HELP ... Mac MIni and Bel Canto DAC3 Problems ...


My Setup:
Mac Mini --> Bel Canto DAC3 via USB --> Simaudio I-7 via XLR --> Dynaudio Confidence C1.

My Problem:
I just received a slightly used Bel Canto DAC3 today to replace a Benchmark Media DAC1 USB. I planned on doing an A/B comparison. However, when I unplug the Benchmark and plug in the Bel Canto, I get music drop-outs and pops every 5 to 10 seconds. I have tried everything I can think of to no avail ... I still get the continuous drop-outs and clicks.

Should I return the Bel Canto or is there a fix for this? PLEASE HELP!!!!

Additional info ... the Bel Canto DAC3 has firmware revision 2.01.

Thanks :-)
This is strange. I just came from a buddy's home with my DAC 3. We hooked it up to his Mac Mini. After a little playing around in the Midi worked just fine.

I'm not a Mac user,but what do you see in your Midi setup?
My output shows "USB Audio CODEC" ... I tried adjusting settings in Midi setup to no avail.

I think that it is a digital lock problem as the first decimal point in the display lights up just before I get a drop-out or pop. Hold on, I am going to try something ...

... I think I have found the problem. I connected my USB cable directly to the Mac Mini, instead of going through the USB Hub, and the drop-outs have almost completely disappeared. I am now using a 20ft USB cable ... I'll try a shorter one and see if that removes the remaining pops.

I guess the Benchmark has better digital locking as it was able to lock on with my old set up without issue. Anyway, this looks like it is going to solve the problem ... now to spend a couple of days doing an A/B comparison between the two ...

Thanks for your help :-) BTW, how did the Mini / DAC3 combo sound at your friend's house???
I use a 15 ft cable no problems in my setup.It sounded great in my friend's setup! It sounded so good he didn't want me to take it away! lol
He's vowed the Bel Canto Dac 3 will be his next purchase.It will replace his preamp and DAC. Just like it replaced mine. ;-)

He drove two monster amps with the Bel Canto. A Classe CA300 and a Audire Otez. Both look like engine blocks sitting on the floor.

It is a phenomenal piece ..which you are soon to learn! :-)
I had a similar problem with my bel canto DAC 2 aka the brick. I had frequent drops in signal as evidenced by the input signal light changing color every 20 seconds or so. Needless to say this was a pain. The sound was great in between. After a good deal of research, here and via the bel canto folks, I concluded that this isn't extremely uncommon to bel canto dacs. I was told the clock was extremely sensitive to any jitter. My cary cdp did fine with other dacs and alone. I bet the the problem is the combo, mho only of course.
Remember that the USB cable not only carries data it carries power.

Not all hubs are created equal - often one that has its own power supply will work.

That is most likely why everything was fine when you plugged it in to the Mac itself.
Here is a copy of the review I just posted in the "Reviews" section ...

For those of you who want to skip to the end, the Bel Canto DAC3 wins by a long shot ... at least in my subjective opinion. Not because it does any one thing significantly better than the Benchmark Media DAC1. But rather because, when taken as a whole, each aspect of the performance is just a little bit better thus taking the entire musical experience to the next level.


To begin with, I have great components set up in the worst possible space that forces me in to a near-field listening situation ... obviously not ideal. Nonetheless, it provides for a fairly amazing audio experience and actually allows me to hear certain nuances that I would not otherwise hear in a regular listening set-up. For those of you interested in a more thorough explanation of my set up with some pics, click here and prepare to chuckle:

As for my subjective observations comparing the Bel Canto and Benchmark DACs, they are as follows. Also, note that I ran two USB cables simultaneously from my computer, one in to each DAC, so that I could perform a true A/B comparison ...

Highs - I found the Benchmark (BM) highs to be a bit rolled off in the higher frequencies. This was not the case for the Bel Canto (BC) where the highs extended fully throughout the frequency range. For example, on the Martin Taylor and Tuck Andress guitar solos that I listened to, the sound that their fingers made when sliding across the strings sounded much more open and realistic on the BC.

Bass - The BM and BC were fairly similar as far as the bass is concerned. However, the BC was just a bit warmer and more natural sounding than the BM. For example, on Jeanie Bryson's "Why Don't You Do Right?" the stand up Bass strumming sounded a tad warmer and ... well, I can only describe it as more "acoustic". Also, the amazing kick drum on Lenny Kravitz's "American Woman" seemed to resonate just a bit lower and longer using the BC ... not a lot, but just enough to where you notice a subtle difference.

Soundstage - HUGE ... both of the DACs present a great large soundstage. However, on Ray Charles' "Oh, What A Beautiful Morning" on Ray Sings, Basie Swings the sax and trumpets projected just a bit farther outside the speakers on the BC. Conversely, the soundstage with the BM appears to be a bit deeper to me. Accordingly, no winner here ... simply do you like your soundstage wider or deeper?

Imaging - Now this is interesting ... both DACs provide great, nicely focused imaging. However, the BC's image tended to follow the side to side movement of my head significantly more than the BM. For example, on Nora Jones' "Turn Me On" her voice is perfectly centered when my head was centered. But if I moved it left or right, the image followed my head significantly more with the BC. The sonic qualities didn't change, the imaging simply followed the movement of my head more ... weird. Nonetheless, the size of the imaged voice or instrument was always just a bit larger with the BC making it the winner in this aspect as well.

Separation - The BC was the clear winner here and this was very important to me. Some producers like to stack voices and instruments in the dead center of a recording instead of moving them a tad left or right. This is a mistake IMHO and can cause voices and instruments to get lost in the jumble. For example, on the Beatles' "Revolution" from the Love CD, John's voice seems to get lost in Ringo's drums on most every system that I have heard, including mine at home using the BM. However, with the BC in place, there is much better separation between the two and John's singing is heard much more clearly. This makes a HUGE difference in complex songs that have too many items mixed to center.

So, in conclusion, the differences in each aspect of the music were generally small when reviewed individually. However, when you add them up and they are experienced as a whole, the Bel Canto DAC3 is much more musical and provides for a more enjoyable listening experience.

And that is all I have to say about that ...


PS - My entire system is comprised of components that I purchased used on Audiogon over the past few months for less than $10k.
Pwfletcher mentioned the BC to do great in separating the voices and instruments when things really start to cook..

My friend and I both agreed on this yesterday while listening.That's one of the areas where this Dac got two thumbs up. It never sounds confused or jumbled.The images are ROCK SOLID!

Thanks for the nice review. I concur with your assessment of the BC. I was planning to sell mine this week if it didn't work out. I just bought mine brand new a few days ago. So no brand loyalty here..either it works for me or it's got to go!

I'm happy to report it's not going any where any time soon!lol
The only other Dac I've had here for audition that sounds similar was an Empirical audio modified ECD-1. That Dac was around 4 grand with the modifications and was the best I've heard. The BC Dac 3 stands toe to toe IMO.

Good listening
Running a BC DAC3 and M300 monoblocs for about
six months now, fed by a Mac Mini, finished with
Monitor Audio Platinum 100s.
All purchased new for around $10k total.
Tried lots of other stuff: complicated, fussy and messy.
None of it sounded better.
Actually, none of it sounded as good. :-)
Michaelct.... are you using the optical out or usb from the mac mini? have you compared the two outputs into the BC DAC3?

oh and what storage drive are you using?

I'm using USB to USB. A Bel Canto engineer told me
by phone that with a Mac, USB is best, so haven't even
bothered trying optical. ( Maybe USB is best with Windows
too, I don't know -- and I don't care. ;-) )

As I inferred in my previous post, I tried lots of fussy mussy
and complicated stuff, to little avail and at significant expense.
None of it was worth it, that I could *hear*.
Hard to beat a $5, 6" USB cable for simplicity. :-)

I currently use only the hard drive in the Mini --
I ordered a 120 GB drive upgrade when I bought the Mini new,
which holds about 400 CDs in Apple Lossless format.
That happens to be enough for me, for now.
I own a Newer Technology 500 GB 'mini stackable' drive
that I use for other purposes, but it would be a little too noisy
for my tastes as an add-on the Mini server. I've read that
quieter Mini-stackable drives exist but I can't advise
which though, I've forgotten.
I've tried both on sounded about the same too me. No real difference to put one a head of the other.
To everyone, thanks for all the info. I have been doing some internet research on DAC's. The new Bel Canto DAC 3 has really caught my eye. I'm hoping it really catches my ears as well. I recently auditioned the Rotel 1082 with the Rega Apollo. Both sounded great together but a little weak on the bass. Though a fine tuned sub took care of the issue. I have a 12" Velodyne. Currently I am running a Proceed HPA2 to a pair of B&W 804's. The connection being made with Monster M2.4 biwire cables, Monster M1000 RCA's. I will be using a newly purchased Mac mini as my server.
I look forward to hearing some feedback and or suggestions.
I found some of the same different with my benchmark dac.
But I found the balanced outputs performed much better than the RCAs. Which were you using.
One thing to consider is whether u want to use headphones as well....The Bel Canto doesn't have headphone outs so you will need to add a headphone amp if you desire that functionality added to your system