Bryston Mini A Loudspeaker Review 
Home Theater Loudspeakers Bookshelf/Monitor Loudspeakers
Written by Andre Marc   
Monday, 23 February 2015

Bryston Ltd, the long-standing Canadian firm, is one of the audio companies I respect most. Their products are produced from a true engineering standpoint, with real world pricing, and backed with standard-setting service and amazingly long warranties.

I have reviewed a good number of Bryston products. The BCD-1 CD player, the BDA-1 DAC (still my current reference), and the superb BDP-1 digital player are among my favorites. The company has gone on to introduce a number of new products over the past year so, including upgrades the to the BDA and BDP series, a headphone amp, a USB to SPDIF converter, a high end disc transport, and even DSD capability.

Most surprising, the company has added loudspeakers to its product portfolio. The comprehensive line includes floorstanders, stand-mount monitors, subwoofers, in-wall speakers, and home theater specific products. Bryston obviously has the challenge of entering a new product category, but they have gone about it in a very meticulous way.

The development history of Bryston's loudspeakers is quite interesting. James Tanner, VP at Bryston, started on a personal mission to develop a no compromise loudspeaker for his own personal reference system. One thing led to another and it became a major R&D project for the company on a commercial level.

Bryston used all the resources at their disposal, including the research and testing facilities of Axiom Audio. Every aspect of loudspeaker design was addressed including crossover refinement, cabinet vibration, and the speaker/listening room relationship. No stone was unturned as extensive listening and anechoic chambers tests were implemented.

The entry-level Mini A stand-mount speakers cost $1200. It is a very interesting design, in that it is a three way. It features a 6.5" aluminum woofer, a custom 3" aluminum midrange driver, and a titanium dome tweeter (the same tweeter that is found in all Bryston speakers). According to Bryston’s James Tanner, "the Mini A uses a 3" mid driver and all other Bryston models use a 5 1/4" driver.  In fact there are three different versions of the MIDS we use and five different versions of the woofers in our speakers as we actually build the drivers specific to the speaker model. One of the benefits of being able to design your own drivers from the ground up."


The cabinet is 3/4" MDF that is braced to control resonances. The speaker is on the efficient side, with published specifications of 8 Ohm, 87 DB. Not a particularly difficult load. Bass is stated to go down to 60 Hz, and there is a flared port at the rear of the speaker, towards to top end.

Mini As are packed very nicely, and the build and finish are absolutely first rate. Mine came in a wonderful Walnut finish. Natural Cherry, Boston Cherry, Red Rosewood, Black Ash, and custom finishes are also available. The binding posts are high quality and the clean lines of the cabinet are impressive. The overall package is classier and more substantial than the $1200 price would indicate. Additionally, the speakers can be bolted to optional stands specifically designed for the Mini A for an additional $299.

Set Up & Listening

The Mini As got a quite a workout over several months with four different amplifiers, two sets of speaker cables, and Bryston’s own BDA-1 DAC, connected via AES/EBU to the Simaudio MiND streamer. I spend roughly equal amounts of time with a McIntosh 200 wpc MA6600 solid state integrated, a Bob Carver 20 wpc EL84 based tube amp, a 25 wpc CLONES Audio 25iR integrated (review forthcoming), and a 50 wpc Denon PMA-50 direct digital integrated (review also forthcoming). All four amps could not be more different. Cables were both recently reviewed Audio Art, and Transparent. The only nit pick I have on the Mini A is the OK-quality binding post links. I replaced them with Anti Cable jumpers, which made an improvement.

Starting with the McIntosh, my initial impression was that the imaging was simply sensational. Instruments and vocals seem to have ample space around them, and pinpointing their location in the mix was uncannily easy to do. What I was hearing was well beyond what I would normally expect from a $1200 monitor, and I have heard some good ones.

Irish singer songwriter Luka Bloom’s recent Head And Heart CD, wonderfully recorded, was a real showcase for the Mini A. It is a throwback recording with minimal postproduction and a very natural, acoustic vibe. Nothing like the run of the mill pop CDs that are brick-walled and loudness war ready. The piano, double bass, and acoustic guitars sounded exactly as they should, with woody sounding timbres, and impeccable transients.

The legendary Tim Buckley’s sublime Happy Sad album was a sheer delight as presented by the Mini A. His otherworldly voice, vibes, acoustic guitar, and applied atmospherics were holographically present, to the point that, suspending disbelief, one would almost be sure to find the musicians behind an imaginary curtain. At this point, I knew I was dealing with a speaker that is a contender for a standard-setting benchmark in its price class.

With the Carver amp, the presentation became more lush, with some of the most liquid midrange I have ever heard produced in the listening room. Returning to the Tim Buckley CD, the double bass sounded thicker and more elastic, the piano more velvety, and Buckley’s voice even more present. The sound was addicting, listening sessions stretching out longer than anticipated.



The CLONES Audio 25iR, which offers superb resolution and an amazingly low noise floor despite its modest price, brought out the Mini A's dynamic quality. Transients were quick and precise, but in no way clinical. The recent 192 Khz releases of two classic Bruce Springsteen shows from 1975 and 1978 had incredible drive and live energy. “Spirit In the Night” from The Agora, in Cleveland, 1978, had an immediacy and energy that was the second best thing to being there.

The Denon PMA-50 did a short stint with the Mini A, and it was also a wonderful combination. The topology of the amp converts digital to analog at the output, so you could call it a "power dac". The benefits are transparency, detail, and a very short signal path. I was quite taken with how wet reverbs were, and how long note decays were. Input resolution from Redbook CD to 192 Khz PCM were all rendered nicely.

At this point I realized something about the Mini A. They sounded different with each amplifier, accentuating each one’s strengths and reflecting the unique character of each amp. I began to wonder if the Mini A was really a chameleon like speaker, simply reflecting what is being given, and this is ultimately what I concluded. There was no homogenization, only a unique presentation depending on the partnered gear. That is quite an amazing accomplishment at this price point, and it makes me wonder what Bryston has done at the higher end of the speaker line.

The Mini A is a stellar achievement in the way it unraveled the layers of good recordings, the soundstage width and depth, and the just about perfect balance of the drivers. And, while I am at it, the treble was exactly to my liking, smooth, grain free, and very neutral. I also found that it is a superb monitor for nearfield listening, which I often enjoy, and they don’t seem particularly fussy with set up, although distance from walls and toe in should be addressed.

Conclusion

The Bryston Mini A, at $1200 a pair, is a class leader. Bryston has clearly avoided fads and trendiness in the design and decided to just make an excellent speaker. Just a few obvious points however. They will do best in small to medium room, and on good quality stands like my Sound Anchors, or probably even better on the optional Bryston stands. I found the bass very satisfying, but if one craves more weight and bottom end, matching the Mini A one of Bryston’s subwoofers would be a great idea.

Yes, the Bryston Mini A surprised me, only in that I, like most, have not associated Bryston with loudspeakers, but listening is believing. Bryston surely knows how to manage its resources to be able to bring the Mini A in at $1200, and have it made in North America to boot. I highly recommend those in the market for a stand-mount speaker, even above this price point, audition the Byston Mini A. It just may be an ear opening experience.



Specifications



Bryston Mini A
: $1200
www.bryston.com


●    Frequency Response: 60Hz to 20Khz (+/- 3dB)
●    Impedance: 8 Ohms (nominal)
●    Sensitivity: 87 dB (2.38V, 1m, anechoic)
●    Recommended Power: 10 watts to 175 watts RMS
●    Max SPL @ 1M: 100dB
●    Tweeter: Single 1.00"
●    Midrange: Single 3.00"
●    Woofer: Single 6.50"
●    Crossover: 3 Way
●    15.5” H x 8.5” W x 8.25” D
●    394mm H x 215mm W x 210mm D
●    11 Ibs (5 kg)


   

Review System 1


Server: SOtM Mini Server w/ battery power supply
DAC: Simaudio Neo 308D w/MiND streamer module, iFI Micro iDSD,
Tape Deck: Revox A77
Preamp: Channel Islands Audio PLC-1 MkII,  Coffman Labs G1-A, Luminous Audio Axiom
Amplifier: Conrad Johnson LP125se, Audio Research VS55, CLONES Audio 25p
Speaker: Thiel CS2.4
Cables: Stager Sound, Acoustic Zen, Element Cable Red Storm (Digital AC), DH Labs Mirage USB
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks and Svelte Shelves, Shakti Stone, Audience Adept Response aR6 power conditioner, Salamander rack

Review System 2


CD Player: Marantz PM5004
Music Server: Simaudio MiND 180
DAC: Marantz HD DAC1, Bryston BDA-1
Integrated Amplifier: McIntosh  MA6600, Denon PMA-50, CLONES Audio 25iR
Tape Deck: Sony TC-350
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3
Cables: Stager Sound, Transparent,  DH Labs AES/EBU & Toslink,
Accessories:Cable Pro Noisetrapper, Sound Anchors Stands, Wiremold


 






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