Bryston review 45

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Bryston review 45 Powered By Docstoc
					 Reprinted with permission from UHF Magazine No.82
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                            Bryston BCD-1 Player
                          o here we are at the end of 2007,       discrete transistors, not chips. Great care   that the drawer is of particularly flimsy
                          with everyone predicting the            has been taken in the design of power         plastic. We can understand why Bryston
                          death of the Compact Disc. And          supplies for both analog and digital cir-     wanted to hold the price down, but the
                          here’s Bryston, which has been          cuits, and proper grounding techniques        drawer is something you touch each time
                 building audiophile and professional             (a mystery for too many designers, alas)      you change a CD.
                 electronics since at least the 1970’s,           have been used.                                   The rear panel has both RCA and
                 finally bringing out its first digital player.       We like the green fluorescent dis-        XLR connections for everything, as you
                 What’s up with that?                             play, and the fact that its two lines         would expect from a company that has
                     We don’t mean to suggest that Brys-          show somewhat more information than           one foot in the professional sound world.
                 ton is new at the digital game. It has long      most (we still wish it were bigger, and       The RCA jacks are so-so.
                 offered other digital products, including        thus readable from across the room).              Though Br yston runs all of its
                 digital-to-analog converter circuits,            We also like the brushed metal remote         products in for a number of hours, we
                 preamplifiers with digital inputs, and           control, whose legends light up in what       gave it three more days of continuous
Listening Room

                 home theatre audio processors. No, this          looks like Indiglo green when light is        duty before we installed it in our Alpha

                 is more of a marketing question: is this         low. Unique! You need a screwdriver to        system, and pitted it against our Linn
                 the right time to be getting into the CD         change the (pre-installed) batteries, but     Unidisk reference player.
                 player business?                                 we’re happy to say they’re alkalines, not         We began the evaluation with a
                     Bryston believes it is, that the pro-        the leak-prone “super heavy duty” cells       recording that had just arrived, a set of
                 liferation of music in harsh, unmusical          we see too often.                             Mozart violin concertos on Norway’s
                 MP3, WMA and AAC compressed for-                     In contrast to the remote, the player     2L label. This two-disc set includes an
                 mats has awakened a thirst for something         itself is by no means flashy. The front       SACD, but of course we selected the Red
                 better among more discerning music               panel is nicely finished but not truly        Book CD for this session. We listened
                 lovers. The same thirst, it could be said,       distinctive, and the rest of the player is    to the Rondeau from the Concerto No. 4
                 is at the origin of a modest but notable         a plain black box. The disc drawer opens      in D Major.
                 revival of analog.                               instantly when the appropriate button is          It was obvious from the first mea-
                     The transport of the BCD-1 is from           pushed, and we were disappointed to see       sures that the Bryston offers a broad
                 Philips, supplier to almost everyone, and                                                      and well-balanced spectral range. We
                 the Crystal CS4398 converter chip is a
                 hybrid device, using both multibit and
                                                                  Just in time for the                          had however some difficulty finding a
                                                                                                                volume level that seemed right, though
                 Delta-Sigma processing and 128-time
                 oversampling. What Bryston brings to
                                                                  CD’s silver jubilee,                          we had had no such problem with our
                                                                                                                own player.
                 the table, however, is its long experi-          Bryston’s very first                              A bit of experimentation revealed the
                 ence in analog design. The operational                                                         reason. There is a lot of high frequency
                 amplifiers treating the analog signal use        CD player                                     content in the strings on this record-
                 38 ULTRA HIGH FIDELITY Magazine
ing, and a hint of asperity made some

                                              The CD Player’s Missing Jack
passages sound a little louder than they
really were. It was no more than a hint
in fact, and we didn’t initially notice
the effect because the sound was by no            It’s a serious problem, and it isn’t confined to any one brand. Pretty much any
means shrill. Once we had found a com-        player we’ve seen has an important jack missing.
fortable volume, we admired the beauty            Which one? Any player will have a digital output for use with an outboard
of Marianne Thorsen’s violin tone, and        digital-to-analog converter, even players so expensive that using one as a mere
the virtuosity with which she interprets      transports seems like insanity. But where’s the digital input?
this familiar concerto.                           Think about it. More and more, the computer and its associated network will
    Indeed, we quickly concentrated           become an important music source, and a high quality source at that. Modern com-
on the player’s many qualities. The           puters have analog outputs, but you don’t expect hi-fi from that. Some computers,
rhythm was lively, the music full of joy.     however, also have digital outputs, as do some wireless peripherals. You can run
The stereo image was precise, letting us      that output into your standalone converter…if you have one.
hear where each instrument was placed,            If you own a quality CD player, a good deal of attention has been given to its
something you would hear only if you          converter and its associated analog circuitry. Indeed, the converter may account
had bought top tier concert tickets. We       for much of the player’s cost, since few companies make their own transports. So
had a good sense of the hall’s acoustics      here you are, with a good player, and a top-grade converter that could also be used
too. The conclusion? “It’s got energy,”       with external digital sources…except that there’s no friggin’ digital input!
said Reine, “and that is Mozart.”                 We would like to see a digital input on every player costing more than maybe
    How would the player do with a            $500. And while we’re at it, we’d like to see a USB input too. That would make a
female voice, always a potential trap for     good CD player not only more valuable, but also future-proof.
any CD player? We pulled out soprano              So who does this now? Hardly anyone. It’s time that changed.
Isabel Bayrakdarian’s superb recording
of songs by Pauline Viardot-Garcia
(Analekta AN 2 9903), selecting the song      the whole band. It is tense, evocative          praised the impact of the drums and
Haï Luli. Would there be a problem? Not       music.                                          the shimmer of the cymbals. This is a
a bit.                                             The player did wonderfully well with       difficult piece to do justice to, but it all
    True, the tone of Bayrakdarian’s voice    it. In the opening, the depth was about         worked.
was altered a little, and Albert thought      as good as it gets, another indication that         We had two more female voices wait-
her singing was not quite as effortless,      this player has little difficulty with the      ing in the wings.
but it wasn’t possible to be sure whether     subtle cues that depth is built upon. The           The first was that of Joan Baez, in
the alteration was for better or for worse.   lateral image was exemplary as well.            a European re-release of the Robbie
The words of the song were clear as                But depth and image are one thing,         Robertson song, The Night They Drove
spring water, and the notes of Serouj         musical values are another. The low-            Old Dixie Down (Vanguard VFCD7104).
Kradjian’s piano flowed like a mountain       pitched brass was as dramatic as we had         Her soaring voice was clear, her usual

                                                                                                                                             Listening Room
stream. The considerable space audible        hoped, with power that added a sense of         characteristics perhaps more empha-

on this recording remained vast. We           foreboding. Clarinets leapt out like little     sized, the lyrics easy to follow. The
pronounced ourselves more than pleased        phantoms, with malicious woodiness.             guitar, which provides the beat, seemed
with what we had heard.                       The tutti that followed wasn’t quite as         more prominent, and thus less warm.
    Our next recording was a different        coherent as with our own player, but the            There was also a change in the
sort of challenge. It’s a wind band piece     experience was so seamless that we could        background choral voices that sing the
composed by Stephen McNeff, titled            find little fault with it. Reine particularly   chorus, but not at the expense of clarity.
Ghosts. That is indeed the title of the                                                       Indeed, it was now easier to distinguish
album (Klavier K11150), featuring the                                                         among those singers, and that added to
redundantly-named Philharmonia à                      Summing it up…                          the bittersweet tone of the song.
Vent Wind Orchestra, conducted by                                                                 The second, and final, female voice
John Boyd.                                    Brand/model: Bryston BCD-1                      was that of Margie Gibson. We often end
    This is not the usual wind band           Price: C$2395                                   a session with her, because her songs are
bravura piece, nor is it a march. It opens    Size (WDH): 43.2 x 28 x 8.5 cm                  especially revealing of finesse of perfor-
with a rattling of chains in the distance,    Most liked: Very good clarity, fine             mance, and also because we can think of
and there is the uncanny illusion that all    tonal balance, strong rhythm                    no better way to wind up the day. So…
is happening well out beyond the walls        Least liked: Minor asperity at the top          Margie, with the song The Best Thing For
of the listening room. This somewhat          end, can’t read some signals (see text)         You.
worrisome manifestation is followed by        Verdict: Bryston aims for the sweet                 Even small flaws in a player’s perfor-
a dramatic rumble of horns and tubas,         spot, nails it                                  mance will pop up like a jack-in-the-box
announcing a powerful cataclysm by                                                            with this recording. We were happy to
                                                                                               ULTRA HIGH FIDELITY Magazine           39
                                                                                                                    which is the way things should work.
                                                                                                                        The low-level wave, recorded 60 dB
                                                                                                                    below the CD’s full level, is shown at left.
                                                                                                                    It is very good, with little contamina-
                                                                                                                    tion by noise. It doesn’t always look this
                                                                                                                        What we can’t show you is the 100 Hz
                                                                                                                    square wave we like to run. We had so
                                                                                                                    much trouble with the reading we were
                                                                                                                    convinced our equipment was misbe-
                                                                                                                    having, and we actually downloaded a
                                                                                                                    software update. It didn’t help.
                                                                                                                        The Bryston, it turns out, doesn’t
                                                                                                                    like square waves. Each time we tried
                                                                                                                    to read one, the player thought it was
                                                                                                                    seeing a data disc (the word data actually
                                                                                                                    appeared on the screen), and it muted its
                 see that none did. Margie’s voice was            this session. The music worked on every           output. But we were relieved to find it
                 clear and natural, with “S” sounds that          piece we listened to.                             wasn’t our fault!
                 were normal. There was the smallest of               We took the Bryston into the lab and              Our conclusion is that, if Bryston has
                 differences compared to our reference            proceeded to run some our usual batch of          taken its own sweet time finally bringing
                 player, but the expressiveness of her voice      instrument tests. The jitter was so low we        out a digital player, it hasn’t been wasting
                 was so delightful it scarcely mattered.          actually couldn’t read it. And even play-         the years. The BCD-1 is a thoroughly
                 The accompanying instruments —                   ing tracks deliberately sliced through by         modern Compact Disc player with excel-
                 piano, bass, cello and drums — were              a laser had little effect on jitter. Amazing!     lent musical performance.
                 delightful. Musically, and in every other        With a wide (2 mm) laser cut across the               By the way, as the BCD-1 finds its
                 way, the song worked.                            track, the BCD-1 began letting through            way into stores worldwide, Bryston has
                     Indeed, we could and did say the same        uncorrected noise bursts. On the tracks           announced a new standalone converter.
                 thing about all of the recordings used in        that followed the player simply muted,            It may be one to watch.

                      This player, at several levels and across   no worries. Feed it a lively piece and your       philosophy — and I think that one has
                 a variety of musical types, offers all of the    listening room will light up with bursts of       emerged over the years — leaves little room
                 qualities of a true audiophile product. It       fireworks. Ask it to sing for you, and you’ll     for eye candy, esoterism, and irrelevant
Listening Room

                 projects a satisfying image, with a sumptuous    hear a voice you love as you’ve never heard       gewgaws. The result is that a lot of Bryston

                 bottom end, a very good spectral balance,        it before, but wished you had.                    products don’t look as flashy as those of the
                 exemplary clarity for a multitude of details,         This player has a straightforward style      best-known high end manufacturers, but
                 and the fidelity needed to reproduce vir-        of performance, with little need to smooth        they don’t cost like it either.
                 tuosity and move the emotions. In general        out the wrinkles. If one of your recordings            The BCD-1 is squarely in line with that
                 musical timbres are gorgeous, and rhythm         appears really close-miked on your existing       philosophy. It looks downright austere, but
                 is involving.                                    player, prepare to dive right into it with this   there’s nothing austere about the way it
                      I do have a small reservation concerning    one.                                              reproduces music. The range of frequencies
                 a singer whose voice is naturally nasal and           And yet it also has a wonderful way with     is broad — and that includes the bottom end,
                 was even more so with the Bryston. But I         large spaces, offering no place to hide for       which some players all but lop off — and it
                 was won over by those dazzling cymbals,          the slightest sound, whether a barely brushed     is in balance. Rhythm is excellent (we’ve
                 tubas and horns that combined their weight       cymbal or a faint rattle. Hey, you’ll probably    heard a lot of players get that wrong, wrong,
                 in superb fashion. And amid all that joyful      catch the crinkle of a candy wrapper in a live    wrong). And the high end can fairly be called
                 noise, a melody continued, easy to follow.       performance — being slowly unwrapped on           musical.
                      This is, in short, an excellent product     the first balcony.                                     This is no entry-level player, not unless
                 that merits your consideration.                                                —Albert Simon       you’re a lot richer than most of us, but it
                                                —Reine Lessard                                                      hits the sweet spot: the price is one you can
                                                                      It seems obvious that Bryston has worked      at least eventually aspire to, and so is the
                    A n excellent player. Ready to play           to hold the price down on its first player,       sound.
                 anything you choose. No questions asked,         but then it usually does that. The Bryston                                    —Gerard Rejskind

                 40 ULTRA HIGH FIDELITY Magazine

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