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Bel Canto USB Link 24/96 is shipping


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Folks, I just talked to a rep at Bel Canto; the Bel Canto USB Link 24/96 that Chris gave us the heads up on a few months ago is now shipping to dealers. For more information go to:

 

http://www.belcantodesign.com/news_usb_link.html

 

The compact device converts a computer-derived USB input of up to 24 bits/96kHz to SPDIF and outputs the signal on a 75 ohm BNC. According to the Bel Canto web site, the USB Link 24/96 includes a Stereovox XV2 BNC/BNC cable with RCA adaptor to feed your audiophile DAC of choice.

 

Tom

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

Folks, I have been listening to audiophile jazz prologue 3 at 24/96 this past weekend. My set up is the following:

MacBook Pro > Bryston BDA-1 DAC>McIntosh C2200 pre-amp>McIntosh MC275 amp, B&W 704s.

 

I am currently comparing the Bel Canto USB 24/96 link (using a Kimber Kable USB cable) and the optical output using a Monster Cable Toslink cable. So, all data is streaming to the Bryston DAC from the MacIntosh at 24/96. In preliminary listening, which is subjective, I think the Bel Canto USB link has the edge when it comes to sound stage and 3D placement of instruments. The unknown factor is that I am not sure of the quality of my Toslink cable, it is plastic and I have read that the glass Toslink cables tend to be of much higher sound quality. I would be interested in hearing what others think. I will say this, the the audiophile jazz prologue 3 is the best sounding 24/96 music files that I have heard on my system and I have some very great sounding 24/96 downloads from both Linn Records and Itrax. I would strongly recommend ordering a copy of the CDs from Kent Poon.

 

tom

 

 

 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I placed the BC USB Link into my system last night (Mac Mini >Kimber USB no ferrite > BC USB Link > Classe SSP-800 prepro/DAC > Classe amp > Wilson Benesch Discovery speakers). Frankly I wasn't expecting much, but I bought the BC Link with the interest of providing a lower jitter signal to my prepro and the hope that this would improve the resolution / definition of the sound. First I have to say that I in no way felt my system was lacking in either of these areas--my system already has excellent resolution (even though I use the jitter-prone toslink output of my mac and a relatively inexpensive plastic fiber toslink cable). But I thought what the hell, everything is relative and maybe there is another level to all of this.

 

At first it was hard for me to hear any difference at all. I was hoping that the difference would be immediate and undeniable, but I had to resort to hours of A/B testing between the USB Link and the Toslink connection to dial in on the sound (if any) of the USB Link. It wasn't until I went through about 20 different songs last night and 50 more tonight that some qualities started to become more clear . . . I think.

 

The USB Link does bring more definition to the sound. It has more snap and edge definition, and at first I thought I liked this, but towards the end of last night I noticed that this came at the cost of some "musicality". Things like the strike of a cymbal or the pluck of a guitar string were more crisp, but the overall sound is slightly cold and metallic. Voices sound more granular and sibilance was also increased. The bass may be a hair tighter and defined through the USB Link, but not enough to sway me. I guess you could say that the USB Link made my system sound slightly more "digital", and that the toslink sounds more natural to these ears. Maybe I like the sound of jitter? I dunno. ;-) I heard no difference in soundstage, imaging or any of the other things we audiophiles typically listen for.

 

I'll be the first to admit that the difference between the BC USB Link and the Toslink are small enough that what I hear may all be in my head.

 

I'm going to hold onto it for another week or so to see if the sound quality changes with "burn-in" and I've got a better Toslink cable (Van Den Hul Optocoupler) on the way that I would like to compare it to, but at this point this interesting device doesn't look like it is going to stay in my system.

 

I would just to ask that anyone reading this take my comments for what they are-- one man's opinion of a device that has been inserted into a system that is probably nothing like yours. Like all things in this hobby, even though it didn't work out for me doesn't mean that it is a bad product. It may sound fabulous in your system. You'll just have to try it out and listen for yourself.

 

For a counterpoint to my experience, this guy loved it:

 

http://www.head-fi.org/forums/f46/bel-canto-high-end-usb-spdif-converter-anyone-387113/index6.html#post5459929

 

Cheers,

 

- Tim

 

Cheers,[br] - Tim

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  • 3 weeks later...

AV-OCD, Thank you for your candid review. Even subjective reviews on this product seem to be rare at this time.

 

I intend to get the Bel Canto 24/96 USB Link because my Grace m902 only accepts 16/44-48 to its usb input. So the conversion to S/PDIF provided by the Bel Canto, by itself, makes it a valuable product. I think a lot of DAC owners may be in the same situation.

 

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Tim,

 

Im looking to run my macbook through one of these internal DACS. In the past, I used macbook >kimber USB> DAC -7 >Mac c220 pre> dual mono mc501> b&w 800d. Now acquired ssp-800 / cdp502 and looking to use internal DACs and keep it going. How does the ssp-800 sound to you??

 

Have any thoughts on using BC link or toslink from macbook??

 

Anybody else want to chime in.....

 

Jay

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Jay -

 

I find very little if any difference in sound quality between the Bel Canto USB Link and the Toslink out from my Mac Mini connected to the SSP-800. I think the SSP-800 is one of the most analog sounding digital processors I've heard. It is a stand out piece.

 

Cheers,[br] - Tim

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  • 4 weeks later...

Chris, I am so confused! I was ready to pull the triger on the pronto and heard about the bel canto usb link. I would ask you to pick one, but dont want to put you in the spot. Can you pick one ;). Ok ok can you do a quick comparison to help me? I have read the specs and I am really interested in the playback quality more than info? I like that both will play without upsampling! This way I control what I am listening to via conversion software.

 

Thanks in advance

 

vortecjr

 

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Hi vortecjr - These two devices are like apples and oranges. Is it safe to assume you mean Proton instead of Pronto? If so, the Proton is an asynchronous USB DAC. This technology is very advanced and only used by Wavelength Audio, Ayre Acoustics (licensed from Wavelength Audio), and dCS. The USB Link is only an interface converter to go from USB to coax S/PDIF. You still need a DAC with the USB LInk.

 

It's virtually impossible to compare these two products because I would have to use another DAC with the USB LInk.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Chris, yes Proton sorry (I had to look at it a few time...mind tricks). I know its a hard one as you noted. I have a processor from Rotel (1069) and as connected to my amp both the Proton and the USB Link will end up in it (Proton in analog and the USB Link as spdif). I have been leaning to the Proton as it kills jitter and has a good dac....end of issues. Assuming no jitter in the USB Link I might still have spdif jitter issues in my processor.

 

Thanks

 

vortecjr

 

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Even if the USB Link claims no jitter by default using its spdif some where down the line one would get jitter. So its one of those...what came first the chicken or the egg deals (thats not a question team...hehehe) . I am really leaning toward the Pronto.

 

regards

 

vortecjr

 

ps obviously the chicken came first ;)

 

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The article briefly compares the Bel Canto USB Link (nearly $500 USD) to an M-Audio Transit (almost pocket change... Where's Ashley?) and an EM-U 0404 plugged into a couple very respectable DACs with interesting and not particularly surprising results.

 

I'm not going to spill at the expense of Stereophile, but I'll mention that these little interface boxes all benefit greatly from running them into DACs with excellent jitter rejection characteristics. Or in other words, as many knowledgeable people here have said, a proper modern DAC.

 

- Rand

 

 

 

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Sorry, but you say too much or too little.

If I try to read between the lines, does it mean that there is not much difference between an M-audio transit, a usb-link or an E-mu?

Is that correct?

 

Thanks,

 

Laurent

 

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The Transit does the same conversion as the USB Link and has an S/PDIF (Toslink) out, although there are some differences worth noting between the units, one of which is the USB Link's self contained driver. The 0404 is a somewhat different device that includes similar features. The author made issue of these conversion boxes passing the jitter from the USB source (with illustrated specs) and mentions a need for plugging one of these converters into modern DAC that does proper jitter rejection. The article is worth getting the magazine (May 09).

 

Personally, if I needed a quick solution similar to the USB Link I would consider the much less expensive Transit. It has a street price of about $80 USD and you can find them used on eBay. If I seriously needed something like this and wanted high quality jitter reduction included in the box, I would put an Empirical Audio Off Ramp at the top of my list. I suggest you check the specs. It's a bit more expensive than the USB Link but I expect well worth the relative cost.

 

- Rand

 

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Thanks Rand,

I will have a look at the EA off ramp but since I am in France, I have no idea if I can get it there. For the same reason it is difficult to have a look at the issue of stereophile... Apart from the driver (which can be an issue) is there a "jitter" difference between the transit and the usb link?

 

Laurent

 

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Empirical Audio ships internationally. The Off Ramp runs from a 12VDC external PSU. Not sure how Steve deals with that outside the USA but I imagine you have proper 12VDC power supplies in France.

 

The author of the article looked at the jitter passed by the Bel Canto USB Link into a Benchmark DAC1, Bel Canto DAC3, and an older mid 1990s Assemblage DAC-1 with much poorer jitter rejection that showed (in graphical illustration) the jitter passed by the USB Link. He compared audio quality by listening to the three mentioned devices playing "music CDs" connected to a Benchmark DAC1 and said "he could hear no appreciable differences". He also said the USB Link and the Transit did not sound appreciably different into the mid 90s DAC even with high sample rate files.

 

It's interesting to note that in so many words the author plainly states (and shows) the Benchmark DAC1 and Bel Canto e.One DAC3 do a great job of rejecting jitter (as used in this article) which tends to suggest a serious reclocking device like the Off Ramp may not be necessary depending on the age and quality of your DAC. Quite a few knowledgeable people that frequent the CA forum have said that proper quality modern DACs are like that.

 

- Rand

 

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Rand,

 

Thanks again. This is interesting. It shows that using the spdif input of those dacs, there is not much difference between the m-adio and the usb-link.

It could be interesting to compare the direct usb input of those dacs versus the spdif using an m-transit for example.

I think I have read from Bel Canto that using the usb-link gives a better performance than using their direct usb input.

 

Laurent

 

 

 

 

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