Saturday, 29 October 2016

The Full Bryston Suite Treatment - An Experience Not To Forget!





Recently I reviewed the PMC twenty5.24 where I pair it with my resident set up, mainly Musical Fidelity M6i amplifier. While PMC is synonymous with Bryston electronics, I feel that it was flexible enough to sing with amps from other brands. Nevertheless, AV Designs being their usual accommodative hifi retailer, suggested that I should hear the PMC with a full Bryston suite of electronics. Must I even think about the proposition? NOT! A few days later, James Tan popped in with the following Bryston equipment:
  • BDP2 digital medial player
  • BDA3 DAC
  • BOT-1 optical drive
  • ...and about 1 week after that, the B135 SST2 integrated amp
  • WyWire USB cable
There is an individual review of each component but also a review as a whole system.

I believe I am bit late getting into the reviews of these items as it was already available since last year if I am not mistaken. Nevertheless, the experience here is something  that surpassed my enjoyment when I listened to them in AV Designs or KLIAV show. For nearly 2 months, my home was basically converted into AV Desigsn listening area :)

Now lets get down to business.

THE SPEC & THE INS AND OUTS

BDA3 DAC

The BDA3 DAC it is not short of inputs to cater for all the needs of the modern digital world. In fact, this is the first time I come across a DAC that has a HDMI in. The DAC is built around a dual 32Bit AKM DAC and able to support up to DSD 4x sampling and PCM up to 384 Khz. The HDMI is a 4K video pass through with audio out.

It weighs at 3.9 KG, light enough for easy installation onto the rack.



Inputs: 
  • 2 USB 2.0 Type B
  • 4 HDMI 
  • 2 SPDIF (1 BNC and 1 RCA)
  • 1 optical
  • 1 AES/EBU
Ouputs:
  • HDMI
  • RCA
  • XLR


BDP2 DIGITAL PLAYER
Based on Linux OS, Bryston further enhanced the already superb BDP1 player to another level of digital audio nirvana. With the Integrated Audio Device card (IAD), it provides an improved performance. It can handle most audio files available out there including DSD. It can perform playback from USB flash drives and USBand eSATA HDD. No news yet whether it can handle SSD. It is a network based player and support NAS connectivity, DNLA, UPNP and also online internet radio and music host TIDAL. It is fully controllable by PC, laptops, phones and tablets. One of the beauty and ingenuity of Bryston is that this player does not rely on iOS or Android app. It is basically controlled via web browser through the player IP address. This avoid the situation of support requirement from apps company.


Inputs:
  • 6 USB 2.0
  • 1 eSATA
Outputs
  • SPDIF
  • AES/EBU
  • USD


BOT-1 OPTICAL DRIVE

This is one special CD transport in which when its connected to the BDP2 player, it can be fully controlled as a CD player for direct CD playback or it can act as a CD ripper to rip CD directly onto your chosen directory of HDD, NAS or USB flash drives.

It just have one USB output to be connected to the BDP2 player and a power supply.


B135 SST2 Integrated Amp

A relatively unique power rating of 135 wpc into 8 ohms, this integrated amp Bryston all in one integrated amp with options to have digital inputs to replace the analogue inputs. It boast a separate ground paths for digital and analog, allowing a cleaner path for the two types of signal.

Inputs:
  • 6 pairs of SE RCA
  • 1 pair of RCA Record In
  • 2 optical (optional)
  • 2 SPDIF (optional)
Outputs
  • 2 pairs of SE RCA for Record Out and Preamp Out
  • 1/4" headphone jack
Built wise, all of the items here crafted and built with precision and its sturdiness is unquestionable. Bryston is known for its tank-like industrial built and these items are not exempted from that BUT I must say the fascia has improved a lot. With soft touch buttons and cool dimmed green LED, it fits well in the WAF category.


THE EQUIPMENT
The review was done with 3 different speakers:
  • ProAc Response D18
  • PMC twenty5.24
  • Arpeggio Pensato

Besides the Bryston, the following was also used:
  • SONY HAP Z1 ES HDD player

For cabling, a mixture of cabling was used:
  • Power cables : Siltech and QED
  • USB Cable : WyWire
  • RCA : Siltech from M1 ViNL, MatYeoX from SONY HAP Z1 ES, Gotham from Bryston BDA3 and also from B135 SST2 to KOGA Aimez Power Amp (when tested as pre) 
  • Speaker cable : Siltech Classic Anniversary 330L for PMC, Vermouth Audio Black Pearl for ProAc and Pensato

THE TRACKS
  • Girl Is Mine by Michael Jackson - DSD
  • Where Did The Boots Boy Gone? by ACAB - WAV
  • Temptation by Dian Krall - AIFF
  • Unchained Melody by Willie Nelson - DSD
  • Billy Jean by Michael Jackson - DSD
  • I Will Remember by Toto - WAV
  • Take Five by Dave Brubeck - DSD

THE SESSIONS
By the time the session was conducted, all the equipment have already seen at least 500 hours of music pushed through them. 

SESSION 1 - WITH PROAC D18 AS A HOLE BRYSTON COMBO

Girl is Mine

This is such a simple track but the Michael - Paul combo and its melodious tune was played through with a big and airy soundstage. The chimes during the intro sounded very clear and had the right highs to it. Michael's and Pauls' vocals were lively in its own mellow way, giving the overall tune a really bodied presentation. Emotions runs high on this track with vocals clarity seems to be the most evident trait.


Where Did The Boot Boys Gone?

I purposely chose this track because of its lack of vocals clarity and transparency. Most probably because of its level of mastering or recording. People may ask why am I using a 'non audiophile' track in a review but hey, as far as I am concern, I buy hifi to listen to music that matters to me. Not music that makes the set up sounds good. Lo and behold. Playing this track via the BDP2 and BDA3,  Megat's vocal sounded clearer and more energized. It further convinced me that clarity is one of the strongest trait of this Bryston combo. Even the angst of the rhythm guitar and the melodic lead guitar sounded  very open and it was filling up the hall. Something that it is really important in tracks like this. Guitar must sound authoritative to pump up the adrenalin to the listeners.


Temptation

Do I need to even sum up the performance of the Bryston on this track? Just listen to the percussion and the bass guitar in the introduction. That single hit of the snare fills up the entire room with the right level of highs. Its in no way shrilling but more  like making a statement that demands listener to listen. The bass guitar just sounded melodic with the right lows that digs deep into your listening area. And when Diana's vocal comes in, I was totally mesmerized by the overall performance of the Bryston kit. The sound stage sounded big and layer and layer of music interface can be experienced.... and its not even paired with a PMC yet.


SESSION 2 - WITH ARPEGGIO PENSATO TO TEST THE B135 SST2


Unchained Melody

I started with a slow number with these Pensatos. Pairing the Bryston kit with this gave me another perspective of the Bryston B135. Clarity remains as expected. Emotion runs deep as well. Dispersion of of the snare sounded crisp which I like it that way. The liveliness was however taken down a notch. Most probably its due to the change from a floorstander to this huge bookshelf. The Bryston still did not loose in delivering the big sound and clarity but the 'kick' or 'energy' was limited. I suspect that the B135 and Pensato are not really the perfect match for each other. Need further challenge.




Money For Nothing

You really want to test the energy of your system? This track provide a good test. The way the momentum of the track builds up on you, even though it was musically arranged properly, play it on the wrong system, Dire Straits will kill you for not respecting their masterpiece. This time around the B135 sounded more authoritative, providing the muscular percussion and synthesizer sound. It lets the music wraps around you and make you feel like you are in an envelope of true music. I didnt feel that the drums were in my face nor I feel uneasy with the decibel level in my chest. It was just overall lively at the right level. The test with Willie's rendition of Unchained Melody might be focusing too much on vocal.

SESSION 3 - B135 SST2 AS A PRE AMP TO KOGA AIMEZ AND PMC

Billie Jean as a Pre Amp

No issues at all to connect the B135 to the 30 watter KOGA Aimez hybrid power amp via RCA. In terms of sound, its definitely different from using the B135 as an integrated amp. However, the sound I am hearing is predominantly was a KOGA Aimez sound. A refined bass but with big sound stage. 


SESSION 4 - THE FULL BRYSTON SUITE WITH PMC TWENTY5.24


Temptation

Replaying the Temptation track provided me with a more refined and classy sound signature. Although the PMC is known for its bass prowess, it delivered a more refined bass rather than the slam I heard from ProAc. This is actually a compliment as the Bryston-PMC combo where most people would expect a thud thumping action, actually provided a more musical experience. In my previous PMC review, these babies gave me a brute slamming bass sound paired with my MF M6i. But with the B135, a more relaxing and involving musical experience was presented to me. Worried that the Bryston killed off the PMC bass? Read on folks!


I Will Remember

Listen to the intro of this track. A full bodied bass can still be delivered by the B135. Playing this track on a full Bryston electronic suite, the overall presentation was not only involving but also the clarity and that musical element that I mentioned before was even further surfaced into the overall experience. The warm vocals and sharp percussion fill the room with quite a big sound stage compared to pairing the Bryston kit with ProAc D18.



Take Five

Musical and more musical. As I keep on playing various genres on this combo, I realise how refined Bryston equipment are. Its not about being loud (which they still can) but it s about juicing out every drop of musical detail(or in this case, every digital bit). The combo of BDP2, BDA3 and B135 gave an overall clean, detail and transparent sound with high level of refinement. I can listen for hours without feeling fatigue. Just listen to the airiness on this track, from percussion to the wind instruments used here. Dave Brubeck himself would be mesmerized by the overall soundstage from this combo.

OTHER BITS AND PIECES

CONTROL INTERFACE



Its a web browser based control interface. Just key in the matching IP address where the BDP2 is connected to and you will be able to perform all the control on the BDP2 and also the BOT1 optical drive. Need some getting used to but if you are already into Computer Audio System, this can be learnt within minutes. On the same page, you can see what is currently playing, data of the playing track, list of tracks that you have selected, all the sources that are connected to the player and the control panel. Its not the most elegant looking interface but you do not have to worry about apps missing apps support in the future.

INTERNET RADIO AND ONLINE MUSIC SERVER

The BDP2 offers unlimited connectivity to internet radio. Searching for my all time favourite Classic and Jazz station  from Paris was seamless. Up and playing within minutes. For online music server, its a shame that it does not support Spotify so I cannot test it as I do not subscribe to TIDAL.

BOT-1 RIP QUALITY

For any CAS enthusiasts, they would know how important is the ripping process is. Ripping from the drive is definitely straight forward and it can be done via the control interface. A full album can be ripped into WAV within 4 to 5 minutes. Comparing a WAV file of Hotel California ripped by this BOT-1 and the one I ripped using my laptop, I could hear that the version ripped by BOT-1 sounded bolder and livelier. Somehow it has more zing to it compared to my previous rip. For the sake of trying, it can also be connected to my SONY HAP Z1 ES and similarly, it took about 4 to 5 ins to rip a full album to WAV. Compared to my Archgon DVD rom, the rip quality also sounded livelier. Makes me wonder what exactly is happening to the theory of ones and zeros are all the same.

CONCLUSIONS

BOT-1 OPTICAL DRIVE
  • Yay:
    • One of the fastest yet accurate ripping I have heard so far
    • Certain 44.1 ripped WAV files sounded similar to CD playback on this unit
  • Nay:
    • Physically noisy. When reading the CD initially especially. Knocking sound can be heard.
BDP2 DIGITAL PLAYER
  • Yay:
    • Throw any files at it and it will just smile back. No fuss player. 
    • Truly versatile in sound and style. Bryston hit the highest note by using Linux as the OS for this unit. From the sound quality, I know that Bryston did everything not to compromise on this. Best sounding player at this price I must say. The player brings out the best of your digital files. Bass is tight and clarity is the main virtue of this player. The highs do not develop fatigues for long hours listening.
    • Simplicity in its front display LED screen. Not cluttered with any unnecessary info.
    • Stability. Not once did the player crashed on me over hundreds of hours of playback.
    • Support at least 1 TB HDD. It took about 20 mins for the unit to fully recognize the 15000 tracks I have on the HDD. Direct connection is the best way to listen.
    • No issues in detecting my 2 TB NAS as well. But it does take sometime to fully scan the NAS
  • Nay:
    • Reduce number of inputs. This may reduced the offering price a bit.
    • Think of a way to have the web based browser to have a simplified version for direct play.
    • Need Spotify. Thats my preference.
BDA3 DAC
  • Yay:
    • Inputs galore. With the number of inputs it offers, you will never be short of any. Playing my MD deck and also an Oppo BDP player through this DAC, it brings up the sound quality to another level. Really defines what digital music is all about.
    • Playing DSDs through this DAC is the highlight of this review. May it be from the BDP2 or the Sony HAP Z1 ES feeding through it. The level of details that it brings up from your digital files is very impressive.
  • Nay:
    • Nothing at this price range
B135 SST2
  • Yay:
    • Refined sound reproduction. Pair it with the right speakers and you are heading towards sound nirvana. In my review, the best pairing was actually with the PMC. It really compliments the overall  musicality of the PMC. However, the PMC twenty5.24 to me deserves a bigger Bryston amp. Wattage is not everything but I feel the PMC can deliver more with bigger Bryston amp. It is a a truly a neutral sounding pair with overall best musicality reproduction but the B135 may pair even better with the smaller siblings of the twenty5 series.
    • Various options of inputs and ability to act as a pre amp
    • Decent headphone sound quality as well
  • Nay:
    • I need a remote as a standard accessories
AS AN OVERALL SYSTEM

No doubt the BRYSTON-PMC synergy is one of the most beautifully sounding pairing. It scores very high in every aspect of hifi terms. May it be musicality, clarity, bass, treble, sound stage etc, it gives you an overall musical pleasure even for long hours listening. You will not get bored with this pairing. Its just a matter of choosing the right PMC speaker for the respective Bryston amp.

If you are in the market of getting a digital audio player, you owe it to yourself to demo the Bryston BDP2. You can start off with this and pair it with your existing DAC. This is a fuss free player that only have one track mind - Purest and Highest Sound Quality  for your digital files.

Of course, you will get the full benefit if you get the BDA3 DAC as well. This digital pair will ensure the utmost bit retraction from your digital files and reproduce it with highest level of details. I may be exaggerating this but at this price, they are are not many contenders out there.

The BOT-1 is optional if you have just started to get into CAS. If you already have a a decent digital file collection, you may not need this. But if you just started, this will completely make your PC or laptop redundant for music ripping.

A big thank you to AV Designs for entrusting me to review these excellent products.

The RRP of the whole combo of Bryston BOT-1, BDP2, BDA3, B135 SST2 and PMC twenty5.24 is just slightly shy of RM100,000. 

If you are interested to hear what these items can do, do visit AV Designs at:


Audio Visual Designs Sdn Bhd
Unit M-W-1, Mezzanine Floor,
West Wing, Rohas Perkasa,
No.9, Jalan P. Ramlee,
50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tel: +603-2171 2828
Fax: +603-2171 2825
Email: sales@avdesigns.com.my


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