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In The Land Of Grey And Pink, the classic album from Caravan, was as expansive as I have heard, from the Redbook CD layer, and the DSD layer ripped from the Japanese SHM SACD. The remastering is a flat transfer from the original master tapes, and the band’s mix of jazzy motifs, english folk, and progressive rock is magical. There are a number of quiet passages on the album, and that helped illustrate the amazingly low noise floor that the Bryston combo and Wireworld cables produced. Yes, silent backgrounds really do make a difference.
I also delved into highly obscure classic British folk rock. Again, mostly well recorded, and intricate in nature. A Midsummer's Night Dream, the 1970 release by Oberon, mixes chanted melodies, minstrel like arrangements, and acoustic flourishes. Their versions of “Nottamun Town” and “Summertime” are sublime. The Bryston duo was able to shine a very sympathetic light on this wonderful time piece, allowing acoustic guitars, reverb, and classic analog recording
techniques to shine through.
I decided to take a left turn and cued up the discography of the band U.K. band Japan, who helped spearhead the New Romantic movement in the late 70’s. Their sound was a big influence on Duran Duran, and others. The Bryston combo made their first few albums, Obscure Alternatives, Quiet Life, and Gentlemen Take Polaroids sound vibrant, cutting edge, and avant garde, even thirty years later. David Sylvian lead vocals, from which Simon Le Bon of Duran Duran took great inspiration, were framed perfectly between the Mini T speakers, getting his tonality down pat.
The Bryston front end made Cannonball Adderley’s late 60’s to mid 70’s adventurous output sound just as fresh as when they were released. Titles like Black Messiah, Inside Straight, Pyramid, and The Happy People were intoxicating, and the Bryston duo nailed the horns, space rock influences, funk beats, and exotic compositions. I was able to hear the differences in how different band members contributed to each recording, and the differences in recording production. But most importantly, these albums never sounded more enjoyable.
What I find impressive about the development of the BDP series, and the BDA DACs, is that features were added taking into account direct feedback from customers. Early on, DLNA support was added, then USB output, then DSD support, and now, as of the writing of this review, Roon support. Roon, according to some, is superior technically to DLNA and offers certain benefits like a superior graphical interface. Note, that Roon is a premium solution requiring you purchase a license from Roon Labs. A few final notes: the BDP-2 can be outfitted with an internal drive, and one can use the new Bryston BOT-1 disc transport to rip CDs directly to a hard drive via the BDP-2. Files can also be transferred to locally attached drives via the network.
Very little actual technical knowledge is required to get the BDP-2 up and running, but if one should run into roadblocks, Bryston support is superb. The company interacts with customers regularly through internet forums as well, and it’s key operatives for their digital front ends are very accessible. In the end, I can state with certainty one can purchase Bryston digital products with confidence. The Bryston team also only updates the official firmware if there are significant improvements to be offered, unlike some competitors which constantly feed their customers updates in a wack a mole approach. Bryston does offer downloads of beta builds for those who wish to try them. Detailed information about each build is provided on the download page.
The Bryston BDP-2 digital file and network player used in tandem with the BDA-3 DAC is the best digital front end I have had in my system. The versatility, build, ease of setup, and sound quality are unrivaled in my experience at least. The combination costs approximately $6500. From what I have heard at audio shows and dealers, this duo competes with far more expensive digital players and DAC models.
It is my opinion that a purpose designed digital transport is far more desirable than an an assembly line computer, a patchwork of software, and other add on peripherals. Others may disagree, which is fine by me, I only offer my view. I focus on the “audio” part of of computer audio. There is simply too much music to listen to! The Bryston BDP-2 and BDA-3 should be auditioned if shopping for a state of the art digital front end that while not inexpensive, is worth every penny.
Preamp: Aric Audio Unlimited
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55, Simaudio 760A
Speaker: Bryston Mini T
Cables: Acoustic Zen, Element Cable, DH Labs, iFi, Wireworld
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks and Svelte Shelves, Shakti Stone, Bryston BIT-15, Salamander rack
Music Server: SOtM sMS-100 w/ Battery XPS, Sonore microRendu
Preamp: Aric Audio Expression, Belles Soloist 3
DAC/Streamer: Simaudio 280D w MiND
Power Amplifier: Onkyo M5000R
Tape Deck: Sony TC-350
Speaker: Magnepan MMG, Spendor S35R
Cables: DH Labs, Transparent
Accessories: Cable Pro Noisetrapper, iFi iPower, Audience aR6