Nelson Pass, John Curl; these are designers most people know, for their legendary amplifier designs. Those well-versed with the industry and hi-end gear, also put David Belles on that list. David has been designing and manufacturing well-regarded amps and pre-amps for over 30 years. His designs receive universally high praise, and are real bang-for-the-buck pieces when you stack them up against some of the competition.
This 150a Ref v.2 continues that tradition. My first exposure to David’s gear, came when I was trying to take the step from the typical “mid-fi” stuff…like B&K, Parasound, NAD, etc…up to the “hi-end”. An "audiophile" friend begged me to try a used piece of Belles gear; the 150a Hot-Rod power amp. I had never heard of him or the brand, and was very reluctant. But it didn’t cost me very much, and so I took a chance. Some people say “you hear what you want to hear” with regard to gear; in other words, you convince yourself you like it…or don’t…based on expectations, not actual sound. My argument to that is my experience the first time I heard the 150a Hot-Rod; I didn’t want to try it, didn’t want to like it…didn’t want to keep it. Still…even with that mindset going in…what I heard from the first notes, was pretty “magical”. It’s hard to describe these things, but it was just so “musical” sounding. I know that sounds silly to some…because, duh…it’s music after all; but some gear sounds like “the gear”…and not the music. This was so engaging, so at ease; its presentation had plenty of detail, but I wasn’t hyper-aware of it. It just got out of the way, and really let me focus on how good music sounded...and how enjoyable it was to listen to through this amp.
It was very balanced, and smooth…for an SS amp; good control of the bass, sweet mids…without limiting the highs. Needless to say, it was an instant keeper…and even though I like to futz with gear, I was never tempted to really swap it out or try something “better” or more expensive (for perspective, I went through about 5 DACs in the time that I let the 150a Hot-Rod be…lol). You might be re-checking the listing, and making sure this isn’t an ad for the 150a Hot-Rod…lol; it isn’t. I’m just using that amp as an example of the David Belles sound. As good as the 150a Hot-Rod was…it was a bit of a dated model, and eventually…especially as I upgraded speakers and felt as if they might need “more” amp to sound their best…I did try a Conrad-Johnson mf-2500a in its place, and opted to keep the C-J. Even with that amp…which is considerably more expensive…I wouldn’t necessarily say the C-J sounded “better”; it has considerably more power than the Belles 150a Hot-Rod did, and I think that proved a better match with my speakers.
So…how did I come into the 150a Ref v.2? Well…as much as I liked the Conrad-Johnson…and had bought an ET-2 pre-amp to go with it…I could not forget the Belles sound. I loved the 150a Hot-Rod, but did think the increased power of the C-J had an effect on my system sound. So…I decided to try this newer Belles; the 150a Ref v.2. It is glorious with its companion pre-amp, the 21a (which I also have for sale, with the desirable Auricap upgrade)…but it didn’t prove to be an ideal match with the C-J ET-2 pre-amp I was keeping.
Trust me…the 21a and 150aRef v.2 stack didn’t really “lose out” to the much more-expensive C-J combo; just “different”, and I was ready to try something new. So the Belles combo is available…separately or together. This 150a Ref v.2 is in great shape. I bought it from a fellow Audiogoner, who took good care of it, as did I…while it was in my possession. I’ll rate it fairly at 8/10. The included pics are actually from the last owner, and I’ll re-use them…because he’s a better photographer than I am…lol. I’d describe this unti as clean-sounding and neutral; yet still with great musicality and big soundstage. I would say system matching is important; heard it sound great with the Belles pre-amp, just OK with the C-J ET-2 (email me and we can talk shop about your gear, and whether this would be a good match in your system). This amp is rated 125wpc into 8ohms, and fully doubles to 250wpc into 4 (the sign of a quality power supply). In fact, one of the things I'll really miss about this amp...is its ability to go mono; if 125/250 isn't enough power for you, buy a second one...and you can run them in mono, for an astonishing 500wpc into 8ohm...and yes, it keeps on doubling up to 1,000wpc into 4ohms!
Audiogon is such a mess these days; check my feedback, and know that you are buying from a long-standing, trusted member...with perfect a perfect rating. Amp will ship quickly, in the original box for safe passage. Buyer to pay only actual, reasonable s&h; PayPal please add customary 3%. Please contact directly at email@example.com...and as I said, feel free to ask me whether either of these Belles pieces would make a good match in your system.