New Bel Canto Gear at RMAF

Anyone have a chance to hear the new Bel Canto amplification at RMAF? I understand they have a Mk II version of the Ref 1000's and some new mono amps. I'd be interested in hearing impressions.
I heard these amps in the Bel Canto room with the proto type TAD compact reference speakers and the sound was terrific. Some of the best at the show.
Yes, Bel Canto Ref 500 monos in room 589 in the Marriott were driving a pair of $38K TED speakers and the result was. . . magnificent! Open, extended top to bottom, graceful, authoritative, nuanced. Bel Canto Ref 500 monos are worth listening too. . . do not be fooled by their basic/industrial look. . .. just remember that as they are class D amps and they run very cool they are likely to be real bears to break in. Guido
Thanks for your input. It's the new 500 monos that have caught my attention are are in my price range. Do you recall how the rest of the system at RMAF was configured? Were the M500's being show with the Pre 3? Were they using the Bel Canto Dac or Phono stage? I hear a lot about Bel Canto amps and Dacs but less about their preamp and phono stage.
Good news for tube preamp owners is the input impedance of the new REF1000 Mk II amplifiers, 100kOhms per phase.
This particular setup was considered a Soundstage! Standout Demo. For more details, visit the link:
The ref 500's sounded wonderful driving the Joseph Audio RM55 se's.
From the Soundstage blurb linked above:

"The sound was finely detailed and rich with ambience, satisfying even those listeners seated to one side or the other."

Bang on I must say. . . I was one of those people sitting on one side, by the way.

Hi to all,

I've recently purchased a pair of Andras by Eggleston Works. These babies can really rock but are innefficient at 87Db and combined with 2 12'' woofers + 2 6'' midranges are demanding for an amplifier. I have a Krell FPB 300c with it's running mate the KCT preamp. While the Krell is no slouch I was curious in trying something with more ''oomph''. So I got my hands on a pair of Bel Canto Ref 1000 which put out 500W/ch in 8 ohms and doubles into 4 ohms. Very surprising (pleasantly) for such a small package. These guys pack as much punch as the Krell and maybe a bit more. It's not a big difference but I'm still awed at the sound coming out of this pair. I will definitely go in that direction in the future. But I would like more power. I got info from the distributor that Bel Canto will put out a Ref 2000 in 2009, which will be 1000w/ch in 8 ohms. Now that's interesting in my case. This technology is great. Compared to the Krell it's smaller, lighter, no heat (the Krell puts out mucho calor when you crank it) and not too demanding from your wall outlet. Very interesting indeed.
I have just checkd with Bel Canto. . . according to them, there is NO REF2000 amp planned at any time. G.
Hello Hifipete,

If you want more power, The Spectron Musician III MKII mono-blocks will output 2400 Watts at 8 Ohms, 3200 Watts at 4 Ohms, 5600 Watts at 2 Ohms. Despite all this power, there is no sign of overdrive at all. Just pure, clean, well-controlled and refined sound.

With the Bel Cantos, you may also be able to use four Ref1000 amps as I've seen at shows.



What does Bel Canto do to the ICE power modules other than put them in pretty cases?

What has bel canto done new for the version 2, or is there a new ICE power module out?
Hi Downunder, In the Bel Canto room I was impressed by the sound I heard more than anything else. Bel Canto may have concentrated resources on engineering internals rather than on exterior metal work. I suspect the Ref1000 still utilizes the ASP1000 modules. But given the great sonic variability of amps employing this module across the industry, I suspect Bel Canto may have performed excellent work around it. I do not know details yet, but here is what I extracted from the BC press release on the subject:

"• Fully-balanced input stage yields high common mode noise rejection and wide dynamic range. Optimizing internal impedances improves amplifier drive for even lower noise and distortion. Measurements reveal a full 6dB improvement in signal-to-noise ratio when driving the output amplifier section with low-impedance loads.

• The input stage uses the latest top-quality parts including Caddock resistors, Solid Electrolytic ultra-low ESR decoupling capacitors, and low-noise regulated power supplies, ensuring the input section is utterly transparent.

• The highest spec REF1000 MKII and the REF500 mono amplifiers are fitted with custom power supply rectification and filters that substantially increase the power supply’s energy storage. They’re manufactured with carefully selected high-speed, low-noise rectifiers, high-voltage film filter capacitors and high energy storage capacity. What this means for you is lower noise and reduced sensitivity to power line effects."

I'll post more detail if I learn any.

Thanks G. I have heard the REF1000 and it sounded quite good. However, when you opened the amplifier it looked EXACTLY the same as the ASP1000 modules.
Brands like Rowland, Cary have encorporated toridal transformers etc to make the module sound different.
Points 2 & 3 seem to be additional to the ICE modeule - not sure about the first point thou.
Downunder, yes it would be interesting to learn how Bel Canto has achieved its sonic goals in the latest generation of amps while containing weight to under 20 pounds. We are starting to see a flurry of deceptively minimalistic devices which yield sophisticated sonic performances by applying unconventional technological solutions to traditional problems. . . and I suspect we may see more of these in the future. G.
Hi Guidocorona,

I have previously owned the BC Ref 1K before they were dethrone by the Nuforce alternative. Do you think the MKII version substancilly improved upon the original to warrant a reconsideration? My concern are as follows with the original Ref 1K:

1) Transparency-- wasn't there for both the high or low end though midrange is quite dense and solid
2) Speed was a factor as well and the BC was slow
3) Laid back, not exciting or live-sounding
4) Smooth--perhaps too much so that music sounded overly "rounded"
5) Resolution--lacking especially compared to Nuforce Ref 9SE V2 or MCH3SE
6) Soundstaging: narrow and not deep or expansive enough, lacking air big time.


Kenobi, I listened to the entire system and it is difficult for me to isolate any particular observation to the BC Ref 500 amps unless I auditioned them in my own system. Furthermore, there were no other amps in the same room against which to compare the Ref 500s. I also have no experience with the original Ref 500/1000. Yet, here are my subjective impressions roughly mapped to your itemized issues:

1) Midrange was solid/textured, and transparency was in evidence.
2) Speed -- I call this transient response. . . yes BC seemed quite nimble/agile on macro/micro transients.
3) Laid back? -- System was not 'agressive', I thought it sounded 'realistic' and eminently listenable without ever sounding dull/boring.
4) Smooth -- System did not sound etched in most recordings, but I was very pleased by the amount of harmonic texture that was exposed.
5) Resolution -- Seemed to be one of the most resolving systems at the show. But could not perform a direct comparison with other amps.
6) Soundstaging: broad, deep, and expansive, good 'air' around instruments.

Unles I have the opportunity to listen to BC Ref500 or Ref1000 at some length in a very familiar system/environment, I can't make meaningful comparisons with closely competing devices. . . Yet, it was pretty evident to me after 2 lengthy visits in the suite, even sitting way to the side and at a 90 degree angle to the speakers, that the new BC reference lineup are worth a very careful listen/consideration. G.
The new BC reference amplifiers are indeed spectacular. I wish I can put them against Jeff Rowland 312 and Spectron directly but price-vise - these are simply unbeatable !!!!
Hi Dob, did you hear them at RMAF? The entire system in 589 was pretty remarkable. G.
Guido - you are absolutely right! The entire system in Bel Canto room was pretty remarkable. I think new Bel Canto is something which deserve more attention then older ones

All The Best
If you want more information on what John Stronczer has done with the new amps, watch the following video. He starts off by explaining how the S500 is designed, then goes on to explain the REF500 and REF1000MkII monoblocks:
Thank you Everest, that was very interesting. . . for one thing, according to John Stronczer in the video, , the front ends of Ref500 and Ref1000 amps appear to convert AC to DC and store temporarily the energy in a bank of capacitors. Feeding the machine stabilized DC is also the general idea behind the JRDG approach using PFC modules. . . in fact, when listening to Ref 500s in Denver, I was struck by a finesse that reminded me of JRDG 312. . . Even at the time I was wondering if Bel Canto was perhaps preconverting AC to DC in R500s.

Thanks very much for your observation. You are correct, careful auditioning cannot be substituted. I'll look into this in due time.

Best regards,

I too was very pleased with the Bel Canto sound at RMAF. As Guido says, you can't reach any definitive conclusion in a show environment, but I can say that this was one of the better sounding systems at the 2008 RMAF, bar none. Music lovers searching for a neutral, dynamic and transparent amp should consider the new BCs.

Just took delivery of 3 Ref1000, MkII amps. Sitting on top of the original Refs. Hope to get them cranking tomorrow.

Kal, when the new amps are burned in please let us know your impresions about the differences you find between both models. I'm sure it'll be very interesting for many of us. Thanks in advance.
In all candor, I can say only a bit because there will be a published review.

Dear Kal,

I am looking forward to your review. Would be very interesting for many of us if you would do some comparison with two flagships of digital amplifiers in this country: Spectron Musician III Mk2 ($14k/pr or $21k with full upgrades) and Jeff Rowland 312 ($15k). Kharma for $30k and Weiss for $30k also are good competitors from Europe.

I feel that (digital) class D amplifiers are more or less matured - perhaps, now its the right time for them to go down in price - exactly as other moderm technologies did

Thank you very much in advance.
I, too, am curious and will make some enquiries but is not likely unless one or more of these suddenly shows up on my doorstep. Besides, all of the ones you list sell for 2x or more than the BCs.

Hello Kal,

-Always read your reviews with great interest. Thank you. You may be not aware but Spectron Audio mentioned your reviews of Tripath based Bel Canto amplifiers as an excellent illustration of some boring engineering points.
Kal, do you own the originals? When will you review of the new ones be published?
All the responses after my post are interesting indeed. And yes iSanchez, I'm seriously looking at the Spectron in mono mode. But living in Canada (Montreal) there's no representation here and I really would like to audition in home before making a move. I think Spectron has a ''lead'' on everyone else since they've been at it the longest (class D) and make a lot of their own components. Cheers!
You're probably right Guidocorona, especially if you got it from the horse's mouth about no REF 2000's. I got this from the distributor in Ottawa (Canada), could be wishfull thinking at work here. Thanks.
Yes although I found the BC's interesting, something's missing, They didn't best my KRELL FPB 300c in sound, but most surprisingly not even in power. I was sure the 200w/ch advantage wcould've been heard, but not really. So the KRELL at 300w/ch is very conservatively rated. I'm looking for more power to drive my Egglestons, but without sacrificing the sound. It's a tall order to beat the KRELL I'm realizing. Maybe I should go for his big brother the FPB 700cx. Now THAT would rock. The problem with manufacturers not being represented here limits one's choices, and although a listening can be arranged in one's home, it's prohibitive by tha fact that you have to BUY it. And even if you can return it within a month, if you're not satisfied, you still pay shipping BOTH WAYS! That kills it for me. I'm not buying something ''blind'' without hearing it in my set-upp first, especially at those prices. I could buy a FPB700cx blind, like the one on Audiogon going for 6300$, because I own KRELL gear and know what to expect; I won't be dissapointed. But I'm curious about Spectron. D_ _n, why doesn't anyone up here pick up this line of amplifiers? Are they all asleep that they're deaf to all the buzz about these?

I hear you, I'm located just North of Toronto area and also have interest in the mono blocks only and would like a audition in home before committing but a broken-in pair. Just so you are aware 6sonsaudio in Winnipeg, MB is now a dealer so you could contact them.

There is lots of "BUZZ" about the new MK2 Bel Canto's so if I was you should check them out and compare.

I personally use to own the Andra 2's which are marvelous speakers and while owning them bought a few class "D" amps to see what all the hype was about. You can check out my previous threads for more detailed info. but in the end I found the over all sound were not for me, were not emotionally evolving in comparison to traditional amps. After aprox. 8 months of listening to "D" amps I found my self not listening as much, jumping from song to song and not listening to the entire piece, not a good sign.

I then installed McIntosh 501 mono's while still owning the Andra's and WOW!, I was impressed. Had those for some time and really really enjoyed them but then had a chance to get some Pass X600.5 monos. Still had the Mac's in my system for about 6 months and installed the Pass amps, well another WOW! just couldn't believe what I was hearing, not to knock the Mac's though. My pre-amp with all of these pces was the Audio Research Ref3 hooked-up in balance mode.

Re-installed Jeff Rowland 501 monos, Bel Canto 1000's and lastly Nuforce 9's to compare, well they just couldn't compare and preferred by a large margin the Mac and Pass so I sold all of them.

The Pass through off allot of heat, the Mac's no heat.

I ended up with the Pass, my suggestion to you if heat is not an issue is to get some of the Pass XA.5 CLASS A amps to demo as I believe they would be an ideal match with the Andra's but that being said the Spectron in mono block configuration only could be very interesting. I have to say I'm still skeptical though due to my experience to date with class d amps.

Keep us up dated and enjoy those Andra's. Just a heads up put some Systrum SP1 platforms underneath them, you will be amazed with the improvement and well worth the money, bass, stage and just over all sound improves.
Dev, I agree with you that Rowland 501 monos, and even NuForce, and by all accounts the original Bel Canto 1000 Mk.1 may not yield the ultimate musical involvement. On the other hand, since then designs have been evolving rather rapidly, and some of the most recent class D designs, including the Bel Canto Mk.2 devices discussed here, have IMO reached a level of subtlety and involving musicality worth a new listen. Granted, top performing class D amps are not necessarily all inexpensive any longer, as the Rowland 312 stereo, and well appointed Spectron monos are in the same ballpark as the Pass X600.5. Conversely, The Mk.2 versions of the Bel Canto Ref500 and Ref 1000 are still more modestly priced. Yet, all of these devices have now reached performance levels that have little to do with switching amps of old. . . meaning of just 2 or 3 years ago (grins!) G.
Hello HiFiPete:

"Yes although I found the BC's interesting, something's missing, They didn't best my KRELL FPB 300c in sound, but most surprisingly not even in power. "

The real power of the amplifier is NOT in its rated rms as you will be normally using 5-10% of it.

The real power of the amplifier is in its headroom which is mostly defined by its power supply and Krell is good there (just look at its weight - mostly its transformer and heatsinks).

If you want "explosive" power then the fastest and having greatest power in the world is the pair of Spectron monoblocks ( 7000 watts over 0.5 seconds) More powerful then any Krell and more importantly much more MUSICAL (and I am professional cellist). Agaid - MUSICAL - involving, seductive etc. Matched with right preamplifier and you are in heaven. I am biased ...may be - I own the pair and it is better then any amp I have auditioned including MBL 9002, Plinius Regerence mono etc - except one amp - $60k Rite of Passage by Joule-Electra - if you are in high maintenance of OTL amplifiers.

All The Best
P.S. All other American class D amps (with exception of Jeff Rowland 312) are using inferior switching "weak" power supplies which do not allows great headroom for the feeling of power and effortlessness. Bel Canto including... I am afraid
Hi Rafael, please tell us more about your misgivings of Bel CantoRef Mk. 2 series. G.
P.S. All other American class D amps (with exception of
Jeff Rowland 312) are using inferior switching "weak" power supplies
which do not allows great headroom for the feeling of power and effortlessness.
Dob (Reviews | Threads | Answers)
The American made
H20 Class D amplifiers use very robust torroid/capacitor power supplies.
Hello Guido,

I did not do SERIOUS auditioning of this amp yet (I might). I heard it at RMAF 2008 where I liked it (yes, I liked it) but to make full impression based on exhibition - would be immature. I also have ...suspition that two Spectrons in monoblocks with full upgrades are better (as they should for $21k retail!)

All The Best,
Hello Tvad,

"H20 Class D amplifiers use very robust torroid/capacitor power supplies"

..and its probably one of the reason why they have a good reputation.

To know exactly what they are capable of (in power department) I would like to know
their peak power (Spectron 7000 watts)
their peak voltage (Spectron +/- 240 volts)
duration (Spectron - 0.4 second)
Distortions - AT FULL OUTPUT and at 20 kHz, I don;t remember that of Spectron but you can find it on their web site.
Most other manufacturers show their distortion levels at 10 watts and 1 kHz - which is not highly relevant to real music

Good capability do not translate automatucally into good performance, obviously. However, poor or mediocre capability CANNOT be transpated into good performance.

Again, the "power" of Krell is not in its rms but in its massive power supplies

Note, most class D manufacturers include in their specs words "soft clipping" and why? ...because they clip but if you are semi-deaf it will not hurt your hearing!

I have nothing against H2O - in its price range its one of the best (as I understand).

All The Best
Dob, I don't know the H20 specs, nor am I inclined to research them for this thread. Anyone may check the H20 website for further details.

I was just correcting your statement with a pertinent example.
Rafael, while there is moderate correlation -- at least in principle -- between price and performance, I prefer not to venture too many prognostications. By the way, JRDG 312 uses twin swwitching power supplies, rather than linear/toroidals. See the sidebar on 312 on issue 188 of TAS--I believe around page 80.
My general philosophy on the subject of power supplies is best summarized by the words of Igor Stravinsky in the Poetics Of Music: "By its fruit we judge the tree. Judge the tree by its fruit then, and do not meddle with the roots. Function justifies an organ, no matter how strange the organ may appear in the eyes of those who are not accustomed to see it functioning."
For the time being, I can only state that I really liked what little I heard of the Bel Canto Mk.2 series, and that they are currently somewhere towards the top of my preferencial non-integrated amplifying heap, together with the class D JRDG 312 stereo, the class A/B Theta Citadel monos, and the class D Spectron. .
Hello Tvad,

"I was just correcting your statement with a pertinent example" - unless you state that H2O amplifier is in the same class as Jeff Rowland 312 you dod not correct or in-correct anything but thank you for your kind thoughts.

I know that Jeff Rowland 312 and Continium (I believe) uses swithing power supplies and also power correction which help regulate this power supply (but not to 100%!!) and so what?

With this exception (and I believe I stated it in my post above and if not I am bitterly sorry) - every class D amplifier which uses switching power supplies provides inferior performance IN MY OPINION.

We talked, however, about Bel Canto Mk2 - I don't know if they use witching power supplies (I suspect so) and if so is it with power correction or not.

Where I strongly disagree with you - its only in one thing. I cannot make final judgment on the piece of equipment based only on its sonics during audio show with imperfect acoustic, thousands of people etc.
If you can - fine, just please don;t force me too.
its possible that I will investigate seriously Bel Canto and I will agree with you - and I will state so publicly and until that time let me stay with the opinion that Bel Canto was very good and worth investigating but... no more.
You recommend this amp for people to buy to spent big money and I can't (yet..).

I hope it clarifies things. Sometimes, I feel on this forum as in the court of low - you say a word incorrectly or correctly and word has more then one meaning - you are "attacked". Its OK, I can live with it, rather happily (I have my Spectrons!!!!!)

All The Best
P.S. I am out of this "discussion"
Guido my friend, what's the issue # of that TAS?

Hi Dave, my review article of Vienna Mahlers with sidebars on JRDG 312 and Sumiko Masters set is on The Absolute Sound issue 188 for December 2008. . . I think the main article starts at page 76 or 78.

Rafael, believe it or not, we appear to agree. Like yourself, I am not in a position of judging any power amp to be the ''best'. I probably spent about 3 hours with the Spectron Mus 3 stereo in 07, which is about as much time I spent this year with the Bel Canto Ref 500 Mk.2. The 2 rooms were both acoustically very good, if very different; In the end, I had sufficient time with both amps to tentatively flag them towards the top of my prefs. If and when I have the opportunity of comparing them directly to Theta Citadels, or JRDG 312, I may be able to confirm and hone my opinion of them, or instead recant.
First of all, many thanks for all of your insights. Especially to Dob who favorably compares the Spectron in monoblock configuration as besting some of the best linear amps out there. And being a musician to boot! Now having some friends who are musicians themselves, I can state that they have the ''ear''. And those opinions to me really count. So what I've been suspecting all along that Spectron is presently KING of class D is looking more and more true the more I read up on it. I've tried out the Bel Cantos in their latest iteration 2 months ago, and for ''slam'' they equaled my Krell FPB 300c driving my Eggleston Andras. But musically, something was lacking. So Dob, I can tell you to go ahead and audition them, but they won't best the Spectron from what I can read here. And yes Dev, I intend to put something under the Andras other than the rubber feet I'm now using.
Hmmm, looks like I'll have to start mentioning that I trained as a classic music composer (Grins!)
Hello HifiPete,

Have you seriously audutioned Spectron monoblocks? If so then your words have some serious "weight" If not then you simply repeat that other repeated after others who repeated....

I am not interested today in any class D amplifiers and if I would auditioned Bel Canto in serious manner then I would try to find matching associated eqipment. One can find something very amusical in truthful amplifier which may or may not reflect deficiency somewhere else in the system.

I must admit that it took me a while to build a system around Spectron and few minutes after encounter with latest and best Joule-Electra preamp everything failed and I had to (had no choice !!!!) order this have entirely different experience.

I am afraid that after all I can't judge audio equipment by means other "it grabbed me and I hear all my old disc as new and cound't leave the room" or.. this preamp has this and that i.e. analytical approach whereas audio IS purely emotional experience. Being professional musician make me to pay more for the equipment, I am afraid, as I cant stand euphonic colorations some confused as musicality.

Sorry, I can't wait for my Marianne Electra Preamp...

All The Best
Hifipete, before we crown a KING of Class D we need to reconsider Jeff Rowland Design Group's latest offerings. Having heard the Spectron in monoblock, I'd put it as a contender, but further listening is needed to crown a king. Also, Spectron probably needs to mature in the market a little longer before we really know how it stands up on important issues, like reliability, customer service, etc.

Hello Dave,

"Also, Spectron probably needs to mature in the market a little longer before we really know how it stands up on important issues, like reliability, customer service, etc."

They are already there, in stratosphere...I am not sure if you know - Simon Thacher left Spectron and opened his own consulting business. He now works with David Elrod on speaker cables to serve high power amplifiers (sorry, I mean serve them well..) and a few weeks ago fall in love with Joule-Electra new super preamp so he works there as well.

Spectron had a great name three years ago before Simon joint company (reliability, customer support etc) and I bet they will do it after him even better.

Before, he was and here and there and did this and did that. Now (look at their web site/contact, please) they have a special sales guy (just saw his first amp at RMAF 2008 but a great seller I heard) - to build extensive dealer network and if you have any tehcnical question like how it works, extraordinarely rare repair or somethin' you have another phone - Toni, the wife of chief designer John Ulrick and if she does not know nobody does. She is his wife!

Reliability? Before Simon was sitting like a camel on their QA people and now they are free from his despotic manners and do QA as (and when) they wish.

And amplifiers are good. Nobody will ever hear from me a negative words about Spectron products!!! I still have my monoblocks

All The Best