Bel Canto's Black EX and Black do of course. But those cost €13'500 and €37'900 respectively. If you want to buy "a reverberating carbonizer with mutate capacities from an unlicensed unauthorized cephalopoid", in this catalogue the e1X is the most cost-efficient platform to wield this functionality in a 45 x 40 x 8.3cm WxDxH case of 6.4kg.

"You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers."
"Your proposal is acceptable."

Time to leave silly movies behind and get serious about hifi. For a mini refresher, John Stronczer started Bel Canto in 1991 with an 845 SET I later had on loan. That came after he lived in France for a few years where he met Jean Hiraga to fall in love with horns and single-ended triodes. In 1999 he began to experiment with class D first by way of Tripath, later ICEpower. Today he considers the nCore NC500 power modulator a modern quasi 845. For conversion silicon he's long favored TI's PCM 1792A after using Cirrus Logic for his very first DAC. He finds the TI part to respond very favorably to denuded Vishay C-foil resistors which suppress noise in strategic places while maintaining high thermal stability. For jitter reduction he favors multiple stages in series so the flagship Black system gets three, the EX line two. For all his DAC/preamps, phono and line-level analog signal converts immediately to 24/96 before seeing an XMOS MQA decoder. That's also the case for digital non-MQA signal to imply conversion of DSD128 (USB) to 24/176.4kHz PCM. To John, DSD is most marginal but not so MQA processing. Just for RIAA correction, he relies on analog filters to not load down his processors. The hi/lo-pass filters execute digitally. So does 24-bit dithered volume. For his entry-level e.One kit, volume control goes analog. In a reversal of the usual fortunes, John Stronzer views digital volume done right superior to analog. Being 'one up' from e.One, the e1X thus volumes digitally.

The e1X's unusually deep footprint had it arrive in an unexpectedly big if lightweight carton. UPS man's sunny demeanor wasn't in the least bit blighted. Setup was a breeze, working the menu intuitive. In no time had I set up my mains/sub filter to cross those lands from the lowest 40Hz to its highest 120Hz. Companions in bassology were Grimm's SB1 with advanced motional feedback. Below you see the basic setup of my source stack. Avatar CD and Soundaware D100Pro SD transports were benched alternates.

The other end of the signal chain follows below. Because these Grimm subs have exceptionally low 38µs latency, no physical offset is required to achieve time alignment. Just set them up equidistant with the speakers. However, since most modern subs include heavier DSP for EQ even room correction, bigger digital latency is more common than not. Our upstairs Dynaudio S18 is a lower 2.5ms. That still works out to a distance delay of ~83cm to want that physical offset and avoid late/slow bass. If it did 8ms like a line of Norwegian subs, I'd not have the physical layout options to set up a sub nearly 3 meters closer than the speakers. Hence this proxy request to John Stronczer. His e1X is very bass-management smart already. Why not give it a further IQ injection by adding selectable time delay for the main speakers, say in 0.5m increments up to 5m? This would account for common sub-based digital latencies and/or accommodate popular subwoofer corner placement which could park a sub 2-3m behind the speakers. The e1X is firmware upgradeable as is. Just connect it to the Internet. Hit up the right URL. Select 'update'. If anything is newer than loaded, the deck will auto-execute the download, install and reboot. Mutate capabilities? You bet.

The heavy light-proof curtain acts as HF absorber to attenuate some of the bipole horn tweeters' rear energies reflecting off the front wall.

With intros rendered, proof of life ticked off and a friendly hostage demand dispatched on behalf of subwoofer integrators everywhere, it was time to let the e1X settle in. It had landed just in the nick of time to do a few rounds with Grimm's sub twins before those were due back in Holland.