Up for sale, is a great example of this really special sounding pre-amp; my Belles 21a. I’ve owned about 5 pre-amps in total, and this was the finest one I have ever had in my system…until I recently tried a Conrad-Johnson ET2. Even the ET2, which is substantially more expensive…isn’t what I would call “better”; just different. The 21a actually has superior highs; they are so extended, yet delicate and never etched or fatiguing. A magical sparkle, really.
This unit has the important Auricap capacitor upgrade. Belles enthusiasts will tell you they prefer this unit, to the newer and more expensive replacement…the 22a; and that this unit goes into another stratosphere with the Auricaps. Only those 4 caps (see pic) need to be replaced for the upgrade…even as performed by David Belles himself; but a 5th identical Auricap came with the unit, and will be included in the sale. I was told the upgrade work on this unit was performed by Paul Gryzbek of Tube Audio Design; Paul is well-known and respected in the audio community, and even designed and manufactured several coveted pre-amps and DACs, under the TAD moniker. The cost of these caps alone, is over $100 per cap; not to mention the labor for the upgrade.
I’ve found 2 12au7 tubes that work really well with this unit. It came with RCA clear-tops. This tube is a bang-for-the-buck favorite among rollers…and it’s known for its clean top-end. It sounds great with the 21a, but because this unit has such a good top-end on its own…I find a Mullard…which has warm mids to die for, but can sound rolled-off to some…works very nicely in this unit as well; you get the best of both worlds…warm, liquid mids, without a dulled or rolled-off top-end.
I’ll include a number of extra tubes with this unit. I am the 2nd owner, and it came to me with 4 RCA clear-tops; 2 that were in the unit when I received it (so I can’t say how many hours are on those), and 2 new tubes…all purchased from Brent Jesse. I also purchased 7 additional 12au7s; 4 additional RCA clear-tops, re-branded Conn…and 3 Mullards, re-branded Hammond (of which, I currently use 2 in the unit). The Herbie’s Audio Lab Tube Dampers you see, are also included in the sale.
This unit is really in fantastic shape. I am the second owner, and because of age I will rate it an “8”; but the only issue I can see is a very, very faint and minor chip of the anodized finish…on the rear, left corner (see pic). As you can see, the front-face is near perfect (and oh so elegant. High WAF; my wife thinks the C-J looks so “masculine” and “tech-y” by comparison), and the silk-screen is all intact. Back, side, and rear also in good shape; RCA jacks (and one set of Balance Outputs) are all in like-new condition.
I used this pre famously with Belles power-amps; first, a 150a Hot-Rod…then a 150a Ref v2 (both of which may also be for sale)…they are natural matches. It also paired well with my C-J mf-2500a. I liked the sound of the 21a and mf-2500a best, but with the C-J ET2 pre-amp, I’m trying to decide if it works best with the Belles 150a Ref v2 or C-J mf-2500a (if I keep the mf-2500a, the 150a Ref v2 will be for sale as well…and it is a great partner to this pre-amp). Also, this pre-amp does have an HT bypass feature.
I don’t have the original box (at least I don’t think it is; it doesn’t say Belles or anything, but who knows)…but I do have the original packing, and a box that fits. Sale includes all shown; pre-amp, remote, power cord, extra Auricap, Herbie’s Audio Lab Tube Dampers, and a total of 11 12au7 tubes. Please note feedback, and buy with confidence (which is something worth noting on the “new” Audiogon). Buyer only pays actual, reasonable s&h; PayPal please add customary 3%.
If I decide to sell the Belles 150a Ref v2, and you’re interested in both pieces…I can offer a discounted deal (or take the 150a Hot-Rod, which is also a fantastic amp for the price). Sorry…the “new” Audiogon is just too slow and unreliable for my taste; not trying to circumvent anything, but probably best to just contact me directly at email@example.com if interested. You can ask about this unit, either of the Belles amps…or just talk some shop; I never mind talking gear with fellow enthusiasts.