August 2, 2009

Living With Bryston 4BSST2(read squared) Power Amp.

This is an old post of ours in the blog we previously contributed to.

The Bryston 4BSST2, hunk of an amp.

It's been nearly a month now since the muscular Bryston 4BSST2 power amp came in to my audio life. Here's the story so far.

The class A/B amp, rated at 2 x 300W @ 8 ohms and 2 x 500W @ 4 ohms, I must say that the Bryston was sometimes just a little too much for my baby Audio Physic Spark(rated at 89db sensitivity) to handle. I have to watch my habit of turning the volume on real.. loud. Thank fully, so far the l'll Audio Physic complains by starting to distort, so I had to turn the volume down. The Bryston is capable of driving much more demanding speaker loads, that I am very sure. The amp never runs hot at all, just moderately warm to touch, even after an extremely long session of loud music being played.

The Bryston 4BSST2 came in to the system as a direct replacement of my Pass Aleph 0. I hook up all the necessary cables, i.e. power cord(from the Torus Power of course!), interconnects and speaker cables. Select the input switches to XLR and input voltage to 2V. According to the manual, this means the Bryston will only have 23db gain instead of 29db. Still it's a healthy 3db more gain compared to my Pass Aleph.

The instant I switch on the Bryston, it was already apparent, that without music playing, and CD player set to pause, and the volume on my Pass X2.5 set to normal listening volume of 13, the noise floor was totally silent, with out the usual slight hiss.... that usually comes from the speaker's tweeters.
Every Bryston leaves the factory with a test certificate, indicating Bryston runs very tight tolerances betwwen the left and right chanels.

I play a CD, and it was readily apparent in to the first song, that 2 areas the Bryston already surpassed the Pass Aleph. First noticed was the level of transparency, the preservation of low level resolution is way beyond, what the Aleph is capable of. The second thing was refinement of high frequencies. I previously thought the Aleph to be pretty decent in this regard, but the Bryston just sound so... tidy at the highs! High hats never sounds splashy or veers in to white noise territory. Just highly extended but at the expense of some audiophile air.

While the mids are not as seductively rich as the Pass Aleph, it does manage to sound very uncoloured and open. In fact, I would call it dead neutral. Bass grip is excellent and bass lines are always super tight. The Bryston also subjectively seem to send bass extension just a little deeper in to the low end.

The busy looking back end! With switches for input type and sensitivity. There are also switches for you to run the 4BSST2 in bridged mono, if you need more power, but you need to buy a pair!

The Bryston 4BSST2 is an extremely honest power amp, and will reveal recording or ancillary equipment weaknesses. Put in a poorly recorded pop/rock CD, and it'll punish your ears with an excessively bright high mids. Play a lushly recorded classical CD and the Bryston sounds rich, tidy and slightly euphonic. It has this chameleon like ability to respond to different recordings. Certain Chinese audiophile CDs can sound very good, but also very indifferent, i.e. non-musical.

In it's time with me so far, I've been changing many equipments in my system chain, and with each change, the effect is almost instantly known. If the auxiliary gear matches the Bryston's synergy, the results will show itself normally within a few songs. I went from the Pass X2.5 to the Bryston BP26 pre amp, and as expected with the same manufacturer pairing, the synergy between the pre and power amp improved tremendously. Gone is the edginess in the high mids. I strongly suspect the Bryston BP26 pre amp to be of the more forgiving of the two pre amps. With the Bryston BP26 pre in partner, the Bryston 4BSST2 took on a more civilised sound. Highs are still as pristine and clear, but have the impression of "set a little further back the sound stage", giving the stage better layers in between the vocal up front, and the backing musical instruments behind.

However, it was the arrival of the Audio Research Reference 3 pre amp(one of my current fav), courtesy of a friend whom left it in my care for 2 days, that proved to the best matched to the Bryston 4BSST2, or perhaps the 4BSST2 was just showing the superiority of the ARC Ref 3 against the other 2 cheaper rivals? The highs now have immediacy and audiophile air that tubes are so prized for. Voices now have that lush golden tone, especially well recorded audiophile recordings. The bass lines now though took on a slightly elastic quality, that makes double basses and bass guitar sound that bit more realistic. The Bryston's ability of not being the performance dead weight, in the company of far more expensive gear, marks it as outstandingly good value. Why? if you have to ask, that means you can upgrade around the Bryston and will not be short changed for sound peformance, in short, it'll serve in your system for a long, long time! This proved to be the most satisfying combo so far. In fact this combo was so good, it made me forget about the missing Pass Aleph!

I love the chunky covered speaker termnals, to protect from accidental shorts! In case you have stubbornly stiff cables like the JPS Super Conductor 3!

Also during it's time with me, the Bryston 4BSST2 went thru another 2 pairs of speaker cables. With each upgrade of cable, the improvements were readily apparent too. From the Starightwire Maestro II to the Siltech G5 LS88 Classic to the JPS Super Conductor 3, the various sonic contribution of the cable to the sound was notable. With the Siltech, the highs were tidy, refined, if the overall tonal was a little lean. With the JPS Super Conductor 3, that refinement and tidiness remained, but the over presentation had more weight, scale and drama.

The sonic best combo was the Marantz CD7, Audioquest Sky, ARC Ref 3, Cardas Golden Presence, Bryston 4BSST2, JPS Super Conductor 3 and the Audio Physic Spark.

To summarise the overall performance of the Bryston 4BSST2, it's tonality is dead neutral, with a slightly lean presentation(unless partnered to tube pre). It exerts iron fisted control on the speakers due to it's high damping factor. The level of transparency is frightening and can be considered a double edge sword, because it'll always tell you the unvarnished truth, and in this case, the truth can sometimes be unpleasant too.

Another look at the hunk!

Personally, I'd like to see the Bryston let it's hair down a bit sometimes just for fun. As it stands, it's a real serious audiophile power amp, and if you value "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" in your musical listening experience, this amp is right up your alley.

Coupled with THE BEST product warranty in the high end audio business, for the asking price of RM$18K, and the power it has to drive virtually most speaker loads, makes it really good value for money indeed.

Aren't we audiophiles in Malaysia lucky to be spoilt for choices?

Bryston is sold by AV Designs, contact James Tan, tel: 016-3280237

No comments: