Marantz HD-DAC1 vs Bel Canto DAC 1.x/2.x/3.x?


Has anyone had the chance to compare the Marantz HD-DAC1 to any of the Bel Canto DACs?

The Marantz is $800, plays DSD, and has a headphone amplifier. It has a line out (into a preamp) and variable line out (hence can be used as a preamp).

The Bel Cantos range from $1,500-$4,500. No headphone amp. The amplification is digital (hence digital preamp), and feeds the amp directly.

Has anyone had a chance to listen to both makes and give some feedback as to the audio quality and characteristics differences?

Since no one has chimed in yet, I had the DAC3 and DAC3 VB in my system on extended demo and they were outstanding. If you go with BC you need to get the VB version as it brings the DAC to a much much higher level. Extremely neutral and transparent yet exceedingly natural sounding with incredible imaging and soundstaging is how I'd sum it up. I also used it direct into my amp, and although I didn't notice any improvements I also heard no negative effects, so I view that as a positive if you plan to use it this way. No balance control though if that's an issue. Reviews compare it favorably to some of the best (and much pricier) DACs extant, and I certainly see why. I haven't heard the Marantz, but I'd be very surprised if a DAC built to that price level could achieve this level of performance. Then again, personal taste comes into play to so that's a big unknown. DSD could be an issue too. Anyway, hope this helps somewhat and best of luck.
DAC is one place where price has nothing to do with sound quality. See if you can find out which DAC chip they use, as all DAC using the same chip sounds alike.

Looks like Del Canto uses PCM1796, which is a 6bit R2R + rest Delta Sigma. This chip sounds pretty nice. Ross Martin Audio would be a budget choice if you like the sound of this chip.

Looks like that Marantz uses CS4398, I have never heard of this chip so I can't comment. "multibit Delta-Sigma" so looks like it'll have similar sound to PCM1796, see if you can find out how many bits R2R it is, more bits sounds better.
Coli said: "DAC is one place where price has nothing to do with sound quality. See if you can find out which DAC chip they use, as all DAC using the same chip sounds alike."

I think many digital designers would disagree with that statement. Just for example - Lampizator, who builds some very good dacs, states on his website that the chip is 10% of the sound. But that's his opinion, of course.
Then again, others have said, "The transport is 80% of the sound." So, spend less on the dac but more on the transport?
Would the Marantz with a venerable transport such as the Esoteric VRDS Neo, sound better than the Bel Canto with the same transport? As always, the proof is in the listening.
One thing that helps a lot is a pro grade reclocker, eg: mutec smart clock, then add in balanced power and they really all sound pretty much the same as long as they use the same $5 DAC chip. The only place in DAC world that may be worth the dollar are custom DAC chips.
Hi Zordex,
What are you using as transport?
This is fed from a PC using foobar.