Bel Canto REF 1000M Mono Amplifier Reviewed

Published On: February 3, 2010
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
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Bel Canto REF 1000M Mono Amplifier Reviewed

Into 4 ohms, the REF 1000M from Bel Canto puts out 1000 watts. What's even more amazing is that it does it with a chassis that is only 8 inches wide. They also run cool and sound great. Andrew Robinson takes a pair for a spin.

Bel Canto REF 1000M Mono Amplifier Reviewed

By Author: Andrew Robinson

Andrew Robinson began his career as an art director in entertainment advertising in 2003, after graduating from Art Center College of Design. In 2006, he became a creative director at Crew Creative Advertising, and oversaw the agency's Television Division, where he worked for clients such as TNT, TBS, History, FX, and Bravo to name a few. He now has one of the most popular AV-related channels on YouTube.

Belcanto-Ref1000amp-review.gifWhen one thinks of a 500-Watt mono amplifier you probably picture a large, heat sink clad hunk of steel that weighs more than the car you drove it home in and probably costs more too. What if I told you that you could have all of the power of a big mega-Watt mono amplifier in a chassis no bigger than a small shoebox that won't strain your back or your wallet. Interested? Well you're in luck because the Bel Canto REF 1000M is such a product; combining stellar good looks with Goliath like power output all for $5,990 a pair.

Additional Resouces
• Read more amplifier reviews from
• Find a receiver to integrate with the REF 1000M.

The reason the REF 1000Ms are so compact is due to their digital amplification design, which is of the switching variety, capable of churning out an impressive and efficient 500-Watts into eight Ohms and a 1,000 Watts into four. The REF 1000Ms feature improved input stages over previous REF 1000 designs as well as improved power supply rectification which adds 45 Joules of energy storage making for a lower noise floor, lower distortion and improved dynamics. The REF 1000Ms have a reported frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz across all loads down to two Ohms and have a total harmonic distortion rating of .007 percent.

Unlike traditional mono amplifiers, or any amplifier for that matter, the REF 1000Ms are exceedingly efficient drawing only 15 Watts at full power and no power in standby or off, allowing them to remain powered on 24/7 with no real harm done to your electric bill or the environment. Also different from traditional amplifiers the REF 1000Ms are extremely compact measuring in at eight and a half inches wide by three and a half inches tall and a foot deep. The REF 1000Ms tip the scales, or should I say don't tip the scales at a tad under 19 pounds apiece. Because of their compact size and cool running efficiency the REF 1000Ms can be placed seemingly anywhere and given their sexy industrial design these aren't amplifiers you're going to want to hide away from view. Another benefit of the REF 1000M's size is their ability to be stacked, making it easier to connect multiple amps to a single speaker in a biamp configuration without taking up valuable real estate in your listening room. The REF 1000Ms feature a single pair of binding posts flanked by inputs for both balanced and unbalanced interconnects as well as a detachable power cord.

In terms of sound there is little the REF 1000Ms can't do. They can power most any loudspeaker on the planet to insane volumes, 120dB peaks to be exact, and are extremely light on their feet, and are largely natural sounding with startling bass capabilities for a digital amplifier design. Where the REF 1000Ms excel is in their midrange and high frequency performance, which sounds more like a single ended triode amplifier in the sense of being incredibly nimble, open, airy and spacious versus syrupy, vague and recessed, which listeners often confuse for "warmth." In terms of soundstage width and depth the REF 1000M is among the best and the level of control and detail you'll hear is addictive, though it does take a bit of getting used to.

Read about the high points and low points of the REF 1000M on Page 2.

High Points
• Its compact and stylish design and efficient use of power make the Bel Canto REF 1000M a truly modern amplifier among dinosaurs. 

• The REF 1000M has gobs of power, which can be used to drive most
anything out there today. If you happen across a less than cooperative
speaker in terms of its thirst for power, you can curb its appetite for
excess by simply adding a second REF 1000M without straining your
budget or living space to badly.
• The REF 1000M's midrange is a true delight and one of the amplifier's best qualities.
• The high frequency performance of the REF 1000M is refined, smooth
and surprisingly airy without sounding at all digital or artificial.
• In terms of soundstage width and depth the REF 1000M is on par with
the best of them, casting a wide open and cleanly defined space for the
performances to come to life in.

Low Points
• The REF 1000Ms sound like no other amplifier I've come across and
take some getting used to. After a few hours I found myself really
liking the digital sound; however several colleagues and friends of
mine can't stand the sound of the REF 1000M's switching design, finding
it to be a bit lifeless compared to less powerful but more
traditionally designed, class AB power amps.
• The REF 1000M's bass performance is good and rife with detail,
however it does lack some weight and that feeling you get in your bones
when you listen to a properly reproduced kick drum or tympani.
• While not the sole digital amplifier on the block the REF 1000M, like
all Bel Canto designs, are among the best looking and well made. That
being said, Bel Canto does charge quite a premium for what is
essentially a mass-produced, Bang & Olufsen sourced amplifier. If
you want to dive into digital amplification, there are cheaper ways to
do it, but the REF 1000M is a clear upgrade over previous Bel Canto
digital designs.

When you consider the competition based on power specs alone the REF
1000M from Bel Canto has to be viewed as a bit of a bargain. Toss in
the facts that the REF 1000M is easier to live with and better for the
environment than traditional amplifier designs and its value becomes
even more evident. However, when compared to other digital amplifiers,
especially ones featuring the same switching design, the REF 1000M
isn't as affordable as it seems. Then again, compared to most digital
amplifiers, save maybe one or two other brands, none of them sound as
good as the REF 1000M.

Additional Resouces
• Read more amplifier reviews from
• Find a receiver to integrate with the REF 1000M.

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