Bel Canto - BLACK EX DAC - DAC/Control Preamplifier
Thank you for visiting The Audio Tailor.
We’re Stuart, Gabby, Liam and Vaughan. It’s a pleasure to have you here!
The first question we get from customers usually starts with, “What’s the difference between...”
When you’re shopping for new speakers, a turntable, or even thinking of putting together that home theatre of your teenage dreams - you’ll likely be faced with stacks of comparisons.
Why would I buy the Bluesound Pulse 2i when the Flex 2i is half the price?
Is Bel Canto the best?
Should I wait for a sale? Or get this now? What will I be missing out on when the new model comes out next year?
Endless questions. Lots of FOMO. Loads of hmm-ing and ha-ing.
And there SHOULD be.
Because you don’t go to a Hi-Fi store and drop $2000, $3000, or $15000 on something you're not 100%, positively, secure-in-your heart sure of.
It’s a lot of hard-earned money on the line.
Imagine doing hours of your own research. Reading up the suppliers’ websites, taking notes from Hi Fi blogs, categorizing the differing opinions as you trawl r/audiophile. You know what you’re getting. You’ve narrowed the online stores down to the final five. You’ve checked and re-checked that you’re getting the best deal. You’re sure you’re not getting ripped off by shipping.
You hit the “Checkout” button. Momentary relief!
Until your speakers haven’t arrived by the estimated delivery date and you have yet to hear a peep about its progress.
Until your new turntable arrives with a crack in the dust cover.
Until your long-awaited amp set-up fails to deliver the kind of sound you had in mind. Now you’re not even sure if you got the right one anymore, or how to troubleshoot it.
What could possibly be worse?
What about: No after-sales service. No phone number to call. And no one responding to your tickets.
Not to mention the hundreds of man hours you’ve already lost on reading layman opinions from the likes of Graham H. from Melbourne and Sarah D. from Perth; dutifully scrolling through pages and pages of reviews. Torturing yourself by looking for all the ones with less than 3 stars... when you could have been sitting back and diving into a whole new world of immersive sound and deliciously satisfying body vibrations.
Would it make sense to go to audio specialists that know brands, specs, and installation like the back of their hands?
Should you spend less time on weighing up pros and cons and more time enjoying good music?
Want to get the absolute best home theatre for your budget and surroundings without the weight of 100++ brand offerings bogging you down?
We like to think so!
And that’s why we’re here. Two things to know about us:
Thing 1: We were voted Australia’s 2021 Hi Fi Retailer of the Year (Yay! And THANK YOU!)
Thing 2: This is purely because we are sound specialists and audioheads - NOT salesmen.
We got into this business because we genuinely love audio and because we realized there was a lot of faceless dropshipping in the HiFi industry - and not enough expertise out there. People who keep coming back to us do so because they’re getting attention to detail and individualized solutions that they can’t find elsewhere.
Our clients don’t need to worry about budget, brand name, or size.
All they need to worry about, is talking to us.
Because, when you come to us, you’re in for a conversation.
We want to know the picture in your head.
That final portrait of you back from the flea market with Pearl Jam’s Ten, eager to place it gently upon a turntable you haven’t quite decided on yet.
A summer barbeque in your garden with the boys. Having a yarn around a beer-filled cooler while appreciating the crisp, clear, quality of sound streaming through the open doors of your listening space.
The kids having mates over - quiet for once - immersed in a good movie, lights out, in the comfort of the home theatre that is your pride and joy. “I wish we had one of these at our place!”
Once we know precisely what your ultimate scenario looks like, we’ll want to know what you’re working with.
What kind of budget have you set aside?
What’s the existing set-up look like?
How big is the listening room you have in mind?
How much ambient light is coming in?
Are you running drywall or wood panelling? Carpet or hardwood?
What about room resonance and reflection?
No idea what we’re going on about? No worries. We intend to talk you through all that. Our aim is that you get the absolute best sound system for your home, at a price point you’re happy with, and an aesthetic you can’t help but want to show off.
To get to this end goal, an unhealthy interest in all things audio simply isn’t enough. That’s why we spend countless hours behind the scenes sourcing products from only the most reliable brands and trustworthy suppliers - regardless of their branding and marketing.
We don’t rely on them to tell us what’s good about their equipment. We’ve developed our own proactive testing process to judge what’s what. So you get hands-on knowledge every single time. Coupled with our tight networks and stable supply chain meticulously refined over the years, we strive to ensure that the experience you get at The Audio Tailor is personal, seamless, and painless.
Personal, because it’s uniquely you in musicality, design, and taste. Your options are hand picked by us from amongst some of the world’s biggest, best, and most dependable brands.
Seamless, because we’re only small. You get one of us. Not one of dozens of salesmen milling about the place, working for commission and pushing the most expensive products.
Painless, because we don’t recommend anything until we’re clear about your needs. We follow up with you to make sure everything’s arrived in one piece. For us, the transaction isn’t over until your equipment is safely installed and fully satisfying.
Some of the big things we feel are missing in the HiFi world are:
- The need for expertise before, during, and after the sale
- A vast wealth of comparative knowledge, and
- A commitment to end-to-end service.
At The Audio Tailor, we hope we’ve made it clear that service doesn’t shut off when a problem pops up. It’s an opportunity to tighten the ship we run, bolster our 5-star reputation, and most importantly - make someone’s day.
Hi! We see you’ve actually made it to the end of this page. Love it!
We’d like to end this by giving a shout out to all the enthusiasts and audiophiles we’ve been fortunate enough to work with over the years. It has been a privilege to share our desire, passion, and journey for the purest sound and finest entertainment solutions for your homes and businesses.
Thank you to all our customers - past, present, and future - for helping us chase after something above the ordinary.
To make your audio dreams come true - call, email, or hop on down to our Brisbane store.
We’re looking forward to meeting you!
The Black EX DAC/Control Preamplifier is designed in a custom plated high-grade aluminum chassis that contains the highest-level DAC performance and source compatibility, including MQA, Roon, DSD, and an internal programmable phono stage. The EX DAC controls input selection, volume control, and manages all source formats with the highest quality detail and musicality from any source ensuring years of musical enjoyment.
EX DAC - DAC Control Preamp
The EX DAC/Control Preamplifier is built around our High Dynamic Resolution HDR-II core and high-speed Asynchronous Multi-Input Processor (AMiP) platform that defines the most versatile DAC preamplifier. Stream music through Ethernet or USB, a full suite of digital inputs, line level inputs, sub output and software controlled internal MM/MC analog phono stage.
The EX DAC is designed to manage the complexity of all audio source and control functions with ease and efficiency. The 32-bit volume and multi-processor system functions are controlled by manually pressing and rotating the control dial on the front of the unit, or by using the IR custom remote control, or with your iPhone/iPad and the custom iOS app. The fully programmable display is easy to read and illuminates system status indicating source and volume.
All source inputs are asynchronously re-clocked into the fully balanced advanced segment DAC measuring below 0.001% distortion and 126dB of dynamic range. By stripping away the source clock and using Bel Canto’s custom ULN master clock circuitry, we significantly reduce both jitter and distortion preserving the delicate audio signals from all sources.
Asynchronous ethernet connects you to the most compelling and power musical source available today. Bel Canto’s proprietary asynchronous ethernet and USB-A inputs provide the highest level of performance for high resolution files up to 24bits at 192ks/s, MQA, and DSD64. This allows you to connect to a variety of subscription streaming service or source from your personal library that is stored on a NAS (networked attached storage) drive, or a multi-terabyte independent drive to the USB-A all providing full server function with complete iOS wireless control using our SEEK control App.
Asynchronous Digital SPDIF AES, RCA and Toslink inputs all operate at 24/192Ks.
Asynchronous USB2.0 Audio is compatible with any PCM source up to 24/348, MQA, and DSD 128 (DoP). Windows-based computers require our custom driver. USB2.0 works natively in OSX.
MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) is an award-winning British technology that delivers the sound of the original master recording. The master MQA file is fully authenticated and is small enough to stream or download. The MQA logo is a trade mark of MQA Limited. © MQA Limited 2017
RS232 is designed to support easy integration with sophisticated whole house control systems.
The MM/MC phono section is a low noise, low distortion circuit that is fully programmable for optimum application with wide range of quality cartridges from high output MM 2.5mV to 5mV to low output MC 0.25mV to 0.5mV to optimised performance.
The line level analog input also can be programmed to gain match your analog sources and achieve the best performance from all analog sources. The line output can be connected to a powered subwoofer.
The front mounted headphone jack opens up high quality sound for your favourite headphones. Plug in your headphones and the EX DAC configures itself into a superb headphone amplifier with a high performance buffer stage that can drive down to 32 ohm. Control the output level using the main control, allowing you to select the headphone or main speaker output while leaving the headphones in place.
EX DAC Technology
Bel Canto's new AMiP (Asynchronous Multi-Input Processor) Platform manages all the inputs of the Black Integrated amplifier. It is a powerful custom asynchronous core with 6 processor units that consist of: 2-32 bit XMOS general purpose processors, 2-32 bit ARM processors units as well as 2-dedicated audio processors. These together handle the ethernet interface that works with Roon Ready and DLNA servers, USB-A host streaming input, a USB2-24/384 input, legacy digital SPDIF/AES/TOS inputs and analog line level and phono inputs. The AMiP platform handles DSD and MQA processes and Bel Canto's custom Time Optimised Filter with integer up-sampling. There is a high-performance MM/MC programmable phono stage and 2-line level inputs that feed a high dynamic range 24/192 ADC into the processor core. Dual free running Ultra-Low Phase Noise Master Clocks direct all the digital processing and strip any incoming jitter from external digital input streams. There is a 32-bit ARM core processor that handles the user interface and coordination of the AMiP Platform.
The AMiP platform feeds our HDR-II DAC core running on a dedicated power supply through a custom digital interface. This is where volume control is performed using 32-bit math, the HDR-II core achieves 127dB of dynamic range, higher than any analog volume control could achieve for completely transparent volume control function. The HDR-II also has an asynchronous interface with a free running Ultra-Low Phase Noise Master Clock positioned adjacent to the Digital to Analog Converters. It includes a 64-bit dedicated audio Digital Signal Processor to provide completely transparent Bass Management, sophisticated Tilt and Bass EQ functions and allows us to fine tune things like the RIAA response in the phono section. There is a secondary DAC (112dB dynamic range) that drives the line output and provides headphone and subwoofer output capability with bass management features.
Bel Canto’s High Dynamic Resolution-II (HDR-II) core is a highly refined Digital to Analog Core rendering high levels of definition and musicality. It is the culmination of more than 20 years of audio DAC design evolution. With the HDR-II Core they have improved the dynamic range, analog output stage design and digital filters while reducing spurious signal generation and jitter related errors. Bel Canto's new HDR-II Core has demonstrated that they can increase the resolution of musical detail, and improve listenability and perceived quality of the recorded music. This is in contrast where ‘transparent’ and ‘revealing’ often means ‘bright’. The HDR-II Core presents the original music with high levels of clarity and emotion.
Bel Canto's HDR-II Core starts with a deliberate and careful choice of DAC technology. This choice defines the ultimate achievable performance and is defined by several key specifications. Their research has directed them to the best DAC technology, confirmed through extensive testing and listening. Bel Canto chooses the most refined CMOS digital to analog processor to provide superior dynamic range through extremely low noise, distortion and jitter sensitivity. The analog output section takes best advantage of the underlying CMOS technology to achieve the highest levels of analog purity and uncompromised performance. This Advanced Segment Technology DAC combines both multi-bit and multi-bit delta-sigma technology to deliver superb performance with a dynamic range of 132dB and transparent linear-phase digital filters. The CMOS analog conversion operates in a Constant Voltage, Class A Differential Current mode for minimal distortion and best analog performance.
Through detailed FFT analysis Bel Canto characterise DAC performance over the complete dynamic range, insuring that the DAC analog outputs behave in a true analog fashion. As with the best analog circuitry their DAC technology exhibits diminishing levels of distortion and spurious signals at lower output levels were most of the audio signals live. Their HDR-II Core analog behaviour is contrasted in the following figures with an increasingly popular DAC technology that looks good on paper but does not deliver true analog purity over the audio dynamic range.
It is critical that a DAC reproduce low level signals cleanly with no added distortion or spurious energy above the noise floor to colour the sound. The extremely pure results in the HDR-II DAC results in a very pure lifelike sound quality. This was a major factor in their original choice of this DAC technology and their continued investment in this technology.
Digital Done Right
The HDR-II Core digital design starts with Bel Canto's Ultra-Low Phase Noise Master Clocks. These superior clocks are free running and fed from dedicated ultra-low noise analog power supply regulators. There are 2 stages of asynchronous interfacing to ensure that the final DAC output is jitter free and independent from any noise on the incoming digital signals. Their custom MQA based digital filters define an optimised impulse response from all sources, MQA, PCM, Analog and DSD. Bel Canto's custom digital filters are designed to largely mimic the time domain response of an audio signal traveling through 10 meters of air. This superior time domain response insures the best sonic performance for all signals reproduced by our HDR-II Core DAC technology. MQA, High Bit Rate PCM, Analog and DSD all approach the impulse response resulting from travel through 10 meters of air, retaining the critical time relationships in the original music.
Pure Class A Differential Analog Output
A critical advantage of Bel Canto's HDR-II Core architecture is how the Class A Differential Current Mode output from their DAC operates in concert with their custom balanced analog section to best preserve the original dynamics of the recording. The large constant-bias differential currents impose pure Class A operation to every part of the analog output stages, every precision resistor, film capacitor and amplification device is biased with constant current and voltage. This constant bias keeps all components in thermal stasis and insures that all the original signal dynamics are retained.
Bel Canto's proprietary SSHA (Single Stage High-Current Amplifier) interposer module is used in the Black HDR-II and Black EX DAC Core design. This is a very fast, low noise amplifier with a single-stage folded cascode architecture and over 500mA of peak current output capability. It maintains constant very low distortion levels through the audio band because of its high open-loop bandwidth. The SSHA module brings a further element of dynamic resolution and contrast to the HDR-II Core. The vertical modular design permits a tight, efficient Printed Circuit Board (PCB) layout that combines the best of IC based and discrete component design. The PCB represents a final degree of design refinement that is especially critical when the circuit is capable of 130dB of dynamic range or more.
Through careful parts choices, architectural considerations and design details, refined over numerous generations, Bel Canto’s HDR-II Core has been optimised to render pure, dynamic analog signal quality from all music sources.
Bel Canto's dual stage phono architecture is used in the ACI 600. It consists of an Ultra-Low noise input RIAA amplifier with precision filter components and fixed 40dB gain. This is followed by a digitally controlled analog variable gain stage to adapt the RIAA gain for a broad range of MM and MC cartridges. Input loading is controlled from the menu so that you can load your MC cartridge with the optimum impedance. This new Phono Architecture is optimised for accurate, low noise RIAA filter operation and compatibility with many cartridges.
The Headphone output is driven from a dedicated 112dB dynamic range DAC through a high current output buffer stage. It can drive 32-ohm phones to high level and provide excellent headphone sonic detail and performance.
Bass Management functions include independent selection of a 2nd order Butterworth Low Pass and High Pass filter set. The main speakers can be run full range or rolled off below frequencies from 40 to 120 Hz. The Subwoofer Low Pass can be set for full range or frequencies from 40 to 120 Hz. This approach drives maximum flexibility to optimise the integration of a subwoofer. There is also +/-6dB of gain trim range on the subwoofer output.
Line Level Inputs
There are 2-line level analog inputs that provide 110dB of dynamic range and can be used for legacy analog sources such as tape, tuner or a Home Theatre bypass where the volume level would be set to a high setting (84.0) on the ACI 600 and volume is controlled through the Home Theatre processor. These inputs enhance the ability to integrate the ACI 600 into many different systems with many different signal sources.
EX DAC Features
Bel Canto's precision filter and equaliser functions use the power of a custom 64bit DSP engine embedded into the internal signal path. Bel Canto’s approach removes the possibility of any degradation due to noise, distortion or response errors introduced by traditional analog filters. In other words, our approach permits subtle equalisation and tonal control without compromising the sonic integrity of the original signal.
The Tilt function allows you to trim High frequency and simultaneously boost low frequency equally (or the opposite) to dial in the tonal balance you desire. This is done by holding the axis point of 775Hz and adjusting in a see saw fashion the upper and lower frequencies. This is ideal for eliminating the minor flaws in recordings or in sonically challenged spaces.
Gordon Holt is on record as saying: “it’s far better able than most to correct for many of the worst and most commonly-encountered sonic flaws in recordings.”
The bass EQ gives you great control over low frequency energy below 200 Hz helping you to achieve the tonal balance you desire in room and with speaker placement. It operates over a +/-3dB range with 0.6dB increments (–5, Off, +5) providing subtle optimisation of bass energy.
The High Pass circuitry, inserts a high-pass filter into the main speaker output path optimizing the performance of your speakers with the sub output. You can also independently insert a low pass filter into the subwoofer output to help control sub levels. The filters are adjustable anywhere from 40Hz to 120Hz (in increments of 10Hz), depending on the low-frequency extension of your main speakers and the size of your subwoofer. The provision of these high-pass and low-pass filters is far-sighted, as it enables far superior integration of your main speakers with your subwoofer than would otherwise be possible.
The control menu also has a ‘maximum volume’ setting. This allows you to set the max volume at any level you prefer and ensures no one can inadvertently increase the volume using an App volume control or the remote and do damage to your speakers. The Max volume can be changed at any time and comes from the factory set at 85.
The Ethernet connection on the rear panel allows you to update your unit firmware to the current specification at any time the unit is connected to the internet. This can be checked through the menu by the user. If there is an update you will be given the choice to complete the upgrade ensuring that your unit is always up-to-date or decline the update and perform it at another time. If you choose to complete the update the unit will display the latest software Rev’s on the display and let you know when it is completed. The unit will reset itself (you do not have to power cycle the unit) and be ready to play after completion.
Bel Canto SEEK is about musical discovery, without compromise. The SEEK Controller is a UPnP/DLNA free iOS** app that organizes playlists, favorite tracks, or stations from around the world, making them readily accessible all from your iOS tablet or phone. SEEK manages both content and volume levels of your Bel Canto component without having to leave your favorite listening position.
SEEK is conveniently designed with a connection to both TIDAL and Qubuz subscription services. Simply load your account information into the SEEK app to beginning streaming music from both services. There is also the option to stream internet radio with vTuner at no additional cost. The SEEK app also controls content stored in the cloud from Dropbox or OneDrive to ensure you music files are safe. The Bel Canto components also have a USB-A port that allow you to attach a portable drive and control content with SEEK.
The SEEK control app serves music to your Bel Canto component, but the musical files do not travel through the iOS device. The SEEk app runs outside of the audio signal controlling content and volume without effecting the original stream data. It is important that proper care is taken in setting up and maintaining your network to ensure the best results from a DLNA environment.
SEEK is all about discovering and managing you music files and subscriptions easily, but it's also quite flexible. Have another streaming product on your network? Simply add it to a group for an efficient and powerful smart home audio hub. Or make a set of favorite devices or playlists to access at the touch of a button. SEEK is a powerful, but simple application that makes it easier to do what you really want to do: listen to music.
**Android users can use the MConnect app to operate their Bel Canto device.
Maximum Data Input Rates
- 24bit Data to 192ks/s: AES, SPDIF, TOSLINK
- 24bit Data to 192ks/s, MQA, and DSD64: 10/100 Ethernet
- 24bits to 384ks/s, MQA, and DSD64/128 (DoP): USB2 Audio
Low Level Outputs
- Line Level Analog: 4.5Vrms with Bass Management
- Headphone: 4.5Vrms maximum, 32ohm minimum load
- Input Sensitivity: MM: 2.5mV to 5mV; MC: 0.25mV to 0.5mV
- Input Load: MM: 47K ohms; MC: 50, 100, 500, 1000
- RIAA Accuracy: +/- 0.25dB, 50Hz-15kHz
- THD+N: <0.01% 1kHz A-Weighted
- SNR: >70dB A-Weighted
- Maximum Input: 2.2 Vrms RCA
- Input Impedance: 10k ohms RCA
- THD+N: 0.003%, 1kHz
- Dynamic Range: 110dB, A-weighted 20Hz-20kHz
- Balanced XLR Output and Impedance: 5.5Vrms, 100 ohms
- RCA Output and Impedance: 2.75Vrms, 100 ohms
- Dynamic Range: 127dB A-weighted
- THD+N: <0.001% 1W, 1kHz, 4 ohms
- IMD (CCIF): <0.001%, 1W, 18.5:19.5kHz 1:1, 4 ohms
- Power Usage On: 20W
- Power Usage Off: 0W
- Internally Set Operating Voltages: 100-120VAC, 220-240VAC 50/60 Hz
- Dimensions: 17.75 W x 15.5 D x 3.5 H inches, 451 x 394 x 89mm
- Weight: 25lbs. (12 kg)
Features and specifications are subject to improvements and changes without prior notice.