Hi-Fi
May 4, 2014

Bryston pair: Very detailed sound

Bryston BDP-2 and BDA-2

 

By Lam Seng Fatt

 

Bryston hit a home run when they launched the BDP-1 and BDA-1 digital music player and matching DAC in late 2010. Last year, they launched the BDP-2 and BDA-2 which were meant to complement rather than replace the older components.
In terms of looks, the newer components are almost the same as the older ones. But it’s what’s inside that matters.

 

The BDP-2 features an improved power supply, a custom-made Intel Atom-powered motherboard, more input options, and eight times more system memory than the BDP-1. It can also be fitted with an internal memory drive, preferably solid-state.

 

It has six USB 2.0, one eSATA and two Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45) inputs. Its outputs include a BNC and AES/EBU. It plays the following formats – AIFF, FLAC, WAV, MP3, M4A and OGG.

 

The BDA-2 uses two 32-bit AKM DACs, dual power supplies and a discrete Class A analogue output stage. Its inputs include a USB Class 2, 4x SPDIF (2 BNC, 2 RCA), 2x Optical (TOSLINK) and AES/EBU. Unlike its predecessor, the BDA-2 can accept 24/192 via USB. Like its predecessor, it still has an upsampling feature.

 

BDP-2
It is much faster to boot up the BDP-2. With a solid-state memory drive containing some songs fitted in it, booting up takes about 25 seconds. With a thumbdrive with music files stuck to it, booting up requires another 5-10 seconds.
The BDP-2 is also much quieter than its predecessor. The silence between tracks and also when there are silent moments in the music are really, really silent. I know it doesn’t really make sense since one moment of silence cannot be more silent than another moment of silence, but…audiophiles have special perception, you know…:)

 

Playing a 24/96 file.

 

I managed to compare the BNC output with the AES-EBU output simply because an audiophile friend gave me a BNC-coax adapter.

 

I can report that with the Bryston, the AES-EBU is the better connection and it sounds more spacious than the BNC/coax.

 

So the major differences between the BDP-2 and its predecessor are the faster booting and the much lower noise floor.

 

BDP-2 and Wyred4Sound DAC2
The BDP-2 worked well with other DACs – I connected it to the W4S DAC2 and it sounded very good – much better than the BDP-1 did with the Benchmark DAC-1 Pre that I was previously using.

 

But there was a difference, I used the AES-EBU connection between the BDP-2 and the W4S DAC while with the BDP-1 and the Benchmark DAC, I used a low-end BNC to coax cable.

 

So it sounds like the BDP-2 will be a good candidate as a digital music player for your system if your DAC has an AES-EBU input.

 

BDA-2
The differences between the old and the new DCs are that the BDA-2 uses AKM chips instead of Crystal chips used in the BDA-1, and the USB input in the new DAC accepts 24/192. In the BDA-1, the weakest link was its USB input which could accept only 16/48.

 

A major difference would also be the sound quality – it sounds more detailed than the BDA-1. But – based on what I can recall and also from my review of the duo (see http://hi-fi-avenue.blogspot.com/2010/12/super-size-your-sonics-with-bryston.html), the detailed sound has replaced the lush, romantic and analogue-like sound of the BDA-1.

 

Matching button controls on the Bryston BDP-2 and BDA-2.

 

BDP-2 and BDA-2
Again this was the best combination – the BDP-1 also sounded best mated with its partner BDA-1. Together, the combo sounded very clear, very detailed with good rendition of leading edges of music.

 

Again, I missed the lush and rich sound of the BDP-1 and BDA-1 combination.

 

Roksan Caspian CD player (as transport) and BDA-2
Once more, the details of the music stood out and were spotlighted. The highly-detailed sound captured all the attention.

 

In this combination, I managed to test all the connections – AES-EBU, Toslink and coax.
I can report that the best sounding was the AES-EBU followed by the Toslink and then the coax. There is something special in the way Bryston implements the AES-EBU connection that makes it the best-sounding of the lot.

 

Lenovo laptop with BDA-2 via USB
This combination turned out to be problematic. The Lenovo laptop uses Windows 8 while the BDA-2 came with a beautifully-designed thumbdrive shaped like a key containing driver software for Windows 7.

 

The USB driver came in a nicely-designed key-shaped thumb drive.

 

I downloaded the latest version of the driver from Bryston”s website but could not install it in the laptop. I googled and found a reply by Bryston’s James Tanner in www.audiocircle.com in which he posted YouTube footage of how to install the BDA-2 driver in a Windows 8 laptop. I tried to follow the steps but got lost along the way because the Windows 8 in my laptop was a different version.

 

In the end, I had to borrow my wife”s MacBook Air to stream hi-res files to the BDA-2 using iTunes. With Mac OS 10.6.4 and newer, there is no need to install a driver.

 

My wife’s MacBook Air was used to stream the hi-res files.

 

However, for some reason or other, the BDA-2 received all files from 44.1 rips to 96 hi-res files as 192. The 192 light was on no matter what file I played and I confirmed that I did not accidentally press the “upsample” button,

 

Through the USB input, the sound quality was about the same as that from other USB DACs in the same price range.

 

I think the best sounding connection with the Bryston is still the AES-EBU.

 

And finally…
When the BDP-1 and BDA-1 were released in November 2010, I raved about the rich and analogue sound of the combination. With the second-generation of the Bryston products, there have been improvements – but at the expense of certain elements.

 

The highly-detailed sound has replaced the lush and romantic sound of the first-generation products. Whether the detailed sound is your cup of tea is dependent on your preferences.

 

I know of someone who wanted the best of both generations – he bought a BDP-2 to match with a BDA-1. That is another combination for those looking for a richer sound to consider.

 
 
 

2 Comments - View all

sflam 3:32am on May 6, 2014

el hefe, frankly i am not sure if i managed to stream hi-res files to the bryston dac with itunes, but the 192 light was on all the time which means the files, regardless of sampling rate, were upsampled somehow. apparently it is possible to get itunes to stream hi-res files but you have to mess around with some commands under 'sound' and 'midi'. tq sflam

2 CommentsX
sflam 3:32am on May 6, 2014

el hefe,
frankly i am not sure if i managed to stream hi-res files to the bryston dac with itunes, but the 192 light was on all the time which means the files, regardless of sampling rate, were upsampled somehow.
apparently it is possible to get itunes to stream hi-res files but you have to mess around with some commands under ‘sound’ and ‘midi’.

tq
sflam

El Hefe 6:28pm on May 5, 2014

Lam,

Nice write up.

Curious to know how you manage to play hi res files on iTunes?