What about the Belles SA-100?


This is what I read on a UK website on the Belles SA-100 amplifier:
'SA-100 represents one of the most musical and involving amplifiers available on the market today at virtually any cost. The musical cohesion and captivation this amplifier generates is quite astonishing whilst giving you all the detail and nuances that complete the music.'
It also says somewhere it was inspired by the DarTZeel NHB-108 power amplifier.

I must admit this amp is pretty good, and so I am wondering why, in contrast to the SA-30 or 350A, there aren't any user reviews of this amplifier available. Are there any users of the SA-100 on this forum?
noortje
I do not know about the sa-100. But all the Dave Belles amps I have heard are excellent. Get very very close to some of the best for quite a bit less. They are made with a common sense approach and seem to have good dependability.
I've owned several of David's amps and preamps and totally agree with Marqmike.

EXCELLENT gear that almost no one has heard of. Very small company and very few dealers, (unfortunately), but what a wonderful sound and very well built.

I'm actually looking for a 150A or a 350A REFERENCE amp, if anyone has one.
I agree with both of you. These are excellent products. Still, it wonders me why, at least on this forum, one sees users of the almost similar priced 350A but never of the SA-100.
Love Belles amps, nice full presentation and they are very musical, definately different in a positive way from many other solid state amps I have heard.
Because all the '150 iterations have been around for so long maybe the ref 150 and 350 were easy upgrade paths. Maybe because ones system that they would have in place are mostly 'ready made' for the upper grade amps of the 150ref or 350's. Could be one reason for not hearing hardly anything about the other amps. Just a thought. When Dave began early on his first commercial amp was primarely a class a design and it was a great amp. So he has a lot of experience in designing a SA-30/SA-100 type of amp. So I would be looking at those if I ever need to change what I have. I thought I would just mention that when I have looked inside a Belles amp I don't see boutique parts. I think Dave eschews those things as much as he can. I think Dave just has solid designs. Nothing sexy but unbelievably good sounding with a wide range of speakers, very high standards of build quality and parts, and also nice looking.
Belles is excellent and extremely impressive.
I just upgraded my 150a Hot-Rod version with the freshly purchased 150a Ref v2. Right out the box without warming up (literally), my jaw was on the floor. My eyes were wide open staring on the "image". it was so much inner body and sparkling on the Highs. Image was so clean and clear. I felt that i was just not being closer to tbe stage but actually on it. The vibration of each keys from piano and strings on guitar were so much vibrant and real. How did Belles do that right out the box?
About an hour later, i got lost in music instead of, as usual, listening to my gear.
The amp responses well with neutral and detail cables/cords too.
I have had tried couple amps on Agon but I must way this is one heck of the amp. Dealer been trying to tell me that the upper level ones will left me speechless...
I paid full price for this amp Belles 150a Ref v2 and not regret 1 bit.
Hope this help and great luck with your search.
I have had a 150A Hot Rod that I use in my BR system for years, and I bought it used. Very musical, plenty of grunt, a steal for the money even new. Assume Ref series even better.

Neal
Yes. The Ref v2 is a total diff animal though still has the signature sound of the HotRod.
I was very skeptical before the upgrade. Wondered how much more the Ref v2 could be better than the , already good, HotRod or could it just be the name changed for marketing. But Belles proved me wrong; it's an awesome amp and a very BIG step up from Hotrod.
Your dealer is right, the upper models will leave you speechless. I have a Belles SA-100 which is in a different class. I am serious. That is also why I was wondering in the first place that this amp is not more popular among audiophiles. Anyone in need of a serious upgrade should audition this one.
I own the Belles SA-30, for a few months now, and I don't see many user reviews of this sister-model to the SA-100 either, although a few magazines have reviewed it very favorably. It truly is a phenomenally good poweramp, and one I don't see taking second seat to most any poweramp, price disregarded, with the only limiting aspect (on paper) being the stated (pure Class A) 30 watt output power. However, and take my word on this: there's absolutely no indication there's only 30 watts under the hood on the SA-30; it simply sounds unrestricted and wonderfully natural. I guess it goes to show how far 30 good watts can bring you, although with todays most inefficient speakers some might want for more power. In light of all this it may not be a cheap poweramp, but it's a relative bargain nonetheless.

Needless to say I'm also confounded by the lack of awareness on these Statement Series poweramps. Perhaps a parallel can be drawn to politics here: the more money spent on marketing/campaigning...
I guess you are right that marketing may play a role here; unknown, unloved. When I was looking for a new amp my dealer suggested to audition the Belles SA-30, even while my speakers have a difficult load. I decided for the SA-100 as that was the one available for a demo while I was visiting him. I instantly loved it, though it took quite a while to run in the amp. And I still have the feeling that it is getting better every day. So similar to your experiences with the SA-30, this is phenomenally good amplifier, second to none. It is a true gem.
Not sure about the politics, but perhaps these amps are too cheap...?
My 150a ref v2 took roughly 850 hours to reach it's peak. As good as it was about every week I was happily suprised that new nuances of sound for a more positive and natural presentation would rear it beautiful head.I don't know if most wait long enough on these to rear them at their best. But from about 200 hours mine was about 90%-95% there. And at that point even the amp was a stellar performer. I have had a few models of audio research, jeff rowland, and listened to many others in well broken in systems bat, cj, threshold and others and with the belles it is right there with these others or very very close in a properly matched system. Now I would like to try the sa 30 or sa 100. Nice to hear from you guys these amps also are something special.
It is interesting what you are saying. Earlier I have had JR monoblocks, but as good as these were, they could not even stand in the shadow of the Belles. The SA-100 is such an open window for every kind of music. But also needs a proper match and time to open up to reach its peak. If you have the opportunity to audition one, then you should.
I agree. Thanks Noortje.
It is interesting what you are saying. Earlier I have had JR monoblocks, but as good as these were, they could not even stand in the shadow of the Belles. The SA-100 is such an open window for every kind of music. But also needs a proper match and time to open up to reach its peak. If you have the opportunity to audition one, then you should.
I guess you are right that marketing may play a role here; unknown, unloved. When I was looking for a new amp my dealer suggested to audition the Belles SA-30, even while my speakers have a difficult load. I decided for the SA-100 as that was the one available for a demo while I was visiting him. I instantly loved it, though it took quite a while to run in the amp. And I still have the feeling that it is getting better every day. So similar to your experiences with the SA-30, this is phenomenally good amplifier, second to none. It is a true gem.
Not sure about the politics, but perhaps these amps are too cheap...?

Noortje --

I certainly did circle the SA-100 as well before deciding on the SA-30, but in the end based my decision without auditioning the former; it had not yet arrived at my dealer, and when I borrowed the brand new SA-30 it soon became very clear - even without being run-in and merely few hours of use - that something very special had entered my setup, and that it was there to stay. A little later when the SA-100's ended in my dealers hands I opted to inquire on his impressions and what he thought about it (I've known my dealer for some years now, and very much share his sonic preferences as his ways to describe them), mainly because I wanted to learn whether the SA-100 as a class A/B amp (and a smaller electrical bill) could deliver likewise compared to the pure class A SA-30. To the best of his hearing abilities it's a close run between the two, to be expected, with the SA-30 perhaps being slightly warmer (in more than one sense) and with a bit more "meat and blood" to the sound. This being so could also have something to do with the fact that the SA-30 had more playing-hours in it compared to its sibling, but that being said I wouldn't be surprised if the SA-30 - by sonic design, so to speak - had a richer tonality. A main reason for deciding on the SA-30 has to do with my speakers, which are fairly sensitive at ~93dB, and a possible future speaker upgrade (not until after a year or so) would be to even more sensitive alternatives (read: 96dB), so there's plenty of power at hand in the SA-30 - even with my existing speakers. First and foremost though the SA-30 couples wonderfully with my hORNS Mummy speakers, which uses drive units from the pro-sector.

Whether the SA-30/SA-100 is too cheap, I'm inclined to yell out "No, no no no!" There's the rationale with some (in no way directed towards you, Noortje) who are drawn rather slavishly to the (unspoken) mantra "the more expensive the better/more desirable," but they have plenty of alternatives. Let the rest of us enjoy excellent sound where it is more affordable and more reasonbly priced in relation to its qualities :)
Phusis, with 91 dB my speakers are a little less responsive than yours. Sound wise I was quite happy with the 2 x 40 W solid state I had, which nevertheless had some difficulties to drive my speakers, in particular in the bass area. That was the main reason why I went for something else. I hadn't heard of Belles, but my dealer, whom I also know for a long time, said that considering my tastes I should go for the SA-30. But a Belles distributor and a few other people convinced me that my speakers would be happy with some more power. They were right.
Of course the Belles SA-100 is serious money, but compared to the competition in this price range, nevertheless great value. Getting a great wine for 10 dollars usually makes more fun than getting a similar one for 100 dollars. That is how I feel about it.
Noortje --

What speakers do you use, if I may ask? I understand the rationale behind getting more power for them, and in the case of the SA-100 you might have yourself an extra headroom in the vicinity of 3dB's compared to the SA-30. Mr. Belles is very conservative when it comes to watt specs, and I believe the SA-30 has been measured to output about 50 watts (8 ohms), and likewise I suppose the SA-100 will follow this pattern as well delivering more than its specified 100 watts.
Speakers represent very different loads though, sensitivity being equal, and the same goes for amps and their ability to drive speakers - watts specs being equal as well; my dealer's speakers count a pair of S.P. Technology Revelations, and though they're specified just below 90dB sensitivity (almost in the high-ish end in the typical hifi regime) they can "suck dry," or worse yet bring into stability-trouble many rather powerful amps. However the SA-30, even at a measly 30(/50) watts, swung them around easily and never lost its composure, and one is surprised how far relatively few watts will get you.
And yet, another friend of mine got a pair of S.P. Tech Rev's as well, and they're coupled up via DSP filters (i.e.: no passive filters) directly to an Earthquake Cinenova Grande 7 multichannel power amp in bridged mode, resulting in some 1200 watts to the SEAS bass/mid units alone, and here one is certainly aware of bottomless power that yields tremendous dynamic breathing room that further reveals the limitations of some 50 watts. Ease is one of the keywords here, though it's achievable by other means (very sensitive speakers with pro units coupled to smaller, simpler amps).

Of course the Belles SA-100 is serious money, but compared to the competition in this price range, nevertheless great value. Getting a great wine for 10 dollars usually makes more fun than getting a similar one for 100 dollars. That is how I feel about it.

Indeed the SA-100 and SA-30 are serious money (they retail for the same), but I fully agree they're great value. I'd like to see them compared to the more established brands (Pass and others), and I have no doubt whatsoever that they'll more than hold their own with their authentic sonic imprinting. If the reviewers do not notice Belles amps the way they deserve, we'll have to voice up for others to see their worth :)
Marqmike --

My 150a ref v2 took roughly 850 hours to reach it's peak. As good as it was about every week I was happily suprised that new nuances of sound for a more positive and natural presentation would rear it beautiful head.I don't know if most wait long enough on these to rear them at their best. But from about 200 hours mine was about 90%-95% there. And at that point even the amp was a stellar performer.

[...]

Interesting you should mention the long "burn-in" period of the Belles amps. My SA-30 has some 350+ hours of use as is, and the latest 50 hours or so has really seen it blossoming, and still continuing to do so. I've experienced a rather odd sonic development, whereafter the first 50-75 (or even 100) hours or so the sound began tilting towards the slightly meager and pale, even somewhat hard at times, but during the last weeks it has settled into a wonderfully organic, free-flowing, resolving, and coherent presentation - indeed extremely impressive. Music just pours out of the speakers, unrestrained and alive.
Hi Phusis
I mentioned that because I have seen a few 150v2's for sale on the 'Gon here, sellers said they had for only a year or less and said their amp sounded fantastic(I think that is what sellers usually say isn't it?). I wonder if they heard it at it's best. My amp took about a year and a half which I am wildly guessing is 850hrs. It probably is more. Anyway it kept sounding more effortless and natural to me all that time and for the last three months I haven't noticed a perceptible change. Looking at your model and the experience Mr. Belles has with that type of amp it probably is even finer than what I have. Hope it keeps improving to where it takes your breath away on a regular basis. Enjoy. But ya my amp is a seriously good piece.
I agree the quality of watts also matters. However I have read somewhere that the 8ohms power figures for the SA-100 are close to 258Wrms. I am using Audio Physic Calderas. At first I was not too impressed with this amp, as compared to my previous one it sounded dark and less detailed than I was used to (and was expecting). I got in touch about this with Mr. Belles and the distributor, they both were surprised somewhat and confirmed the long break-in time. They were right of course, great soundstage, deep bass, detailed, and the match with my speakers is excellent now. And it is still getting better every day. I listen to different kinds of music, including rock music, small combo jazz and classical chamber music. The Belles SA-100 is perfect for all of this.
my name is Bill Coomes, the owner/partner of SweetSpotHomeTheaters&HighEndAudio in Malibu, CA.
also known as SweetSpotMalibu.
we are the very proud (underline very proud) authorized dealers for Dave Belles/Power Modules electronics.
I only select manufacturers and audiophile brands that offer 3 things - exceptional build-quality, even more exceptional performance in A/B comparision tests and incredible value for our clients and customers.
Bave Belles' hand-built electronics meets that criteria and exceeds (by all accounts) my own expectations (by the double handfulls).
SweetSpotMalibu will have our own room at THE SHOW 2014 in NewportBeach, CA on May 30th, 31st and June 1st.
Room 606 in the Hilton.
we are featuring Dave Belles/Power Modules electronics in our room.
the SA-100 stereo power amp, and the brand new VT-01 version2 hybrid/vacuum tube preamplifier.
a perfect match.
we will also feature Dave's new Soloist1 solid state integrated amplifier-one of the best values (bar none) on the planet.
Dave Belles/Power Modules is indeed 'one of the best kept secrets' in high end audio.
and one that (more than) deserves to be experienced and acknowledged.
which is exactly why 'SweetSpotMalibu' is featuring Dave's electronics at NewportBeach.
THE SHOW isn't about us - it's about Dave Belles.
we will also offer 'after hours' private auditions' during THE SHOW for serious, dedicated fans of Dave's electronics.