Belles Greatest Integrated ever! The Virtuoso

Just before the Holiday's, I noticed on several authorized Belles websites, that certain separates went out of production which is a pattern that would indicate new products are forthcoming, and sure enough a new Integrated popped up on the Belles website last week, which appears to be his greatest integrated amp to date. The Virtuoso,
putting out over 200 watts per channel into 8 ohms, HT bypass, Processor loop, MM & MC phono stage, and power meters on the front panel. The unit will be released in March at a price tag of $6495. Given David Belles reputation during the past 30 years, who has always been at the top of his game as perhaps the best solid state engineer designer ever in the states, since musicality has always been his first order of business, it wouldn't surprise me at all that the Virtuoso will fly out the door and winds up on the back order list. Its a real looker.
Very handsome unit. Well done David! Its what we've been waiting for.
audiozen - thank you audiozen (and carmenc) for the kind words. I've been all over this forum in the short time I've been registered, and I feel like a kid in a candy shop! In most cases I would be suffering from information overload, but this audio topic I find fascinating... have always been intrigued by it and I have never been able to shake the bug. Not that I want to! People can watch reality tv, play video games, or grow progressively more stupid while worshiping their smart phones; I'm perfectly content to chill out while listening to my music, basking in the splendor of it all. 

We "musicphiles" - I really like that term so much more than "audiophiles" - know deep down that our lust for fine audio is not just a vanity production. Maybe for some audiophiles it is, but getting lost in the music and forgetting about the electronics and cables and speakers is the end game unless you are a showoff trying to impress people with your processions. Like $40k look what I have guy.
 My main form of entertainment is listening to my 2 channel stereo, and since I upgraded the whole thing in the past couple of years I am enjoying it more than ever. I wanted to take the sound to the next level, and the Belles Aria with the Vandersteen 1's rescued me from languishing in mid fi limbo.
I remember the Sansui AU series, really nice cosmetics and from the era when amps and receivers actually had style. Having a good sound system was what many people aspired towards back then, but those days are over. Now it's about mobility, convenience, portability and listening in private with ear buds and the almighty phone. People probably think that moving up to an Echo with Alexa is entering the realm of hi end. It might be as close to hi end as they will ever get, and that is sad.

 I had some Advents too for a couple of years... all the rage for a while. Yeah, the 70's and 80's, when hifi shops were ubiquitous. For you kids, that means they were all over the place. Google it.
I met Dave Belles a couple of times last year, and he is an incredible guy. 
I had heard about the Belles brand for years, but never knew very much about it. I had about 2k to spend on an amp, and I saw a tiny ad for the Belles Aria in the back of one of the magazines. The HiFI Choice review was stellar, and I drove 3+ hours to Audio Connection in NJ. JohnnyR played some cool tunes, and it was a done deal. It takes me 15 minutes to pick out a head of lettuce; this decision took 15 seconds.
 I share your enthusiasm for Belles, to say the least. After reading a hundred reviews, and driving myself crazy, I finally ditched the reviews and let my ears be the final arbiter, for the amp and speakers. The Rutan factor didn't hurt either. He really tells it like it is, and he has an affable way about him that puts you at ease, making the decision process anxiety free. 
I think that with the new Aria line, and with the soon to be released Virtuoso, Dave Belles is going to make a lot of people think twice before they fork over that big, fat money clip. The quote attributed to Leonardo da Vince... "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication" sums up Dave Belles to a tee. In an industry that more than ever caters to the wealthy and privileged, Dave Belles has decided to take a different approach. Namely, produce "music first" audio products of superior quality, price them fairly, derive immense satisfaction knowing that you made many people happy, and stay honest and humble and true to your vision no matter what the other guys are doing. This makes him an icon in my opinion. I feel very lucky that I discovered Belles, and it will take an awful lot of convincing to persuade me to switch to another brand after this massive an upgrade and the value proposition that it represents. I don't think you can do better for the money. I might be wrong, but my ears tell me I'm not!

2chfreak..Haven't heard any of the current Vandersteen models, and it appears he has taken on engineers that has improved his designs in recent years but that was not the case back in the 90's when all his model's were the open frame design with the sock over the frame. His speaker's back then sounded absolutely horrible. Why did he get such high praise back then?
Because of big bucks going to Stereophile. During the late 80's and early 90's Richard Vandersteen had the largest annual advertising contract with Stereophile. For four years + he had a full page ad on the back cover every month. Most of the ads were the 2 CE. In the summer of 1998 I decided to check out the 2 CE's and called my friend Keith from the Washington Audio Society and asked him to go down to Tacoma with me and listen to the CE's at Advanced Audio. We arrived at the store, and the owner, Curtis, took us into the sound room where he set up a system to the 2 CE's. The gear used was an Audible Illusion's Modulus 3A preamp, an Ayre amplifier and a Wadia CD player. I brought some master CD recordings with me and started off with Copelands' Rodeo. The spectacular opening of Rodeo with its powerful timpani's and crashing symbols sounded flat and dull. The bass was loose and flabby with a narrow soundstage with no hall effect and poor imaging. Keith and I looked at each other and were shocked how bad the speaker sounded especially the bottom end that had low SPL capability. For two hours we threw everything at the Vandy's, Brubeck, Zeppelin, Beethoven. It just couldn't deliver the goods. Two days later I called and spoke to Richard Vandersteen and asked him what the maximum SPL/weighted decibel level the speaker could reach before breaking down. His response was.."What do you mean by weighted?" I explained and he went dead quiet, then replied loosing his temper and yelled at me saying, "I don't have time to answer technical question's" and slammed the phone on me. I mentioned my experience with senior member's of the audio society and they burst out laughing and told me that Richard is well known in the industry for his bad temper. If you ever decide to move on from Vandersteen, I will turn you on to a true treasure speaker that I would call the "Belles" of stereo speakers from a small boutique company. Their best floor stander cabinet is made from bamboo. The strongest natural fiber panels available. Bamboo is 500% stronger than MDF which everyone uses to make speakers since MDF is cheap. Bamboo also weighs 50% less. The guy who makes these speakers is just like Dave Belles. Makes speakers for music lovers. His top floor stander only cost two grand and you would be hard pressed to find a better speaker anywhere under $10K that could best it. Its the speaker I have finally decided on that is a match made in heaven with the Virtuoso.
audiozen - You have provided quite a few revelations that I was unaware of about Vandersteen. It's always nice to get the inside scoop, and hear about personal experiences, good and bad because I do want to know about a companies true intentions and how committed they are to achieving excellence, as well as rock solid customer support. I wasn't all that familiar with Stereophile back then - really knew next to nothing about Vandersteen until I listened to them late '16. Vandersteens ads, at least the ones in Stereophile and TAS that I'm familiar with, are relatively simple one page affairs that don't exactly bang you over the head.  I never would have guessed that he had the largest advertising contract with a major magazine. If he's a hot head, like you say, well I certainly don't condone that type of behavior and personality, but I have dealt with such types quite a few times along the way and it can become unbearable for all parties concerned. I try to see the good in everybody, but sometimes you need a magnifying glass to see it!
My speakers have the "sock", and that doesn't bother me because it's the sound that I focus on as a priority. I really like my 1Ci's, and am used to the way they sound with the Belles. The room is pretty small, 11 1/2 x 12 1/2 ft, 8 ft ceiling, and I would love to get them into a bigger space but am unable at this time. I have never turned the volume up half way, not even close. The Aria isn't going anywhere in the foreseeable future, but if you, or someone else convinced me that I could do better than the Vandersteens, or rather the speakers convinced me, I would certainly be open the making a change at some point.
So yes, I'm intrigued by this "Belles of speakers" you have mentioned, and if it was a heavenly match with the Aria, and was a quantum leap over the Vandersteens, then I would seriously consider making the change. i don't want to twist your arm, but if you don't tell me what it is, I might go all RV on you and God knows there are enough loose cannons in this world already! So yeah, give me the low down so my high blood pressure doesn't get out of control.
Thanks for the information, and good luck on your Virtuoso quest to reach the audio promised land.                                                                                                                                                                           
((((The gear used was an Audible Illusion’s Modulus 3A preamp, an Ayre amplifier)))

Audiodozen Thanks for your well-intended observations above.
I know you are fond of this new nice speaker and I am sure it is fine design
that I would love to also hear.

There is something that you should know that’s very important and would have happened to your nice speaker or any well-designed speaker as well back then with that pairing.
We carried all three of the components and made the same mistakes as Curtis

Here is a case of you shot the wrong messenger and I’m sure not intentionally as I would also agree with what you heard as spot on.

Here’s Why.......
First, the Ayre is a nice amp at the time of introduction it had a 10 K input impedance its a balanced bridge zero feedback design and was at its best with its own brand balanced pre amp which
Curtis or I didn’t have until later when it came out.
Enter the Balanced K1
The K1 together balanced with Ayres own amp were superb together and it drove that ayre amp to perfection we heard things we never heard before in recordings with that pairing with Vandys

The Audible Illusions tube preamp was not balanced but RCA output it had a 1200 ohm output impedance.
When you place AI / Ayre together these 2 mismatched components together with any well-designed speaker its a major mismatch.

I agreed with you 100 percent and know what you heard as it was a bleak pairing but it’s not the speaker’s fault as the speaker was only the messenger.

The AI preamp cant drive the10 k load.hence the extremes get rolled off soggy bass no dynamics elevator mids you get the picture etc.

Later Ayre because of this happening to many others changed the input impedance spec of its amps to 100 K and now higher. This gave a much friendlier interface with matching other preamp owners equipment.

Back then the Belles amps were 100 k and worked Fine with AI preamps
I even remember hooking up Soundstage reviewer Doug Blackburn that purchassed Vandy 2s / 3A sigs with Belles and AI and later went to an all Belles pairing and loved it gave Vandersteen Reviewers choice.
Cheers JohnnyR
Vandys play Beethoven with the Belles like the Vienna Philharmonic.WOM
You may need to come to Jersey to hear it.
The problem was the 2CE speaker. Not the amp and preamp. Several times during the listening session we switched back and forth with a Genesis floor stander. The sound from the same gear coming through the Genesis was spectacular. Aaron Nevilles' voice floating in front on the speaker with remarkable 3D imaging was remarkable and the bottom end was outstanding. Believe me, I'm the last person on earth that needs and education on the technical values matching gear regarding impedance,
capacitance, or resistance values between components, matching cables or interconnects. Curtis made no mistake. Nice try.