Bel Canto Black EX Integrated vs. E1X Integrated

I have the bug and wondered if anyone has had experience with either of these Bel Canto integrateds? Is one worth 2x the other?

Thanks in advance,



Don't know but I can say even the modest C5i sounds wonderful though only 60 w/ch and separate streamer required. 

And then there’s a third one: the Black for over $30,000! The rear panel on all three is identical. I’ve listened to the E1X and it sounds fantastic. As far as I can tell, the main difference is in power output, but I would love to hear others’ thoughts. 

Please all me a longish reply, which I hope will give you some context for my answer.

I recently made the decision to sell my DAC, which I had for 9 years. I bought a new DAC which was transformative. Then I thought, gee, maybe a new preamp. I bought a new preamp. My system sounded better than ever. I was happy and said maybe it is also time to sell all my spare and back up equipment as this can be my forever system. I have owned and heard a lot of equipment and have had a lot of fun getting to where I was.

I now had a great system, some extra cash, and lot of extra space in my room. I am retiring soon and as much as I loved what I had, the idea of lifting a 95 pound amp was not that appealing nor was multiple boxes, cables, and storage for vinyl.

So I set out to explore some ideas and options. I visited friends who I had not seen for years, went places that I wanted to see, and of course visited dealers that I had never visited before. My last visit was to a friend who had a BelCanto system. Her room sounded wonderful. A light went off in my head.

I circled back to BelCanto and listened to the Black and Ex series, which I had negated and ignored for years. Yet, I remember how good their Ref 500M sounded. Black was not what I expected. It was musical, pure, and maybe even better than my tubes. It seemed odd that one box could sound this amazing. 

There was no doubt how good the Black was. But the price was up there. Yet all my separates and cables were comparable. I then said what would I be happy with. The answer was listening to my music and simplicity.  

I spent time with the Black EX and then heard the E1X.  Yes, they were different and yes I could hear it.  Black EX was little bit more of everything that E1X offered and E1X was still truly wonderful. Both offered detail, intimacy, realism, and were musical. Given where I was, the E1X just seemed like the right choice. So, I sold off everything except my speakers, music serve, a token tube integrated, and 50 of my favorite records. 

It took time to burn in. I left it on playing for 2+ weeks. I learned how to use the Tilt and Bass EQ controls, which makes a difference. I love the openness and detail. The soundstage is lovely. The you are there is there.  I did not think I would miss my tubes, but the simplicity and purity is all there. I did not think I would use the phono stage but I kept some records and will look for a new, good enough turntable.

So, is there a reason to buy the BlackEx or E1X? Yes, and it is all personal. IMO, sonically they are close and very good. If your room, ears, mindset, and wallet are aligned, then go with the more expensive amp. The E1X is a sleeper.  Do not let its price fool you.  The potential for really good sound is there but maybe not where you are expecting to find it.

Bel Canto? You can not go wrong with either or any of the Bel Canto offerings IMHO.