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Bryston BCD-3 CD Player Review Print E-mail
Tuesday, 10 January 2017
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Bryston BCD-3 CD Player Review
Set Up and Listening

The player is fully balanced with XLR outputs or unbalanced single-ended RCA outputs. There are two digital outputs as well, SPDIF on coaxial, and AES/EBU. There is also an Ethernet jack for controlling the unit via mobile device or for updating firmware (or gaining access to the IP address). The front panel is available in a black or silver finish, with either a 17 or 19-inch wide faceplate.

There is an optional remote control as well. We would have to address the elephant in the room, and that is the fact the player has no digital inputs, which has generally become the industry standard on digital disc players. But Bryston makes it clear the BCD-3 was designed with a purist approach and any functions that could possibly compromise Redbook playback were not even considered.

According to Tanner, “the advantage of knowing exactly what frequency (CD Redbook standard - 44.1) and bit rate (16) is available means you can optimize the Clock to the Drive and the DAC to eliminate jitter. Once you allow for a digital input you have no idea what digital signal will be coming in (44.1, 176, 192 etc.) so you have to re-clock and re-sample the input which increases jitter and requires totally different circuitry.” So if the BCD-3 is not for someone looking for a one box digital hub.

Now, confession time. I have not had a CD player in my system for quite a while, although I own a few, tucked away in a closet. I have gone full frontal into network playback with Bryston’s own BDP-2/BDA-3 server and DAC combo in the main system, and the Sonore microRendu in the office system. However, I still maintain a library of approximately 5,000 CDs. And I still purchase several CDs a month, as that is the only format in which some releases are available.

The BCD-3 is built to a crazy high standard. It should provide any owner confidence and pride of ownership, along with Bryston’s famous five-year warranty. Its heft alone is indicative of a robust power supply and a high-grade transport.

Bryston BCD-3 CD Player

Set Up & Listening

I set up the BCD-3 in my main system with an Aric Audio Unlimited tube preamp, (and briefly with the new Schiit Audio Freya) an Audio Research VS55 power amp, Bryston’s Mini T speakers, a JL Audio d108 subwoofer, and Black Rhodium interconnects and speaker cable. Other than an Acoustic Zen power cord, no special tweaks were used. I had set aside a large stack of CDs in anticipation of the review and all that was left to do was spin tunes.

It has been awhile since I have played actual CDs, but within five songs of the great Maddy Prior’s Bib & Tuck, I had no choice but to pay close attention and eliminate all external thoughts. Focusing on the music and the purity of tone became the only thing I was capable of doing. The first few tracks are acapella, and the layered voices hang in space making it easier than normal to suspend disbelief that you are listening to a canned performance. But more importantly, the natural tone and timbre of the voices were superb.

Irish singer/songwriter Luka Bloom’s Head And Heart, from 2014, is an album I have listened to on numerous occasions for both musical pleasure and during reviews. Not only is it superbly recorded, but it is an excellent mix of well-chosen covers and several originals. The performances from Bloom and his sympathetic band are top notch. The title track is a John Martyn song, and it sets the tone for the rest of the album, with shimmering acoustic atmospherics. The BCD-3 allowed for another level of involvement in the music, and Dylan’s “Every Grain Of Sand”, and the great Don McLean’s “And I Love You So” really hit home. This disc proves yet again that in digital audio, sample rate, bit depth, and format are trumped by care in the production process.


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