SuburuG, great description of your audition of Bel Canto. I actually hope that you do _not_ experiment with a new power cord (or IC changes) too quickly, because I'd love to hear what you think about the sound you're getting after a week or two passes. That's 'cause I think the psychoacoustic theory about perceived tilting-up of spectral balance after increasing the resolution of the system holds water. I mean, I don't know about your situation in specific, but in general a system with lower resolving power might give mid- and high-range sounds a certain "thickness" that seems comforting when one is used to it and when taken away makes the new sound seem lean and "whitish". (I don't know why this would give a "smeary" sound, which you also mentioned, though.) This perceived effect might change, however, after the brain no longer hears the new sound as "new." Maybe the new sound will sound purer and more emotional, and the old sound will sound veiled -- stranger things have happened! For sure, it's tough to remain objective through this kind of listening process. Still, sometimes I think just leaving things alone and forgetting about the stereo for awhile yields these occasional realizations that, "hey, this is sounding different in such-and-such a way," that are truer to long-term listening happiness than focused A/B-ing, which also can drive one nuts. Anyway, it'd be interesting to see if your perceptual response changes with the passage of a little time.
Suburuguru........whew.......I thought I was loosing my hearing. I'll try not to get distracted by the fact that my DAC 1 is changing Steinway models, (at least it doesn't sound like a Yamaha!) That was a spectacular evaluation and post. Amazingly thorough. I think your problem is those cheap Nordost cables [:)] Please let us know if your cord experiment makes a difference, this might be one of the best proofs for those that are proponents of power cords. I am using the bottom line Blue Circle cord, (about $100,) which is just slightly higher than that $8 job from Bel Canto. What are those guys trying to do? Save us some money? First, the DVD transport and toslink, now an $8 power cord? You have got to love that! Now, if they could just get the price of that SET amp down a little.......Take care and let us know. Charlie
hi subaruguru, perhaps ewe should try a toobed preamp - mebbe that's the key to why tubegroover is having better luck w/the belcanto in his system. i know a toobed pre helped my system tremendously - much greater than upgrading my $500 nad cd changer w/either a $1700 alchemist nexus, or a $3500 res-audio cd-55. regarding the belcanto, there's a local guy here that makes & sells tube equipment (really cool, czech out his www: http://www.bws-tube.com/), & he sez he has a mod for the belcanto that will make it smoke *any* dac under $4k - *his* words, not mine. good luck, doug
Subaruguru not sugarbrie sorry Ernie.
Sugarbrie Whether there was a measurable shift in spectral balance, my guess is probably not, I mean can a power cord result in that type of change? The effect noted was purely subjective in my descriptions since I dont have a spectrum analyzer to measure the real effects of what I heard, now that you mention it. The effect on spectral balance subjectively noted was the improvement in balance and placement of the elements without any of the frequencies giving rise or loss to the others relative to the recording venue. What was most apparent with the cord, to put it more succinctly is that the mid band frequencies appear fuller and more immediate as opposed to leaner and/or more laid back without the cord. (the Bel Canto is laid back relative to my recent experiences with digital) I hope I articulated this so you understand what I am hearing. The blacker background and immediacy certainly has something to do with the RFI filtering that is built in the JPS digital cord. I also spend a lot more time adjusting the volume from recording to recording. Microwave energy abounds where I live (near KSC/Cape Canaveral Florida). The cord has had a direct effect of allowing more of the detail at all frequencies to come through. That effect also is manifested in greater resolution of the recording venue. Recording variations are much more apparent now and that is quite impressive and a big deal to me. The realization of how good and system dependent these Merlins are is more apparent than ever. Their only limitations to my ears are low frequency extension, below 30hz. They are quite accurate/neutral transducers. The overall effect aurally especially on great recordings was more real and immediate as previously noted with greater micro/macro dynamics, again getting back to real. I did welcome the laid back sound of the Bel Canto initially but what I really was looking for in an upgrade was removal of digital edge. The Bel Canto succeeded well in this respect. The Merlins themselves measure flat across the frequency band according to all reports and measurements by the reviewers that took the time to measure. I dont notice any anomalies with reference to peaks in any frequencies, a first for all speaker systems in my room. Their sound is immediate which makes system balancing more difficult. I have had a difficult time balancing all the elements with this system because of the immediacy and resolution. Too much and the sound has you pinned back in the listening position. This has been my problem up till now, the Merlins dont have a problem with laid back, their not! I probably noted less change in the upper frequencies after the cord change but I dont have a problem overall with leanness as you appear to with the Bel Canto. Massed vocals now have such a realness with greater inner detail resolution that I also attribute to the noise reduction brought on by the cord. The massed vocalists come into the room with a distinctness of individual voices and air that is breathtaking. I have heard this before on few systems. On mine it is getting closer to that ever elusive live sound. It is a first on any system I have owned at least relative to digital. Unfortunately for me I dont have a Steinway in my house to compare directly but my aural perceptions of how a piano sounds are intact. Audio systems generally DO NOT realistically give the weight and tonality that a real piano has. I only heard it sound REAL once in a large system in a large room. Piano and vocal recordings are always used as a benchmark when I make changes. I am quite satisfied with what I am now hearing though there is always room for improvement (maybe an OTL amp?). So far as noise is concerned, I also thought my system was relatively quiet. How quiet is it in the middle of the woods with no sound but the crickets and creatures of the night? The cord may have helped me much more than say it might you, Im sure that is going to vary system to system. After speaking with Joe of JPS Labs it is his finding that a greater effect can be noticed by an after market power cord in the DAC/CD player than any other component. Hell get no argument from this camp. This is not the first power cord I have used but it has by far offered the biggest change (improvement). The gentleman who I purchased the Bel Canto from told me he tried the Shunyata Black Mamba mated with the Bel Canto and noted little improvement in HIS system over the less expensive after market cord he was using which would probably indicate that he doesn't have the degree of RFI grunge in his AC that I do. And on a final note there is the matter of tubes versus solid state. No leanness with my 80s vintage ARC amp and pre-amp. As to this is better than that all I say to that is you never know until you hear it in your own system. I try to look for concensus in my buying decisions which is why I have found this forum so very helpful. In my system the Bel Canto is working out well. Synergy Ernie synergy, that's the ticket!! Good luck. Will
Thanks, Tubegroover, et al. Your comment's facscinating in that I spoke with Michael at Bel Canto before my demo and he said they were evaluating power cords for the DAC1, and found an $8 french cord they liked a lot (didn't say if it'd become OE, however). I must admit my eyes began to glaze over, as I didn't believe it could make a difference. My system (noted in the lead post?) consists of Verity Audio Parsifal Encores (amazing!), powered by Aleph 2s I suspended from the floor joists in the basement under the speakers (heat/WAF) fed by an Aleph P, all strung by Nordost Red Dawn balanced IC and Red Dawn II (2.5m). I'm using cheap power strips (w/o surge crap), yet have a totally quiet noisefloor, so assumed power-cord evolution would be fruitless. I'm taken by your observation of a spectral balance shift attributed to the DAC1's power cord change! Hmmm.... Was the evolution away from being uptilted toward neutrality? That's clearly what I need. As nice as those pianos sound on the 'Canto, it's clear that they (and most instruments) shrink in scale!...Steinway D becoming like M or even S! FYI I measured pinks in the AB's, and noticed the BelCanto to be 0.4dB LOUDER than the Rotel 855, so I'm sure the laid-back soundstage is a valid observation of the 'Canto's effect, and not based on a softer level. Also, a few cursory 1/3 octave sweeps verified no other level differences at ANY frequency band, once corrected for the 0.4 dB diff. In-room frequency anomolies of my system, ref pink=0: flat 40-63, +4dB at 80, +1 @ 100, falling to -3dB at 300; climbing to +3dB at 600; falling to -3dB at 3k, then climbing to +3 at 6k, then falling through 0 at 12k. So it seems I have a lean lower-mid and lean lower-treble. The room-related 85Hz bump was worse before I got the Aleph/Nordost stuff. The bass is actually quite wonderful... its the midrange/treble leanness that's bothersome...and seems WORSE with the Bel Canto, again, maybe because its cleaner treble drew more attention to itsself?? Hope I'm making sense. Ya think a power cord can flatten this perceived-or-real upramp? Thanks again. Ernie PS I got a Steinway B in the room, so I KNOW what THAT sounds like! Ric Shultz wrote me that his new Millenium will be way better than the 'Canto (his words...I wish he had time to be more explicit!). What do you guys think? Anybody getting the Millenium II soon?
Subaruguru Sorry for asking in last post, I see your system above.
Subaruguru I wouldn't say you are at all off base with your observations on this unit based on my early first impressions. I would however be interested in knowing the rest of your system. I too found the Bel Canto a little "laid back" in comparison with the Perpet tech P-3a unit which was too forward but ultimately it was the tonal problems with that unit that I really didn't expect would improve enough or mesh well with my system in the long run. I WELCOMED the laid back sound of the Bel Canto with my Merlin VSM-SE’s but still realized something was missing. I was using the stock cord and recently purchased a JPS digital power cord. Bingo. The sound REALLY opened up. It was a quantum improvement, more than I could have ever expected. Who says power cords don’t work, maybe in some systems in mine it was a WOW! Of course one would expect a lower noise floor, improved dynamics and the sort of things attributable to power cords. What really through me for a loop was the dramatic improvement in spectral balance, soundstaging and bass performance. In addition the subtle tonal qualities of the Bel Canto came to light in a way that was completely unnoticed before. Ambient retrieval of low level information was revealed through the blackness. The aspects of what makes live music live were truly revealed in this system for the first time. This with a power cord, no exaggeration! I have made numerous changes and improvements in my system over the past 5-6 months. This power cord with the Bel Canto has taken the system to another level or two. My previous processor the P.S. Audio Ultralink is no slouch in the resolution department, problem with it is that digital edge that brings attention to itself over long term listening plus it is TOO forward, but a lot better than the PT unit tonally, that is for sure. The Bel Canto is in a completely different league. With reference to piano, on some of my REALLY dynamic piano recordings (I am quite sensitive to recorded piano also) I noticed a marked improvement in the jump factor and a sense of realness, especially with the cord. As Danvetc states in his post, try different cables. The Bel Canto is smoooothe and may be perceived as laid back but don’t give up yet, it is a very resolving, dynamic, smooth sounding unit that makes me wonder how much more one would have to pay to make a notable improvement.
Subaruguy, that is a GREAT post! You really captured the morass I often find myself in when evaluating components. --Dan
Subaruguru, don't you think any piece of equipment deserves a little cable shuffling to see what's under the hood? I am using XLO Reference Type 1 and a 2 meter XLO toslink from my Pioneer DVD 525. I really am a fan of the sound I am getting. Also, did you try the DVD by itself to get a feel for it? I was surprised how well my 525 performed for its price, but fear that the low price might result in inconsistencies as a transport. So far, so good. Yeah... that's the ticket, you must have a lemon, or did you forget to plug the dang thing in? [:)] Good luck, Charlie.
Thanks for all the advice, folks. To that end I managed to borrow a BelCanto DAC1 and Pioneer DVD333 (set to 96/24), 2m toslink, and started comparing it to my old Rotel CD855. I expected to be blown away by dramatic improvements...but it didn't happen! Certainly there were significant differences: the 'Canto w/DVD provided a more-resolved treble, but I sensed a tonally lightweight presentation (esp on pianos). Upper octaves' info, although smoother, seemed bathed in a soft, whitish glow that precluded complete individuation of tones (I hate to say "smearing"...maybe a lack of crispness.) Thus the presentation was less immediate, and certainly less exciting on pop recordings (like Paul Simon's latest: try Pigs, Sheep & Wolves) than my naked Rotel. Violinist and professional sopranos who listened observed that violins' upper partials and singers' voices seemed somewhat more natural, however, yet still tonally thin. (The dealer thinks ALL 24/96 processors sound spectrally uptilted due to the improved definition in the upper octaves; maybe there's a pychoacoustic effect wherein the added information results in percetual reorientation? He also suggested I redemo the 'Canto with a warmer, yet equally-resolving interconnect (instead of my RedDawn), such as a Siltech. I don't find my system uptilted with the Rotel, but is that because I'm not "getting" all the top end resolved correctly? The ARCAM 9 seemed spectrally ok, however, but very lacking rhythmically. [:( In many cases the 'Canto's lack of crispness (lack of digital glare?...help me here, guys!) pushed the soundstage back a bit. That was okay for most classical/jazz recordings, but ocassionally less involving on pop stuff. On a few great recordings (Nojima/Liszt) I found the 'Canto/DVD enthralling, and not significantly uptilted. But pianos are tricky. Substituting the Rotel as a transport resulted in some intermediate place I couldn't get a handle on; three-way comparisons are too hard, and mostly invalid, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't better than either of the former setups--just somewhere in between. I must say the 'Canto's rhythmic abilities are superb: it REALLY keeps time! So that part's okay. Do you think I should try the 'Canto again with a warmer cable, hoping to darken this whitishness on top (the "CustomHouse Barracuda" the dealer's clerk let me borrow was so obscuring of detail that ALL setups sounded equally unresolved! I've similarly been warned to stay away from MIT or CARDAS)?... or should I continue with the Red Dawn's openness and try another DAC, such as the Perpetual Tech,or EVS Millenium II. Some of you have mentioned the EMC1. $3k used is a lot in these pre-revolutionary times. I was about to try the RA CD55, but am concerned about its lack of digital outputs. I'm on Ric's waiting list for the EVS II, but I sadly find I'm not spending time listening to my system because I feel I don't know how to fix it. Am I bumping up against the limitations of the RedBook?...and if so, can I fix it, or do I have to await the newer formats? Sorry this post is a streamofconsciousness jumble.... Thanks again. Ernie PS. Bel Canto told ME that they prefer DVD/2meter toslink, and I related that to my cousin Wes Phillips, who printed it in his review...funny how it all goes around, eh?
Sol, I will of course share results after break-in, my system very similar to Wes Phillips, Musical Fidelity A3CD MF amp/preamp.......I am very happy with current system for Classical and other well recorded material, but 1/2 of CD collection is rock/alt and many of these recordings treble will have some digital edge/glare in extended passages. Auric Illuminator and Bedini II remove some of it, and of course cables can reduce or exaggerate the effect, I am hoping Bel Canto slow roll-off filter and zero jitter will further clean up these recordings.....as well as make other good recordings even better, Sam
Sam: I was looking for the same upgrade with the . Please share with us your findings and test CD's you use.
Tubegroover, I purchased used Bel Canto Dac1 couple days ago, will start out with HT cyberlink copper digital cable, and keep an eye out for used Illumination D60 or HT cyberlink platinum here at audiogon to upgrade to. This will go with my Musical Fidelity A3CD player, just like Wes Phillips at onhifi.com site.........must stop reading new reviews or stock market must go up to compensate for my audio addictions, Sam
If budget were less of a concern, which upsampling DACs would you look at? I'm particularly interested in anyone's experience with the gear from Dodson and dCS. Thanks.
I am also on the EVS Millennium DAC II waiting list. I have never heard any EVS product but after researching my options on the net I believe this DAC will be very good. I started an Audiogon thread recently soliciting user comments on the EVS DAC I, there are 4 favorable replies there. I also believe the EVS unit will provide a better upgrade path to future digital formats than most of its competitors. I spoke with Ric today and he indicated he will offer a lower cost DAC early next year in the $450 price range. I recently auditioned the Perpetual Technologies P-1A P-3A combo and found them impressive in many ways but I just had the feeling that I could do better elsewhere and opted for the EVS unit which also has 30 day evaluation program. Has anyone heard the JOB unit? Listener magazine had a review in the last issue but I have not heard any other opinions. God bless.
Ric from EVS' Millenium II upsampling DAC's should be rolling off the line VERY soon. As mentioned earlier in the thread, they are back-ordered for some time to come though. I've been on the list for quite a while and hope to have mine in the next month or so according to the last email that i got from him. According to what i've read about them, they should be OUTSTANDING. I know that he's extremely selective in terms of what parts he uses. There have been a few guys that dumped multi-thousand dollar DAC's after using one of his earlier non-upsampling units. Those originally sold for appr. $600 in base form. Sean >
Hi Mark No I haven't heard SACD and probably would not comment on it UNLESS I could hear it in MY system. The upsampling units are really the only way to go for me at this time until this whole matter on DVDa and SACD gets sorted out. By most accounts I have heard, SACD is THE best format sonically but I for one don't believe it is going to survive as a mainstream format in the long run. I have never been a big advocate of digital after living with analog for so long. The timbre correctness, and high frequency extension of analog over digital has always been much too obvious. The Bel Canto while not analog really is quite impressive and has changed my outlook on digital as a whole, especially at the price point. I would highly recommend it for anyone who is on a budget and waiting for the whole digital cluster to sort out. I never really considered SACD. I am by no means an expert on digital and contrary to all I have read, what I have actually listened to over the years has never made me want for it. I now envision digital truly equaling the virtues of analog, it is going to happen.
Tubegroover, have been waiting for your impression of the P3A and BelCanto! I like you am looking for a cd upgrade (I have a CEC TL5100 transport with a DPA PDM2 dac). So you are impressed with the BelCanto, BUT I have to ask, 1. Have you heard SACD yet and 2. If so, how close does your combo compare with SACD? Its just that Sony have released their cheaper SACD player here (Aust; about US$700) and I dont have the opportunity of demoing any gear firsthand. Any thoughts/experience?
Hi Sam I am currently using a Cardas Lightning coaxial cable. I do plan on trying the toslink with a DVD transport. Have heard it isn't too good on CD transport. Wes Phillips in his review recommends a toslink at least 2 meters, I have time to sort it all out. Am just marveling at how good this unit is.
Tubegroover, what digital IC are you using, did you try toslink connection? many people say they hear big difference between coaxial/toslink connection
I recently tried out the P.T. P-3A and while the resolution, bass, noise floor and dynamics were excellent, tonally the unit never came around. Maybe I didnt wait long enough but I didnt want to wait any longer than the 2 weeks I gave the unit. I decided to purchase the Bel Canto which is what I really was looking for prior to being talked into the P-3A. I have not listened to the MSB or the EVS Millineum DAC so cant comment on either of those. The Bel Canto is everything others have said. Very sweet and extended highs, more like analog than digital. Superb resolution and good bass. It works very well in my system and has taken away much of the forwardness. Timbre and air around the instruments are very well rendered with this unit. In addition the digital edge noted before is gone which is a big deal to me. I cant imagine that there is anything in this price range that is BETTER though maybe as good. All said above, this is with the stock cord and a JVC 1050 CD as transport. I am sure there is tweeking to do which will improve on the above. I am still deciding what power cord to get for it.
Thanks Megasam, Ric is a real nice and inteligent guy. No sales pressure what so ever.
Phile, EVS = electronic visionary systems, website is www.tweakaudio.com Fam makes good point that there are several Bel Canto DAC1s used here at Audiogon for $800-900, and soundstage.com also has good review of Bel Canto.......
What does EVS stand for? I'm also trying new DAC's. I can't find this EVS Millenium. I'm currently trying the Perpetual P1a & P3a. They are very impressive and may be better as they break in. Plus they are promising room correction & speaker correction software upgrades in the future. They do have a problem with difficult music passages, which Perpetual told me about after I purchased the DACs. Stating that they are under warrenty. I proceded to remind them that I'm still in my 30 day in home trial. The DACs clip like an amp on well recorded,extended dynamics. Perpetual assures me they are going to exchange my DACs for the new with repaired software. Other than this little setback they sound wonderful.
I fully concur with Mroadster. The only thing is that the waiting list is such that it may take you forever to get the EVS DAC (very high demand/limited production). Hence, I would suggest in the meantime that you purchase one of the used Bel Canto units that are always being offered at Audiogon, typically around $950, and try it out with your associated equipment. You might just love it. The thing to consider is, these DACs are usually found in mint condition (there are no moving parts to wear out and once set up, they are largely a hands-off item) and so if you find the Bel Canto does not make for a good synergistic match, you can easily turn around and sell it back out, likely for pretty much what you paid for it. In conjunction with the above, you might also wish to consider placing an order for an EVS DAC immediately, because it is going to take a heck of a long time in coming. If the Bel Canto is still around by the time you receive the EVS unit, you can A/B them in your system. If you find the EVS DAC doesn't afford you better results than the Bel Canto, given the long waiting list, I fully expect you will be able to sell it right back out for what you paid. Just some food for thought. Good luck.
Look into the EVS Millenium 2 DAC, Probably the best bang for the buck at $850.00 price tag, Ric really knows what he is doing and you will not find a better DAC for the money especially at this price tag, his markup is not very much for the parts he is supplying, besides his DAC's sound incredible!!! Ric is more interested in providing people with great sound then making an outrageous profit. Mike Salamone
Ernie, go to onhifi.com Wes Phillips has new review on Bel Canto Dac1........he really likes it, but it costs $1295 so may be too high for some budgets, Sam