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Bel Canto Design CD3t Disc Transport Review Print E-mail
Tuesday, 29 November 2011
Article Index
Bel Canto Design CD3t Disc Transport Review
Set Up and Listening
Conclusion and Specifications
ImageBel Canto Design, out of Minneapolis, has an the envious reputation of making a full line of very well reviewed Class D amplifiers, preamps, DAC’s, CD players, and transports.  Their products have a unique and stunning appearance. They also have a loyal customer base, and their products are designed and manufactured in the USA. The company is small but manages to distribute its products through a nice sized dealer network domestically and in thirty five countries worldwide.

John Stronczer, Bel Canto’s head honcho, founded the company in 1990. He has a serious technical background, having worked as a research scientist in some very high tech environments.  Interestingly, when Stronczer founded Bel Canto, he was making tube amplifiers. Ironically they are best known for digital products and switching amplifiers. Switching amplifiers have several major advantages in that they are low noise, low heat, and are known for very low power consumption. Stronczer believes that his amplifiers are the most efficient way to power loudspeakers.

Bel Canto has a full line of DAC units and CD players as well. They are designed with amazing attention to detail, with the stated goals of attacking jitter, noise, and other flaws that can compromise sonic performance. They also, like Naim and just a few other companies, offer external power supply upgrades for their components. As noted, they also take their industrial design very seriously. Their products are even more attractive in person.

The only time I have heard Bel Canto products were in unfamiliar settings. However, I have a vivid memory of hearing a Bel Canto DAC at a speaker manufacturer’s factory. It was one of the most convincing playback systems I have ever heard. So of course I was thrilled to receive for review a sample fresh off of the assembly line, the new Bel Canto CD3t (the “t” is for transport). The CD3t is a slot loading Redbook transport with no on board DAC or analog output stage, which means it must be connected to an outboard digital processor.  The CD3t retails for $1495.

The CD3t is outfitted with two digital outputs on the rear panel: BNC and AES/EBU.  There are no TOSlink optical or coaxial RCA connectors, usually seen on most CD players.  But most, if not all, audio engineers will tell you this is a good thing. BNC, which often stands for British Naval Connector, is known for low noise and high bandwidth, and is common in recording studios and professional applications. AES/EBU stands for American Engineering Society/European Broadcasting Union. AES/EBU is usually used in professional applications as well, and utilizes the XLR connector. AES/EBU is also known for low noise and high bandwidth, and is considered by many to be the superior form of digital connection.

Since the Bryson BDA-1 DAC I use as my reference has both BNC and XLR connections, I was pretty well set up to run the CD3t through its paces. I did have to order an AES/EBU cable from DH Labs, whose TOSlink, coaxial and BNC digital cables I also use throughout my systems.  The DH Labs cable arrived at the same time as the CD3t and, when I unpacked the transport, I was extremely impressed with the build quality and attention to detail. The rectangular shaped chassis was solid, with exemplary case work and a beautiful half-inch thick face plate on the front, with the Bel Canto logo engraved in.


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