Bel Canto Evo 200.2 amplifier

Bel Canto Evo 200.2 amplifier

I bought a pair of these amplifiers (on Audiogon) because people said they sound better in their mono mode. One amp was DOA, but the other seemed to work fine, so I listened to it in stereo mode for a couple of weeks. The first thing I noticed was a very un-solid-state presentation of high frequencies. There was absolutely no sign of graininess or other unnatural emphasis in these frequencies. Every other solid state amp I’ve auditioned had some artifact in the upper range that said “solid state”, which is usually synonymous with “listener fatigue”. Eliminating unnatural sounds in this range is a remarkable achievement, and, if I get a little ahead of myself, the “clear” strength of this amplifier.

On the other hand, when we get to the midrange, there is a different story to tell. There is a noticeable, but much more serious than others have reported, recessive quality to the midrange that greatly detracted from the sonic picture. I usually rely on the Merlin VSM-SEs to accurately report what is happening with any upstream component, but this change throughout the lower midrange to the lower treble – from about 150 Hz to 1500 Hz – was so obvious that I disconnected the Merlins and substituted a pair of Dynaudio Audience 60s from the HT system, and then a pair of little Solid Team speakers from my computer system (which are usually connected to the very nice 15 wpc Radio Shack Optimus STA-300 receiver, and then to the Sound Blaster AWE-64 Gold sound card in my computer). The same thing was observed with these other very different speakers. I even tried some 18-gauge solid-core speaker cables I made a few years ago to compare to the Analysis Plus, but the result was the same.

On a more positive “note”, the bass range was very good, with a satisfying amount of detail and extension. There was nothing in this range that drew my attention or made me think the bass was either exceptional or lacking, but it was very well done with adequate power and speed. Comparing the Evo’s bass to the Atma-sphere may not seem fair, considering the difference in power – the M60s are 60 WPC - but the Evo was somewhat faster and more powerful, while the tubed amp excelled at small detail, or the ability to communicate the vibration of individual strings on an acoustic bass, for example. On some music, particularly studio mixes, the Evo was preferred, being more communicative of the excitement of the event. On acoustic or direct-to-disc pressings, the Atma-sphere was more revealing and rewarding. 

Soundstaging was unusually precise, with very good localization, especially at the rear corners of the stage. This is something that few amplifiers are able to do convincingly, and was the amplifier’s second real strength. Overall, the presentation was generally musical, and remarkable for that exceptional treble range. The Bel Canto Evo 200.2 is an interesting amp. It does some things exceptionally well. But that midrange imbalance is a real showstopper, literally. I was glad to remove the Evo from my system, and in the end, was surprised that this product was allowed to be marketed with so obvious a flaw.

My system during this audition:
Well Tempered Reference table and arm with the vdH Black Beauty
CAT Ultimate preamp
Atma-sphere M60 mk. II amps
Merlin VSM-SE speakers
Dynaudio Audience 60 speakers
Solid Team speakers
(2) REL Strata III subs (turned off for part of the review)
Harmonic Technology Pro Silway II and Truthlink  interconnects
Analysis Plus Oval 9 Bi-Wire speaker cables
DIY 18 ga. solid core speaker cables

Overall Rating: 3 LPs