|Bel Canto e.One S300iu Integrated Amplifier|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Integrated Amplifiers|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Thursday, 01 November 2007|
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It’s hard not to love the e.One S300iu and, in the case of my experience, it’s even harder to criticize it. I found nothing overtly wrong with the e.One S300iu’s sound. In fact, I even prefer it to many of the other reference amps I have in my system.
The e.One S300iu is capable of driving most loudspeakers to their breaking points. However, if you have inefficient speakers or a very large room, you may want to step up in the Bel Canto line for more power, or simply add an additional stereo amp, such as the Bel Canto e.One S300 or Reference Monos, to the e.One S300iu’s line outputs for more power.
There is a slight learning curve to the manual control of the e.One S300iu. There are no direct selectable input controls and sometimes the volume/input dial can be a bit finicky when you’re trying to get out of the volume control and into the input selection menus. Obviously, adding input buttons would’ve spoiled the e.One S300iu’s good looks, but nevertheless, one has to get used to the e.One S300iu’s manual operation.
When coming out of standby mode, the volume controls are a bit sluggish to respond to either the remote or the manual dial. This is just a minor inconvenience, but it is present.
Lastly, while I love the physical size of the e.One S300iu I couldn’t help but think of how I would rack-mount it if I wanted to integrate it, or any other current Bel Canto product, into my reference home theater system. I have a Middle Atlantic rack and the Bel Cantos use about half the space (width-wise) as a normal component. While I could place two Bel Canto amps side by side, it would require me to get a specialty faceplate to make their appearance in my rack a bit more professional. Again, not a major flaw, just a slight cost one has to consider if you plan on rack-mounting any Bel Canto products.
The e.One S300iu integrated amp from Bel Canto is one of those products that comes along and doesn’t just threaten to change one’s perspective on what is possible, but delivers on the promise. It is every bit as much a high-end product as its more traditional counterparts, i.e., Mark Levinson, Krell, Audio Research, Conrad Johnson and the like. However, unlike most of the competition, the e.One S300iu is rather obtainable with its retail price of $2,195. More than any of the technical and monetary mumbo jumbo, what makes the e.One S300iu truly one of a kind is just how effortlessly and completely it reproduces music and movies, regardless of genre. It is the only amplifier that seemingly doesn’t stray to far in any one direction, favoring one thing over another; it is, for lack of a better word, neutral in more ways than one. The bass performance is rock solid, and among the best you’ll ever hope to hear outside of, say, the Krell Evolution mono blocks. The midrange is an absolute delight, while the treble is as smooth and refined as anything costing 10 times more. Moreover, it’s the e.One S300iu’s complete mastery of not only the musical elements but of the surrounding space that makes its presentation so damn real. You owe it to yourself to check out this tiny giant, for I cannot recommend the e.One S300iu highly enough for anyone serious about modern two-channel audio.