Bel Canto Black EX

Integrated Amplifier / DAC / Network Capable

Overview

The Black EX Integrated amplifier is an all-in-one component designed in a custom plated high-grade aluminum chassis that combines high-level DAC performance and our custom amplification. The EX Integrated has the versatility to connect to any source with simplicity and ease, including MQA, Roon, DSD, and includes an internal programmable phono stage.

The Black EX Integrated is based on the ground-breaking ACI 600, which is a new breed of integration that maximizes synergy and optimizes performance. The input, DAC, and amplifier designs provide the most efficient signal path, and eliminate the variability and complexity of separates. The EX Integrated utilizes Bel Canto’s proprietary board technologies from the advanced HDR-II core in the DAC, to the AMiP input, and the custom high-power amplifier rated at 250/500 watts. Each input is designed to provide uncompromised sound from any source, whether you’re streaming music through Ethernet or USB, using the full suite of digital inputs, line level inputs, or sub outputs, or listening to records via the internal MM/MC software controlled analog phono stage.

The EX Integrated is designed to manage the complexity of all audio sources and control functions with ease and efficiency. The volume and 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 SEEK app. The fully programmable display is easy to read and illuminates system status indicating source and volume. It also displays all programming functions and serves as the streaming display for metadata.

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 reduces 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 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 and DSD 128 (DoP). Windows-based computers require our custom driver. USB2.0 works natively in OSX. 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 optimized 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 panel headphone jack opens up high quality sound for your favourite headphones. Plug in your headphones and the EX Integrated 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.

Features

Our precision filter and equalizer 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 equalization 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 optimization 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 filers 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 power cycle the unit) and be ready to play after completion.

SEEK App (iOS) Note: Android information at the bottom

The Seek iOS App allows you to stream music to your networked Bel Canto Black system, playlist management over servers, create playlists, play MQA, DSD, PCM formats and gives you system volume control all from your iOS smart phone or tablet.

Bel Canto’s Asynchronous Multi input Platform (AMiP) in the Black Series connects (Ethernet and USB-A) to your home Network to stream music using the SEEK App to play from subscription accounts, TIDAL (MQA) Qobuz or becomes a server with a large drive attached to the USB-A eliminating the need for a computer in your system. Control your music with SEEK on your iOS device.

SEEK is about discovering and managing your music easily, something we see as the ultimate pleasure in musical playback. Making the connection to your home network is straight forward and requires only a connection to your router and downloading the APP to your iOS device. Currently SEEK only works with an iOS device.

After downloading, you can use the below guide to use the app:

  

  1. Network interface device setup and firmware update for renderer
  2. Device information
  3. Timeline and repeat, shuffle options
  4. Transport
  5. Mute
  6. Master volume
  7. Micro-volume toggle
  8. Main menu options
  9. Refresh network connection
  10. Available network devices
  11. Connected device
  12. Access and control files connected to USB-A

NOTE: If you’re an Android user, there are various UPNp/DLNA apps that you can use for controlling the renderer including TIDAL streaming. The most popular is BubbleUPnP

Black EX Integrated Manual (PDF)
  
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
MM/MC Input:
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
Line Inputs:
Maximum Input:2.2 Vrms RCA
Input Impedance:10k ohms RCA
THD+N:0.003%, 1kHz
Dynamic Range:110dB, A-weighted 20Hz-20kHz
Loudspeaker Output:
Maximum Power Output: 500W-4ohm, 250W-8ohm
Minimum Load:2 ohms
Peak Output Current: 25 amperes
Frequency Response:-3 dB 0.5Hz-50kHz, all loads
Output connections: 2-pair WBT Nextgen binding posts
Performance:
Dynamic Range:126dB A-weighted
THD+N: <0.001% 1W, 1kHz, 4 ohms
IMD (CCIF):<0.001%, 1W, 18.5:19.5kHz 1:1, 4 ohms
General:
Power Usage On: 40W
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.
See the Stereophile April 2018 review of the Bel Canto Black ACI 600 integrated to get an overall feel of the technology and sound quality of this piece. While the Black EX integrated amp doesn’t quite fully reach the heights of the Black ACI 600, it gets surprisingly close.

For those that want a no-compromise all-in-one solution, the Bel Canto Black EX integrated amplifier is the ideal solution.

It is certainly not inexpensive, but when you consider the overall sound quality and all the available features, it really is a great deal in high-end audio. In order to achieve everything this integrated can do, with separates you’d need a preamplifier, power amplifier, DAC, headphone amplifier, phono preamplifier and network streamer. So, not only consider the cost of all these separate pieces at the same quality level that this integrated provides, but the cost and clutter of all the additional interconnects, digital cables and power cables. Plus, you have incredible no-compromise features built-in that you pretty much never see in high-end audio such as a tilt control, bass EQ, high-pass filter and more. These features really allow you to integrate the amplifier to suit your room and your system. If you want to integrate a subwoofer and relieve your speakers of some of the bass load, the Black EX allows you to do this easily. You typically never see a feature like this on a high-end integrated amplifier. Not to mention the ability for Roon integration, MQA, high-res PCM and DSD.

Then, with 250W into 8 ohms and 500W into 4 ohms, this amplifier has the ability to drive pretty much any speaker on the market. Great looks, built to last, clutter free and easy to use with incredibly high performance puts this piece above its peers.