The Bel Canto DAC-3 is a superb DAC and, in our opinion, was the best DAC made at $2,500 when available. It featured their new Ultra clock which, according to Bel Canto, was the lowest jitter clock made. It is both single-ended and balanced. It also has a USB input to allow it to run downloaded software right off your computer. The DAC also sports a volume control that allows it to run amplifiers directly in all-digital systems. The volume control can also be bypassed if the DAC is used with a preamplifier. The stock unit takes on all comers in its price range.
High points of the stock DAC are:
1. Digital input isolation and switching
2. Multi-stage jitter rejection
3. Linear phase digital fflters
4. Low noise D/A conversion
5. Class A analog output stage, current-to-voltage conversion and analog filtering
6. Class A analog output buffer to drive the preamplifier or amplifier stage.
DAC-3 design features:
- Ultra-wideband, class A biased, true balanced output buffer stage with select audio grade resistors
- Ultra-wideband, Class A biased, I/V conversion stage with selected audio grade resistors and capacitors with a single pole RC filter
- 100dB of digital level control in accurate 0.5 dB steps
- Dual low noise toroid power transformers for digital and analog stages
- 10 power regulation stages with ultra-wideband, low noise audio stage regulation
- 4-layer board design for optimized ground, signal and power routing
- Extremely short analog signal path with no switch contacts
- DC coupled design with no signal path capacitors
Our Level-1 & 2 mods make it a good bit better and allow it to compete against far more expensive DACs. The mods were developed by Chris Johnson, the founder and former president of sonic Frontiers.
The following details the Level-1 modifications for the Bel Canto Design DAC-3 [$750 + freight to your DAC:
- 1 pair of premium WBT 0210-CU next gen RCA female jacks replace the inferior stock jacks
- 5 x upgraded DAC PS Caps electrolytic caps
- 4 x Riken Ohm ½ and one watt "signal path" 1% carbon comp. resistors (gold-plated leads).
- 4 x IR Hexfred ultra-fast soft recover rectifying diodes inpower supply
- We replace stock inexpensive dual I-V op amps with the world's best - Burr-Brown OPA-627 in a special single DIP module - 2 pcs. total
- 2 x MultiCap PPFX-S polypropylene film and tin foil input coupling caps are added.
- 2 x 3uf AURICAP metalized polypropylene line output caps
- 4 x pieces of DH LABS 99.999% pure solid-core long-grained silver output signal wires, with foamed Teflon tape wrap dielectric
- WBT high silver content (4%) solder used throughout
- 4 hours total labor.
Sonic improvements with the Level-1 are:
- Transparency is improved.
- Bass is more extended
- Dynamics are improved.
- Midrange is now warmer.
- Imaging and 3-dimensionality are improved.
- It is now smoother sounding and more forgiving of bad recordings.
Our Level-1 mod takes this excellent DAC and makes it a good bit better at a modest cost over the stock version. At under $3,000, the Level-1 is a wonderful value in a high-end DAC and second to none at its price. All after-market mods void the Bel Canto factory warranty. In its place we offer the same 2 year warranty thru Underwood Hifi.
The following details the Level-2 modifications for the Bel Canto DAC-3 [$1,400 + freight retrofit to your DAC]:
Level-2 is a mod for both the RCA and XLR outputs.
- 1 x pair of premium WBT 0210-CU next gen RCA female jacks
- 1 x sheet of ERS EMI/RFI suppression paper to the chassis.
- 15 x upgraded Power Supply caps, DAC PS Caps, and output coupling capacitors
- 4 x Riken Ohm ½ and one watt "signal path" 1% carbon comp. resistors with gold-plated leads
- 4 x Cree Silicon-Carbide 1A 600V Schottky Diodes ultra-fast soft recover rectifying diodes in power supply; 4 x Visghay-Telefunken SF4007 ultra-fast soft recovery diodes
- We replace the inexpensive stock I-V op amps with world's best - Burr-Brown OPA-627 in a special single DIP module - 4 OPA-627s are used in total
- 1 x Linear Technology LT1085 and 1 x Linear Technology LT1033 high current, ultra-low impedance positive and negative adjustable power supply regulators
- 1 x Acme Audio Labs cryogenically-treated silver-plated 15A IEC AC inlet
- One 5x20mm 0.5A, slo-blo pure silver HiFi Tuning fuses (German made)
- 4 pieces of DH LABS 99.999% pure solid-core long-grained silver output signal wires, with foamed Teflon tape wrap dielectric
- WBT high silver content (4%) solder is used throughout.
- 6 hours total labor.
- Bass and dynamics are dramatically improved
- Midrange is now warmer and more liquid
- Transparency is improved
- Imaging and 3-dimensionality are brought to a world-class level
- It is now smoother sounding, less analytical and more forgiving of bad recordings.