David Belles is the same as the newer 150A. If you have one of the newer 150A's, then you essential have the Hot Rod.
Photon46, sounds like you had a faulty amp because I have Maggie 1.6's and find the Belles to be more than enough to drive them. Or like you said, could have been system synergy. David Belles did tell me he prefers to have a tube preamp in front of his Belles amps. I use a Placette Passvie and didn't have any problems which according to him was going to be a problem. Although, he did have a certain bias against passives due to "complications".
Rbautista, thankyou. Since you mentioned the hotrod, mine could be one since it does have the gold binding posts but still trying to confirm as to whether this is a standard version with the upgraded gold binding posts or the hotrod. I am not a self proclaimed expert on the Belles line as you can tell but rather an audiophile that has come across an amplifier (150A) that I just like a helluva alot.
The 150a Hotrod and the Newer 150a Reference are not really anything alike. The 150a Reference is more of a spin off from the 350a. I have owned and used all 3 and can tell you the 150a Reference is the best of the bunch. It is superior to the 150a and 150 Hotrod. It betters the 350a in areas of clarity and resolution(it also seems to have a more defined bottom end.)
The 150a and Hotrod models are excellent amps in their own right. Nothing I'm saying here should be looked upon as knocking them. However, give a listen to the Reference amp and then you decide.
Bigtee, thanks to your post I have just recently purchased the 150A Reference & it is everything you descibed & then some! Can't wait till its broke in! It most definately should sound better (and it does) as its price is considerbly more than the 150A Hotrod. Still the 150A represents a superb bargain at its price point as you have so stated & I agree. It is apparent that all of David Belles products represents an excellent value, How much more are you folks out there willing to spend?
have you compared two 150a reference monos against parasounds jc-1's at the same price?
Mboldda1, John Curl is a brilliant audio engineer & if he was able to produce gear without costs constraints, it would result in high quality sounding equipment in my opinion. His designs in the 90's offered reliability, high current, & a high damping factor which were unequal at the time (well almost) but not without alot of grit & grain. Mostly midfi (and I heard some midfi products I liked better) but always targeting audiophiles on a budget who were looking for brute force & vise-grip control over the low drivers. I liked the 2200 MKll the best in terms of power versus performance. Never took them seriously as an investment in sound quality. But from what I understand the new Halo products address these shortcomings in addition to your reference jc-1's. Maybe you can tell us what you really like about these new products as it would be interesting to know. What have you compared them to so far? But given the track record in sound quality of both Parasound & Belles the latter is where I would invest. All Belles gear, regardless of price sound good from the get go.
i do not own the jc-1's but am thinking about the stereo 150a reference and just wanted to know how theuy stack up against some of the more reviewed amps.
I had a pair of JC-1's for a time. I bought them while using the Belles 350a amp. While any gripes about the JC-1's are minor, there was something about them I just couldn't warm up to. I'm kinda at a lost here to describe it. I had several friends come over and listen and we all agreed on the sound but everyone had a hard time putting it into words. While the amps are powerful sounding, it is kinda in a "Hi-Fi" way. I've stated this in other posts. Something along the lines of a Camaro vs a BMW, powerful sounding and satisfying most "Audiophile" descriptions but lacking in the ultimate soundstage depth with a little flatness of stage and maybe not the last word in resolution.
The Belles 350a won out even though it is not quite as powerful in the bottom but seemly more coherent overall.
So with my statement about the 150a Reference, I suppose that's where I would stand. Nobody can be faulted for using the JC-1's. They have a first rate build quality, actually, here, I think better than the 350a although the 350a is a simpler circuit design(and of course, less expensive-you could always use a pair of 350a mono's for the same money!!!) I do believe there are speakers they would work well with. I've noticed these amps have gone up a $1000 for the pair which does help move them on down my personal rankings. It makes the 150a Reference mono's a hell of a bargain and a single amp a super bargain.
BTW, my comparison above was using a single 150a Reference vs the Parasound monoblocks. A better comparison would be using the Belles mono's. Hopefully, someone can shed some light on this as requested above. I certainly feel that it, based on one amp, would be an effort in futility. I would think the comparison would head into a runaway for the Belles.
Mbolda1, Unfortunately, the Belles lines are not that well distributed and comparisons are probably going to be hard to find (since they are not well reviewed and readily at hand-they tend to be somewhat overlooked which is too bad.) In their price line, they are the best amps I have heard and I have heard a bunch.
You can read a review, if you haven't already, on www.soundstage.com (Doug Blackburn's review) I think it pretty much sums it up and I'm sure he has listened to a pile of amps also.
Dave Belles pretty much builds these things to order and is always looking for ways to improve them. He has been involved with a lot of amp manufacturing over the years.
I don't think you will come anywhere near beating this amp at this price point. I pretty much would consider it a no brainer.