You may like or may not like it - only you know. But why not use a DAC as a point of reference that you lived with for a long time? Besides, you do prefer the W4S DAC2 over the PWD2 - correct?
New Bryston BDA-2 DAC Impressions Thread - Page 5
Head-Fi's Best Sellers
Because I've heard the PWD2 extensively over the past few months (and I mean a lot) and I prefer the PWD2 to the DAC2.
Exactly. Still it (PWD2) is a fantastic DAC and really does a great job extracting detail and the ethernet option is a nice plus for those looking to integrate it into their home systems too.
- 1,487 Posts. Joined 3/2011
- Location: Montréal
- Select All Posts By This User
Before I give you my impression between the Bryston BDA-2 and NAD M51, I want to clearly state that they're both equally winners, but also significantly different.
The first thing I noticed on the Bryston was that the bass is fatter and more upfront, which kind of surprised me as I wasn't expecting bass to be more thumpy. It's very fun and toe-tapping. The Bryston portays depth of music a tad bit more coherently than the NAD. The main standout after a bit more listening, however, is how much more the high frequency is snappier and present (and slightly faster). Problem is, the highs are a bit too aggressive for my already very revealing rig (Highly optimized McIntosh MC225 -> HD800/HE6). I can clearly see why the BDA-2 is more geared towards the pro market and professional studios. Very precise, but a bit too dry and sterile at times.
The NAD on the other hand excels in tonal balance (it makes the BDA2 sound ever-so slightly U-shaped when truly it is not). The NAD provides almost as much resolution but not quite on par for the crispy highs of the BDA2. The NAD portrays a more realistic soundspace with a slightly wider scene. The vocals are the main standout, where the timbre is more accurate for both male and especially female; and on most well mastered tracks, the singer is more realistically thrown straight in front of you (the Bryston often sounded as if the singer was a few feet in front of me but the voice was being projected under my chin or over my eyebrows, as weird as that sounds).
I believe the NAD is more suitable for most home systems and for a more natural musical experience. If you want more precision, the Bryston is slightly more refined. I can almost definitely say the Bryston would be better with an Audez'e rig.
Ultimately, I think it's a case of audiophile versus professional market products. In more cases than the NAD, I truly believe that the Bryston would be more inadequate for an optimal music listening system.
Either way, you can't go wrong, they're both canadian.. err, fantastic sounding dacs. I don't know if they're on par with the PWD2 and other higher level dacs, but it's really a matter of synergy at this point in my opinion.
Lastly, even though this is mostly unimportant, I'd give the nod to the NAD for build quality. Unfortunately the Bryston's rear pannel connectors aren't perfectly symmetrical and the infrared remote light was wedged in the casing.
Nice review. Not surprised by the outcome though. Clearly seems these 2 pieces compete with most everything.
PWD is still the best I've heard and I'd love to get multiple comparisons between it and the rest.
Calyx, MSB, AMR, Resolutionaudio, Resonessence, Auralic, etc.
Well, I've finished up on my Bryston mini-review. I compared it to my W4S DAC-2 and my buddy's (long time friend) PWD2. As he lives down the street, I was able to snag it for an evening as well. I've heard it several times over the summer, but I appreciate the loan for this review.
Bryston BDA-2 Mini-Review:
Well, I’ve had my new BDA-2 for about a month now and here are some of my thoughts in a mini-review based on notes I’ve made through the journey (along with notes from other DACs that I’ve owned or auditioned).The gear I used to test these two amps were primarily my GS-X MK2/HD800s and KGSSHV/SR-009s (along with my now sold Cavalli Liquid Lightning as my secondary stat amp). Being Gilmore "wire with gain" amps, I've found that the differences that these two amps (and headphones) can detect with sources ideal for this type of venture.
First off, let me say that the BDA-2 is SOLID, it is a beautiful piece of gear that isn’t too finicky with a plethora of options I don’t need (nor want) or a choice filters that only manipulate the sound further away from what the original recording intended (as on the PWD2). Just pick your input and decide whether you want to apply up-conversion to 192kps or not. As an aside, I do hold the PWD2 in a high regard and almost bought one used for the same money as what I paid for the BDA-2, but the issues with firmware updates making things sometimes better and sometimes worse really made me want to avoid it.
Sound wise, I would very much classify this as a “neutral and clean” sounding DAC. While the W4S DAC-2 was also what I consider a “neutral” DAC, it suffered somewhat from an upper mids/lower treble “shout” or emphasis (that also seemed to plague the Benchmark DAC2 and Peachtree Sabre based DACs) that over time could wear on one’s nerves. Thankfully that is now gone with the BDA-2. All I hear is a much flatter presentation with no area (bass/mids/treble) having an emphasis over the other. With the PS Audio PWD2, I felt that the top was shaved ever so much and a tilt towards the bottom was present (a very pleasing PS Audio signature sound I might add). But in the end, it didn’t fill my requirements of being completely neutral. With regards to bass comparisons, I found the W4S DAC-2 had the “lightest” bass impact/detail while both the PWD2 and BDA-2 had very nice punchy and tight bass. Very musical and yet very defined at the same time. A real strong suit of both DACs IMO.
The imaging on the BDA-2 is what I would call “holographic” and while the W4S DAC-2 or PWD2 both offered very pleasing soundscapes (with a definite advantage to the PWD2 here), the BDA-2 seemed to place the instruments and artists in very particular locations (left to right and front to back). This then made the whole presentation just a bit more “real” sounding with regards to sound staging.
As I mentioned before, I found that the PWD2 ever so slightly shaved off some of the top to give a very musical presentation (and from the NAD M51/Bryston BDA-2 review published by dleblanc343, seems that the PWD2 and M51 share this musical trait), the BDA-2 is just about the facts ma'am to my ears. The BDA-1 could give a bit (and this is a very small critique) too much treble energy and I was thinking the same thing would happen with the BDA-2 when I heard zare's (local Head-Fier and friend) back in the early summer. Thankfully (like the upper mids shout that I heard with the W4S DAC-2) that was completely fixed with the BDA-2. The treble extends all the way up based on my frequency sweeps and without an emphasis on any band. The shimmer and details that I hear from cymbals is truly a site to behold with the BDA-2 and either my GS-X MK2/HD800s or KGSSHV/SR-009s.
Via USB, the BDA-2 really improved over the BDA-1. The BDA-1 is a stellar sounding DAC don't get me wrong and had the USB performance been up to snuff, I most likely would have gone that route a few years back. But in the end, the USB sounded dead and lifeless. I was amazed just how much the performance suffered with this input. And with an every growing library of digital music that isn’t CD based, I really wanted top notch USB performance. Thankfully, Bryston got it “right” in this regard as well with USB. I don’t feel that I’m losing out as I did with the BDA-1 through USB. It’s peformance in this regard is one of its strong points actually. Thankfully the BDA-2 has asynchrounous USB (unlike its predessor) and with the new dual 32 bit AKM 4399 DAC chipsets, the rendered performance makes the listener forget that they’re listening to music played through USB.
Now while the BDA-2 isn’t cheap by any stretch (comes in at $2395 MSRP), the price to performance ratio is actually quite good to my ears based on other great quality DACs that I’ve heard/owned. Just to nitpick though, at this price, I would expect a remote to be included with the DAC and not as a separate option for more money. In the end however, I’m happy to conclude that the BDA-2 is the “final” piece to my audio puzzle with both my GS-XMK2 and KGSSHV. Next up…some more music.
Edited by MacedonianHero - 10/3/13 at 6:26pm
Thanks. Based on my experiences, I'd definitely consider the BDA-2.