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Bryston 7B-ST Monoblock Power Amplifier Print E-mail
Friday, 01 October 1999
ImageWhen I think of enormous power, I think of a Big-Block Chevy, or perhaps the military’s M1A1 tank. In audio -- Bryston has given us the 7B-ST monoblock power amplifiers. At a solid 500 watts per side, they have the power to move mountains, or at least the most difficult to drive loudspeakers.

The 7B-ST consists of two monoblock amplifiers, each providing 500 watts of power into 2 or 8 ohms, and 800 watts into 1 to 4 ohms. Each chassis measures 19 inches wide, 15-1/2 inches deep, and five and one quarter inches tall. The 7B-ST’s weigh 42 lbs per piece, and are priced at $4999 for the pair. The Bryston factory warrantee is nothing short of spectacular. They provide a 20-year transferable warrantee on all parts and labor. This in itself indicates the confidence that Bryston has with the reliability of their products.

The review units were the first of the new look 7B-ST’s out the door. As a departure from the traditional Bryston look, these new models sported satin silver faces and were void of the industrial handles and rack mounting slots that Bryston amps have been equipped with for many years. I personally think the new look is a great improvement. They look considerably more like something that you would place in your living room, rather than a recording studio. The 7B-ST’s have heatsinks running the length of the chassis on either side. A power button, and power indicator light round out the face of the chassis.

Oh yea, I almost forgot -- There is a clipping indicator light. I almost forgot this feature because I never got the opportunity to see it. For the sake of my hearing, I decided against trying to test for this feature.

One of my first lines of business in this review is to address the issue of how much power one needs. Every time I read a review where the reviewer questions why anyone would need this extraordinary amount of power, I get the urge to scream. Ask the Turbo Porsche owners, they’ll tell you. It’s for the people out there that find that just enough of anything is too little. For those of you that feel that highway speed limits are to low - there are power amplifiers with monster power.

Clearly in most cases, power amplifiers containing huge amounts of power, lack some of the sonic delights that many lower powered amps provide. High-powered amplifiers are not for everyone. Perhaps not for most people, but many of those with needs ranging from hard to drive speakers to adrenaline junkies, or even a rock fan or two, high power amps are the only choice.
Monoblock amplifiers offer a significant benefit in that you can position them between, and considerably closer to your speakers, which allows you to run shorter speaker cables. The benefits there are two-fold in that the shorter the cable, the better you system will sound, and that for the same amount of money you can buy considerably better cable in a shorter length.

The Music
The pair of amplifiers that I was auditioning were brand new and needed break-in time. I gave them better than 120 hours of break-in prior to sitting down to listen. As I embarked upon my first date with the new amplifiers, (Can it be considered a date if I didn’t take them out for dinner?), I was instantly greeted with an enormous amount of dynamics and control. The bass was taught with negligible if any roll-off at all comfortable volumes. The midrange and upper octaves were tonally neutral and provided pinpoint imaging, but had what I felt was a distinguishable electronic sound, and lacked the final word in truly palpable three-dimensional imaging. As I listened to BB Kings Blues Summit (MCA Records), a wonderful recording of duets, I was treated to a wonderful lifelike reproduction. The guitars were alive and the upper octaves were rich with transient details. I detected no presence of grain, which would be easily emphasized with the raw and unprocessed sound of the blues guitars.

I found that different aspects of my music were energizing me. Every time I tried to put a finger on something that this amp might not do well, aspects of this product that I truly loved quickly overshadowed these thoughts. I found myself excitedly sifting through discs, looking for less listened to pieces to see what the 7B-ST’s would do for them. In each case the 7B-ST’s delivered solidly, and with authority. In many cases, recordings that had previously seemed listless and dry came alive with energy.

I settled in to Lyle Lovett’s, I Love Everybody (MCA Records) and found the Bryston 7B-ST’s to be very detailed and enjoyable. The stage was defined and distinctively spacious. The vocals were very neutral and were rich and full of body.

The Downside
Something that I found to be a significant issue was the 7B-ST’s speaker connection binding posts. They were designed with a plastic thumbscrew post and a molded plastic shroud, which was engineered to allow a single spade termination from your speaker cable to slide into a slot beneath the thumb tightened post. The problem with this design was that I run bi-wires, more accurately two separate runs of cable from my speakers, and these posts simply would not except them both. The only options were to run the amplifiers single wired, or to use spade to banana-jack adapters and use the banana inputs in the plastic thumb-lugs for one of my cable runs. I made the decision to run one of my cables with the banana adapters. This had me profoundly insecure about the quality of the connection made. The Bryston factory indicated that the design was absolutely necessary to pass European CE codes. In addition, my cable’s spade terminations are of the most common size, and a standard _ inch, and the 7B-ST’s binding posts are a larger size, most likely 3/8 of an inch meaning that the connection was limited to a small portion of the spade.

Whether you are looking for an amp to drive your power hungry speakers, or looking for a ton of power to control your lowest octaves of music, the Bryston 7B-ST monoblocks are a safe bet. They are priced somewhere in the middle of the high priced cost-no-object field and supply more than ample value. Tonally they are very neutral, but lack some sweetness in the middle. Whether this amp is right for you or not will depend on your other associated equipment, and the type of listening that you prefer to do. These amplifiers can be considered as an example of the highest quality in musical reproduction. If the price is within your reach, and the power within your needs, give em a listen. Just be sure to fasten your seatbelts first.

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