Bel Canto CD-2 Beltsville MD
Annapolis Junction, MD
Bel Canto CD-2
August 3, 2009 By Steve Guttenberg
I’m just guessing, but Bel Canto’s founder and CEO John Stronczer must be a contrarian. Don’t get the wrong idea, he’s a perfectly nice guy; it’s just that Bel Canto’s compact, lightweight, cool running e.One Series components use just a tiny fraction of the AC power consumed by their hotter-running, bigger and heftier competition.
Bel Canto does things differently.
Stronczer came to high-end audio while working as a research scientist at Honeywell Physical Sciences Center. There he developed ultra-high-speed CMOS-integrated circuits for fiber optic Internet infrastructure communications. Stronczer also designed integrated circuits for sensor instrumentation, memory and medical applications. He holds seven U.S. patents in integrated circuit design.
Stronczer’s knowledge of cutting-edge technology is vast, but Bel Canto’s first generation products were vacuum tube designs! Stronczer may be an engineer, but he’s also an audiophile, and to him tubes sound better than solid-state. Bel Canto’s tube components received rave reviews in all the audiophile magazines.
By the late ’90s, Stronczer was experimenting with the latest Class D (digital) designs of the time. He heard something in those nascent digital components that rivaled the musicality of tubes. As he continued to refine his prototypes, the sound was so promising he leapfrogged from tubes past solid-state and went all-digital. Stronczer tells me some of his original die-hard tube customers are now making the switch to e.One Series digital amplifiers. That’s amazing!
For this review, Bel Canto sent a complete e.One Series system consisting of a CD-2 Transport, Dac3 digital-to-analog converter/stereo preamplifier and a pair of REF500 mono power amplifiers. They all share the same black painted chassis that measures a tidy 8 inches wide by 3.5 wide by 12 deep. The design of the half-inch-thick aluminum faceplate, embossed “Bel Canto,” is distinctive and modern. Each component sits on four squishy feet, designed to cushion the electronics from external vibrations.
Stronczer stripped the CD-2 and Dac3’s front panel controls to the bare minimum; each component has just one machined metal control knob. I like the keep-it-simple approach, but it does take a bit of time to get the knack of tapping and twirling the knob to play, pause, stop and change tracks.
Instead of placing the disc on a loading tray, you put the CD on the player’s exposed drive spindle, then place the nicely machined magnetic clamp atop the disc. The spinning disc looks slick and ups the audiophile-cool factor a couple of notches.
The CD-2 can be used as either a standalone CD player or as a CD transport with an external digital-to-analog converter like the Dac3.
The CD-2’s rear panel hosts RCA and XLR analog outputs, along with Toslink, coaxial and AES/EBU digital outputs.
The Dac3’s single control knob controls volume and selects among the Dac3’s...