Published On: February 5, 2010

Bel Canto e. One S300iu Integrated Amplifier Reviewed

Published On: February 5, 2010

Bel Canto e. One S300iu Integrated Amplifier Reviewed

Digital, or Class D, amps offer efficient performance from a small cabinet. Bel Canto has mastered the design and performance with their e.One series. The S300 amp has 300 watts into 4 ohms.

BelCanto-eOneS300i-Review.gifIntegrated amplifiers have always been an effective and affordable way to get into two-channel audio. However, in recent years, integrated amplifiers have come into their own, offering performance and simplicity that even high-end separate systems have trouble matching. Case in point: the Bel Canto e.One S300iu reviewed here. Bel Canto, best known for creating some the industry's finest digital switching amplifiers, has taken that success with digital amplification a step further by mating it with a pre-amp, all the while keeping it in a compact, stylish chassis that is easy to integrate into nearly any system or environment.

Additional Resources
Read more integrated amp reviews from the likes of Krell, Classé, Anthem and many others.
Read more Bel Canto reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com by clicking here.

Retailing for $2,195, the e.One S300iu utilizes the same casework as Bel Canto's e.One REF 1000M mono amplifiers, although the S300iu features a large input and volume display across its face, flanked by a single dial that controls volume, input selection and power on/off. The single dial interface is not quite intuitive at first; simply turning the dial will increase or decrease the volume, while pressing the dial in then turning it will shuttle through the S300iu's four inputs. To turn off the S300iu, simply press and hold the large dial down until the unit switches into standby mode, though I'm not sure you'll want to nor need to, for the S300iu is incredibly green, with an idle power draw of only 15 watts.

Speaking of watts, the S300iu is rated at 150 watts per channel into eight ohms and 300 watts per channel into four. It has a stated frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz, with a total harmonic distortion rating of one percent. The S300iu has four unbalanced inputs simply named one through four, as well as a USB input for the S300iu's USB DAC. The S300iu also has Rec Out and a single Line Out, which can be used to integrate a subwoofer into your two-channel system or run a second power amplifier. The S300iu has a pair of robust binding posts that can accept all forms of speaker wire termination, from spade lugs to bare wire.

In terms of sound, the S300iu is one hundred percent Bel Canto, which is a good thing if you like digital switching amplifiers, but a bad thing if you don't. If you don't, I suggest you stop reading, for the S300iu isn't going to be for you. The S300iu has all the signature attributes of a digital switching amp, light and airy high-frequency playback mated to a slightly recessed yet very natural midrange, rounded out by very taut, controlled and agile bass that isn't earth-shattering but is very composed. The S300iu throws one hell of a convincing soundstage and the detail it's able to retrieve is rather astonishing. That being said, it can get a bit brittle-sounding at the extremes and lacks a bit of fullness and that analog "touch" you'll get from traditional amplifiers, including solid state designs.

Read The High Points, Low Points and Conclusion on Page 2

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High Points

• The S300iu is an incredibly stylish, compact and full-featured integrated amp that is every bit at home in a reference two-channel system as it is in an office or den-based system. 
• The S300iu's looks are such that you don't want to hide it from view, nor do you have to, for it can fit seemingly anywhere. 
• The S300iu has enough power to drive nearly any loudspeaker, though I would recommend mating it to loudspeakers with efficiency ratings of 90dB or better for best results. 
• The S300iu's overall sound quality is very natural once you get used to it. Its high-frequency performance, especially in terms of detail, is stunning. The midrange has a quality that is hard to describe. I wouldn't call it warm or lush, but it is so pure in its delivery that over time I really began to enjoy it. 
• The S300iu's USB input is great and a nice touch, though I wish it was a more up-to-date USB connection, as opposed to the one you'll find on most old computer printers.

Low Points
• The S300iu's remote and entire user interface is definitely form over function. The remote is cheap. Every push of a button feels like it could be the last and the single dial control on the S300iu itself wears out its welcome pretty quickly. 
• The S300iu can do bass. However, it still lacks that last bit of magic you'll find in traditional amplifier designs. There's just a bit of weight and soul missing throughout the lower registers here that makes the S300iu come off as slightly sterile.

Conclusion
For a little over two grand, it's rather incredible what Bel Canto has been able to accomplish with the e.One S300iu. Unlike some of the other products in Bel Canto's arsenal, I consider the e.One S300iu to be a better value than, say their e.One REF 1000M mono amplifiers. While its total power output may not equal some of Bel Canto's more powerful offerings, the fact that the amplifiers are all based on the same Bang & Olufsen-sourced ICE module means you're going to get the same sound for a lot less and have a pre-amp section to boot. While digital amplifiers aren't going to be for everyone in terms of sound quality, there are benefits to the S300iu's digital pedigree, including size and environmental footprint, both of which are incredibly small.

I enjoyed my time with the S300iu and came to like its unique sound. If you're in the market for an integrated amplifier, you owe it to yourself to check out the e.One S300iu before making your final purchase decision to see if it's right for you.

Additional Resources
• Read more integrated amp reviews from the likes of Krell, Classé, Anthem and many others.
• Read more Bel Canto reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com by clicking here.

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