Bel Canto Design has taken the concept of separates in high-end digital audio to perhaps its logical conclusion with their flagship three-box DAC/power-supply/digital-converter setup. The DAC3.5VB Mk.II ($3495) digital-to-analog converter is the heart of the system. The Virtual Battery Supply 1 (VBS1, $1495) upgrades the power supply of the DAC3.5VB Mk.II by adding increased power filtration and greater isolation from power-supply-induced noise. The highly regulated VBS1 comes in a chassis that mirrors that of the DAC itself. Lastly, the REFLink ($1495), also in the same-size chassis as the DAC and power supply, is a digital converter that you'll need if you use a USB digital output from your music server or computer-based system. The REFLink then sends the DAC3.5VB Mk.II a digital signal that it can decode.
The three-box system described above can be purchased as a system with a VB REF power cable ($495) for the power-supply-to-DAC connection and an ST glass-fiber digital cable ($100) for $7080. While some might prefer a one-box solution that includes all the necessary functions and features in a single unit -- and typically I would find myself in that camp -- the price of the Bel Canto sways my opinion the other way. While seven grand is hardly cheap, this is the flagship front end from Bel Canto, not a middle-level setup. And let's face it, flagship rarely equates to less than five figures these days. The Bel Canto approach also provides a sane upgrade path if you choose to buy just the DAC first and then add the better power supply and increased USB functionality later on. If its sound is reference level, this might just be a deal. We'll see . . .