the 350 is a nice amp, but its not the best thing since sliced bread as marty states, nor is it cheap at its price. ---i lived with it for 8 mos hooked up to merlin VSM's, so i should know.
there's lots of competent designers working out of their houses, belles is just one (Herron comes to mind as well, same for Lamm). there's plenty of competition at this price point. but belles is a safe bet, much like audible illusions was before the market passed them by.
btw, would you be a dealer for belles? i'm cynical of any rave...
No, I am not. Why cynical? Even if I were a dealer it wouldn't change my question.
Its just that after hearing electronics at all prices for the past many years, and all over the USA, I am just surprised at the lack of press, and or recognition, given that his amp is better than most I have heard, near the price of $3500. The question is exactly what it appears to be. Just curious, what other amps do others out there think are in this league at this price? It's solid state, with 250wpc, and damping of >1600. This seems like a well designed piece to me, and an excellent value, but maybe I am out of touch though. Also, I love Bobby, but a good question in this instance would be, how do you judge deep bass response of an amp with a speaker that doesn't have any deeper bass response than the VSM's? They are good speakers but below 50hz or thereabouts is suspect. I am driving Von Schweikerts which go flat below 20, with great dynamics.(Also, by way of comparison, to my knowledge Belles doesn't have a $22,000 amplifier as does Lamm , and that is the point. He is achieving a lot, IMHO for this price range, that's all I was asking.
I guess he is making it. Even without the recognition Larry is hoping for. Maybe he doen't want it, that way. He's, as you said around for 20 yeaRS, SO HE MUST BE DOING SOMETHING RIGHT. Maybe over-exposure would kill him. Steal his soul. He knows the game where not neccesary he would be the winner.
first off, i agree, the bass w/ the 350 is quite startling in its drive, authority, pitch and impact. it can be considered reference in that regard (even the merlins made that obvious when compared to lesser amps. bigger speakers would make it more so).
in the ballpark at the price range, i would venture that the berning is nice if not the same cup of tea; step up higher to $6k and the parasound JC1s have it beat coming and going. the belles is on the warm side of neutral, its highs are a bit muffled, and it lacks a bit of body for SOTA imaging.---granted, i'm nit-picking, as i still think its a fine amp, much better than lots of higher priced competition (plinius and bryston come to mind as being "less for more"). ultimately i sold mine to get into a better amp (used) for less $ that had a better protection circuit than the belles---i needed a delay-on feature on my amp (which belles doesn't have) in order to prevent any DC output from my preamp from reaching my speaker. the belles didn't have that, but my new amp does.
never heard the integrated or the preamps, but knowing dave, they're both solid designs w/ good value for the money (like sim audio or rogue products are) and more than enough for most people.
Actually, it was Doug Blackburn of Sound Stage! who reviewed the 350 so glowingly, and summarized with this quote, which I will put at the bottom of this message. After about only a week, and having gone from Gryphon to this, I am surprised at how good this amplifier is...at any price.
FROM DOUG BLACKBURN...
It doesnt happen often, but every now and then a reviewer is lucky enough to encounter a product that is so perfect that it is difficult to imagine anything being better in any substantial way. But what is unusual about the 350A is that it achieves this at the lowest price point Ive yet encountered.
I thought this was a reviewers fit of metaphoric magic, woven with hyperbole (or even, "extravagant exaggeration") , but darned if I don't agree.
I purchased a Belles 350a to drive my Vandersteen 3A Signatures. It replaced a $6000 Theta Dreadnaught 4-ch. I have to say it is a finer all around amp. Certainly better in the bass but I found the mids to be more neutral. It's the best amp I've used in the 35+ years in stereo.
Sorry, I can't agree with RHYNO. The 350a is certainly not muted in the highs. It also has the most neutral midrange I've heard out of any amp.
As for the JC1 comparison, I have directly compared the two and I still own the Belles. I found the Parasound to be a good amp but with a slightly edgy sound in comparison and a touch brighter with certainly not as expansive soundstage.
To explain this further, first, I know the Vandersteen's aren't going to be bright, so if a amp is rolled in the highs---it WILL show up. Second, if a amp is full in the mids, this will also show in the Vandersteen's since they are a touch on the warm side to begin with. The point is, the 350a makes the Vandersteens sound neutral.
Does this actually mean the above fellow is wrong? Not really. On HIS system, it may be as he says. System synergy is as important as any other factor. However, on a system I know as well as mine, I just can't agree with his assesment. I also feel Doug Blackburn was right on the spot in his review---of course he does use the Vandersteen 3A Signatures.
I have been a Dave Belles fan for years. Can anything beat his 150A Hot Rod at the $1500 price point? He makes great amps, but you guys should listen to his new 21A preamp!! It uses 2 12AU7 tubes, has remote volume, and sounds better than almost any preamp I have heard. I have had it for about a month and I am more impressed with it every day. Dave continues to quietly make outstanding electronics. This is the work of a master craftsman who continues to create wonderful products. I am always amazed that used Belles gear doesn't bring more dollars. Granted, he's not well known, but he makes great value for dollar products.
Musical Design is another company that rarely gets mentioned...People hang on to their stuff like leaches...
One man's "bright" sound, is another's "extended". I don't find this amp, the least bit "dark". In the first 48 hours, it goes through all kinds of changes, as all gear does, and that is one of its stages, that it goes through, but after just one week, it sounds awfully good.
It's just that, I am personally, frankly amazed at this amp-- for this price. Let's try something fun. (OK, so you have more important things to do with your time than I do) Make a list of all the 6K to 10K solid state amps out there, with comparable wattage. Then audition all of them and compare them to the Belles 350. I personally, and I know this is not emperically true because I think so, think that very few, if any, can come close in all areas. The amp is an honest rendition of music, to me. It is not "dry" sounding like some, so called "neutral" amps, nor is it bass, or lower mid heavy, like some "rich" sounding amps. So, for me it sounds just about right. More resolution? Maybe...but only with a lot more, a LOT more money thrown at it!
I just am amazed that something this good is so little known. Anyone out there looking to spend about 6K on an amp and preamp should at least look at Belles.
Reimer speakers is another similar product. Great sound and great reviews, but I rarely see them mentioned anywhere. He is a one-man shop, building a small amount for a few dealers and everything else on demand. He must be happy with his arrangement or he'd do more advertising.
In reading the posts, it is apparent that some people think that my desire for this product to get more positive recognition, somehow translates to, Dave Belles wants it.
Of course, as one person pointed out, maybe he likes the virtual anonymnity, and is EXACTLY the size company he wants to be. I was only surprised, that given how good it is that it doesn't gain more recognition; this is not to be confused with what Dave wants, or needs.
It seems that EVERY ISSUE of Stereopile lately raves about Mus-c-l F-d-l-ty. Just curious, that's all.
I and two of my friends got involved with Dave's products in late 80's and early 90's and they developed some reliability issues. The volume POT experienced clicking sounds, transformer would hum and power on lights burning out. Dave was slow to respond, very defensive and did not like repairing his product (you can still operate the unit without the light). Because of this we dumped what we had after it was repaird and moved on to other products. I think he partnered with someone else in the mid to late 90's to help with manufacturing and grow the business. So my questions are - How reliable are his products today?? If I am one consumer who has passed him by because of history, how many more have done so?? In all fairness, I would be willing to give it another try if people state there is a excellent history of reliability and customer service. How does that old saying go "fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me." Dave Letterman still plays President Bush's butchered rendition of this saying and it is funny.
In all fairness, ten or fifteen years is a long time ago. I think, that he is completely responsive these days. I'm sure everyone has a bad story about just about every company out there. Actually, his personal attention was what drew me to him in the first place.
Give him another chance, and you'll be glad for it.
I cannot claim the praises that have been written above, but that is only because I have yet to hear the 350a and/or 21a. I have similar components to Doug Blackburn and Bigtee, so it is a no brainer to take the leap of faith. Belles is building me his brand new 150 Ref that is supposed to be sonically superior to the 350a and can be used in either stereo or monobloc mode. I cannot wait!
Lrsky, with all due respect, on the one hand you argue that this manufacturer doesn't get enough credit and on the other hand you dismiss reliablity and customer service issues from the small audience that responds from experience. Food for thought, Thiel has a rather large audience and while I'm sure that its possible some one is disgruntled somewhere with regard to their reliabilty and customer service, I've yet to see or hear about it, ever. Customer service is a big issue for me, especially when comes to expensive luxury items. BTW, prior to this post I've only heard good things about Belles, though I've no experience of my own with his products.
I've actually read about some reliablity(problems)with Thiel on this sight. However, I have not heard any complaints about their service after the sale.
I have not been using the Power Modules(Belles)amp for all that long(maybe 8 months.)It has performed without fault. I'm always sensitive to repair issues myself but until this poster, I had not heard of any customer complaints with Belles(although the above poster may have been refering to some older Belles designs with companies other than Power Modules.
I too am very interested in the new Belles amp. Of course I always remain skeptical because ALL new products are touted as better and that certainly isn't the case sometimes.
As much as stuff is "Improved" you would think we should be getting close to perfection!
Sorry, but I did not dismiss it. I put it in its proper context. Service is everything, but I, like you have never heard of any, repeat any problems with service with regard to Belles, prior to this one instance. Also, the issues he mentioned were more than twelve years ago. Being in the industry for 20 plus years, gives me a rather broad perspective. Let me site some rather large snafus which have reared their ugly heads through the years. Back in 1984 THIEL had too much viscous compound on their midrange drivers, of their newly released CS3, which caused the speakers to have a very sharp peak in the upper mid range. If someone brought that up, I would consider it old news. Also, Krell's Audio Video Standard, DID NOT WORK correctly, 4 years ago, and they finally quit making the product, and gave dealers full credit refunds on most if not all of them, and that was a $12K product, yet, old news again; even though they were in denial for months, claiming each instance to be isolated. The same is true of McIntosh, a company that replaced every MX 132 PrePro that they shipped to Nicholsons Hi Fi, in Nashville, TN due to digital circuitry problems, which caused them to all lock up. Let's be real here, every company has issues from time to time. Each of these companies, (THIEL may have been the exception) was in denial of the existance of these problems for months after they were reported. So in this Belles instance, one customer, again the only one I ever heard of does not come close to the enormous problems with these industry icons. So I respectfully disagree that I dismissed the problems, I simply put it in its proper perspective, and really do think that old news is simply that--old news. One customer does not create any worthwhile trend of poor service, especially compared to the above mentioned manufacturers. Even the customer who wrote the thread said that he would consider buying this product again.
I also have a Dave Belles service story. A little more than a year ago I had what must have been a lightning strike one night. It toasted the system pretty good. I had a Belles 150A Hot Rod which smelled like it had been fried. I e-mailed Dave telling him of the problem. The amp was only a year or so old so I was sick about it. Dave told me to send it back and he would do whatever he could. He called me the day he received it, saying it had only blown a couple of resisters, that he had fixed it, and would ship it back the next day. He said he had a mod to make the amp better since it had been manufacturered and that he would upgrade it at no charge. I offered to pay for return shipping but he refused. He sent it back the next day, sounding better than ever, and I was with out my amp for 1 week. The guy gave me great service!!
I sold the 150A a few months later to buy an integrated. That was a mistake, and a year later, I now have another 150A Hot Rod, and his new 21A preamp. Bothe the amp and preamp are spectacular.
You won't believe it but I'm selling the amp again, but only to get Dave's new 150A Reference amp. I can hardly wait to hear the new amp with the 21A preamp. I've only had this amp for a month, but is sounds so good that I have to take the next step.
Great products, great service, and great value---what else could we want? This is not a commercial it's just the way it is. It's hard to go wrong with Dave Belles.
84audio, thanks for sharing, you help us all. Perhaps Lrsky is right and the previous customer service complaint was unique. Its just hard to dismiss completely considering that based on the premise of this thread, it might be a large percentage. Lets hear from others regarding Belles and customer service. I ceratinly hope 84audio's experience is more representative in this regard.
All good comments. I just wanted to jump back in here to state that I am not trying to bash Dave. My comments were to present real life experience, and yes it was 10+ years ago.
After purchasing his products, I became a cheerleader of them and caused others to buy into Belles. My friend's integregated unit's power light went out (~10 months) and Dave said something to the effect - 'if it still turns on and works don't worry about it'. My transformer and my friends developed mechanical hums (1-1 1/2 yrs)and we both sent them back twice. It cost us shipping back to Dave and we decided to get rid of them because we felt it was a supplier issue with the transformer co.
If Dave has a cult following it must be small because I don't hear about too many people purchasing his product. If it sounds good and is reliable, why doesn't it sell better?? From the responses stated above it appears Dave continues to tweak his units for a particular voice. I hope he is successful.
The positive service experience stated above sounds encouraging since as most business people know - customer service can make or break you. True especially in this highly specialized nitch high end audio market. I too look forward to other's opinion on Dave's customer service relations.
Hello All, this is my 1st post on this board and this topic caught my eye. I have a Belles 150A which I have had for 6 months, this amp was built in 1999 so was well broken-in. This is one of the best sounding amps that I have ever owned in my 25 years in this hobby. It is dynamic and netural with great clarity and resolution and has musical soul, that draws me into the music. I have talk to Dave Belles on 5 or 6 occations for about 1 hour per conversation. Dave has explained many things to me about the great build quality of this amp and the theory of stereo. I'll be sending my 150A in to be hot-roded. Had a few probs up front with the amp but Dave talked to me about it and told me what to do to really get it right. As for customer service Dave Belles did'nt have to take the time but he did and now has a customer for life in me. Also the Belles 150a Ref is a GREAT improvment over the 150A, Dave also stated that the 150A Ref in his opinion was better sonicly than the 350A. Can't wait to hear it.
Happy listining, Mark
Actually, I would have to disagree that it is voiced to sound a certain way. I can, and have picked not only brands of electronics in blindfold tests, (with speakers I am familiar with),but also, speaker cable brands, as well as interconnects brands. That is not something to be in awe of, it is just noteworthy because of what I am about to say. Mr. Belles' gear has about as little of its own 'personality', or noticable voicing, as anything I have heard. That is true of the 350 amp and the 21A preamp. I just today, compared it to a well known, (Out of respect I won't mention the name) preamp, which costs $8K. The more expensive preamp did have a flavor, and was pleasant, but it was NOT as neutral. And that is quite a statement given that he builds his for $2500.
Calling his buyers cult following is a real backhanded comment. In the middle 1950's Ford Thunderbird outsold Corvette in multiples, and nobody called Corvette buyers cultists. They ended up capturing the whole of that market.
Why he doesn't sell more has to do with his capacity to build, and his desire, (he would have to address this) to maintain his company at a level he can enjoy, I would think.
First Sound Preamps are hailed as one of the finest preamps around, but they make very few. The amount of sales of a given product in any field do not necessarily have any bearing on the quality or even the success quotient of the company and its products. Success may be defined, in the mind of the creator, as the ability to make a few, and make those customers happy.
When I started in the Audio business, in 1982, nobody had heard of THIEL Loudspeakers, and they were in their 7th or 8th year.
Frankly, the average buyer of audio gear would be surprised how small many of the companies they buy from, really are.
The high end is mostly very small manufacturers, who comprise this cottage industry.
History has proven that credit illudes the artist.
Marketers and big companies spend the money to promote their illusion of greatness... they promote the company not the designer ... Carver for example.
David is conservative and the genuine article.
I have 2 of his 350As (monos), a 20A and 4 OCM 200s of his design ... sold an OCM 800 a year or so ago to get the 350A.
Service: Better than anyone should expect.
Reputation: I can't say anymore than he is a real gentleman and has always provided me with excellent service.
Products: Time will prove them to be among the best values out there and hand made to boot.
Well, for one, his service could be better, that is what separates "good" from "great". I inquired about two weeks ago (in regard to purchasing an amp) and have not heard back.
Call Larry at Holleywood Sound.
He will give you a great price and follow-up.
Inquired with whom regarding purchase? WHEN, AND WHAT WAS THE RESPONSE? If you call Power Modules, Dave Belles HIMSELF answers the phone. Give me a break.
I spoke to Dave today, and chatted just casually.
He told me and a friend a joke (not exactly Hennie Youngman) but funny. No rush job, just simple gentlemanly conversation. And Dave is truly a grand gentleman. CHALLENGE TO MATTY; IF YOU REALLY WANT TO BUY AN AMP POST YOUR REQUEST RIGHT NOW I WILL HAVE HIM SEND YOU ONE.(YOU WILL HAVE TO PAY FOR IT). THIS IS WHERE THE RUBBER HITS THE ROAD. I WILL BET ALL OF YOU THAT MATTY DOES NOT RESPOND!!!!!!
I love unsubstantiated bullsh-t like this.
I can honestly tell everyone here, I have just randomly called Dave 10 times, in the last six months, and never failed to reach him!!
We are all waiting for you to respond Matty.
Good listening to all sincere audiophiles.
I think you need to relax. First, who said called him? I e-mailed him. He has an e-mail address and I used it. And yes, he did not respond. Want to see my e-mail? So much for the un-substantiated bullshit. I was inquiring about the 250I if you must know, trying to see how many updates there have been. I believe there are two. Also trying to see if he sells direct if no dealer in my area.
Anyway, do I want to buy one? Maybe (still). Maybe a 150A Hot Rod instead. Do I need your help in doing so? No thank you, I am quite capable. I am also considering McCormack, as well as some others.
Larry, I am happy that you have such a good relationship with David. Based on this, I can understand your loyalty to him and his company. However, just because you have a good relationship and enjoy positive experiences with his company does not mean that everyone else does.
E-mail in today's age is quite accepted as a means in which to communicate and do business. As such, it is just as important for someone, or a company, to have appropriate coverage to ensure proper and timely response to e-mail. I have not heard back, period. Lack of coverage, too busy, went somewhere else, went to an assistant, I do not know. Because of this it did leave a negative first impression. Is it an accurate representation of his company? I don't know. Am I mis-judging him based on this limited experience? Maybe. But I do know that other companies that I e-mail, Blue Circle, Ridge Street, etc., I get an e-mail back usually the SAME DAY.
Larry, you now have the response you have been waiting for. I hope you find it satisfying.
Maybe, just maybe Dave never got the email. Did that ever occur to you?
Instead of telling hundreds of readers here that "he needs to improve his service", a knee jerk response, you should have followed up. That assumes, of course, that YOU WANTED TO BUY ONE, WHICH YOU DON'T, which is why I said what I did about emailing us now to let us all know.
My world isn't perfect, sometimes these machines let us down. Your whole premise is patently incorrect based on the preponderance of evidence about Belles here from all the gracious respondants who have actually dealt with him.
Plus, you missed the point, WHICH IS, that he's the EASIEST manufacturer to reach, in person, at any time, on practically any day, that I have ever, ever dealt with.
I, and everyone here now know that your comments were misplaced, incorrect, and puffery. If you really want to buy one I gave you the chance which you passed on. If a lost email, or missed email, which happens all the time, changes your mind, you weren't a buyer anyway, something which is obvious to everyone reading this. What is not obvious and absolutely incorrect, is that Dave needs to improve his service...that's a load of hooey from a not participating, non buyer.
Good listening to all serious audiophiles,
Wait, a flash just hit me. I know its revolutionary so let's do a trial run.
Instructions on ordering Belles (or any gear for that matter) just change names and assume that the Manufacturer HIMSELF answers the phone:
Pick up phone, (Make it brief, you're paying a nickel a minute)
Dial number (don't leave any out, you may get Greenpeace or Johnnies Hot Dog Stand)
DIAL:1 585 586 0740
Then (after he answers and says the name of his company, which he most likely will)
Dave: Power Modules...
Bumpkin (boy that name really suits you): Hi Mr. Belles?
Dave: Yes? (See how he keeps it brief to save you nickels?)
Bumpkin: I want an Integrated amp now.
Dave: OK, it'll take a week, I am PERSONALLY HAND WIRING THEM.(That little commercial cost you 2 seconds, or 1/30th of a nickel damn his eyes, tell him you'll take it off the price.
Bumpkin: Uh, OK.
Dave: Send (me or your dealer) a check for (fill in amount)
Bumpkin: Personal Check ok? (Remember the nickels, I can tell you from experience that personal checks are ok, if they're good, so that'll save you 1/60th of a nickle, right there)
Dave: Sure (C'mon Dave, talk faster, those damn nickels are starting to really add up here)
Bumpkin: (Name is perfect I've decided) OK, I'll send it to your address today, and enclose my shipping address.
NOTE to Bumpkin: I can save you 4/60th's of a nickel here, go ahead and throw caution to the wind and assume that those things are OK. He knows, and so do you, that you can probably write this on a note, or hey, even in third world countries, that information is on your check.
Dave: NO,Thank YOU Now here's the important part. Just hang up!
YOUR TRANSACTION IS COMPLETE!!!
Now this fans, is how real people communicate,and or buy things these days. With Dave right at your finger tips, you can be the proud owner of his (or any other audio gear) in a matter of days.
See? And, even the Bumpkin can do it. Don't be intimidated by all those confusing numbers on the phone, it really, really works!
I hope this humorous interlude makes up for the apparent angst in previous emails!
Your ranting is humorous. What did you expect posting this type of thread on A'gon? Did you think everyone was going to agree with your opinion? I looked at your other comments to this post based on responses posted. Same thing on each where there was a difference to your opinion, defensive and argumentative.
I don't need to justify my position to you. And I am not going to drag this on further. If you wish to do so, that is fine. But I think by doing so you in fact are doing David more of a dis-service than helping. Just let it go.
I just want to again make the point that I have found Dave to be an absolute stand up guy and great to deal with. He does exactly what he says, how he says, and when he says. Again, great products, great value, great service. Very few manufacturers go 3 for 3. Dave is an "old school" guy, so I might suggest a call instead of an e-mail if you want to reach him. thanks
I find it that lately, a lot of smaller manufacturers are more keen on phone than email,,,just like Klaus at Odyssey...
I try to avoid the email thing as much as I can,,,Email is the now technology, but its definitely impersonal,,actually, I think a lot of people just fear calling for some reason (some subcouncious thing),,its easier to just be nonchalant and non-commital by email,,
BUT, I always advise people nowadays to pick up the phone, ask the questions and stand up for yourself!
Well here is my experience or two cents which ever is greater.I called Power Modules three separate times and gee who did I get to talk to without having to ask for the big guy, only David himself..In the land of impersonal shit and e=mail and I don't want to talk to you because I'm so important and your not and fax me and talk to the sales rep..it was great to talk to the man himself..And I left him a message once and he did call me back and we spoke for ten minutes or so..E-mail is a cop-out. I like to know my customers and I expect to know my suppliers..If I cannot reach them then I will find another supplier. ...Dave seems to be from the school that wants to know his customers as well as his dealers..thats called relationship selling and its is THE BEST WAY...Tom
jeff rowland is the same way...
Re: customer service via e-mail or telephone, I've had no response from C-J via e-mail and prompt courteous response from C-J via telephone.
That was my point with Matty. I know I teased him a little too much. But, emails are so iffy. Especially, when some companies get 150 a day, and if they were all answered, production would stop.
Sorry Mattie. Just havin' a little fun. Dave is everything Tom and 84 and the others said. A grand gentleman.
I just got a private email from someone, raving over the time Dave spent with him on the phone. He bought a 150A, without ever hearing one, based on the talk with Dave, and of course the comments from the A'goners, and reviews.
Give him a call, really, he'll surprise you; but more important, you'll end up with a great amp,(maybe the best buy in audio) great service, with a terrific man standing behind it.
Thank you. In retrospect, I probably should have refrained from posting a response at all based on one e-mail issue. The idea of possibly "tainting' his reputation based on my "loose lips" bothered me all weekend.
David, if you are out there, I apologize.
It is Paul from Las Vegas! I am buying a 150 Reference, the new amp, not a 150a. There are ~ 10 in production so far. They are all burning in. The early read is that the bass is weightier, yet tighter. The mids and highs are starting to soften with minor improvements in clarity etc. These comparisons are to the 350a.
just my 2 cents. I've heard his gear and I like it . I sent an email also with no reponse. I tried calling several times over a 2 week period at different hours and all I got was a busy signal. Maybe he was on vacation or Larry was hogging the line ,you know prolly jokes and all that. Any way Larry don't trip as I spent my money on some other gear. Maybe when I 'm ready for some tubes I 'll get a 21a because of Larry's fanaticism