I am absolutely not intending to take a cautious position on an amp that no one has tested and measured, but...
That's a big price for a Belles unit, though it is beautiful.
Nice power rating, Goldilocks, just right.
Dual mono? I thought David Belles effectively argued such topology was superfluous.
Meters, HT Bypass? Such a departure from the playbook.
Looking forward to the user reviews, but at 6K+ that is too aspirational for an SS integrated. Still, I did take note of it on the website since it was posted, so there must be a few of us who are interested in what he cooked up.
Tone Controls?..Eek!! Tone control's as we are all aware of, are for
trimming certain frequency bands to tame bright, shrill or strident sound problems resulting from poorly designed electronics. David Belles components are masterpieces, so refined and so rich sounding that you won't even think about tone controls.
Looks very nice for the money and a solid well made product .
but not in the league of Top products like Gryphon , New Pass Labs ,FM Acoustics ,Accuphase Boulder.for these extra $5-10k give you the best top boutique parts
which do give you a little more refinement.in high end you have to spend $$ for that last 5-10% .
For what you get from David Belles, 6K+ is dirt cheap. The very high quality caps, transistors and resistors in his units are typically found in $20K electronics. You will not find these high quality parts in units from Parasound, Hegel or other components manufactured in China in the same price range as Belles. His products are a steal for the price.
I would put Belles engineering genius way above the works of Pass Labs,
Accuphase and Boulder. David Belles is not into big profits and has always had the opportunity to move that direction. His deep passion for designing gear for serious music lovers is like a religion to him. Best sounding solid state gear I've ever heard during the past 30 years. His rich sound quality is the closest you will ever get to that 3D holographic midrange produced by tube amps from his solid state designs.
The basis of my statement is this. I have been an Audiophile for 40 years and have heard all the brands I have mentioned above and have owned in the past PASS gear. The Belles gear is far better sounding than the other brands I've mentioned and heres why. During the past forty years there has been repeated attempts by solid state amp designers to get as close as possible to that magical midrange floating holographic quality that the best tube amps are known for. Since David Belles has had a history producing solid state and tube designs, his solid state designs come closer to that magical midrange of tubes than any other solid state amp on the market. He doesn't advertise, he doesn't need to due to having the strongest word of mouth reputation in the country. He designs gear specifically for music lovers, the Musicphiles, not Audiophiles.
facten..I was turned on to Belles four years ago by a local audiophile friend who I've known for twenty years who I met at the Washington Audio society monthly meetings years ago. On several occasions, I had the pleasure of listening to his Belles Hot Rod amp hooked up to his Spectral DMC-10 preamp. The sound swept me away. Having owned many amps during the past 30 years from the likes of Carver, Counterpoint, Parasound, Early Nuforce SE 9's, None of those units grabbed my soul like the Belles. The one sonic character the Belles has over many others, is the remarkable rich smoothness in the midrange and high frequencies, as well as bass to die for.
(((Mr M Wrong designer Moscode was a different fellow initials GK and I agree with you)))
Many years back I was selling Apogee Divas Calipers and Duettas
Jason Bloom Apogees pres walks in and said Rutan I like you and I’m glad we’re doing business.
But can you do me a small favor?
whats that? ""That Pioneer Elite amp sitting near my speakers it’s a little well you know near my gear can you please move it away.
I replied sure I get it and followed with my Question
""Jason, if you were me and wanted to please folks with offering a real-world high-performance fairly priced amp what would you suggest""?
He scratched his head and in seconds later replied Belles Dave Belles
I don’t know how he does it check it out!
I call Dave up he sent one down to us and watched it embarrass everything we had at twice the price including Classe DR9s
Counterpoints, Big PS Audios, My friend who had Calipers with a 270 wpc Mcintosh amp sold it immediately and still has the Belles.
Years later his 2995 Aria Mono Blocks are doing the same for us with Vandersteens and many other speakers for music lovers.
Pure Class A? I doubt it. But it really doesn't matter if its Class A,B,C,D,E,F,G...Why? Once you hear a Belles amp, game over. The sound will seduce you like the Siren's from Greece. I MEAN Really seduce you. I was originally planning to purchase the Belles Aria preamp
hooked up to a pair of Bel Canto amps and during the past eight months was frustrated why Belles doesn't come out with a 200+ watts per side
integrated, and sure enough, it has arrived from the Mother Ship. My first system in 1978 was a Sansui AU 7900 integrated hooked up to a Dual 701 turntable and large Advent speakers. You could fry an egg on the rear heat sink. And now that I'm retiring coming back full circle to an integrated amp from Belles, the Rolls Royce of solid state.
" The sound is luscious and sweet...if you like the smooth liquid delivery of tube amps but wish they had more grunt, listen to the Aria."
HI-FI Choice online magazine.
The Aria is the little brother to the Virtuoso putting out 75 watts per channel. I was told by AudioWaves, a Belles retailer, that the Aria outsells
all brands of integrated's at their store.The important point to make here is the special tube like liquid midrange that Belles is known for. I cannot recall any other high end solid state amp during the past 30 years regardless of price and build quality that sounds like tubes. The early pieces from Spectral in the mid 80's and early 90's, when designs were done by Demian Martin only came the closest to the Belles sound.
When Keith Johnson took over the designs starting with the DMC-12, things went downhill at Spectral. Amps from Boulder, Levinson, Ayre, Pass, McIntosh, Spectral, Krell, or the best class D amps all do great things, but their engineers never have achieved what Belles has accomplished, getting the closest ever to that tube liquid midrange from a solid state amp.
Before we crown this the greatest reasonably price integrated ever no one here has heard it. I might be interested in purchasing the Virtuoso if the mc/phono section is really outstanding. We need to have some feedback from people in the field on their opinions. Audiozen track one down and give us your impression. Again this is of interest to me.
bobheinatz..I'm not sure if any beta units turned up at CES last week, but heres what I would suggest until the unit is released. Find out if there is a Belles dealer in your area. The newest Aria series designs come with MM/MC boards depending on which version is available at a retail store to listen to. The Aria integrated, comes in two versions, with MM phono
or with both MM/MC boards. See if the Aria integrated is on display with the MC version and go in and take a listen. This will provide you just how well his phono sections performs, and the Virtuoso, over three times the price of the Aria, I'm certain will up that game.
bobheinatz...There are very few companies whose audio products I would purchase without hesitation with no concern to listen first before I buy. For one reason only, reputation. Belles is one of those companies. One other company that comes to mind that I would purchase from without a listen, who makes the world's finest SACD/CD players, is Playback Designs. Their upcoming to be released next month, the MPS-8 SACD/CD player, which retails for $25,000.00, is the finest player in the world. Checkout the MPS-8 at www.playbackdesigns.com
The venerable, one and only JohnnyR at Audio Connection played the Belles Aria integrated amp for me with Vandersteen Treo CT speakers and... A. My jaw dropped B. I went into an audiophile trance, so immersed was I in the music C. I Bought the Aria on the spot, convinced that I could do no better at anywhere near the price D. Repeat A&B every time I listen to this amazing amplifier, which I’ve been doing for over a year, not with the Treo’s, but a pair of the more affordable, yet massive bang for buck Vandersteen 1Ci’s. The sound is so balanced, so harmonious and so pristine, with bass that is palpable and never fatiguing. Based on the pure joy I’ve experienced listening to the Aria, I can only imagine how prolific a performer the Virtuoso is. It wouldn’t surprise me if it ends up embarrassing the esoteric, far more costly status symbol brands.
I don’t know of another brand that punches so far above its weight as does Belles. It’s obscene what some of these companies charge for their audio products. Dave Belles provides an alternative to the brands that cater to the 1%, and it’s nice to see that someone in this industry has a conscience and gives a damn about music lovers with limited funds. In the meantime, the Aria is everything I could want and the music has never sounded more natural, more vibrant or more pleasurable. "How the hell does he do it?" is a recurring question I ask myself all the time!
This is my experience, and I know everybody hears differently and has their own preferences. The Belles (Power Modules) brand flies way below the radar, and Dave Belles likes it that way, I suspect. He may not be a household name, but the man is a true icon in the world of audio whose products compete with, and in many cases surpass far more expensive stuff. Ignore the Belles brand at your own risk; buying the Aria was the best audio decision I have ever made.
carmenc - I'm new to this forum, and between you, audiozen, and of course JohnnyR, not to mention others... I'm feeling less alone in my appreciation for Belles. Like so many other things in life, people tend to ignore true quality, and too easily give in to the hype, to glitzy advertising and all the other nonsense that attempts to sway us from our own intuition, our gut feeling. It's easy to get caught up in the exclusivity and status of many of these audio products, but there is not necessarily a correlation between price and quality/ performance. Those 3 page, glossier than polyurathane ads in the audio rags cost a ton, and I personally prefer manufacturers who put the money into the product. Trust your ears is the best advice I've heard so far.
Belles and Vandersteen are just two examples; there are countless others for sure. "If you build it, and build it really well, they will come" type of approach, to paraphrase the old adage. Nothing beats word of mouth promotion and enthusiasm, and if I buy your product and it mesmerises and delights me and literally makes a powerful emotional connection with me than just as sure as hell I'm going to acknowledge the fact with gratitude and admiration. Music is a big deal, in my opinion the most powerful form of communication and entertainment there is, and to have it rendered and interpreted as beautifully and accurately as possible is one of life's great pleasures. Millions of people seemingly don't care, which bewilders me but different strokes for different folks, as they say. This is and always will be a niche interest, hobby, whatever you want to call it. Too many people have no idea what good music is, and really have no idea what good audio is all about. I love this stuff, and have for as long as I can remember.
Been reading your comments, carmenc, and really enjoy your insight and perspective. Listening to others opinions is where it's at, and this should be a fun endeavor. Everybody's input is valuable, whether I agree or not.
2chfreak..I second carmenc's opinion that your post is great. You nailed it in spades. And your absolutely correct that millions don't care about music anymore. There are many audiophiles that buy high end gear just for show, on a endless carousel buying and selling constantly. A former audiophile friend of mine, who I no longer deal with, always has an average of $40K worth of gear in his rec room. He has never owned more than twenty CD's and has never heard of Bob Dylan or Joan Baez. A percentage of Gon member's are in the same camp. Buy just for show. I just don't get it. They would be better off investing in a car collection or coin collection.
audiozen - thank you audiozen (and carmenc) for the kind words. I've been all over this forum in the short time I've been registered, and I feel like a kid in a candy shop! In most cases I would be suffering from information overload, but this audio topic I find fascinating... have always been intrigued by it and I have never been able to shake the bug. Not that I want to! People can watch reality tv, play video games, or grow progressively more stupid while worshiping their smart phones; I'm perfectly content to chill out while listening to my music, basking in the splendor of it all.
We "musicphiles" - I really like that term so much more than "audiophiles" - know deep down that our lust for fine audio is not just a vanity production. Maybe for some audiophiles it is, but getting lost in the music and forgetting about the electronics and cables and speakers is the end game unless you are a showoff trying to impress people with your processions. Like $40k look what I have guy.
My main form of entertainment is listening to my 2 channel stereo, and since I upgraded the whole thing in the past couple of years I am enjoying it more than ever. I wanted to take the sound to the next level, and the Belles Aria with the Vandersteen 1's rescued me from languishing in mid fi limbo.
I remember the Sansui AU series, really nice cosmetics and from the era when amps and receivers actually had style. Having a good sound system was what many people aspired towards back then, but those days are over. Now it's about mobility, convenience, portability and listening in private with ear buds and the almighty phone. People probably think that moving up to an Echo with Alexa is entering the realm of hi end. It might be as close to hi end as they will ever get, and that is sad.
I had some Advents too for a couple of years... all the rage for a while. Yeah, the 70's and 80's, when hifi shops were ubiquitous. For you kids, that means they were all over the place. Google it.
I met Dave Belles a couple of times last year, and he is an incredible guy.
I had heard about the Belles brand for years, but never knew very much about it. I had about 2k to spend on an amp, and I saw a tiny ad for the Belles Aria in the back of one of the magazines. The HiFI Choice review was stellar, and I drove 3+ hours to Audio Connection in NJ. JohnnyR played some cool tunes, and it was a done deal. It takes me 15 minutes to pick out a head of lettuce; this decision took 15 seconds.
I share your enthusiasm for Belles, to say the least. After reading a hundred reviews, and driving myself crazy, I finally ditched the reviews and let my ears be the final arbiter, for the amp and speakers. The Rutan factor didn't hurt either. He really tells it like it is, and he has an affable way about him that puts you at ease, making the decision process anxiety free.
I think that with the new Aria line, and with the soon to be released Virtuoso, Dave Belles is going to make a lot of people think twice before they fork over that big, fat money clip. The quote attributed to Leonardo da Vince... "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" sums up Dave Belles to a tee. In an industry that more than ever caters to the wealthy and privileged, Dave Belles has decided to take a different approach. Namely, produce "music first" audio products of superior quality, price them fairly, derive immense satisfaction knowing that you made many people happy, and stay honest and humble and true to your vision no matter what the other guys are doing. This makes him an icon in my opinion. I feel very lucky that I discovered Belles, and it will take an awful lot of convincing to persuade me to switch to another brand after this massive an upgrade and the value proposition that it represents. I don't think you can do better for the money. I might be wrong, but my ears tell me I'm not!
2chfreak..Haven't heard any of the current Vandersteen models, and it appears he has taken on engineers that has improved his designs in recent years but that was not the case back in the 90's when all his model's were the open frame design with the sock over the frame. His speaker's back then sounded absolutely horrible. Why did he get such high praise back then?
Because of big bucks going to Stereophile. During the late 80's and early 90's Richard Vandersteen had the largest annual advertising contract with Stereophile. For four years + he had a full page ad on the back cover every month. Most of the ads were the 2 CE. In the summer of 1998 I decided to check out the 2 CE's and called my friend Keith from the Washington Audio Society and asked him to go down to Tacoma with me and listen to the CE's at Advanced Audio. We arrived at the store, and the owner, Curtis, took us into the sound room where he set up a system to the 2 CE's. The gear used was an Audible Illusion's Modulus 3A preamp, an Ayre amplifier and a Wadia CD player. I brought some master CD recordings with me and started off with Copelands' Rodeo. The spectacular opening of Rodeo with its powerful timpani's and crashing symbols sounded flat and dull. The bass was loose and flabby with a narrow soundstage with no hall effect and poor imaging. Keith and I looked at each other and were shocked how bad the speaker sounded especially the bottom end that had low SPL capability. For two hours we threw everything at the Vandy's, Brubeck, Zeppelin, Beethoven. It just couldn't deliver the goods. Two days later I called and spoke to Richard Vandersteen and asked him what the maximum SPL/weighted decibel level the speaker could reach before breaking down. His response was.."What do you mean by weighted?" I explained and he went dead quiet, then replied loosing his temper and yelled at me saying, "I don't have time to answer technical question's" and slammed the phone on me. I mentioned my experience with senior member's of the audio society and they burst out laughing and told me that Richard is well known in the industry for his bad temper. If you ever decide to move on from Vandersteen, I will turn you on to a true treasure speaker that I would call the "Belles" of stereo speakers from a small boutique company. Their best floor stander cabinet is made from bamboo. The strongest natural fiber panels available. Bamboo is 500% stronger than MDF which everyone uses to make speakers since MDF is cheap. Bamboo also weighs 50% less. The guy who makes these speakers is just like Dave Belles. Makes speakers for music lovers. His top floor stander only cost two grand and you would be hard pressed to find a better speaker anywhere under $10K that could best it. Its the speaker I have finally decided on that is a match made in heaven with the Virtuoso.
audiozen - You have provided quite a few revelations that I was unaware of about Vandersteen. It's always nice to get the inside scoop, and hear about personal experiences, good and bad because I do want to know about a companies true intentions and how committed they are to achieving excellence, as well as rock solid customer support. I wasn't all that familiar with Stereophile back then - really knew next to nothing about Vandersteen until I listened to them late '16. Vandersteens ads, at least the ones in Stereophile and TAS that I'm familiar with, are relatively simple one page affairs that don't exactly bang you over the head. I never would have guessed that he had the largest advertising contract with a major magazine. If he's a hot head, like you say, well I certainly don't condone that type of behavior and personality, but I have dealt with such types quite a few times along the way and it can become unbearable for all parties concerned. I try to see the good in everybody, but sometimes you need a magnifying glass to see it!
My speakers have the "sock", and that doesn't bother me because it's the sound that I focus on as a priority. I really like my 1Ci's, and am used to the way they sound with the Belles. The room is pretty small, 11 1/2 x 12 1/2 ft, 8 ft ceiling, and I would love to get them into a bigger space but am unable at this time. I have never turned the volume up half way, not even close. The Aria isn't going anywhere in the foreseeable future, but if you, or someone else convinced me that I could do better than the Vandersteens, or rather the speakers convinced me, I would certainly be open the making a change at some point.
So yes, I'm intrigued by this "Belles of speakers" you have mentioned, and if it was a heavenly match with the Aria, and was a quantum leap over the Vandersteens, then I would seriously consider making the change. i don't want to twist your arm, but if you don't tell me what it is, I might go all RV on you and God knows there are enough loose cannons in this world already! So yeah, give me the low down so my high blood pressure doesn't get out of control.
Thanks for the information, and good luck on your Virtuoso quest to reach the audio promised land.
((((The gear used was an Audible Illusion’s Modulus 3A preamp, an Ayre amplifier)))
Audiodozen Thanks for your well-intended observations above.
I know you are fond of this new nice speaker and I am sure it is fine design
that I would love to also hear.
There is something that you should know that’s very important and would have happened to your nice speaker or any well-designed speaker as well back then with that pairing.
We carried all three of the components and made the same mistakes as Curtis
Here is a case of you shot the wrong messenger and I’m sure not intentionally as I would also agree with what you heard as spot on.
First, the Ayre is a nice amp at the time of introduction it had a 10 K input impedance its a balanced bridge zero feedback design and was at its best with its own brand balanced pre amp which
Curtis or I didn’t have until later when it came out.
Enter the Balanced K1
The K1 together balanced with Ayres own amp were superb together and it drove that ayre amp to perfection we heard things we never heard before in recordings with that pairing with Vandys
The Audible Illusions tube preamp was not balanced but RCA output it had a 1200 ohm output impedance.
When you place AI / Ayre together these 2 mismatched components together with any well-designed speaker its a major mismatch.
I agreed with you 100 percent and know what you heard as it was a bleak pairing but it’s not the speaker’s fault as the speaker was only the messenger.
The AI preamp cant drive the10 k load.hence the extremes get rolled off soggy bass no dynamics elevator mids you get the picture etc.
Later Ayre because of this happening to many others changed the input impedance spec of its amps to 100 K and now higher. This gave a much friendlier interface with matching other preamp owners equipment.
Back then the Belles amps were 100 k and worked Fine with AI preamps
I even remember hooking up Soundstage reviewer Doug Blackburn that purchassed Vandy 2s / 3A sigs with Belles and AI and later went to an all Belles pairing and loved it gave Vandersteen Reviewers choice.
Vandys play Beethoven with the Belles like the Vienna Philharmonic.WOM
You may need to come to Jersey to hear it.
The problem was the 2CE speaker. Not the amp and preamp. Several times during the listening session we switched back and forth with a Genesis floor stander. The sound from the same gear coming through the Genesis was spectacular. Aaron Nevilles' voice floating in front on the speaker with remarkable 3D imaging was remarkable and the bottom end was outstanding. Believe me, I'm the last person on earth that needs and education on the technical values matching gear regarding impedance,
capacitance, or resistance values between components, matching cables or interconnects. Curtis made no mistake. Nice try.
2chreak..The current Vandy's look really good. Better crossover boards and better drivers. The speaker I'm referring to that I'm purchasing when the Virtuoso is released is designed by former top speaker engineer at Miller & Kreisel. Their professional pro line back in the 80's was overkill
and their speaker's were used in just about every pro recording studio coast to coast. The designer is David Fabrikant. Hes off the radar just like Belles and his speaker's are killer. Absolute killer. He only sells factory direct and is one of the most decent, friendly, enjoyable audio engineers to chat with, and he has the best customer service I have experienced in thirty years. His company is Ascend Acoustics. And his killer Sierra Tower is one to beat at $10K and under. He is also a speaker/driver designer.
He co-designed his NrT dome tweeter with SEAS which took two years.
The speaker is the Sierra Tower. Check out this review on the EnjoytheMusic website, which is for Musicphiles, not Audiophiles. This past November, I sold by Ascend CBM-170 SE's with my Mira integrated
and Sony SACD player and I must say those little CBM bugger's are some of the best little bookshelf's I've heard during the past 30 years.
David likes staying off the radar and works 12 to 15 hours a day to satisfy his customers. He is a true music man that builds speakers for music lover's, the musicphiles.
I love my Classe CA2200 amp and had no desire in trading it in for something else but after reading this thread, it got me curious about Belles product(s).. I wonder if Belles is going to make a 200w amp from the Virtuoso line ? How they compare to each other ? or sell my SSP800 and CA2200 and get this integrated ? ha ..
oem-wheels..Hard to say. Shoot Dave an email. He responds quickly.
Hes full of surprises. But I would doubt it. My seasoned instincts tell me that the Virtuoso will be so spectacular musically, that separates will be the last thing on your mind. Don't think about, just buy it. And once you do, you will never sell it unless you hit hard times, and you will covet it like no other, and wind up hiring an armed Security Guard to guard your home.