By WL Low
We normally try not to dwell too much on a certain product, otherwise we’d be accused of favouritism. And favouritism to AV Designs, we sometimes do commit. This is one of those times. Lam Seng Fatt seemed impressed with the Bryston BDP & BDA-2 combo in his earlier review from a “Do I like it enough?” point of view. I am here to provide a second take from a different “Should I upgrade from my Bryston BDP & BDA-1 combo?” perspective.
Those who previously followed Big E’s musings on HiFi-Unlimited blog will know how it was “love at first sight (or is it sound?)” I had experienced with the Bryston BDP & BDA-1 combo to the point I bought some of the first units that came in to Malaysia. Then I heard Brian Russell telling us that the BDP-2 should sound the same as the BDA-1, but only with a more powerful processor and NAS input feature. Having heard that, the Bryston BDP-2 quietly slipped into the market without much fanfare and I was only too happy to let it be, as I wasn’t in any mood for hifi upgrades (again?)
Then Bryston gangbanger head honcho(the Malaysian gang, at least) Jo Ki, laid his grubby hands on the BDP-2 and happily handed his cash to the folks at AV Designs. “It’s markedly better than our BDP-1, guys” I dismmised it as a symptom of Audiophilia Upgraditis Euphoria! A year went by and AV Designs still constantly runs out of stock of the BDP & BDA-2 combo, each time Lam Seng Fatt requested for review samples, he went home empty-handed. “Bryston can’t deliver enough to us!” a very excited James Tan of AV Designs told me.
One fine evening, James Tan called up, your review samples of the BDP & BDA-2 combo are ready for collection. Still I wasn’t too excited about the possibility of reviewing the same ol’, same ol’ components that I’ve been using for the past 3 years (gosh…… has it really been that long?). Time flies in the digital domain, but my hifi ambitions remain very muted lately.
Since Lam Seng Fatt has already mentioned most of the nitty gritty and his sonic description regarding the Bryston combo, I’ll skip all that and head straight to listening impressions, with the BDP & BDA-2 combo, replacing the older units one at a time. First in went the BDA-2, replacing the older BDA-1. Immediately, the 2 struck me as being more slam-bang dynamic than the older, more romantic sounding 1. The new unit had great musical drive and rhythm that never existed in the 1. It had highly polished, liquid and refined highs that the older 1 can only dream of. The mid range is solid with density that very few digital components can rival (except the TAD D-600 CD player that is!) Bass response in phenomenally low and taut at the same time. Another area where the 2 trumps the 1 is the detail retrieval, no matter how minute or insignificant, it seemed (now, do note that the 1 is no slouch in this area).
With the new found resolution, the BDA-2 can throw a believable, huge and layered sound stage, with excellent imaging placement, not just the centre vocal, but all the instruments around the stage, each with palpable presence and realistic scale (as long as it’s in the recording). The Bryston BDA-2, to some degree is quite the technical tour de force, when it comes to sound quality.
And all these while I had not even slipped the BDP-2 into the system yet. The hybrid BDP-1 and BDA-2 system was already leapfrogging the sound quality in my system. Was there more? Indeed, when the BDP-2 replaced the older 1, the sound quality made yet another quantum jump! The new digital player is so eerily quiet, I could now hear some faint white hash (digitalis noise) in the music’s back ground in the older digital media player. With the new found low noise floor, every recorded detail, like musical structure, harmonics, texture, timbre and most of all, the presentation of the artiste as intended, were brought to the fore. I had never felt such level of “emo” (as my hip & happening generation ‘i’ girls would tell me) connection with my music in a long, long, while. This is especially true when playing well mastered hi-res material through the internal solid state (yep, no moving parts!) hard drive (an extra cost option installed in the review sample). When combined as a whole, I have never expected the new Bryston combo to make such a big impact (for the second time!) in my digital music consumer experience.
When the BDP & BDA-1 combo came my way three years, it turned my digital music world around and upside down. The BDP & BDA-2 are evolutionary, rather then revolutionary in comparison. Perhaps Brian Russell of Bryston is to be blamed? Because he undersold the BDP-2’s amazing sound quality? Perhaps I should be sorry that I ever doubted my Bryston gang banger head honcho, Jo Ki was suffering from an acute symptom of Audiophilia Upgraditis Euphoria? (But seriously, have you ever met a sane and level-headed audiophile?) And only to realise that his words now ring like gospel to my ears? As someone who had bought in to the whole Bryston BDP & BDA concept, log, stock and pork barrel, should I now do it all over again?
To find my answer, I have been oogling at an audio porno site called Audio Circle, where Bryston has a gang banger’s forum there. Here’s what I found, there’s a new product on the horizon called Bryston BOT-1, technically a ROM drive to play CDs which can only work with the BDP-2’s decoding system. That step takes the whole Bryston digital hub concept further and from my point of view, more complete. However, I do think it is a big step up in sound quality and functional performance in the Bryston BDP & BDA-2 combo over the earlier version. On that note, I think all BDP & BDA-1 combo gang bangers should know and at least try to hear the gospel for themselves.
Bryston is sold by AV Designs, contact James Tan or Tony at 03-21712828.
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