Bel Canto, Pure Fidelity, YG

[Edited to add product information.]

When I walked into this room, just before closing time on Sunday, the show’s last day, they were spinning vinyl. Two things are notable about that fact, at least to me.

The first notable thing: I own the turntable, the Pure Fidelity Harmony ($11,390) in the quilted maple finish, which Ken Micallef reviewed. The cartridge was the Pure Fidelity Stratos, also well-known to me. The tonearm used on the Pure Fidelity was fancier than mine, the Origin Live–made Illustrious SE Stratos ($9095).

The second notable thing is that the turntable was going straight into the control unit of a three-chassis amplification system. On their website, Bel Canto calls the whole system, simply, “The System” (although on the room card, it's referred to as the Bel Canto Black System; the retail price for the system is $65,000). It’s the latest generation of the system Michael Fremer reviewed in 2015.

When I entered the room, Michael McCormick and John Stronzer, the Bel Canto folks, were streaming vinyl—a nice jazz LP I didn't know. [Edit: So I asked. It was Kenny Burrell's Midnight Blue, with Stanley Turrentine, Major Holley Jr, Bill English, and Ray Barretto. The LP was supplied by Pure Fidelity's John Stratton.] On the one hand, as Bel Canto's John Stronzer explained in an email after the show, the phono preamp in this system is all analog. "I do not want to lose resolution by having a 40dB+ range in a DSP-based digital RIAA equalizer." So, phono preampfification and RIAA correction are best carried out in the analog domain. "We perform the ADC function directly after the RIAA analog stage, using the same ADC as the analog line level inputs."

Seems so wrong but feels and sounds so right. The sound was relaxed, pleasant—like vinyl. Really lovely. No, I would not have known that it had been digitized, and even if I did know, I would not care. Good sound is good sound.

It wasn't just the Bel Canto stuff, of course, that made these tunes so enjoyable; nor was it only the Pure Fidelity 'table. A big part was played, as it always is, by the loudspeakers, YG Acoustics Peaks Ascent ($19,800). I could live with this sound long-term.

Cabling, etc., was by Cardas: a Nautilus power conditioner ($2000); Clear Beyond XL power cables ($2535 for 1m); and Clear Beyond speaker cables ($9220 for a 2m pair). The rack was from Harmonic Resolution Systems, Model RXR with 3 R-shelves. The price was not listed.