I have noted several times the existence of a company called BEL or BELL Labs and their amps seem to be geared towards the high end market, and yet, I cannot find any sort of information about them, just the fact that they sometimes appear in the used market. What sort of company is or was BEL/BELL and what is the typical sound and look of their units. Are they simply a relic or are they just some very well kept secret. Is there are website with detail description of them?
They're made (don't know if they are still made) by a fellow named Dick Brown, and his company name is B.E.L. (Brown Electronic Laboratories). I haven't heard one in years, but I did hear the 100 watt pre channel version for a couple of years in the early 80's, and it was pretty good sounding. Not quite as smooth sounding as the Spectral DMA-100, but still very nice. That amp was built like a tank, very plain looking, but good sounding. Also, at the time I think the amps were less expensive than the spectral gear.
Check out this link:
http://www.audiocircuit.com/9121-solidsamplifier-circuit/Commercial/BrownElectronicLaboratories-BRO/9121CMBRO.htm , also just do a search on Brown Electronic Laboratories and you'll get some good hits.
BEL is Brown Electronic Labs. Richard Brown designed and marketed his 1001 amplifier in the early 80s for about $1295. For a time he offered a double version called the 2002 but that was shortlived The current version of the 1001 sells for at least $4K. It is a class A, 50 watt stereo amp bridgeable to 200 watts mono. I used to sell them for BEL and had a pair of my own. There has never been factory advertising although during the 90s several dealers ran ads in the stereo mags. The amp itself has the cosmetic appeal of Adcom and performance that approaches SOTA. You can find a used one on Agon for $1500-$1700. If you have moderately efficient speakers you will find that it is very competitive in that used price range. I don't attempt to describe sound so I'll leave that to someone else. Tom Miiller championed this amp in TAS during the 90s and his reviews will leave you panting to own one.
there was a bell labs from the 50's. tube stuff made to compete with the the well known makers,fisher, marantz,scott etc. i found one in the trash model 30-30.nice little tube amp. 6v6 output tubes(ge's), 12ax7 preamp& drivers(telefunkens). the tubes are probably worth more than the unit cost new.
FULL UPDATE: The Brown Electronic Lab (BEL) 1001 amp is currently sold in a Mk V version. They are not exactly Class A as described above. However, they do sound like one in some ways. The amp is a 50wpc stereo unit into 8 ohms, 100wpc into 4 ohms, 200wpc into 2 ohms, etc. It is best in bridged mode for Mono operation. In this mode it is 200wpc into 8ohms, 400wpc into 4 ohms, etc.
The List Price is $3,895 with an option for a 12v. trigger for $100 more. They are definitely built like a tank and look fairly plain compared to some of the audio candy out there. However, they are some of the greatest sounding amps currently available at any price.
There are major sonic differences between the past versions so don't expect current world class performance from a Mk II. However, it will have the same basic character and sound as a modern Mk V.
I don't suggest contacting Richard Brown directly. Instead, contact me off list if you're in Northern CA or call one of his dealers for more information. They are Audio Concepts in Houston. Ask for Parth at 713-527-0774. Let him know I sent you!
BEL also makes cables which are a great value. Although I have occasionally heard more synergistic matches with some gear/speakers from other cable manufacturers the BEL cables were only 25% or less of the cost of the replacement cable. Also, the margin of improvement was at most 10%.
You can check out my system here on A-Gon... I'm definitely biased. However, I feel confident about these amps and cables being true values in the Audiophile community.
Mikej, The original 1001 retailed for something like $1200 or $1500 back in the 80s. Now the same amplifier is $3900. I understand that we need to adjust for inflation but even so, there seems to be an explanation due. Please outline the changes in design that required a near tripling of the price. I'm eager to hear this tale. And, please, no tapdancing. Just get right to the nuts and bolts.
Hi Macrojack, The amp was released in the late 70's/early 80's and is still the same basic amp. I can't tell you what changes were made to the design since Richard isn't telling. However, they are always under constant development. So R&D cost would certainly be part of it. Also, these amps are still hand made and individually tuned by Richard personally before shipment. That level of personal involvement simply costs more today.
Sorry if this sounds like tap dancing, but it's all I can tell you. Even when I've had mine upgraded he won't tell me what he changed. Even opening it up (I'm not an engineer...) it looks basically the same. They sound a LOT better though!
I know it's not the answer you were looking for. If you're interested in the amp though I'd say that you should compare it as a current version to what's available today. You'll be shocked at how good it sounds. Then, when you compare it to other amps at the different price ranges I think you'll find that some may be the same quality of sound, but they'll be different (and typically MUCH more expensive).
The one thing to remember with the BELs is that they aren't romantic, yin/yang amps... They are really a very neutral amp, so what you put in, you get out. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but I've had these same amps in other systems and it's just proven to be true. All the other amps I've listened to have had more of a sonic signature.
Last, you should consider getting Symposium Ultra shelves for them as this is what Richard tunes them on. They should therefore be considered part of the amp "system".
Macrojack, I agree that the Mk V is a world class amp and a bargain at $3900. My understanding is that the price increase has to do with substantial upgrading of the power supply and of the output transistors, each one hand chosen and fine tuned by Richard himself. Like tube amps, their 50 watts in stereo configuation sound much more powerful than you would expect but in bridged-mono these amps are truly revelatory.
I know this is an old thread but I felt compelled to add my 2 cents.
Adjusting for inflation from the 1980s would yield most of that increase in price. As the previous poster noted, all of these units are hand made by the designer himself.
In the 1980s, I met Mr. Brown, through a friend, and auditioned his gear at his home in Northern California. At the time he sold perhaps 200 BEL 1001s per year. Considering the number of units made, he earned a modest low six-figures income. It's clear that Mr. Brown cares more about making a top product than making money. He could have become a multi-millionaire by increasing quantity through mass production, advertising, etc. but cared about quality instead. (BEL doesn't even have a website.) Such care and labor costs must be accounted for in the cost of each unit.
I was torn when I finally sold my 1001 in 2000, in order to go multi-channel.
The only risk for a BEL buyer is what also made it great. Dick Brown is basically a one-man show. As of this post he's probably in his mid to late 50s. At some point he's going to voluntarily or involuntarily stop making this product.
So how can we find this International Mysto Man (IMM) should we want product? I once heard two of these powering a set of AP Virgos. I thought I'd fallen into the big band studio when I cranked up Rob McConnell & Boss Brass on Immedia TT! Tell me where he is, puleeeze! Alex in NZ
Dick's obituary was published online: Richard D. Brown It is with profound sadness we announce the passing of Richard D. Brown on 10/10/09 after a sudden illness. Richard was born on 9/10/40 in Duluth, Minnesota, fourth of five boys to Roy and Martha Brown. He had a challenging childhood, due to illnesses of his parents and their early deaths. The brothers lived apart periodically in different foster homes. In April of 1958, four months shy of his 18th birthday, Richard joined the Marine Corp where he excelled. He became an expert marksman in the 2nd Force Recon in 1961 and spent another three years in the reserves. While in the service he learned electronics as a craft and soon showed the brilliance which marked his electronic career. After military service, Richard worked for Control Data in Minneapolis until he moved to Sunnyvale, Ca in 1966, working for Raytheon Co. He met the love of his life while skiing at Lake Tahoe and married her in 1969. They moved to San Jose and lived there until his death. During the recession of 1976, Richard left Raytheon and started his own business manufacturing audio power amplifiers of his own design. He named his business Brown Electronic Laboratories. From his original model BEL 2002 Power Amps to the current model 1001 Mark V, Richard produced some of the finest music reproduction equipment ever built for the music lovers. He was highly respected by the audiophile community. Richard was a genius and a member of Mensa. He was an accomplished painter, photographer, designer, intellectual and a perfectionist. Besides enjoying music of all kinds, his passion consisted also of watching Formula 1 car racing, bird and nature photography, hiking and bicycling. He is preceded in death by his parents, his younger brother, Warren and is survived by his beloved wife, Sue and three older brothers, Roy, Pat and Tom. He will be missed greatly by all. Donation can be made in his name to the CJD Foundation. P.O. Box 5312 Akron, Ohio 44334. They can be reached at www. cjd foundation. org.
I own a BEL1001 MK V made in 2007. It is the most prized component in my system. I found it used at a dealership in Chicago. Should (when) it needs servicing I am not sure where I will take it, however will look into it.
I have a pair of BEL MK V's that were tuned to each other as monoblocs by the late Mr. Brown. I will keep these in my system until either they or I die, whichever comes first! They are the best sounding most balanced amps I've heard (been in this hobby for 25 years).
@mesch I own a BEL1001 MK V made in 2007. It is the most prized component in my system. I found it used at a dealership in Chicago. Should (when) it needs servicing I am not sure where I will take it, however will look into it.