|Belles Audio Nearfield Desktop System (BAND)|
|Home Theater Loudspeakers Speaker Systems|
|Written by Tony Kaklamanos|
|Saturday, 01 January 2000|
The Belles Audio Nearfield Desktop System, known as BAND, is a complete two- channel audio system consisting of two satellites and one subwoofer, powered by an amplifier encased in the subwoofer. Also included are a manual preamplifier/switcher and remote control. At $1,995.00, this system can be configured for a variety of nearfield applications.
Upon unpacking this system, I was first impressed with the care and effort that went into the construction of the enclosures. There are three finishes available: natural cherry, medium oak and natural maple. The corners are rounded and the wood grain is seamless. Finishing touches include a black lacquer bottom and floor spikes for the subwoofer, as well as black lacquer backs and rubber pads for the bottom of the satellites. As I continued my unpacking, I noticed that all of the cables necessary to get this system up and running were included – and not the cheap cables you find with too many consumer audio/video components. We're taking 12-gauge twisted-pair speaker wires and high-end RCA accessory cables. Then appeared the passive line level preamplifier/switcher. This unit reminded me of an audio switcher that I used some years ago to expand the capabilities of an old Pioneer receiver I owned. However, this one does a lot more. The back panel consists of three stereo inputs, enabling you to hook up three different source devices to the unit. Also included is a control output that uses a telephone line (supplied), which allows the unit to communicate with the remote control receiver located within the subwoofer enclosure. Finally, it has a pair of outputs that connect to the amplifier inputs located in the subwoofer. The anodized black front panel includes a volume control, push/pull power and balance, as well as a switcher knob that allows you to select one of three input source devices.
If it sounds to you as if the subwoofer carries a lot of weight, you'd be right. In fact, all of the system electronics are housed within the subwoofer enclosure. First, there is a nine-inch long-throw Vifa woofer. Next, there is the power amplifier that feeds 40 watts per channel to the satellites and 65 watts to the subwoofer. The communication system allows the enclosed electronics of the subwoofer to translate volume and balance signals to the desktop preamplifier/switcher via the remote control. The dual rear ports release energy that would otherwise be trapped within the enclosure. The size: 13-3/4 inches wide by 16 inches high by 14 inches deep. The satellites are shielded and contain Audax four-inch woofers, Aerogel drivers and one-inch Vifa dome tweeters, measuring five-and-three- quarter inches wide by 10 inches high by six inches deep. All of the enclosures are constructed of MDF (medium density fiberboard) which reduces resonance and improves bass response.
Don't know what to do with that old style portable CD player or the blown speakers of that boom-box or mini-component stack? How about those stereo outputs that seemed to be a great option when you bought your computer but you have yet to really use? Well, BAND just might be the solution to all of these situations and more.
Personally, I never paid much attention to the sound quality of my computer system (I work on a Apple Macintosh G3/300). I don't play computer games or listen to music on it. Yes, it does have a CD-ROM drive in which I can play audio CDs, but I like to keep that drive free so I can grab archived files. I figured my five-year-old powered Sony speakers did the job just fine - until I hooked up the BAND system. Man, what a difference. Right off, I patched in my portable CD player, the one I usually use with high-end headphones, into the first input section of the BAND preamplifier. Not only was power output incredible, I was also impressed with the warm, natural tonal quality of this system.
For jazz, one of my favorite pieces of software to use for reviews is the extended resolution CD, Zoot Sims' Quietly There (Fantasy, Inc.). The brushes on the snare underpinning Zoot's tenor sax were extremely real. The satellites of the BAND systems were sensitive enough to pick up most nuances, even at low listening levels. The powered subwoofer picked up the position movements on the upright bass. I switched gears and slid in Santana's Supernatural (Arista Records, Inc.). On the cut Smooth, the crunchy signature guitar licks of Carlos were as warm and cozy as Grandma's afghan blanket. The bass and kickdrum syncopation on Put Your Lights On was a chest-thumping visceral experience. The imaging was superb, even with the satellites set about 20 inches apart.
The opportunity to review the BAND couldn't have come at a better time for me. I'm right in the middle of editing a promotional video for the College of Oceaneering, a vocational school that teaches underwater welding and the like. I hooked up my Media100 audio outs to the second input section of the preamplifier. In editing this video, I've had to review about 12 hours of video, as well as selecting music. The BAND system made this arduous task a lot less painful. I experienced very little ear fatigue, even after listening to underwater-to-topside communications (which sound like a transistor radio with a torn speaker that fell into a swimming pool). Even the clients were impressed with the sound quality when they reviewed a rough cut of the video.
With the third input of the preamplifier/switcher, I hooked up a VCR. The performance was solid, even when using pre-recorded programs at the EP speed.
Even with the solid performance that BAND gave, there is always something to pick apart. First, I wish the subwoofer were a little smaller. I placed it under my corner unit desk, and although it was out of sight, setting it up proved a little cumbersome. The size seems to be a bit of an overkill. Second, the preamplifier/switcher is black. It would have been a nice touch to finish the unit in matching veneer, but it’s not a big deal.
If flexibility is the door to your nearfield requirements, Power Modules has the key, the Belles Audio Nearfield Desktop System.
For many of us, laying down this kind of bread on a nearfield system might be out of the question. But don't let that scare you too much; remember, you end up getting what you pay for, and at $1,995, you really do get a lot. In fact, if you spend much time listening, playing or producing in small quarters, you might want to spring for the BAND system. It will play on … and on.