My New Bel Canto DAC 2's just outta the box, and it certainly needs some break-in, but here's my initial reaction. All obsevations are meant to be comparisons with the DAC 1.1. Most importantly the DAC 2 significantly deepens the soundstage. I'd even go so far as saying that it's 30/40 percent deeper. Next, vocals both male and female, are clearer and a little more forward. It seems that the DAC 2 has lost some of the 1.1's liquidity and therefore is a little less musical. On the other hand the occasional muffling that the 1.1 is guilty of has disappeared. I'll get back after some significant break-in. Cheers.
Hi Tbadder. Iused to own the 1.1 and sold it in favor of a Kora Hermes, so your comments are very interesting to me. I'm sure your DAC2 will only get better and gain musicality as it breaks in. What do you have it mated to? Bel Canto is a great company. Let us know how it shapes up.
Yes, initial reactions are deceptive, definitely need 1-200 hrs to settle in. BTW what digital cable and AC cord are you using, any info about your system would be most helpful.

Please keep us posted.
Tbadder, (or anyone): What transport, or DVDP, are you using your DAC 2 with? And what kind of cable? I've been shopping for a new or used CDP (Cary, Meridian 508.24, etc) but am starting to consider the Bel Canto DAC & would initially use with my Pioneer 525; or maybe get a Sony ES-9000. Any advice? Anyone have a sense of how the DAC 2 compares with $2k to $4K CDP's?

Thanks! Steve
Hi Guys:

Lets see, equipment: Bel Canto Pre-1(DAC 2 is installed in pre-amp) mated to a Bel Canto Evo 200.2 amp. For a transport I'm using the Theta Data Basic II. The Elco Ulitmate Digital connects DAC to transport. My speakers are the Tyler Acoustic Linbrook Monitors. My AC cords are a combination of the BMI entry level cords that were offered when the company first took flight and Dedicated Audio's top of the line cord (name escapes me right now). Zeus Audio XLR silver interconnects mate the amp and pre-amp.

After about ten more hours of listening I'd like to address (be more accurate) about the increase in soundstage depth. The whole sounstage seems to have been moved back about a foot or so, but the entire soundstage is several feet deeper overall (if that makes sense, I was kinda surprised but my wife agrees with this assessment and she got better ears than I do). The effect is that there's more separation of the individual instruments. On a Mapleshade recording the result of this is stunning, but more interestingly, on a crappy recording (like my old Rascals complilation CD) it seems as if the DAC is struggling to place the instruments against all hope. The thing that's impressive is that it succeeds occasionally, so the recording is still lousy, not just as lousy, and sometimes pleasantly surprising.

The other fascinating obsevation that's holding true for the first 15 hours is that I can turn down the volume and not lose any detail. This was definitely a problem with the 1.1, it loved juice, it begged for juice, but strangely the identical volume settings are producing less overall volume. I simply can't account for this? One side of me is distrustful of this observation, but the other side of me keeps claiming it's obviously true. Anyone got ideas why this could be?'s late. Cheers and I'll keep updating regularly.
I paired the Bel Canto with the Pioneer 525 for a number of months, before finally auditioning and then purchasing a dedicated CD transport. The 525 was pretty good, but the Proceed CDD transport I now use is much better in all respects, and pretty obviously so. Before you purchase the 525, I would suggest auditioning the DAC with a good CD transport. I know that BC once (still?) recommended using cheapo DVD players as transports, but my experience is more consistent with what other users seem to have found.

If you do use the 525, I found the sound was much better using an Acoustic Zen Silver Photon coax than any of the several Toslinks I tried.

Tbadder: how do you like the Linbrook monitors? How do they compare to other monitors you have heard?

Steve: I hate to sound over the top (it usually doesn't do anyone any good and it leads to inaccuracies) but the two pieces in my system that are near world class (notice I said near) are the Evo 200.2 and the Linbrooks. A buddy and I went to see an Avante Garde Uno demonstration (an 11,000 dollar speaker) and we both thought that the Linbrooks were 85 to 90 percent of the Unos. We were stunned, a 4,800 dollar monitor in the same league. I bought mine here on Audiogon for 2,500 smackers (a demo).
First the monitor is a bit of a misnomer--these are big and heavy and you virtually have no choice but to purchase the matching stands. The Seas Millenium tweeter is even better than the Scanspeak Revelator (I've owned both) and the magnesium mid/woofers work effortlessly on all but the most complicated and complex passages. I'm not a bass nut; I distrust bass and for my taste(and I know this is personal) I think no one really gets it right--not Revel, not Wilson, certainly not Velodyne, et al. But you won't need a sub with these--they're dead flat down to 35 and minus 3db at 30. Haven't tested this scientifically, but if I'm off by more than a point or two I'll be the proverbial monkey's uncle. If you like a fast, highly detailed speaker, that's easy to drive (sensitivity 94) you're gonna love these. Just this Saturday I sat through a two hour Soliloquy 6.3 demo (their new flagship model) and the Linbrooks bested them without any problem. If you're a jazz/blues fan man oh man these will kill you. If you like pop rock or Reggae or country these will knock your socks off. If you're a dedicated Classical fan who is totally into orchestration then get the Unos.
How does the DAC2 compare with the DAC1 and DAC1.1 in terms of extension at the upper and lower frequency extremes, resolution, noise floor and timbral accuracy across the frequency spectrum?
TBADDER, volume differences mean nothing. They are two different designs, and just don't have the same output. You need to listen to them at the SAME volume.

I've a new DAC 2 also, too soon to give meaningful opinions, but it is clearer, more resolving, cleaner than my present DAC. However, the bass is my concern now. Let break in tell us..........
Just got my DAC2, and for the money it's a no brainer. Not quite up to my Camelot Uther (w/ anagram chip upsamples 24/192) but close. It's gonna be another giant killer I'm afraid, just like the DAC1 was.
I'm into hour 30 of the break in and if things continue to improve,'ll just be scary. As I upgraded from the 1.1 I'm betting my break-in is gonna happen quicker than those of you who bought it new (although the board is completely new, the DAC 2 and the 1.1 share the same power supply).

Wvcb: in a word--balance. The DAC 2 has a balance that the 1.1 simply didn't have. Lets be honest the 1.1 had a character and I bought it with that in mind. I was using it as tone control for a system I thought ran to the bright side. The 1.1 was lush and rolled off the treble. I suspect Bel Canto did this so it would suggest a tubiness, and act as a counterbalance to the Evo's extraordinary resolution. Detail may have been lost but the machine was so listenable, so non-fatiguing. The DAC 2 doesn't roll the treble; it's very neutral and quite extended. When listening to my remastered copy of Big Country's The Crossing the E-bows are shrill (the engineer should be shot for screwing up this fantastic album) and painful to listen to, but when listening to Dwight Yoakam's Hillbilly Deluxe the steel guitars and fiddles are sweet and open and reach for the sky without any of the Big Country ear bleeding. The DAC 2 really is playing what's there, good or bad.

Kevziek: Bass? The 1.1 and the DAC 2 seem like different beasts, but maybe not all that much. The 1.1's lushness caused some lower-midrange bloom. And personally I loved that (even though saying so is an audiophile sin). I loved the long decay rates of the 1.1, like ripples in water, like the after taste of an expensive red wine--it was beautiful in a velvety way. Rise times for brass and percussion sounded natural, but man oh man, those lingering notes were very romantic. In other words the 1.1 didn't do much for dirty, nasty rock n' roll.

My favorite music in the world is late 70's to mid-80's punk rock--give me X and the Clash over Mozart and Thelonious Monk. Only problem was that the 1.1 sounded best with my Mel Torme and Dean Martin Cds, interesting and fun, but it wasn't going to sustain my soul. Anyways, I often thought that the lower midrange overpowered the bass. That bloom is gone with the DAC 2. Both rise times and decay are fast. The DAC 2 seems to be a sprinter. When listening to the Mapleshade recording of the reggae group Midnite (currently my number 1 recommendation for best recorded CD) the bass is tight and fast. There's an excitement and a dynamic quality that wasn't there with the 1.1. With the 1.1 this recording was flabby and it shook the walls and stereo cabinet--not any more. Bass and lower mids are in attack mode, well-defined, but maybe overly linear.

In another ten or twenty hours I'll give another update on my impressions. Happy listening everyone.
What equipment are you using with your DAC 2? In particular what digital front end is it replacing and how does it compare? Also what power cords, digital cables and interconnects are you using?
What equipment are you using with your DAC 2?

I noted with interest your comparison with the Camelot Uther v2.0 Mk.4 24/192 DAC ($3995 US). Could you expand a bit on this point please. Also what's the difference like now that you have some more hours on the DAC 2?
In a discussion at Harmonic Discord the DAC 2 didn't do so well compared to the Art Dio and the Channel I sland modded Norh CD-1. Interesting discussion though. One of the members claimed that the DAC 2 was boomy. After 45 hours of break-in this isn't true with my equipment. In fact the bass remains taut, very taut. Next Monday I'm getting three Virtual Dynamic power cords, the Audition model cryoed. So I think any contribution I make after that could be meaningless.
Wcvb,I've got all kinds of gear, JeffRowland 2 w/ battery supply, Audion PX25, Goldmund 3,ClaytonS40, Gamut D-100, and Von Schweikert DB 100 speakers. Tekline cables. The Camelot seems to have a little more air, even though the DAC2 is not as rolled off as the DAC1.1, it still seems a little rolled compared to the Camelot. The soundstage is as good as the Uther, I think the bass is fine w/ the DAC2. The DAC2 is a fine DAC for $1395.00 retail. You just need a real good preamp to let it get through to the amp.I've also been playing with the Final Labs Battery stuff. This is the best gear I've heard period.Bel Canto can produce fine gear because they can cut cost by their mass production. It's a fine DAC. The Pre. 1 is a great preamp also, if you get the Bel Canto DAC built in the pre. you'll have a killer setup that can't be beat unless you spend 5 times the $$$. and then only a little better.
Its been over 150 hours of break in and I think I'm ready for a definitive statement. The DAC 2 is a big step forward for Bel Canto. Everyday I am rediscovering my 3000 redbook CDs and I'm captivated.

Everything I've mentioned before has basically held true except for the soundstage which has reasserted itself forward. So chalk up one for the DAC 2--deeper soundstage.

The liquidity of the DAC 1.1 no longer exists in the DAC 2. Accurate and balanced, it has an unforgiving attitude toward poorly recorded material. This means some recordings I own will never see the light of day again. Put one in the DAC 1.1 column.

Detail and vocals are the DAC 2's biggest strength. Crystal clear, very little graininess. Instruments sound like instruments and don't meld with other instruments during complex passages. Therefore, well recorded pieces become more life-like. That's a big one in the DAC 2 ledger. The DAC 1.1 was simply overcome by complex passages, muddying the entire presentation.

Listening at lower levels changed the presentation little if any with the DAC 2. When turning down the volume with the 1.1 the listener could no longer tell a piece was being upsampled--sounded identical to original redbook production. DAC 2 clearly wins here.

No treble roll off. I know some have mentioned this as a possible concern. All I got to say is get John Hammond Live on Rounder Records and be prepare for some of the most extended highs you've ever heard. Very dynamic (because of the player's passion) and very natural (because that's what blues harps sound like). The DAC 1.1 clearly rolled off. Another check in the DAC 2 column.

Bass: this is where the DAC 2 might come up short. If you like ultra fast bass no problem, but if you like speedy bass with some bloom, or lush bass--forget it. It ain't gonna happen here. It's like a hamstring just getting ready to snap--not always appropriate. I think this is the DAC 2's character. This is how the DAC 2 changes the music source, how it colors the music. As I prefer speed with some bloom I'm going give this one to the DAC 1.1.

Fatigue vs. boredom--the bad side of "musicality is a tendency toward sameness, which induces boredom, not fatigue. Fatigue is an overrevealling system that sounds great for 20 minutes but then becomes excuriating. Boredom was a problem for the 1.1, not often, but sometimes, especially with rock n roll. But fatigue with the DAC 2 is non-exsistent. It's more like a series of surprises and wows, even when I'm just sort of listening while doing dishes or correcting papers. For the first time in my life I listened to music for ten straight hours. DAC2 is the victor here in a profound way. I'm exploring my CDs and not just rushing to buy every new CD in sight--saving a lot of money with my DAC 2!

So there you have it. Of course these ar only my impressions, and I'm by no means an expert. Compared to other DACs I've heard I can only say that I now think that I prefer the DAC2 to the EVS MIllenium II and the older Kora Hermes ( I haven't heard the updated, tube rolled, modded Hermes, which I suspect is still superior). Most importantly for me I now prefer my digital to the lower priced SACD machines and the multi-channel SACD in the new Sony 777. However I still crave the SACD of the SCD-1, and the original 777.

For 1300 bucks I really don't believe you can go wrong. I think once we all gather all the information we can concerning the new Musical Fidelity DAC or if Chord drops the 64 price, then we can really determine if the new Bel Canto is an industry leader.
I loved the 1.1 and want to hear the new DAC-2 along with the new Musical Fidelity A3-24. They are $100 apart and I will probably end up with one or the other. Anyone had a chance to hear both dacs? I would appreciate any thoghts you would have. The MF does have switchable upsampling from 96 to 192 and may have a slightly better power supply, but actual listening is the only real test. Thanks
Tbadder - Thank you much for your through evaluation. I am still on the fence on this one but you have successfully described the sonic differences between the 1.1 and the 2 in a most credible manner. I really love the 1.1 but can relate to your statement about boredom and sameness. I guess I'll try that art/dio upgrade for now and see what happens.

Best of luck Tubegroover and remember to post your findings. I would be very interested in learning more about the art/dio.
Now that you have had your player for a week, are you still enjoying it? I will be interested in your reviews after the dust settles a bit and you are living with your new DAC day in and day out. Maybe one month from now.......
Pardales:Since I let the DAC run continuously for a week it is well-burned in. What I said in my last post is holding true. But there is a single caveat, I've now upgraded my power cords to Virtual Dynamics References, and am in the process of breaking them in. So anything I say now must be taken with a grain of salt--but I must say that my greatest joy so far has been rediscovering old CDs that were unlistenable because they were shrill or muddled. Now I'm discovering new layers of instrumentation, lyrics I never heard before, and a tonal balance that I never expected.
Are the power cords you upgraded too going into the DAC or elsewhere? I'll be curious to hear what difference it makes....Thanks for your thorough review and comments...
My DAC is installed in the pre-amp, so in a way the powercord is going to the DAC. I'll update in another week or so.
Understood. So you must have one of Bel Canto's preamps? If so which one?
I also have DAC 2, that is probably only half-burned in. It is more transparent than my former Theta IIIa. There is less texture or grain, although I never thought of the Theta this way. The bass has improved, and is quite good. Overall, the presentation is less upfront than the Theta, but I must point out that I tend to like things a little upfront. However, there is no contest in terms of information retrieval and cleanness -- The DAC 2 wins here. Until I try some other things, I must say that the DAC 2 is quite a fine sounding piece, and may stay in my system for some time.
Guys, hope you don't mind my posting just so I ca follow this thread.
A'gon, here's an idea:
How about allowing a thread to be flagged w/o having to post?

I like that idea KP.
I have the Pre-1--decided against the Sep-1 after reading the Sounstage review. And I have to admit I really agree with the article (from a dedicated tube guy) there's nothing clinical or overly lean about the Pre-1. Very pleased.