Back at the factory, the crew pulled off component bottom plates and let me sift through parts bins to show what goes into Bel Canto equipment.
From the tubed SETi40 (still produced on by-demand basis) and surface-mount technology on an SEP1 board -
- to the music/movie/multi-zone flexibility of the Pre6, John Stronczer isn't married to any one particular topology or
technology. Nor does he underwrite NDH (not-designed-here) myopia, a -- usually medical -- condition that impairs visual perception of far-away objects. Stronczer investigates whatever the hi-tech market offers and adapts it to his own needs.

The day I popped into his factory saw the unsolicited overseas delivery of a digital "IcePower" module by Danish firm Bang & Olufsen. Appreciating Stronczer's expertise in this area, the Danes had sent him a fully working sample of their own proprietary take on digital amplification - presumably to get his feedback and potential interest for OEM applications. B&O was obviously unconcerned over reverse engineering attempts such a gesture might invite from, ahem - less ethical firms in a certain part of the world known for blatant cloning.

You had no idea this was enroute?
None. I'm flattered though. I'll take a close look at it. Frankly, I don't believe it will touch our Tripath solution. But if it did, rest assured I'd work with it. Many people in audio don't grasp the advantages of the astounding IP base of Intellectual Property -- military and industrial, aerospace, telecommunications and medical sectors -- that offers fantastically advanced solution to the open-minded engineer.

The sheer amount of funds -- in the billions, mind you -- that's gone and continues to go into R&D in these fields, particularly Mosfet power switching devices as opposed to traditional linear bipolars, is so far beyond what even true industry giants like Harman could ever invest into. Take modern digital power devices. Their performance, in terms of distortion, noise floor, compactness and output power, is a true marvel. In energy-conscious environmental terms, they're the closest thing yet we have to green power.

That's not to say you can simply spec them into a circuit and expect High-End performance. What we've done with our Tripath eVo architecture, for example, has become a licensed platform available to other companies that either lack the specific expertise in this field, or see no good reason to duplicate the significant expense of time and money, on major grunt work I've already completed.

You really believe in the importance of "intelligence", the coming together of like-minded individuals who, like fingers interlocking in prayer, can form a think tank to spawn unconventional solutions to old problems?
Absolutely. My former outfit Ten Mountains was based on exactly that cooperative profile. Bel Canto Design is in the process of forming an equivalent team of farsighted and gifted individuals. It's too early yet to divulge details, but I can say that Jim Kinne, deeply involved in Wadia's latter-day and groundbreaking digital designs, is one who's worked with us on a contract basis for some time already.
Stronczer in fact did relinquish a few further glimpses into this think-tank venture. But - I'm under swear-on-your-eVo oath to await his heads-up until a follow-up can report on these developments candidly. What I can do is say "you ain't seen nuttin' yet". That about sums up the sense of excitement that surrounded Stronczer during these off-the-record teasers.

I also got to meet Bel Canto's high-energy new National Sales Manager Del Helmer. Then one floor down in the same building, I visited Robert Trench (no coat) who runs fahrenheit, a hot PR design firm. Collaborating heavily with Del, he's developed Bel Canto's new website, their "blue ball" ad campaign and some very cool new promotional materials. Do you appreciate their work? Is your own site ailing, your ads not pulling hard enough? (Frankly -- and my wife agrees, which is the scary part -- most audio adverts in Stereophile are darn weak.) This soft-spoken computer designer with a jones for good audio could be your guy. E-mail the Trenchman here.
The above drumkit -- parked in plain view below a work station in the factory -- demonstrates how being a driven tech-savvy deisgner and die-hard music lover can share equal ménage-à-trois affections.

When testing prototypes on their in-house Soliloquy 6.5s, Bel Canto routinely compares their designs against the sound of real drum kit. That's standard operational protocol. By way of example, John shared that coming to work one morning, he could hear the drums and cymbals crashing far down the hallway of the solid brick building he inhabits. Thinking it one of his guys -- blasting through a quicky morning workout before the boss arrived -- he cracked a huge grin remembering.
T'was his eVo2i cranked up to party-levels, surrounded by high-five'ing personnel daring him to tell the difference. You know the old adage abut the cook loving his own cooking? Don't be surprised to find Stronczer using all-stock BCD gear at home. But first:
[left] DAC alley
[left] the hallway of the new head-quarters [right]: same building, lower floor, double the space. Occupancy: sometimes in October 2002
[left] The view from the new digs

[lower left] The immediate neighborhood

[lower right] A 15,000 lbs elevator to the loading dock, just to capacity for moving the forthcoming 1000w monos