BEL CANTO M300 monoblocks


Power amplifiers

It was as if the recording venue had new air filters installed and an extra dose of oxygen was pumped in during a performance – the sense of vertigo was very strong and I did not want to return back to the ´dusty´sound of everything else.

Function and form

Ease of use

This is a review of the system, consisting of the Bel Canto Pre3 preamplifier and the M300 mono block amplifiers.

One of the deeply rooted preconceptions says that a lightweight component cannot perform well The Bel Cantos were not heavy at all. In fact, the M300 monoblocks (4kg each) were lighter than the Pre3 preamp (6 kg). I could almost see my skepticism expanding as a bubble. Then I gave them a short warm up and my jaw dropped by surprise – the sound that poured out from my speakers was so perfect that I sat transfixed for an hour without saying a word.

All Bel Canto amplifiers employ the latest switching amplifier technology inside, with ICEPower packs outsourced from Bang & Olufsen being the heart of them. We had already such a thing under our scrutiny in Rotel 1091 monoblocks. John Stronczer believes that a switching supply is superior to traditional 50/60Hz power transformers because it can be precisely regulated and is almost free of any line frequency related noise artifacts. On its input the AC voltage is immediately converted to a filtered DC voltage that is not sensitive to line fluctuations and better rejects RF noise.

The beauty of Bel Canto´s solution lies in high efficiency of the switching power supply (up to 80%) which enables the transformer to be light and small (and cold) and makes the units more environment and user friendly. However, do not mistake the Bel Canto M300 for a digital amplifier that it is not: its output stage is in a MOSFET configuration, that is analogue, and so is its input circuitry. I do not feel it is necessary do spend valuable space of this review for describing technical details as Bel Canto’s web is extremely informative and John Stronczer does not keep his secrets (at least most of them).

The M300 offers mono output of 300W into 4 ohms (150W into 8 ohms respectively) and great 111dB of dynamic range. The rear panel is very simple with a single pair of speaker terminals, balanced and unbalanced input connector and a power switch. Since the switch is not available on the front plate (apart from a blue LED there is virtually nothing to mention there) and the energy consumption is low it already makes a strong suggestion to leave the unit permanently on.

Bass management


The PRe3 control preamplifier does not look complicated either. Its signal path is strictly balanced with similar internal architecture; it provides 20dB gain per channel, remarkably low non-linear distortion and 105dB signal to noise ratio. The PRe3 sports 5 cinch inputs plus 1 balanced input, tape OUT and both RCA and XLR outputs. Oh, and again the rocker power switch that should be left ON all the time.

All functions of the preamp are controlled via a multifunctional knob that can be both turned and pressed. By pressing you can enter input selection mode, by turning you can select an input of your choice. On other instances the knob works as a volume control with precise 0.5dB increments. Whatever you do is illustrated by big green numbers on the eliptical display in the middle of the alumium fascia. The comfort of a remote control is also available though it does not offer more apart from MUTE option.

Clarity & delicacy


Claude Debussy once said ´The music is the silence between the notes´. Indeed, with the Bel Cantos behind a driving wheel I could finally appreciate the silence. Sometimes we are impressed by ´pitch black´backgrounds confusing it for the lack of the capability to retrieve detail. I am not speaking about active details (the sound of an instrument) but rather about passive details like reverbs, breathing, fingers moving or lips smacking. Some components simply delete these – it is like a digital noise removal: with not carefully chosen sample of the noise you can delete a lot of useful signal by a click of mouse.

The quietness of the real background serves as black ink sky against which all stars are delineated one by one. You have probably heard of luminous smog (Light emissions of towns and cities virtually reflect from skies and complicate astronomical observations by veiling the objects in the universe – editor) that causes astronomers to move out to deserted areas or to mountain plateaus. This is what the PRe3/M300 combo does. You can observe the inner life of a recording without electric hassle, without any distortion. The lowering of noise threshold lowers also a listener’s tension during listening and thus, with the Bel Cantos, I did not have to listen hard for details in the played back music.

Tonal accuracy

Temporal resolution

Irrespective of music genre you play it is like your favorite piece of music has received an adrenalin injection. There is a strong sense of energy and communication in the spaces between instruments but, more importantly, there is also a feeling of a stronger communication link between the music and a listener. The midrange clarity is simply oustanding and it gives you a chance to hear every little detail and fine nuancees of a performance without sacrificing good music to an obssessive audiophile hunt. With excellent recordings you can hear rich tapestries of sounds that evolve in a very natural way. Tonnally I have to say that the Bel Cantos are exquisitely balanced so nothing distracts, nothing disturbs.

Spatial resolution

Soundstage width
Soundstage depth

Harmonic distortion could be pretty attractive (think single-ended valve amps) but it is distortion, isn´t it? Thus, in comparison to richer sounding amplifiers, the Bel Canto may lack a bit of colors. That is perhaps why Bel Canto recommends using Cardas wires – they bring a touch of fuzzy warmth which lends more bodily presence and a certain hint of sweetness to the sound which is very welcome. I did not experiment a lot but I managed to borrow a pair of balanced Kimber Silver Streaks to acknowledge my aural observations and indeed, with the Kimber the magic was partly gone and the sonic picture started to show a slight bit of stringency and glare. Images were less fleshy and more bleached without the Cardas. The K-S Emotions shared with the Cardas the same philosophy being only more ´neutral´and more revealing – the Bel Canto was ready to show differences between the two cables with no hesitation which is already a good sign. Despite the supremacy of Kubala-Sosna I could have lived with the Bel Canto´s Cardas easily.

Price as reviewed:50 000,- Kč

Recommended resellers

Hanzel Audio, Komárno, tel. +421 905 400 770

Associated components

  • Sources: C.E.C. TL-51XR
  • Amplifiers: Bel Canto Pre3 a M300
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: Bel Canto (designed by Cardas), Kubala-Sosna Emotion
  • Loudspeakers: Revel Ultima Studio2



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