Bel Canto e.One S300 Digital Stereo Amplifier Review

Background

Bel Canto, in Italian, means singing beautifully. And oh how it sings beautifully! Clearly, they know what is needed for beautiful singing to be produced. And it’s not just that. I’ve had a Bel Canto DAC 2.5. Everything they do seems to lead to one outcome. Beautiful “singing” coming out of their components. They are doing something right in that regard. At least, for those two components.

Needless to say, this amplifier is out of this world, in terms of what I have ever tried in room system. In a good way. It’s like switching cables, from one that cost about $600 msrp, to a $2000+ speaker cable, in a system that averages about $2000 msrp worth. It clears up the pathway like an exhaust system in a car, and allows for the potential to translate to results, which is sound quality, or the horsepower in a car. After upgrading, you can just see the results when you start it up and take it for a spin. You don’t necessarily see it, but you hear it, and more importantly, you feel it.

Switching from the Topping to the Bel Canto S300, worth a whopping $1,395 msrp, and my topping being $250, makes for a more than $1000 difference between the two. This S300, a stereo amplifier which is capable of delivering 150 watts per channel into eight ohm speakers, and 300 watts into four ohm speakers, compared to the small topping capable of delivering about 25  watts into four ohm, and about 14 watts into eight, is much more powerful. With great power comes great responsibility, and like that saying, the power output is useless in the face of precision of sound production. Does this product actually execute such precision? More on this below!

Review

1503376-bel-canto-s300-stereo-power-amplifier-very-good-condition
features on the backside of the S300

Bel Canto has been making compact components for quite some time now. They seemed to switch from making full-size components to compact components, like this S300, which is roughly half the size of their older model, the Evo 200.2. It is the same size, however, to the DAC 2.5 that I’ve had, which makes for a satisfying visual when you put these the Bel Cantos side by side, or stacked on top of each other, of which you can do because of a space constraint, or visual preference.

bcpic1
an example of stacking and side-by-side (ish) of Bel Canto components

Like a relationship that ends because of a trait that started it all, the size of this stereo amplifier is their shortcoming and their success. While it may not be able to fit a diverse range of connections, it does have everything an amplifier needs. An Analog (RCA) and Balanced (XLR) connections, speaker level outputs, and a switch for either analog or balanced inputs. The overall quality of this amplifier is as it should be, excellent, using high quality connectors and it even has a plastic outer shell for the speaker level output, so in the event that a wire slips out, it does not touch the other speaker level output and shorts the amplifier. It does sacrifice some time and cause slight more trouble in connected the speaker level using raw wires, which I did in this case, using my usual cables. Despite the troubles, it does show the time and effort taken to protect and design an amplifier that is well worth the cost, based on outer appearance alone.

But, as they say as well, one does not judge a book by it’s cover. Even if the outer appearance is worth the cost, does the inside, where it matters, do too? In this regard, I can say that this has been true. Definitely a step up from my Topping TP-41, in terms of everything. And I really do mean everything. Not just the size, looks (although that is subjective), and sound. Everything feels like an emotional train ride, whether you need to get hyped, relaxed, depressed, inspired or even religious (no offence intended). It just goes to show how good these are, and how much they are worth if you can get your hands on them for a cheap price.

As a drawback to this, I’ll probably not get used to the “flatness” of my usual TP-41. To tell you how this is more expressive and emotional can be a bit hard, but easier examples can be that the impact of drums feel like there are hands hitting the drums, and that it isn’t just sound. It’s the hit as well. Guitars with the sound of hands moving through the strings are there, almost like it’s physically there, instruments like the Cello and double bass has the deep vibrations that are more apparent as well, making it more realistic. And not just that, I’m hearing things that I don’t usually hear in my songs that makes me doubt I’m listening to the same song. Everything is clearer, like there is a clear separation between the singer, and background instruments. Just to put it into perspective as to how this doesn’t justify what I’m hearing in it’s entirety, I’ve backspaced countless times just to write this paragraph. You have to try and compare it to see for yourself.

That also goes to say, the potential that is realized in my system. Without the proper set up such as speakers, cables and everything appropriate, which doesn’t take much for this, even if you put it in everything budget (like me as a broke college student now). Therefore, as a disclaimer, I must say, that this will sound different in every system, due to factors like the speaker characteristics, cables, etc., so really try everything you have. This doesn’t sound as good to me in a bigger system like my dad’s (two towers with 2 separately powered 2-driver sub) as it is in mine, which is a 2.1 bookshelf and one sub. Definitely though, if you have speakers that are sub-200, the potential may not be realized, because as a reminder, my Sony’s MSRP was about $600 a pair new. But then again, who’s to say it won’t be realized?

Conclusion

With a large jump in sound quality though, take a few days to get used to it, before making a definite decision, because heck, I needed at least a day to get over drooling over how good it was. Once that was out of the way, I realized how truly it was different, and the level-up it truly is to invest into good components like this, provided you have the appropriate stuff as well. I’m lucky enough to be landed the components, although used, that can realize the potential, of this amplifier. It was a wonderful, emotional time with it. Sadly the train is gone, and I’m left at the station for the next train to hopefully come.

That said, if you ever find one of these, used, go check them out (they have newer, implicitly better versions, also check that out). They are well worth the price because of the depreciation in being used. They still sell for about half the price, and for good reason. If you get a good deal out of it though, do consider it, because I’m saying it’s good, and can take your system to the next level, if you’re looking for that worth investment. If it doesn’t work out, you can still sell it again, because there is demand for this as far as I know. It’s a must see to believe, so it’s on my recommended list of those you should at least short-list to get for your system, for an appropriate price. It’s like getting a discount for good sound. Always a want, right?

Summary

  • *Drool* (it’s that good)
  • Very expressive (although comparison used was unfair, but I’ve heard a number so trust me *to a certain extent*)
  • It’s smaller than usual components (half the size, and that is good or bad, depends on every situation)
  • Worthy investment (since you’ll get these ones used, hence cheaper)
  • Good build quality (rather heavy, good connectors)

 

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