There has never been a better time to be a fan of high end digital audio. Audiophiles and non audiophiles alike can spend as little as a few hundred dollars for high quality sound. Or, the sky is the limit, with six figure Digital Audio Convertors and file players available to those who can afford them. Couple that with high resolution downloads, and lossless streaming from Tidal and others, and the days of having just a CD player for digital playback seems quaint.
I have been on a networked playback system for close to 9 years now. My first device was a Squeezebox Classic, then a Squeezebox Touch, via wired Ethernet. I ripped my CDs to FLAC and bought the occasional 24 bit download. I started with the analog outputs of the Squeezebox, then soon connected via TosLink to a number of outboard convertors.
As time went by, I auditioned and reviewed numerous streamers, including the Bryston BDP-1, the Canadian company’s first file player. It was the best digital source component I had heard up until that point, circa 2010. It bettered my Naim CD player by a clear margin. I was able to couple the BDP-1 with Bryston’s first DAC, the BDA-1 as well. The BDA-1 became my reference DAC until recently, until the BDA-3 was released last year. More on that later.
The BDP-1 was well reviewed and became a reference component for many reviewers for a number or reasons. It ran on custom Linux and firmware, passed through up to 24/192 resolution in just about every file format, and worked with locally connected storage. With firmware updates, Bryston added network streaming and other features. Bryston eventually developed the BDP-2, which doubled the onboard memory, added USB DAC connectivity, DSD output via DoP, and numerous other features.
The BDA-1 DAC was superseded by the BDP-2, which added an asynchronous USB input, and other improvements. The BDA-3 arrived after a long-term development phase, adding DSD decoding and HDMI inputs, among other things. Bryston, in my opinion, has shown a history of ignoring trends and fashion, and defers instead to engineering and proper product design. The company could have easily put out a “DSD capable” DAC three years ago but chose to not capitalize or compromise. I admire this very much.
I decided not to get too technical with this review, and focus on set-up and sonics. However here is a brief overview of the $2995 BDP-2 file player
- Playback from local USB drives
- Custom Intel Atom Powered Motherboard
- Multiple control options (iOS, Android OS, and PC)
- User upgradable firmware
- NAS Connectivity supported
- Outputs DXD/DSD
- Gigabit Ethernet
Here are the features of the $3495 BDA-3 DAC
- Dual 32Bit AKM DAC IC's
- Discrete Class A analog output stage
- Independent analog and digital signal paths
- Independent power supplies
- Supports DXD/DSD, up to DSD512
- HDMI video pass-through with audio out (4K video pass-through)
- Optional Synchronous upsampling