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Bel Canto C5i DAC Integrated Amplifier

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Pros: Detail, connectivity, unobtrusiveness

Cons: A bit expensive, sound through USB underwhelming

The c5i will connect to nearly anything and reveal detail. My old system - not only old enough to drink but old enough to suffer for it - was in comparison sludgy, fat and slow. I got rid of 70 lb of analog kit and replaced it with a 13 lb c5i and a Vortexbox on a fit-pc2. The S/PDIF connection sounds the best: the USB connection seems to suffer from power supply noise coming from the Vortexbox. Bit-perfect S/PDIF output from the Vortexbox provides detail that in some instances shows off tiny, beautiful percussion riffs or hall sounds and in others reveals recording artifacts or little noises that make tracks un-listenable. There is all kinds of headroom. The volume control is calibrated in arbitrary units from 0 to 100, and I have not had the system above 75 in my 30' x 17' x 14' living room. The sound gets clearer and more detailed as the volume control goes up, but there is no blast-effect of LOUD. Speakers are NHT 2.3s which are reasonably efficient.

 

The c5i is expensive - somewhere between human blood and Kopi Luwak coffee in dollars per pound, but that metric bothered me for about fifteen minutes. The thing just sucks you in. I have been, as the tired old saw says, "rediscovering my collection" every night until much too late from the purchase date until now, and that doesn't show any signs of abating.

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Bel Canto C5i DAC Integrated Amplifier
Description:

The C5i DAC Integrated Amplifier powers it all, digital analog, USB and Phono MM in one compact, powerful component. The C5i converts any source into music while giving you an amazingly compact, cool-running, high output, low-power-usage analog and digital media center. The most complete integrated amplifier, Low jitter, low noise and power isolation delivers the startling dynamics in your music. Bel Canto’s e.One C5i DAC Integrated Amplifier connects to your computer, CD player, turntable, cable box or game console, and now you’ve got control of an entire media center in one component. Compare your analog collection to your digital all through one component. Just add a pair of speakers and the listening room is open! The Bel Canto C5i has an outstanding 115dB dynamic range and our proprietary low-noise D-to-A convertors are based on our award-winning DAC circuit design. The C5i Includes five digital inputs including RCA, TOSLINK and one 24/96 USB input. The analog section has one pair of RCA inputs and one pair of RCA Phono MM inputs. The core 24/192 D-to-A converters are based on our Two-Stage Master Reference Ultra-Clock™ circuitry ensuring that jitter from any source is reduced below the audible threshold. The 24-bit digital volume control is completely transparent and accurate throughout the volume range. The engineering detail that Bel Canto is known for calls for custom 0.1% audio grade resistors, class-A output control circuitry, and low-noise power supply components. The heavy-gauge all-steel chassis design prevents mechanical resonance from compromising the audio signal quality. The stereo amplifier section is based on an elegant switching output stage that eliminates thermal distortion mechanisms caused by changes in operating temperature. The front panel features a single multifunction control knob that selects inputs and volume level for both the main outputs and ¼” front-panel headphone jack, providing flexibility and control with a simple user interface, easy to read display and full remote control.

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