RMAF 2013 - Denver, USA
- Written by Doug Schneider Doug Schneider
- Parent Category: RMAF 2013 RMAF 2013
- Created: 13 October 2013 13 October 2013
Future Fi -- Bel Canto Paints It Black
A couple of days ago I wrote an article under the "Future Fi" theme about the importance of quality all-in-one components to help grow high-end hi-fi's consumer base. The importance of convenience and simplicity, which is what these components provide, can't be underestimated.
But that doesn't mean that separate components could or should go away. There are always going to be audiophiles for whom sheer performance trumps all, so if it takes more boxes to get there, so be it. It is for those people that I'm writing about Bel Canto Design's new Black components, which comprise a separates-based system that's unique in terms of implementation, and probably a harbinger of things to come.
John Stronczer and Michael McCormick
Before I get to what the system is composed of, it's important to understand the name. According to Bel Canto Design president, Michael McCormick, and chief designer, John Stronczer, the name Black was inspired by the Claude Debussy quote, "Music is the space between the notes." Essentially, it's about creating a system that's as distortion-free and noiseless as possible, so that the music emerges from a background of complete sonic darkness.
As for what Black is made up of, there are two main components right now: the ASC1 (or Asynchronous Stream Controller), which sells for $20,000, and MPS1 (or Mono PowerStream), which sells for $15,000. For a complete system, you need one ASC1 and two MPS1s, so $50,000 in total. Now the details . . .
Consider the ASC1 kind of like a preamp in that it has all the inputs, does switching, and is where the volume is controlled. That's where the similarities end, though. The ASC1 is basically a digital processor with a plethora of digital inputs and one lone pair of single-ended analog inputs -- and even those analog inputs are converted to digital by an onboard analog-to-digital converter. Once the data stream is in the ASC1 from either a digital or analog source, it's completely reclocked to eliminate jitter and the volume is changed in the digital domain. The ASC1 does other things, since it has high-power 64-bit processing built in, but that's the gist of what it does. Except for one more important thing -- it does not output analog signals like a conventional preamp would, but digital ones via ST fiber lines, which I'll get to next.
In each MPS1 there is a mono power amp capable of delivering 300W into 8 ohms, 600W into 4 ohms, or 1200W into 2 ohms. Because the MPS1 is a mono design, you need two for stereo, and each can therefore be placed close to the speakers to minimize speaker-cable length. The MPS1 has an XLR-based analog input, so for someone who wants to use a pair of MPS1s "conventionally," they can be hooked up to a preamplifier that has balanced analog outputs. But for those who want to use MPS1s optimally and experience all that the Black system is about, then it's the ST fiber connection that matters, since it allows for the receiving of the ASC1's outgoing digital signal. When that happens, the signal remains 100% digital from the ASC1 to well within each MPS1. It's only at the final output stage where upsampling and digital-to-analog conversion occur in order to create a signal that will drive the loudspeakers. In other words, Black is pretty close to an all-digital separates-based system.
When any company delivers new technology to the market, they always face the hurdle of convincing consumers that this is a good way to go. To Bel Canto Design's credit, they seem to have the ability to do so -- their printed literature explains the Black system well, and they've even created a new website called BelCantoBlack.com devoted specifically to it. Their in-person demo is also pretty compelling -- the Black-based system at RMAF 2013 sounded extremely good. So I encourage you to visit their site because this system appears to be more than just a little bit promising. As I said earlier, it's likely a sign of what's to come. As Stronczer said as we were leaving their display room, "This is a true 21st century audio system, as opposed to all of the 20th century approaches out there today." Black to the future, perhaps?
Publisher, The SoundStage! Network
Most-Read Last 90 Days
- Hans's Main Stereo System: KEF, Hegel, Siltech
- From Microsub to Tactical Nuke: Living with Perlisten's D15s Subwoofer
- The Bristol Hi-Fi Show 2023, Part 2
- Florida International Audio Expo 2023: TAD’s Compact Evolution One—Concentric Excellence
- Florida International Audio Expo 2023: Soundfield Audio’s Obelisk T710—The Most Ambitious Loudspeaker System at the Show
- Florida International Audio Expo 2023: High-End, Very High-End, and Extremely High-End Loudspeakers—Børresen Acoustics, MC Audiotech, and Acora Acoustics
- Montreal Audiofest 2023 Product Coverage: Bryston, Simaudio, Totem Acoustic, Luxman
- The Bristol Hi-Fi Show 2023, Part 1
- Florida International Audio Expo 2023: Orchard Audio, M101, Shunyata Research, MSB Technology, and Coastal Source
- Florida International Audio Expo 2023: A Study in Speaker Contrasts—Endow Audio Bravura 12 and Clarisys Audio Minuet
- Florida International Audio Expo 2023: Four-Figure Gear in a Sea of Unobtanium—Soulnote, Diptyque Audio, Audia Flight, Unison Audio, and Moonriver Audio
- Florida International Audio Expo 2023: Pro-Ject Audio Systems, Rotel, RME, and Falcon Acoustics Product Coverage
- Florida International Audio Expo 2023: Introduction Plus Focal and Naim Audio Product Coverage
- Montreal Audiofest 2023: They Have a Robot!
- Florida International Audio Expo 2023: Avantgarde Acoustic’s Duo GT—High-End Horns from the House of Stereo