Upgrade BC DAC 3.0 or go BC REF link instead?

Hello all

Been out of the loop for a while but am back in it now.

I have a Bel Canto DAC 3.0 .

I’m wondering weather or not to upgrade to the BC 3.5, AND THEN obtain either the BC USB REF link or the U LINK, so many say is the sweet spot of the 3 USB links BC offers… presently.

OR, merely obtain either the BC USB Ref or the U LINK, and forget about the upgrade to the BC DAC 3.5 level entirely.

Do you the addition of one of these two BC USB links enough?

What say you Bel Canto DAC and/or USB LINK owners?

A small concern is without the 3.0 to 3.5 upgrade going with the Ref link alone may be overkill.

Many thanks
How much is the upgrade from the DAC3 to 3.5VB Mk II?

I do love my DAC3.5VB II but it has been out for some time now and IMHO there are some new DACs that might be well worth an audition before shelling out the moolah for the 3.5

I for one would look at the PS Audio DirectStream DAC (their newest version) which incorporates some pretty interesting stuff from what my other much pricier DACs do (EMM Labs/Playback Designs) and even goes beyond in some respects.

It doesn't need the REF Link because the async USB input is already included and it supports DSD over PCM.

I’ll have to recheck for the full on off the grid upgrade… I’d thought to go only to the guts inside the 3.5, not the whole deal. I seem to recall the whole Magilla was around $1100 or $1250 a couple years back. Prior to Ver II.

Just to 3.5 guts was around $650… no analog inputs, and no glass TOS, but that’s fine by me.

I’ve heard online from friends I respect the PS AUDIO LINK was a fine DAC too though all the digital gear as usual has migrated thru a few iterations by now.

The most recent DACs I’ve heard first hand were those I wrote about in the reviews section here on these pages. BC + Wavelength USB link sounded the most lifelike to me of them all.

This time around, I’m going to be a lot more frugal and thoughtful with this next build. That said, I’m still a “front to back” guy. Unless of course something falls into my path I’m able to get and unable to pass up.

Regardless, all my audio is going to be from HDD and I already have a decent DAC so I thought to address it first.

I’ve heard friends DACs and DSD isn’t going to be of interest to me most likely.

I could probably be pretty good for a while by merely adding the Ref Link, even the Ultra is appealing as I feel either is likely a better bet now than my Lynx aES16E feed to the BC 3.0.

New (or new to me) Amps & squeakers are a desire as well, and I’m liking what I see on the SF Liutos.

I have found though, very nice squeakers are key. I’ll reiterate however, I’m of the opinion, everything matters but still its signal integrity first for me.
I think the key design goal of the PS Audio is not just DSD but also how well it handles regular 16/44 and PCM material. DSD is a bonus from what I gather.

If the cost is not too substantial, I'd go for the 3.5 upgrade but bear in mind the full upgrade will include VBS-1 and the VBS Ref power cable as well. Those did put my 3.5 combo pretty close to the PS-Audio IIRC.

But you are right that speakers make the biggest difference so if there's anything you aren't happy with the speakers, they probably should be addressed first before the source.

Welcome back. I remember your posts well.

Not sure what you meant by "I'm a front to back guy". My interpretation was "source is most important", and you mentioned all your music will come from a HDD. I'd like to offer a different alternative for your consideration: the computer as source. What will you use?

I have an Audiophilleo with PurePower connected to a Metrum Octave. In a way this mimics the BC setup with Link + DAC. I used to play from a laptop dedicated to music. I have recently built a dedicated server, but optimized in the hardware and software, and the sound difference has been striking. Would starting with the computer be the right place for you?

A complete BC 3.5 only equals or gets out run by the PSA setup, huh?

wow. I recall hearing another friend here saying his then ver of a DCS setup was bettered by the orig Wave as well. Hmmm.

I’ve some catching up to do for sure. That said, having what popular opinion says is best hasn’t always stood as best IMHO. Neither will my wallet enable me presently to have the best reside here. Maybe soon though.

I’ve found out too in my years regardless the speakers the front end maters as much if not more. As a single entity they often will provoke or impart the greatest degree of substantive gain in a system, though it could be argued the gain is merely ‘d instead.

…and the little Goober smoochers usually cost the most too and are certainly the more ungainly things to manage and setup. so they’ll come along when they’re supposed to… though not first.

I’ll likely settle around the 5K to 6K or so range (pre-owned or new) and just be happy right there this time.

Having an excellent sounding front end has always shown me almost any speaker can be thereafter added on and the result will be an increase in SQ.

The extent of the said increase in audio quality is the real concern… and the amp usually dictates which sort has to be injected.

And that’s OK too. Audio is no longer my whole reason for being as it once had been. I’ve other interests now.

Thanks for the insights, I’ll definitely have to give PSA a much closer look before I leap.

Thanks. Good being back in the hunt… I think. As usual though I’m all about being more in the know before being on the go.

Yes.. PC will be source, so to speak. Presently it’s a reasonably new Win 7 unit with a mediocre 3.5 GHz CPU (I3) and 16 GB DDR3 RAM. This will change this year.

I also have a 4 bay Synology DS 413 I’ll use as a server. I’ve one 3TB HDD in it and this will change soon too as two more 4TB drives will enter it in the coming months..

I’ve also read some ether net cables from Audio Quest are whoorth giving a try.

I’ve run across an off shore app which works great in ripping DVD & Blue Rays, and converting videos. DB poweramp is the CD ripping tool. Still.

A personal confuser of one sort or another will be the tool for playback into an Integra DHC 99 I have on hand as one processor, and two ch will still run through the Thor linestage. Multi ch power for a while comes from a Butler TDB 5150 and an Odyssey plus 2 ch amp for the rears.

Still have some two way Silverlines around SR 15s I think and a Center stage also from Alan . A Vel DD 15 sub, and a couple well oiled Phase tech Flagships from the 90’s a Ben Q DLP 7500 720p projector throws onto a DIY 116 screen.

so for a while I am ok… but still having the Thor linestage preamp and various Voodoo, Shyunyata and Elrod power cords, moving up a bit now and then isn’t going to be a driving necessity as it once was.

I might even begin this time with monitors instead of floorstanders.

I’m unfamiliar with your hardware but will look into it.

Looks like I’ll be calling BC soon to get the particulars on costs for filling in the rest of that idea before making a decision.

The thing is I really like what the BC DAC does in several systems so I find it a very safe and very solid selection. Combine that with being desirous of a pair of their mono block amps and there’s some built in synergy. If I keep grazing on the BC pastures.

I’ve recently heard friends rigs which use Pass labs XA amps and SF Stratoveri speakers, or plannars and now outfitted with the Mitner DSD DAC and honestly they’re superb but it’s not a night and day diff from the VBS 3.5 & BC 500 or 1000 MK II amps & other comparable or lesser priced speakers. All their rigs are outstanding. And no clear cut OMG !!! winner IMHO.

So now, I can live happily in the range I’ve previously lived in and that’s the Hey! That sounds really good’ range.

Very likely it’ll wind up being the sound and how good a value it is which gets my $$$$. But we’ll see.
What I meant was cost wise the DAC3.5VB II + VBS1 + VB Ref cables might come pretty close to the PS Audio's Direct Stream DAC

In my experience, upgrading the computer has made a large difference. And the software made more of a difference than going from old laptop to new server with many audiophile bell and whistles (fanless, SSD, linear power supply, upgraded USB card, etc). Using Windows Server 2012 made a difference, and applying the AudioOptimizer by AudioPhil made the biggest impact. I have yet to try JPlay on top of what I have. You can read some references here on A'gon, and many references on Computeraudiophile.com and/or jplay forum/computer audio sub forum.

thanks much... got the reference as to cost actual now.

I'm figujring about $2.5K to $3K for the upgrade, VBS & Ref link. Probly 3K and a bit.

optimizer? lemme go see about that.

Many thanks.

geeezzz there's a bunch to go over!

Yes, it is a bunch to go over indeed. And computers can be tweaked forever, and that can be fun for some and a nightmare for others. I'm more of the latter group.

My suggestion to keep it as simple as possible is to use any 64-bit computer you can get your hands on. Windows Server 2012 is 64-bit, so that's why you need such computer for this test. Try the computer with the incumbent operative system (Win XP, 7, 8) and your player of choice, such as JRiver. There is a setup guide for JRiver on computeraudiophile.com that I use and I did set it and forget it - I said I didn't like tweaking forever, right? :-)

Then try with same computer, but with WS2012 and the same player. Of course this will not be a valid A/B test because a long time will elapse between A and B...but is probably the best you can do. And your own ears will be the judge. Up to here there is no money spent in the test. WS12 has a trial period of 180 days.

For me the real improvement came with the AudioOptimizer, as you know. The next step in the test would be with the same hardware, now running after the Optimizer did its thing. I believe there is a trial version as well. I might be wrong, but I recall AudioPhil (the maker) saying nobody ever returned it...FWIW. It's fairly easy/quick to switch from optimized to un-optimized and back, maybe 5 min, so it's generally obvious if it makes a difference you like or not.

Eventually you could try JPlay (next on my list), and/or hardware upgrades until you say enough. Also in my list I have trying room correction at the computer. I'm using REW for measurements with good results, and so far I have not left the bit perfect / minimalist and signal purity camp. Computers can be challenging but also offer so much flexibility.

Let us know how you move forward.