The Bel Canto eVo2 Mono's - revised
The Bel Canto eVo2 Mono's - revised
Even Better than before! October 7, 2003
This article is intended as a follow-up to Clement Perry’s earlier review of the wonderful Bel Canto eVo2 monoblock amplifiers that appeared in the January 9, 2003 issue of this publication. The intent of this review is to provide information and a description of recent changes to these units and what I perceive to be their resultant performance improvements.
In his earlier review, Clement proclaimed these amps to be truly outstanding and some of the best he has ever heard. Based on my experiences with these amplifiers, especially the revised units, I whole-heartedly agree. However, there was one particular area where Clement felt the eVo2s left him wanting just a bit. Specifically, like many audiophiles, he longed for the magic that tubes provide – especially in the midrange. Although I don’t believe the revised eVo2 amps yet reach that so-called exalted state of sonic euphoria completely, what I now hear from these amps is a midrange that is truly wonderful and completely satisfying, and perhaps a little closer to what CP longs for.
Fortunately, I live in relative proximity to the Bel Canto factory, located in Minneapolis, MN, so I was able to get my pair of the original eVo2 amps updated rather easily. According to John Stronczer, head guru and chief designer at Bel Canto, the changes basically involve installation of what he calls the second generation of the Tri-Path technology. Owners of earlier units can arrange to get their units upgraded directly from the factory and are encouraged to call to find out more about the benefits of this change.
Specifically, the change consists of a new board for the Tri-Path processor (i.e., power amplifier core). The manufacturer necessitated this due to production changes. The revised amps retain the same circuit topology/architecture as the earlier units, with no changes to the power supply. Based on my experience with both the original units and the revised pair, I can tell you that the sound has improved noticeably, and exceeds the levels of performance previously reported.
With the latest versions of the eVo2 monoblock amps, what I now find is a sound that is more open, delicate and transparent. These improvements allow details to emerge more clearly and cleanly. Along with this, the revised amps produce low frequencies that sound slightly deeper, fuller, and with improved control. Although these changes are not particularly dramatic, they are definitely observable and quite pleasing. Additionally, the amps now seem to provide a bit more energy, with increased forcefulness and slightly more presence. Based on critical listening,
the amps retain their original smooth, wonderfully musical qualities, but now seem to have just a bit more liveliness to them as well, especially in the midrange. Overall, these changes enhance the sensation of musical realism and provide even greater listening satisfaction.
Additionally, with the revised amps, there is a bit more power and control. The improvements in definition and articulation, throughout the entire bass region, were noticeable and much enjoyed. As a result of these improvements, I was also able to more thoroughly enjoy the wonderfully full and robust bass of my cherished BAT tube electronics (i.e., VK50 SE linestage and VK5 SE CD player) that were feeding the eVo2s. The synergy of these combined units (tubes and solid-state) was stunning, being wonderfully synergistic and totally rewarding musically.
For example, listening to Shirley Horn’s CD, Here’s To Life [Verve 3145118792], I was treated to a beautifully rendered presentation, with the music simply flowing effortlessly from my big ESP Concert Grand loudspeakers. My ears were now totally transfixed on this improved sound, and I found that I could not easily pull myself away. Subtle nuances became more obvious than before, allowing me to become aware of a new level of detail retrieval. Also, listening to Horn’s exquisite voice, along with her superb piano playing and musical accompaniment, I found myself immersed in a bath of musical delight. Basically, with the revised eVo2s in place, I was in heaven!
Another favorite recording of mine is Diana Krall’s outstanding debut CD, Only Trust Your Heart [GRP GRD9810]. Once again I was transported to audio nirvana with the eVo2 amps reproducing Krall’s voice and piano playing in a superb manner. Truly, the sonic impression seemed very close to the real thing. In addition, the revised amps provided a superb rendition of Christian McBride’s acoustic bass work. Throughout this CD, the amps produced bass with a feeling of rich, musical warmth, along with a wonderfully organic tone and texture. At all times, the bass sounded tight and controlled, with no apparent bloat, overhang or wooliness. With this improved control and articulation, I was able to detect subtle nuances and shifts in the music that had literally gone undetected previously. This was a noticeable improvement and a most rewarding aspect of the revised amps.
As I focused more of my attention to the ever-important midrange, I continued to be impressed with the reproduction of voice, piano, and instruments such as the saxophone. Basically, the midrange of the revised eVo2s sounded dead-on and provided a nice sense of life and presence without being pronounced or over emphasized. There was a sense of naturalness that I have only heard on several other occasions in my system. Horn’s voice was more open, a bit clearer and slightly more expansive. Also, it was interesting to note how the eVo2s easily revealed the enhanced ambiance due to the reverb introduced into this recording. For the most part, her vocal sibilants were readily exposed but never sounded irritating or unnatural. Subtle vocal inflections were now more apparent than before. Basically, Horn’s voice was presented in a delicate and sweet manner with lots of clarity (without brightness), along with a natural, easy delivery.
Through the revised eVo2s, the piano’s sense of power, tonal correctness and delicacy was quite evident and always a joy to listen to. Additionally, the amps made the quality of various recordings clearly observable and the sound of different pianos quite noticeable. Most of the time, this was a good thing. However, when the recording quality was not quite up to par, the eVo2s exposed them without mercy. On the other hand, the better quality recordings were presented wonderfully, and became just that much more enjoyable.
Switching over to instrumental jazz on Randy Johnston’s CD, Detour Ahead, the eVos easily revealed Johnston’s superb guitar tone, along with Joey DeFrancesco’s wonderfully deep, full sound on the infamous Hammond B-3 organ. Whenever Joey pumped those pedals to produce deep, rich bass tones, the revised amps provided the right amount of juice to power my speakers and produce a very natural sound. At all times, the amps kept my speakers in total control and never demonstrated any sense of strain. Similarly, on Ray Brown’s CD, Soular Energy, the rendering of piano, bass and percussion was a pure delight. Interestingly, with the revised eVo2s in place, each instrument’s harmonic structure, in these recordings, seemed much closer to the magical level produced by Stronczer’s earlier single-ended triode designs.
Rendering of high frequencies through the revised eVo2s was also a pleasant surprise. Essentially, the highs were slightly more extended, open and clear. Additionally, they retained their original quality of being both sweet and smooth. Furthermore, percussive chimes now emerged with enhanced clarity through an even quieter, darker background. Beyond this, cymbals now shimmered ever so delicately and would hang in space with a wonderful sense of decay.
As I pull this to a close, I can confidently say that while I had been very impressed with the original eVo2 amps, I now find the performance of the revised amps to be just that much better. As such, I would suggest that owners of the earlier eVo2s contact Bel Canto and arrange to have their amps upgraded. From what I recall, it’s a relatively easy change to perform at the factory and the improvements are well worth the time it takes to have this done. And, for those who have not heard these amplifiers, I strongly suggest you do so.
Like Clement, I am mightily impressed with the wonderful Bel Canto eVo2 monoblock amplifiers, especially the revised units. At their retail price point, along with their superb performance, these amps represent a true value in high-end audio and almost seem like a steal. Based on comments made during discussions with Stronczer, he promises to continue the “evolution” (i.e., eVo) of his latest designs, with even better units available in the future. I, for one, will be anxiously awaiting the arrival of these new units, and will be ready to report on them when they become available. Stay tuned – more to come.
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