David Belles founded Power Modules, Inc. several decades ago to ply his trade at designing high end audio components. Flash forward to 2011 and Mr. Belles offers everything from budget minded, but beautiful sounding entry level gear, to state of the art, ultra powerful amplifiers, and thoroughbred preamplifiers. Mr. Belles covers a good part of the spectrum, hybrid tube preamps, phono stages, and sweet sounding solid state integrated, power, and mono block amps.
David Belles has quite a following in the audiophile community worldwide. His products are sold around the globe, including Asia and Europe. As a matter of fact, Belles has enjoyed a barrage of rave reviews in various British audio magazines for some time now. Several years ago, I was in need of some amplification for a second system I was setting up and a friend recommend the Belles Soloist Series preamp and power amp combo. Suffice it to say I was thrilled with the performance, especially when taking into account the price tag, roughly $2000 for separates, made in the U.S.A, to boot. Since having the Soloist 3 preamplifier and Soloist 5 power amp in the system, I have longed to review other Belles products.
After a few months of communicating with Mr. Belles, who I found to be a true gentleman, and highly dedicated to his craft, our schedules aligned and he offered the new Soloist 1 Integrated Amplifier, priced at $2995. I jumped at the opportunity and it soon arrived at my door step. If the review was based on appearance and build quality, it would get an 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. The case work, connectors, and general “feel” of the unit was extraordinary, even for components costing double or triple the Soloist 1. No joking here, folks. Many would point out that this is secondary, but I bet to differ. A high end audio product is something with which the owner will interface on a daily basis, and if there is no pride of ownership and agreeable ergonomics, it detracts from the user experience.
I won’t get very technical in this review, as as you will see, the Soloist 1 is a music maker to the highest degree: But some basics. The power output is specified at 125 wpc into 8 ohms, and doubles to 250 wpc into 4 ohms. There are single ended inputs only, and two pairs of speaker binding posts. From the Belles literature: “The preamplifier section features all discrete transistor, resistor, and capacitor components, no integrated circuits are in the signal path. Other features include polypropylene capacitors, 1% metal film resistors, Mosfet output stages, and premium gold plated input and output connectors."
The Soloist 1 is very versatile. There are five line level inputs, a monitor output for recording or processor loops, a mute button, and a preamplifer out section for use with a subwoofer or for driving an external power amplifier. All of these functions are selectable from the compact remote control unit. Green and Red LED lights help identify which input and function is selected. The front panel has some pretty cool old school toggle switches, and a superb volume knob that is smooth as butter. I should also note the unit comes standard with Black Ravioli Isolation feet. This is a very nice plus.