April 3, 2011

Living With The Bryston BDP-1/BDA-1 Combo.

I was very impressed by the Bryston BDP-1/BDA-1 media player combo when it spent nearly two weeks in my man cave. Impressed enough to wanna buy them! I waited more than a month for them to arrive and since then have lived with them for two months. As some may say, it's easy to find a new best friend, but living with that person could open a whole dimension to that relationship. Here's my take so far on living with the Bryston combo.

The Bryston BDP-1 top, and BDA-1 bottom shelf.

When I first set up the Bryston combo, I just wanted to start off quickly with some music. So I set them up just by dumping them stacked on to the top shelf of my FE clone rack, on the space last vacated by my beloved Marantz CD 7. I just re-used all the cables available at hand to start things going and at the very least have some digital music during the long Chinese New Year holidays.

Using my way too cool iPhone 4 as the interface to access my music.

I fired up the player and was greeted with sound. However, I was not prepared for what I'd describe as a discrepancy in the sonic results that I had known from during the time of the review, more than a month ago. The Bryston combo sounded horrible with digitalis symptoms a plenty. However, having a few buddies on the band wagon, is really reassuring. Jo and Felix, both who got their units from an earlier batch assured me that they need some time to run in.

150 hours or so of continuous playback, had proven them right. The Bryston combo finally opened up and blossomed. I heard some of the sonic characteristics that made me wanna buy it in the first place. Both my Bryston buddies were on the express tweak experimental highway and their daily updates of what worked and didn't, came on a daily basis. I just followed the path laid down by them. Kudos to these two enlightened gentleman who proved time and again that hifi need not be a selfish hobby.

Bryston BDP-1 cables in white! From left, AOR Ref 003 power cord, Voodoo Reference AES/EBU digital cable(out), Telos Gold RCA cap, and LAN cable for WiFi router.

I started by experimenting with power cords, and found that the BDP-1 is not too sensitive about one power cord choice. However the BDA-1 would benefit from careful consideration of power cord choice. I found that Felix made AOR Ref 003 power cords suited the Bryston combo way better than the PS Audio xStream Statement SC. The sound with the PS Audio seemed incoherent, bass heavy with lumpiness, and constricted overall sound. The Felix made AOR Ref 003 is just way more open sounding, with better tonal balance, if a little less smooth on the highs. The PS Audio xStream Statement SC found new lease of life powering my Pass Labs X-Ono phono stage, with superb results.

Bryston BDA-1 DAC cables from front to back, AOR Reference 003 power cord(with Furutech IEC plug), Telos Gold RCA caps for inputs, Voodoo Reference digital cable(in), and Audioquest Sky XLR(blue) analog output.

I then set about to split the combo by giving them each a shelf of it's own. However, that meant re-configuring my rack space. It was a lot of work, as in the process, I also re-tensioned all the joints on the FE Spider clone rack. Trick to getting good sound from the said rack is to first tighten the joints on the outer legs, as solidly as possible. Then work towards the joints on the inside of the centre crown hub, where all the four legs are linked. However, the joints here need only be finger tight. I know it appears wobbly at first, but once all 3 tiers are done, one by one, starting from the lowest, working towards the top shelf, will result in a just as solid rack. By the way, if one has the FE Spider clone(or the original one for the matter), it's worth investing in the Ceraball Spider too for each tier, and a set of Ceraball universal for the feet of the four outer columns. The Ceraballs do make a huge difference to the sound, even if they're insanely expensive!

Odisleuth came over for a quick listen, and remarked " What did you do? the Brystons didn't sound like this the week before!" I replied, "I did a few things".

The Bryston combo as set up on the first day in my man cave. Do not stack them like this, as it's very bad for the sound quality.

If there was one thing that turned me away from CD transport/DAC combos all this while is due to the fact that the digital cable linking the two could make or break the sound. The Bryston combo is no exception! The AES/EBU cable that links up is one of the most important component, that will shape the final sound. I am in the process of checking out my options and you'll certainly read more about it in the near future.

In the mean time, I am also checking out other things that will affect the performance parameters of the Bryston combo, again which I'll report on in the future. I've discovered many other things that I normally take for granted when it comes to audio, but the Bryston combo makes me work harder, just to squeeze more performance out of it. There's really too much to write about in a day.

Simultaneously, I am also cataloging my entire CD collection, only this time, in to a 2 terabyte hard disk in my PC. I am also working on back up copies of the data, just in case the worst should happen. If there's one thing I hate about living with the Brystons is the amount of CD ripping required to catalog all my 2000 plus CD collection, not huge, yet it's still many hours of work. However, more importantly, as I go along, I rediscovered my music collection. To find rare albums in my collection that I've long forgotten about. Even then, my analog rig too, is benefiting from the new found perspective when setting up the Bryston combo.

It's all hard work, but it's worth all the effort, because I am finally advancing, and much nearer to achieving my sonic goals. More updates to come.


PUG said...

How does your clone FE Rack compare with the original one ?

How does it compare with other racks that you have used ?

Capernaum Creative Solutions Inc. said...

Big E, good write up, congratulations and I am very thrilled for you.

May the Brystons continue sounding better and better each day!

kiarch said...

Having lived with BDP-1 and BDA-1 for some months now, and I have not stopped exploring them since the day I owned them. I can say that, "As is", they are remarkable equipment, but if you know how to handle them, they are sensational!

I agree with you that AOR 003 power cords from Capernaum Creative Solutions is the best power cords for the Brysons so far.

Big E said...


I am sorry I have not compared both the original and my clone FE Spider, so can't comment. However, given the clone's relatively low price, then compared to other racks of simialrs prices, then the clone FE Spiders are competitive, as all racks will impart their own sonic signature what to the system sound and to which degree, is anybody's guess???

I m afraid I m not much of a help here, but I can point that the main reason for having a purpose built rack for hifi is to accomodate one's hifi in an organised manner. Some do it better than others. That's all, I guess.


My musical advancement is the result of both your generous sharing, which I am very gratful to have buddies like you.

Many thanks, and lastly keep em' coming! Ha!Ha!

Capernaum Creative Solutions Inc. said...

Jo, Big E,

Many thanks for your kind words. I am just so glad and humbled that my AOR Ref 003 works well in your set ups.

Jo, if it wasn't for your references, the AOR may not have sounded as it does now. Thank you.