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Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Source: 160GB iPod Classic, Onkyo NS-D1 dock, Pure i20 dock
Preamplifier: NuForce HDP
Integrated amplifier: Dayens Ampino, NuForce Icon 2 & Icon Amp
Loudspeakers: Mark+Daniel Mini
Cables: Musical Cable, Black Cat Cable Veloce digital cable, Entreq Konstantin USB cable
Stands: Ikea kitchen department
Sundry accessories: Acoustic System Resonator, Tachyonics, Schumann synchronizer
Room size: 5m x 11.5m W x D, 2.6m ceiling with exposed wooden cross beams every 60cm, plaster over brick walls, suspended wood floor with Tatami-type throw rugs. The listening space opens into the second storey via a staircase and the kitchen/dining room are behind the main listening chair. The latter is thus positioned in the middle of this open floor plan without the usual nearby back wall.
Review Component Retail:

The time had come for spring cleaning. I wanted fewer bloody boxes on my desk. In the wake of their review I'd acquired the superb Mark+Daniel Fantasia S floorstanders earlier in the year. This had gotten me addicted to their command over low-level dynamic contrast. Now I was lusting after that sound also in the nearfield where I abuse my keyboard with a proprietary 5.5-finger typing system for untold hours each day.

If I was going to run the diminutive super-resolved but power-hungry Mark+Daniel Mini Plus there, I'd need good but refined LF grunt and control to complement the speakers on their level of resolution. With my snazzy but cheap Pure i20 digital-direct iPod dock—I was waiting for Simon Lee to release his April Music Adam dock—and the occasional CNN or BBC streaming broadcast or YouTube music video, I'd also need a superior built-in DAC with USB and coaxial inputs. A pre-out for potential expansion into subwoofing or dedicated preamping was another must. So was a superior headphone socket for my favorite Audez'e LCD-2. And the display had to be completely extinguishable.

Because I'm shallow I wanted simple but classy designer cosmetics. Silver not black. And due to this whatever needing to double as stand for my HP2710 computer screen, it had to have a low-rider profile and be half width. Remote control wasn't required since I'd sit at arm's length. Performance had to be elevated enough to serve occasional double duty in the big rig whenever a more affordable loudspeaker demanded to be partnered up with a price-matched multi-tasking machine rather than any of my usual expensive separates. Do more with less can be the ticket. So what my hifi shrink really ordered was simplicity itself. I needed a high-performance 100wpc into 4Ω integrated amplifier with built-in DAC and headphone/preamp outputs that was compact, handsome but not silly money.

Who you gonna call? Googling for candidates, it took no time at all to put Bel Canto's new C5i with 3Ω happiness and 30A of peak current capacity into my cross hairs. When I contacted their Michael McCormick with a purchase order—I'd owned some of their gear previously to comfortably order à la carte—he informed me that I was just a bit early. Production was ramping up, delivery would take a few more months but this piece already had behind it the best proto-to-production transition in their recent history (i.e. it needed the least amount of mechanical/electrical revisions going from drawings to hardware).

The let-down (for you). I'm not in the habit of buying things just to review 'em. The opposite can occasionally occur but it's never strategic. Hence I won't formally review the C5i. I bought it for personal use. Pleasure. Not work (only while I work). But I'm also a chatty enthusiast. This machine fits my purposes perfectly not just on paper but in situ. I can't help but think that others could be in a similar situation. They ought to at least learn about the C5i's existence. For specs you best go to BCD's website. Naturally that doesn't have our kind of large-scale inside photos. So the following page will present a few of those just to tide you over until some other reviewer launches a formal review to talk about what this clever little box actually sounds like.