Balanced and Single Ended Inputs and Outputs
Fully discrete Class A analog circuitry
The patented Salomie circuit found in all Cubed Series amplifiers
XLR pair configurable as variable or fixed output (compatibility with the BHA-1)
Independent power supply and ground paths for analog and digital circuits.
Relay switching on all inputs
Programmable pass through feature
Software control and balanced action volume control
Silver or black faceplate
17” or 19” faceplate (non-rack mountable)
Internal DAC (Additional Inputs: 2 Optical, 2x SPIDF)
Internal MM Phono Stage
BR2 remote control not included, contact us for this option
MER INFORMATION HÄR
The Bryston BP17³ is a state-of-the-art analog stereo preamplifier, utilizing software control which allows for numerous features and functions.
The BP17³ delivers incredible sonic performance while still adhering to traditional, fully discrete, analog circuits throughout the preamplifier.
The BP17³ includes the patented Salomie circuit found in all Cubed Series amplifiers and incorporates much of the existing architecture developed for the Bryston B135³ Integrated Amplifier and SP3 Surround Sound Processor.
Additionally, new to the BP17³ are two pairs of Balanced (XLR) inputs as well as a pair of balanced outputs which can be configured as either variable or a fixed, allowing compatibility with the BHA-1 Headphone Amplifier (or other balanced input headphone amplifier).
Inputs: 2x Balanced Pairs (XLR), 4x Single Ended Pairs (RCA)
Outputs: 2x Balanced Pairs (XLR), 2x Single Ended Pairs (RCA Tape Loop)
Control: RS-232 (DB9), IR
Bryston Ltd. has been designing and manufacturing state of the art specialty electronics to both the consumer and professional audio marketplaces for over 35 years.
Bryston has a major commitment in producing the most accurate and reliable product available by maintaining an extensive research and development division which is constantly looking for ways to improve the performance, value, and reliability of our products.
Bryston engineers are never constrained by design costs for functionality. On the contrary, Bryston challenges their engineers to create the finest products they can; to source and use the best components; to move Bryston equipment ever-closer to perfection, while maximizing performance and reliability.
Following in the fine tradition of artisan craftsmanship worldwide, every audio component is handcrafted by people who take tremendous pride in building the very best. Each component is hand selected and installed, every wire is cut and bent by hand, and every connection is hand soldered.
In the consumer market Bryston manufactures state of the art audio electronics intended to provide the owner with the most musically accurate and reliable performance available. In the professional market Bryston offers amplifiers for recording studios, radio and television broadcast facilities, and sound reinforcement applications such as stadiums and arenas, etc.
Each of Bryston’s fully assembled products is extensively tested before shipment. During 100 hours of continuous testing, Bryston amplifiers are monitored through a range of input cycles and thermal stress levels to duplicate a broad spectrum of operational loads. If any failures occur, Bryston will catch them during the manufacturing process, before you begin using the product.
Bryston’s dedication to creating the most reliable products is clearly evident in their 20 year analog and 5 year digital warranty.
Bryston products allow you to enjoy a generation of sound, music, and incredible performance. Bryston is based in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, just northeast of Toronto, and is sold through over 150 dealers in North America and 60 countries worldwide.
For over 30 years, Bryston has had a continuing commitment to design and manufacture the most accurate and reliable audio electronics.
The performance, value, and reliability of our amplifiers, and our unrivaled warranty, have brought us recognition in the world of pro audio, as well as with reviewers and home users.
But there is no product that cannot be made better. To this end, we maintain an extensive research and development program, constantly investigating techniques, technologies, and devices that promise improvements to all aspects of our amplifiers.
The Bryston SST2 C–Series is the direct result of this on-going quest, and represents a significant step forward in the art and science of audio amplification.
Please contact us for:
- Moving-magnet internal phono.
- internal digital stage
Superb review from one of Germany’s top Stereo Magazines!
A new review in Stereophile by Larry Greenhill
Bryston BP-173 LINE PREAMPLIFIER Each equipment report in Stereophile focuses on a single audio compo- nent. When listening to a component for review, I leave unchanged all other components in my audio system. Other Stereophile reviewers experiment with differ- ent interconnects, speaker cables, power cords, or stands. As I found while reviewing Bryston’s BP-173 (Cubed) preampli er, being ex- ible has its rewards.
My first lesson in exibility was learning what Bryston means by “Cubed.”1 Jim Tanner, Bryston’s VP of sales and marketing, explained that all their Cubed models employ an array of 12 active devices for the rst 6dB of gain. Developed by the late Dr. Ioan Alexandru Salomie, this array acts as “a super-linear” input buffer to lter out audio- and radio-frequency noise, particularly anomalies that originate in the power line, reducing the overall noise and distortion to less than 0.001%. The BP-173’s base price of $3995 positions it between two other line-level preamps from Bryston: the entry-level BP-6 ($3295) and the agship BP-26 with MPS-2 power supply ($5390). The BP-173 is 2.30″ taller and 2″ deeper than the two-chassis BP-26, and improves on the original BP-17 with an extra pair each of XLR and RCA outputs. The BP-173 is entirely solid-state. It has seven inputs — ve single-ended (RCA), two balanced (XLR) — as well as bal- anced and single-ended outputs. There are pushbuttons on its front panel for selecting inputs, Power, Mute, Bypass, Re- cord, and Balance. Also on the front panel are an IR receiver, a headphone output jack, and a large volume knob.
1 In Bryston’s model nomenclature, the product’s model number (eg, 4B) remains the same over the product’s lifespan (the original 4B came out in 1978), but each new version gets a new modi er (eg, 4BST, 4B2, 4B3). Bryston’s vice-president of marketing, James Tanner, explained: “Things began with ‘NRB,’ which we started using when we introduced a new series of amplifiers. The shipper wanted to make sure he did not mix up the older stock with the newer, so he wrote ‘NRB’ on the new retail boxes and ‘NPB’ on the new pro boxes. The next batch of amplifiers was named for designer Stuart Taylor (‘ST’). This later became ‘SST’ (Super Stuart Taylor). SST was shortened to ‘squared,’ so the 4B amplifier was renamed the ‘4B2.’ The naming of our latest group of products, with the Salomie input circuit, used ‘Cubed’ as a natural progression. What’s next? ‘Quattro!’”
The rear panel is divided into four sections: Outputs, containing two balanced XLRs—optionally, one of these can be con gured as xed-output, for use with Bryston’s BHA-1 or any other balanced-input headphone amplifier—a xed- level RCA, and variable preampli er; Inputs, comprising two pairs of balanced XLRs, ve pairs of single-ended RCAs that, with the optional modules, can be used as analog or digital inputs, Control, which includes two trigger outputs, an auxiliary IR input jack, and an RS-232 jack; and an IEC inlet for the detachable power cord. Centered at the top of the rear panel is a knurled grounding post for a turntable. The BP-173’s motherboard takes up the entire width and half the depth of the interior, though its front half is unoccupied save for a beefy toroidal power transformer and the power-supply components, to isolate them from the audio circuits on the rear panel. Along the inside of the rear panel, several vertical daughterboards are plugged into the motherboard to handle input and output functions. The components of these wave-soldered printed-circuit boards are surface-mounted and labeled.
The BP-173 can be operated using Bryston’s BR2 universal remote-control handset, which costs an additional $375. It has 34 pushbuttons in eight rows and worked beautifully, control- ling all functions available from the front panel and more, including phase and unity bypass for home-theater mode. Like the remote, many of the BP-173’s desirable features are available only à la carte. The bad news is that this makes the base price deceptively low; the good news is that you can custom-design a BP-173 to have only the features you actu- ally want, without paying for those you don’t. Modules for an internal D/A converter or moving-magnet phono stage cost $750 each. The digital D/A module adds four digital inputs; the phono module works only for MM cartridges.
Installation was simple. I placed the BP-173 atop my Salamander Designs Synergy S-40 Open Rack system, used its XLR jacks to make balanced connections from my Bryston BDA-3 DAC and to the Constellation Stereo 1.0 power amplifier, and its RCA jacks for connections from my Day-Sequerra 25th Anniversary FM Reference tuner and Sutherland Engineering Vibe phono preamplifier. I kept track of the numbers of the input jacks on the rear panel, as these match the labels under the corresponding buttons on the front panel. I plugged one end of the BP-173’s power cord into its rear-panel inlet, and the other into my Torus-Power RM40 line conditioner. I initially connected the ground lead of my Linn LP12 turntable to the ground post on the Bryston, but detached it when it produced lots of hum. I used no decoupling feet, isolation platforms, or other accessories.
My digital sources were Bryston’s BDP-3 media player and BCD-1 CD player; all digital-to-analog conversions were done by the above-mentioned Bryston BDA-3. Bryston’s detailed, well-written manual doesn’t state that the BP-173 needs any warm-up or burn-in; sure enough, I heard no change in its sound quality during the time it spent in my system.
My Revel Ultima Salon2 loudspeakers were placed to each side of my equipment rack, 2.3′ from the front wall, 6′ apart (measured from the speakers’ tweeters), and 6′ from my listening chair. This produced optimal imaging and soundstaging—in short, most of my listening to the BP-173 was done in the near eld.
Measured the Bryston BP-173’s performance with my Audio Precision SYS2722 system (see the January 2008 “As We See It,” http://tinyurl.com/4ffpve4). The maximum gain for both the balanced and unbalanced inputs to the balanced outputs, and from the headphone output, was 17.5dB. The maximum gain from unbalanced input to unbalanced output was 11.6dB; ie, an input of 1V results in an output of 3.785V. The BP-173’s input impedance from 20Hz to 20kHz was 6800 ohms unbal- anced and 10k ohms balanced, both impedances very slightly higher than speci ed. The preampli er preserved absolute polarity (ie, was non-invert- ing) with both balanced and unbal- anced inputs and from all outputs. Its XLR jacks are wired with pin 2 hot, the AES convention. The preampli er’s unbalanced output impedance was a relatively low 690 ohms from 20Hz to 20kHz; unusually, the balanced impedance was lower, at 340 ohms at 1kHz and 20kHz, and slightly higher at 20Hz, at 420 ohms. The headphone output impedance was a little on the high side for use with lower-impedance headphones, at 72 ohms. My measurements con rmed the BP-173’s frequency-response speci ca- tion of 20Hz–20kHz, ±0.05dB. In both balanced ( g.1, blue and red traces) and unbalanced modes with its volume control set to its maximum, the output was down by just 0.05dB at 20kHz, and was –3dB at just over 100kHz. The BP-173’s superb channel matching was preserved into lower impedances ( g.1, cyan and magenta traces) and at lower settings of the volume control. This control had a rather aggressive action, its 12:00 position reducing the gain by 32dB from its maximum!
The channel separation was superb below 2kHz, at >108dB in both directions, decreasing to a still very good 80dB at 20kHz. The BP-173 is a very quiet preampli er: the audioband signal/noise ratio ref. 1V output, measured with the input shorted to ground but the volume control set to its maximum, was 89.7dB (average of both channels). Switching an A-weight- ing lter into circuit slightly improved this ratio, to 92dB. Spectral analysis of the Bryston’s low-frequency noise oor indicated some spuriae at 60Hz and its odd-order harmonics in the left chan- nel ( g.2, blue trace), though these are all at or below –99dB (0.001%) and won’t be audible. Fig.3 Bryston BP-173, balanced distortion (%) vs 1kHz output voltage into 100k ohms. Fig.3 plots the percentage of THD+noise in the Bryston’s balanced output into 100k ohms. The THD+N rises below 15V output due to the xed level of noise becoming an increas- ing percentage of the signal level. The actual distortion doesn’t rise above the noise oor until the output reaches 15V, when it is just 0.0005%, but rises rapidly above that level. This is of no relevance in actual use, as 15V is way more than needed to drive any power amplifier completely into clipping. When I reduced the load impedance to the current-hungry 600 ohms ( g.4), the BP-173 still delivered >15V at clip- ping (ie, when the THD+N reaches 1%). The distortion was a little higher for unbalanced input to unbalanced output: the BP-173 clipped at >15V into 100k ohms, and at a still-high 7V into 600 ohms. I measured how the BP-173’s distor- tion changed with frequency at a very high level, to be sure that the read- ing was not dominated by noise. It remained consistently low throughout the audioband into the high 100k ohm load ( g.5, blue and red traces), and was even lower into 600 ohms (cyan, magenta), though it rose slightly at the frequency extremes.
At the same high output level into 600 ohms, the spec- trum of the distortion comprised the third and fth harmonics ( g.6), but these are very low in level, at a respec- tive –110 and –120dB. At the same level into 100k ohms, these harmonics were at the residual level in the generator’s output. Intermodulation distortion at a typical level at which the preampli er will be used was unmeasurable ( g.7), though the power-supply harmonics in the left channel can be seen. Even at a peak signal level of 10V into 600 ohms ( g.8), the second-order differ- ence product at 1kHz lay at just –112dB (0.00025%)! The Bryston BP-173’s measure- ments indicate that it is superbly well engineered. It is dif cult to see how a preampli er could perform any better on the test bench!—John Atkinson
As always, the rst thing I listened to was Stevie Nicks’s smoky rendition of “Silver Springs,” from Fleetwood Mac’s The Dance (CD, Reprise 46702- 2). Immediately, I knew some- thing was wrong. Nicks’s voice sounded etched and edgy, with more midrange presence than I know it should have. Cymbals and guitar overpowered John McVie’s bass line and Mick Fleetwood’s kick drum. Gone was the addictive tonal balance I’d heard through the pairing of Constellation Inspiration amp and Bryston BP-26/MPS- 2 preamp. Instead, the upper midrange and lower treble dominated the rest of the audioband.
So I switched from the Constellation Stereo 1.0 to a Mark Levinson No.534 ($20,000), which had just arrived for re- view. To my delight, the new amp produced a more neutral tonal balance, along with transparency, clear highs, and bold dynamic contrasts. The midbass and midrange were smooth and grainless and, most important, didn’t overpower the bass. The bass response of the BP-173–No.534 pairing was un- usually strong and extended. The full weight of pedal chords captured on good recordings of pipe organ pressurized my listening room. John Rutter’s A Gaelic Blessing, with Timo- thy Seelig conducting the Turtle Creek Chorale and the Dallas Women’s Chorus (CD, Reference RR-57CD), delivered the leaden density of the organ’s lowest notes while separating the various ranks of choristers. The deep synthesizer notes in “Silk Road,” from I Ching’s Of the Marsh and the Moon (CD, Chesky WO144), had impressive weight and solidity. Daniel Rossi’s sus- tained organ-pedal chords in the second movement (Poco adagio) of Saint-Saëns’s Symphony 3, “Organ,” with Antonio Pappano conducting the Orchestra of the National Academy of St. Cecilia (CD, Warner Classics 0190295755553), were ap- propriately powerful.
The Bryston preamp also favored percussion recordings, such as Mark Walker’s drum solo in “Nardis,” from Patricia Barber’s Café Blue (SACD/CD, Premonition/Blue Note/ Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDSACD 2002): It teased Mi- chael Arnopol’s double-bass notes apart from the drum kit’s cymbals, kick drum, tom-tom heads, and rims. It also fully reproduced the impact of the frenzied bass-drum strokes that conclude Shostakovich’s Symphony 5, in the record- ing by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra led by Manfred Honeck (24-bit/96kHz WAV, Reference Fresh! FR-724).3
It also captured the ambience of the recording venue, Pittsburgh’s Heinz Hall for the Performing Arts, including the sounds of the performers catching their breaths between notes in the rst movement, Moderato – Allegro non troppo, making the music all the more realistic and compelling. The BP-173 easily resolved the differences in timbre between clarinet, bassoon, and contrabassoon as they played above the tremolo of the violins.4 Subtle distinctions of vocal timbres were revealed when I played Ēriks Eŝenvalds’s The Doors of Heaven, with the Port- land State Chamber Choir directed by Ethan Sperry (24/88 WAV le from CD, Naxos 8.579008), a recording engi- neered by John Atkinson that’s so good I chose it as one of my “Records to Die For” for 2018.5 As I listened to The First Tears, the Portland singers were clearly positioned on a wide soundstage, echoing each other as they sang Eŝenvalds’s set- ting of an Inuit tale of Raven. The voice of each of the three male vocalists had a distinct vocal timbre, and emanated from a position on the soundstage distinctly different from the other two. Similarly, Harry Connick, Jr.’s voice in “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore,” from the When Harry Met Sally . . . soundtrack (CD, Columbia CK 45319), was smooth and pure, without sounding tubby or nasal.
The BP-173’s extended, transparent upper register captured the shimmering cymbal sounds that begin “The Mooche,” from Rendezvous: Jerome Harris Quintet Plays Jazz (CD, Stereophile STPH013-2); made it possible for me to distinguish the delicate harp and celesta notes from the massed strings and percussion in the third movement of the Shostakovich symphony mentioned earlier; and created a compelling illusion of a waterfall spilling into a pool in the opening of “Running Water,” from the I Ching album.
I matched the levels of the BP-173, Bryston’s own BP-26 with MPS-2 power supply ($5390), and the Mark Levinson ML-7 ($4400 when new, ca 1984), all driving the Mark Levinson No.534 power amp. I also consulted the notes I took last year while listening to the Mark Levinson No.526 preampli er.6 That ultra-expensive ($20,000) preamp has built-in DAC and MM/MC phono sections. While all of these preamps have controls for volume, bal- ance, source selection, and mute, only the ML-7 and BP-26/ MPS-2 have toggle switches for Mono/Stereo, High/Low Gain, and Polarity/Invert. The ML-7 has no balanced inputs or outputs, and uses only CAMAC connectors, which re- quire adapters for RCA plugs. Only the BP-173 and No.526 can be fully operated with a remote-control handset. To listen to LPs, I used my Sutherland Engineering Vibe phono preampli er ($895), though the ML-77 and BP-26 have optional MC phono modules. BP-173 owners who use only MC cartridges will need to buy MM module ($750) and TF-2 step-up transformer ($1500) to listen to their LPs. With some CDs, SACDs, and digital les, the BP-173’s dynamics, punchy bass, slam, and soundstage depth matched those of the Mark Levinson ML-7 and the Bryston BP-26 and what had noted about the Mark Levinson No.526. However, neither the Bryston preamps or the ML-7 consistently bettered the No.526’s clarity, air, transparency, transient response, and freedom from midrange grain. Of course, the No.526 costs almost four times as much as a fully optioned BP-173.
Until now, I’d never changed reference components during a review. I’ve been missing out. Finding the combination of Bryston’s BP-173 and the Mark Levinson No.534 power amp was a stroke of serendipity that let me enjoy sound quality almost as good as ML’s No.526 with some record- ings at a fraction of its cost. Indeed, the BP-173 costs less than any solid-state preamp listed in Class A of the April 2018 edition of “Recommended Components.” Among new, high-value, line-level preampli ers, the BP-173 is a welcome nd. Driving the ML No.534, it produced engaging, detailed, tonally captivating, utterly natural sound that approached reference quality. Its deep bass extension, dynamic range, soundstaging, and speed were so good that I forgot about the review sample’s lack of a phono or digital inputs, the absence of Internet con- nectivity for rmware updates, and the omission from its standard kit of Bryston’s BR2 remote control. Matched with a top-quality, compatible power amplifier, the BP-173 is the bargain preampli er to beat — but before buying, be sure to audition it with a variety of power amps. Strongly recommended.
Test: Pre amplifier and power amplifier combination
Test: Bryston BP17 Cubed and Bryston 4B Cubed Power Amp Combination
By MARTIN MERKENS | May 16, 2018
Bryston – a name like the echo of thunder! In my “HiFi-youth” (over 30 years ago) one referred to the, at that time young, firm in one breath with American heavyweights like Threshold or Mark Levinson. Now the brand new Bryston BP173 preamp stands in front of me and is most anxious to demonstrate, together with my Bryston 4B3 power amp which I have been using for almost a year, what an actual Bryston combination can achieve.
So it goes.
Threshold sank into insignificance after the departure of Nelson Pass who started his own firm with Pass Labs. Mark Levinson drifted pricewise to – let’s say – “very ambitious” domains. With one leg firmly embedded in the professional arena, Bryston did not have to go along with the trends and modes of the High-End, nor take the route to straight Cost-No-Object-HiFi.
Bryston remained down-to-earth. The price was that the Canadians suffered presence in the consumer area, and that they disappeared from the radar of many HiFi enthusiasts, and also from mine.
My first reacquaintance with Bryston took place a few years ago. I was allowed to test loudspeakers for a magazine. As a working tool I had among others a Bryston 4BSST2 professional power amp at my disposal, and the more I worked with the rather unobtrusive power amp, the more different loudspeakers I connected to it, the better I liked it. The “thing” stayed away from any kind of interference, played perfectly with every kind of loudspeaker, and to the last detail produced the characteristics of each of the different speakers.
Thereby I always had the impression that each speaker was the soundwise limiting factor, never the amplifier, and moreover the Bryston amp painlessly forgave rough handling. A “short circuit” while reconnecting a loudspeaker cable? No problem. Frequent turning On and Off (after I found the power switch) it did no bear a grudge. The 4BSST2 remains in fond memory as a soundwise superior, ultra reliable workhorse.
hen my colleague Jörg Dames tested the large Bryston mono 7B3 amplifiers. At this time I made the decision to acquire the subsequently released successor to the 4BSST2 amp, the 4B3 amplifier which has now been in use by me for some time. When the time came to test the new Bryston BP173 preamp together with the 4B3 amp, I needed very little coaxing.
I had a small controversy with my colleague Jörg Dames whether Bryston components look better in silver or black. He believes in silver, I believe in black. The consequence is that my Bryston 4B3 is black while the test sample of the 17BP3 came in silver, which is apparent in the photos of this test.
Let’s take a closer look at the preamp: The front of the BP173 consists of a 6.2 mm thick aluminum front panel. That thickness suffices to accommodate a few elegant curvatures and chamfers – especially because it is a short U-profile – so that the upper and lower edge is larger, and the front appears to be thicker than it really is.
The rest of the cabinet has the correct color (black) and consists of stable sheet metal. It is very substantial, looks absolutely upscale, but is far removed from the – at least partially worthy of discussion – material battle of other high end components. I like that.
Despite that, the Bryston BP173 preamp is able to exhibit a decent weight of five kilograms due to its inner parts, and especially due to its power supply. The toroidal power transformer that Bryston uses here would stand in good stead in many a power amplifier. Otherwise there is much air space in the cabinet.
This is primarily due to the printed circuit boards being assembled with SMD components. This, in turn, assures the shortest signal paths and requires little room. There is so much room that Bryston offers an optional MM phono board and a DAC board, which are installed on the main printed circuit board, for the BP173 preamp.
The labeling for the additional inputs, specifically the configuration changes to the available inputs which accompany the optional boards, are already printed on the front panel, which can at first be confusing.
What else is there to report? That the Bryston BP173 preamp has a regulated preamp output besides five single ended outputs, and one unregulated Rec-Out output.
Beyond this there are two balanced inputs, and two balanced preamp outputs. Of course there is also a remote control (BR2: 485 Euro) which controls, as needed, not only the preamp but also other Bryston components.
This makes the remote control a bit confusing, especially because the captions on the inputs do not agree with those on the front of the preamp.
The 4B3 power amplifier is of a different caliber. The front consists of a massive 12.7 mm aluminum front panel, however this material is not an end in itself because the 4B3 amp is also available in a pro version with a wider front panel for installation in a 19 inch rack.
Because the front panel must support a major portion of the 26 kilogram which the amplifier weighs, its material thickness is certainly justified. In the 4B3 amp the power supply also contributes a considerable part of the overall weight. Two giant toroidal transformers, which for reasons of space saving are located on top of each other, also add substantially to the overall weight.
Not only the toroidal transformers, but also the 2 x 300 watt into 8 ohms output stage exhibits a neat double mono construction. In contrast to the preamp things are quite snug here. Between the large heatsinks located on the sides, there are transformers, many filter and buffer capacitors, various circuit boards which are loaded partially with conventional parts and wires and partially with SMD parts.
Besides the actual output stages there is a board with an elaborate current limiting circuit in order to prevent fuses from blowing when the amplifier is switched on, as well as a few boards for control and regulation circuits. As a professional component the 4B3 amp is built for extremely high operational reliability.
The professional requirements also manifest themselves on the rear of the 4B3 amplifier. The Bryston amp accepts single ended signals via two RCA inputs, while for balanced signals there is a pair of combination inputs which will accept XLR plugs as well as 1⁄4 inch phone plugs.
Naturally there are also loudspeaker terminals as well as further connections with which the amp can be remotely controlled. Small rocker switches facilitate switching between single ended and balanced input, and for choosing the amplification factor (26 dB for a source with balanced output, 29 dB for a source with single ended output) or for operating the amp in balanced mode, in which case it delivers mono 900 watts into 8 ohms.
Incidentally the large switch next to the left loudspeaker terminal is not the main switch, but a “Master Circuit Breaker.” It must be set to “ON” when one plugs in the amp.
Then it conducts a small individual test. In the meantime the LED on the backside blinks green, when it jumps to red, the 4B3 amplifier can be turned on with the main switch on the front.
The Bryston BP173 preamp is taking the place in my HiFi rack of my EAR Yoshino 868 preamp, not the newest semiconductor technology of the year 2017, but rather tube technology appropriate to the seventies, incidentally also a preamp of a studio supplier.
The Bryston 4B3 already had a fixed place in my HiFi rack. The first measures from the Bryston combination (BP173 and 4B3) make clear that the Canadians follow very modern sound ideals. Tonally the Bryston combo shows itself to be absolutely neutral. I am certain that under this aspect one cannot add any characteristic.
It is neither “warm” nor analytically “cool”, rather in matters of tonality so little is mixed in as one would hope from studio equipment. Apart from the tonality the BP173/4B3 combination does display a few significant characteristics – further down below I will illuminate the 4B3 separately, which, so much I am allowed to reveal, qualifies as something extraordinary.
The Bryston BP173/4B3 Combination in Soundcheck
So let’s go to the combination: I start my listening session with Paula Morelenbaum’s album Telecoteco (listen to it on Amazon). The Bryston components reveal the track “O Samba O E Tango” with such energy that it’s simply thrilling. Foremost the speed and dynamics of the synthetic bass runs impress me.
Then there is Madonna, American Life (listen to it on Amazon), simply the test track for crisp synthetic bass. The peculiar abrupt stops of the lower tones, which characterize some of the collected tracks here, such as “American Life” or “Die Another Day”, are brilliantly reproduced by the Canadian amplifier duo. The representation comes across crisply controlled.
However there are not only synthetic basses, so why not once again (light) classics? The music for the ballet Le Sacre Du Printemps offers a broad spectrum of instruments. I am going back to the recording of Pierre Boulez with the Cleveland Orchestra (listen to it on Amazon).
Plucked contrabasses celebrate rapturous ecstatic activities, forcefully called to order and to stop by the tympanis. Once again the Brystons transport the dynamics of the whole in an impressive manner. Ok, I have heard the whole already a bit mightier and urgent.
However from an austere pragmatic viewpoint that is absolutely correct, the Bryston combination adds nothing artificially, nor do I have the impression that it withholds anything.
The next discipline is the midrange where according to my experience the reproduction of the most natural of all “musical instruments” the human voice is most critical. Despite spring breaking out, I feel a bit in apocalyptic mood, for which Lucinda Williams is quite appropriate.
Incidentally she increasingly withdraws from the influence of the music industry with its unbearable profit maximization for artists and consumers, and produced her last albums under her own label.
And look at that: for a reasonable price it is possible to offer superbly produced vinyl, which at the same time is accompanied by a code for the download of the music as a highly resolved wav-file.
Since the Bryston BP173 arrived without the phono option my Linnenberg Teleman DAC is put to use and takes on the digital data of the album The Ghosts of Highway 20 (listen to it on Amazon). The understated brittle voice of Ms. Williams comes near, intensive, raw, and melancholic. That gets under your skin.
Electric guitars and percussion accompany the song – on this album for my taste a bit too smoothly, but the amplifier combination can’t be blamed for that. On the contrary everything is extremely listenable – from the details of the voice, over the playing of the electric guitars, to the percussion, the Bryston combo satisfies across the entire line.
Together with my EAR- Yoshino 868 the Bryston 4B3 amp reproduces the voice of Ms. Williams here and there still more emphatically, however the tube preamp is tuned a bit warmer and therefore has a marked foible for voices. Therefore it cannot be considered quite as neutral as the Bryston BP173 preamp.
However at both edges of the frequency spectrum, as well as at the upper end, in the heights, the pure Bryston combination performs more clearly than with the EAR-Yoshino 868 in front.
Here the character of the Canadians is similar as in the basses, very clear, controlled and precise, and at the same time they effectively make an impression after every tone. Where brushes are on cymbals, i.e. steel meets bronze alloy, the Bryston BP173 and the Bryston 4B3 combo leave not a miniscule doubt what is going on, presume nothing, and truthfully follow the decay of every beat.
In reference to spatiality, the Bryston BP173 and 4B3 combination moves the stage quite close to the listener, one sits rather near the front. At the same time they present the stereo panorama comparatively wide, and sort the goings-on very well. Ms. Williams stands close to me on the stage, her companions stand with a bit of space right and left next to her. Furthermore the percussion is only moved a bit back. Generally the room
expands more in width than in depth, whereby also the spatial perspective functions cleanly, however the overall room does not go too far back.
Primus inter pares: The Bryston 4B3 Amplifier
That the described character of the Bryston combination primarily refers to the BP173 preamp is shown by the Bryston 4B3 amplifier in connection with other partners. If, for example, the Linnenberg Teleman DAC, which is equipped with a high quality volume control, takes over the control of the amplifier, it becomes clear that the Bryston 4B3 is the secret star of the combination.
With the Linnenberg Teleman DAC the bass maintains in comparison to the BP173 its exemplary control and precision but gains in substance and force. Especially when it goes into the deep bass, an increased authority is noticeable, but at the same time the Bryston 4B3 amp has absolute control of the loudspeakers.
The heavy 300-mm- woofer, part of the Spendor Classic 100, which I sometimes connect for tests, is controlled perfectly by the 4B3 and succeeds in dragging the perceived infrasonic synthetic basses of James Blake cover version of the Feist Songs “Limit to our Love” (Album James Blake) (listen to it on Amazon) into my listening room without anything acting rudimentarily or uncontrolled.
The large chassis do carry out visible thwacks, and I am waiting for my neighbors to come running into the street because they think the house is falling down.
On the other side the Bryston 4B3 also gets along quite well with light horn loaded broad band speakers like Tune Audio Prime, which is unusual. Usually one connects such loudspeakers to single ended 300B amplifiers which offer almost no damping factor, so that the already tight speakers have enough room to “freely” perform and sound more substantial.
The Bryston 4B3 amplifier masters the art of getting along with subwoofers of any kind, while not sounding swaggering, anemic, but simply always right.
This “right” also applies to other frequency domains. In interaction with my EAR Yoshino 868 tube preamp the Bryston 4B3 amplifier demonstrates how fascinating voices can sound.
The 4B3 amp provides the finest details of articulation and convinces both with the throaty voice of Buika (Album Nina De Fuego) as well as with the rhythmically accentuated Song of Ulita Kanu (The Moon on My Doorstep) or with Leonard Cohen’s creaking speech song (Live in London).
In the process the Canadian 4B3 amplifier supplies details, rhythm, voice formation, and articulation – simply everything respective to the voice – incredibly plastic and intensive. Zaz album Zaz (listen to it on Amazon) makes clear with the opener “Les Passants” that the Bryston 4B3 amp also performs incredibly fine within the high frequency range.
The glockenspiel at the beginning of the selection was recorded almost painfully high as well as loud – but nonetheless through the 4B3 amp it is acceptable, and sounds exceptionally clear and clean.
Also in matters of spatiality the Bryston 4B3 amplifier with its connected electronics, respectively the loudspeakers, scales, i.e. performs very well. With the Linnenberg Teleman component the reproduction is less wide, but deeper and very plastic, between the individual tonal sources there appears to be more air.
Test Report: Bryston BP173 and 4B3
The new Bryston BP173 is a preamp for pragmatists. It sounds clear and straight, and yet tendentially unpretentious-austere rather than ethereal-subtle. At the same time it does not favor any frequency range – neither tonal, nor does it impart specific ranges more resolution, fine dynamics, or whatever.
The BP173 preamp always displays the same high precision in the bass, in the middles, and in the heights. The spatial representation goes more easily into the width, is very precise, and a sense of depth is a bit less pronounced. That is convincing and appropriate for the clear, immediate, yes, direct character of the BP173 preamp.
The 4B3 power amplifier is for me the absolute test highlight. Since this is after all my “daily work power amplifier”, I was able to collect experiences with different loudspeakers as well as with diverse electronics connected to it. Besides the highest tonal neutrality, I can attest the Bryston 4B3 amp especially high “transparency.”
One is precisely aware when electronic components attached to it are changed, and conversely on the other side the 4B3 amp reliably divulges everything from the connected loudspeakers. The 4B3 amplifier is highly efficient, stable with any load, and is certainly appropriate for any dynamic excesses one wants to stage in the four walls of one’s home.
On the other side the Bryston 4B3 amp is extremely finely resolving, finely dynamic, and incredibly “fast.” In the bass region it offers extreme control, and also masterfully drives the cones of heavy subwoofers, however it gets along equally well with broadband speakers, which it does not “over control.”
In the middle the Canadian performs cleanly, transparently, powerfully, and highly resolving. There also appear to be no limits in the higher ranges. Whoever owns this amplifier is able to change and exchange many components of her/his audio system – the 4B3 power amplifier will undoubtedly be the last component that one will want to change in order to achieve some improvement.
I am actually of the opinion that the Bryston 4B3 amp in sum is actually one of the best power amplifiers in the market – at the very least when it comes down to an amplifier that should behave in the ideal case like an “amplifying wire”, i.e. as neutral and transparently as possible. Grandiose.