Bryston BP6 Preamplifier and 2B SST Squared Amplifier Review 
Home Theater Preamplifiers Stereo Preamps
Written by Andre Marc   
Wednesday, 09 December 2009

After having reviewed a series of tube based components from Manley Labs, I looked forward to getting a view from the other end of the spectrum when I took delivery of a solid state preamplifier and power amplifier from Bryston, a Canadian company that has been making pro audio and audiophile equipment for 40 years.  Their longevity is no accident, as they are known for making great sounding, reliable, stylish gear. They also back up their reputation with a 20 year warranty, virtually unheard of in the consumer audio market.

Up for review is the Bryston 2B SST Squared, power amplifier, MSRP $2750, and the BP6 preamplifier, MSRP $1995. A volume controlling remote control is optional.  The 2B SST amplifier is rated at 100 watts per channel into 8 ohms, and 180 watts per channel into 4 ohms. Both units arrived with a silver faceplate, but black is also available.

Initial Impressions:

I decided to give each component a listen one a time in my reference system, then to assemble them as a complete system. Bryston also sent their BCD-1 CD player to use with in conjunction with the BP6 and the 2B SST. The BCD-1 (MSRP $2695) has gotten rave reviews from the audio press and users alike. However, it should be noted the BCD-1 is not officially under review here.

First up, I substituted the BP6 for my tubed Audio Research SP16 preamplifier. The BP6 is slim and fits into any equipment rack. There are three large knobs in front that select, source, balance, and volume. There is also a headphone jack on the front panel. The BP6 is single ended only, with four high level stereo inputs, and two sets of outputs.

The optional remote control offers Volume Up, Volume Down, or Mute, but no source selection.  The BP6 uses only discrete circuits with no IC’s in the circuit path, which Bryston says can cause distortion and non linearity. Additionally, the unit can be shipped with an internal Bryston DAC, a MM Phono Stage, and a choice of silver or black face plates in 17 or 19 inch length.

Bryston BP6 Preamplifier Front View
The first thing I noticed with the BP6 is how quiet it was in comparison to my ARC SP16. I must have grown accustomed to a subtle amount of tube hiss. Using the BP6 with my Audio Research VS55 power amp, it proved to be extremely clean, grain free, and a very solid performer.  The combination worked great, and I would predict the BP6 would be a trouble free, zero maintenance preamp for life.

Next in, I tried the 2B SST amp with the SP16.  The 2B SST is also available in silver or black 17 or 19 inch faceplate. It has user selectable balanced and single ended connections. There is also a user selectable gain switch for each channel. One can select between 1V and 2V with a small toggle switch on the back panel. The amp is finished with high quality connectors and speaker binding posts.

It became apparent from the get go that the 2B SST was an excellent sounding amplifier. It was like someone cleaned a dirty windshield to allow better visibility. A higher level of transparency than is available with my VS55 was evident. Bass slam and articulation was superb. The soundstage was, without a doubt, wider than I was used to.  The only quibble I had at first was the slightest pinch of opaqueness in the higher frequencies. This disappeared after being powered up for a day or two and never reappeared.  The overall tonal balance was neutral and the presentation was expansive, without a hint of any grain. The Bryston doubled the power of my VS55 into 8 ohms, but I did not necessarily notice a huge difference in my smallish listening room.  With a larger room and power hungry speakers, you would clearly enjoy the benefits. Suffice it to say, you would be hard pressed to push the 2B SST to its limits. It also ran cool, barely producing any heat to the touch. I left it powered on for the duration of the review for optimum performance.

System Set Up:

After listening to the BP6 and the 2B SST separately, I then assembled a complete Bryston system, including the BCD-1 CD player Bryston sent along with the other components.  The BCD-1 is very solidly built, has balanced and unbalanced connections, and uses a Crystal 192k/24bit DAC.  

After spinning a few CDs to get everything warmed up, I did some serious listening. The first word that came to mind is “synergy”. As a system, each component complimented the next. I had hours and hours of fatigue free music listening. Dynamics were stellar, and as noted before, the soundstage was wider than my reference system.  I was enjoying clean, quiet backgrounds, detail retrieval, depth, and the extra power, even though as noted before, my room precludes rock concert levels.

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Listening Session:

Interestingly, the Bryston setup is not partial to any one kind of music.  I did begin my listening with some classic rock. The excellent 2001 remaster of Free’s self titled debut is a huge favorite of mine. Free created the archetype for heavy, blues based rock, with a self destructive, virtuoso lead guitar player, and full throated, lusty lead singer.  This CD just plain rocked with the Bryston gear. Everything was just so lifelike and to normal scale, not bigger or smaller. Paul Rodgers throaty delivery on such as tracks as “Song of Yesterday” and “Woman” was so true to his natural timbre, it was stunning. Things like the crack of the snare drum, the thick distorted guitar tones by Paul Kossoff, and the throbbing bass lines were in perfect focus,  

I then put on a disc I had played only a few times, Bruce Springsteen & E Street Band’s live Hammersmith Odeon, London ’75.  The performance is outstanding, but I previously thought the production sucked a little bit of the life out the event. Not so with the Bryston gear as it was alive with excitement.  It was actually pretty hard to believe that it was recorded 34 years ago. Bruce pushed the band to its limit, as he was out to impress the British crowd on his first visit to England. The Bryston components perfectly conveyed the pacing, energy, and pulse of the performance; a very happy rediscovery, for sure.

Next up, I put the Bryston through some varied paces with discs from such genres as bluegrass, jazz, classical, and folk.  I also spun a bending, impossible to define new work by singer, song writer, and composer Sufjan Stevens, The BQE.  His last three works were concept albums related to specific American locales, such as the states of Michigan and Illinois.  This particular CD employs various instrumental movements, vocal pieces, and everything but the kitchen sink.  The Bryston system laid out the complexities of the ‘movements” flawlessly; very impressive, indeed.  

Bryston 2B SST Amplifier Front View
I also spent quite bit of time with various discs in The Beatles Stereo Box Set. Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band sounded awesome, with all the previously hidden little details illuminated by the excellent mastering team at Abbey Road Studios meticulously laid on in the soundstage. The other titles in the set sounded equally as stunning, as I have never heard the Beatles sound so lifelike. I was used to the slightly smaller images produced by my ARC gear.

Listening to each Bryston component separately in my reference system, then as a complete system with their own BCD-1 CD player allowed me to come to some conclusions. I believe the star of the group is the 2B SST amp.  In my opinion, it is without any flaws that I can detect ergonomically or sonically.  If neutral is your bag, and you are looking for a component that will probably work forever, you have found it. And if you have any doubts on the longevity, the 20 year warranty will put your mind at rest.  It was an absolute pleasure to evaluate, as it provided no set up challenges. No heat producing tubes to bias, easy connectivity, selectable gain, high quality binding posts and the option of balanced connections. There is plenty of power here to boot. At $2750, I really believe this is an excellent value. To get more refinement, you will need to spend significantly more, easily as much as a quality compact car.

The BP6 ($1995) is a very clean sounding and neutral preamplifier.  Setup was as equally trouble free.  A tape loop and two sets of outputs provide flexibility. The BP6 is ultra quiet and feels like a preamp costing at least double.  The optional remote control should last a lifetime, the ability to order the unit with an internal Bryston DAC, and a phono stage really covers a lot of bases.

I did try the BP6 and 2B SST with a few aftermarket tweaks. I replaced the stock power cords with my Acoustic Zen Tsunamis and immediately dynamics and overall performance improved.  Symposium isolation devices improved imaging and tonal accuracy. I’m sure your experiences will vary.

Conclusion:


These Bryston components really grew on me. Personally suprising, as my usual preference is tube amplification. I found the grain free, dynamic and rock solid presentation very pleasing.  What was missing? Well, my Audio Research gear certainly is a bit warmer in the midrange, with a more intimate presentation. My tube gear is definitely more forgiving of edgier recordings. But the Bryston set up had a truer sense of scale, and better bass control, by a mile.  While those looking for more romantic presentation will want to look elsewhere, if you desire a very clean window into the recording, Bryston makes the equipment you need. I believe these components are superbly built, and are very fairly priced.  Did I mention the 20 year warranty?



GENERAL SPECIFICATIONS:

Bryston 2B SST Power Amplifier:


Power Output:
100 watts per channel. 8 ohms
180 watts per channel 4 ohms
 Sensitivity select:
•  29dB 1 volt in = 100 Watts
•  23dB 2 volt in = 100 Watts Features
•  Gold-plated RCA jacks
•  Balanced or unbalanced inputs
Warranty: 20 years parts labour, shipping one way
Dimensions:
19 or 17 x 4.75 x 16 inches,
48.26 or 43.18 x 12.1 x 40.64 cm,
wt: 28 lbs, 12.7 kg
Finish: Black or Silver
Price:$2750

Bryston BP6 Preamplifier:

Maximum Output: 15 Vrms
IMD/THD: <0.0015% at 3 volts out

BP6 Features: Base model
4 pair of line level inputs (8 gold plated RCA jacks)
1 tape loop (2 pair of gold plated RCA jacks)
● 2 pair of parallel outputs (2 pair gold plated RCA jacks)
BP6P Features: with Phono Equalization Module
● 3 pair of line level inputs (8 gold plated RCA jacks)
● 1 pair moving magnet Phono inputs (2 gold plated RCA jacks)
● 1 tape loop (2 pair of gold plated RCA jacks)
● 2 pair of parallel outputs (2 pair gold plated RCA jacks)
BP6DA Features: with Digital-to-Analog Converter Module ● 3 pair of line level inputs (8 gold plated RCA jacks)
● 1 SPDIF digital input (gold plated RCA jack)
● 1 tape loop (2 pair of gold plated RCA jacks)
● 2 pair of parallel outputs (2 pair gold plated RCA jacks)
Options:
● Silver or Black faceplate, 17” or 19” wide
● Rack mount (17” faceplate plus two 1” rack ears)
● Hand held infra-red remote control (silver or black)
Dimensions:
● 17” wide version (standard): 17” x 2.25” x 11”
43.2cm x 5.7cm x 28cm
● 19” wide version: 19” x 2.25” x 11”
48.3cm x 5.7cm x 28cm
● Rack mount version: 19” x 2.25” x 11”
48.3cm x 5.7cm x 28cm
Weight:
● actual: 8.4 lb. (3.8Kg)
● shipping: 12 lb. (5.4Kg)
Price: $1995


Reviewers Associated Equipment System 1:

CD Player: Naim CD5x with Flatcap 2X
Preamp: Audio Research SP16
Amplifier: Audio Research VS55
Speaker: Harbeth Compact 7ES3
Cables: Kimber/QED/Acoustic Zen (AC)/Transparent (AC)
Accessories: Symposium Rollerblocks, Shakti Stone

Reviewers Associated Equipment 2:

CD Player: Marantz 5003
Music Server: Squeezebox 3
DAC:CIA VDA-2 with XPS
Preamp: Belles Soloist 3
Amplifier: Revox A722
Speaker: Spendor S5e
Cables: Kimber/QED/Transparant/Shunyata(AC)/PS Audio(AC)

Manufacturer Bryston





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