Bryston BDA-1 DAC ???
Oct 7, 2009 at 9:15 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 20

SunWarrior

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Hi,

I'm considering buying this not inexpensive DAC ($2K US), but haven't seen many mentions here.

The review of it on some websites and magazines is quite glowing, but for that kind of money, the hive mind here would be very useful.

I'd be feeding it digital data through my Squeezebox Duet and Wadia 170 iTransport.

So, do you own a Bryston DAC? What's your review of it? Any other thoughts on this DAC?

Dave, who would sell either his Musical Fidelity V-DAC or CI Audio DAC if he bought the Bryston DAC
 
Oct 7, 2009 at 9:27 PM Post #2 of 20

seacard

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Monkey was pretty high on this DAC (I assume he'll chime in here if he comes across this thread). I haven't heard it, but I understand it is as good as their CD Player, which is spectacular.
 
Oct 7, 2009 at 10:11 PM Post #3 of 20

scootermafia

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Bryston just makes amazingly high quality stuff, from the looks of their reviews and very long warranty...I am curious now.
 
Oct 28, 2009 at 4:07 AM Post #4 of 20

The Monkey

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Just saw this. I like the BDA-1 very much. I'm not sure whether I love it. As I've said before, I find it difficult to review gear, but here are my impressions.

By way of background, the DACs with which I am very familiar are the Esoteric D-70, Electrocompaniet ECD-1, Dodson DA-217 mkII D, HeadRoom UDAC, HeadRoom MicroDAC, HeadAmp Pico DAC, North Star m192 mk2, Parasound D/AC 1000, and Benchmark DAC1. Most have been used with some combo of decent to high end stats and dynamic amps and cans. Balanced and unbalanced. For purposes of some of my head-to-head impressions, I use a Manley SkipJack. I listen to lossless and lossy from my iMac through the optical out to the DAC.

I am cable agnostic and don't believe much in burn-in, so I won't dwell on those subjects here. Suffice it to say, though, that much of my gear is used, so burn-in, if any, should not be an issue. Regardless, I do not consider cables or burn-in germane to this post.

Of the DACs listed above, the ones that I have found most appealing have been the ones that have what I would call sweet, or perhaps even emphasized, mids. Such DACs include the ECD-1 and the Dodson. The DACs I have liked least have been those that are splashy and bright such as the DAC1 or a bit subdued, like the UDAC. The North Star and the Bryston stand out for their cohesive presentation and detail, while remaining laid back. (Note: I know some think the North Star is bright; I don't agree.)

The BDA-1 does not have the mids and mid-bass of the ECD-1 or the Dodson. At first blush and especially when A/Bing, this feels like a real deficiency. However, upon further listening, I felt that the fun mids of the ECD-1 came at the price of some congestion (almost a nasal, shouty quality). The Dodson does this a bit, too. In comparison, the BDA-1 presents a very cohesive but wide soundstage. While the mids seem a bit recessed in comparison to the ECD-1, this is a relative not absolute statement. The BDA-1 seems to get it "right" over long periods of listening. Passages where I used to experience fatigue do not result in it nearly as much. Yet, I do not feel that I am missing details. The background is completely black, so music sounds precise; instruments seem agile; and voices are clear without leaping out from the performance.

What emerges then is a listening experience that feels very natural over time. The more I listen to it during a session, the more I like it. If I want to rock out and listen to a few songs with lots of slam, the Bryston is not the source I would go to first. That would be something like the Dodson, which has some of that added midbass slam that can be very satisfying. But I am finding that a sweetened or emphasized midrange can have a price: fatigue. Not the type of fatigue I would associate with the DAC1, but a certain annoyance or ringing to the instruments and voices. This situation simply does not occur when I listen to the BDA-1. It plays it straight, consistent, and without the glare or shimmer that I associate with many other DACs.

At first listen, one might be tempted to call the BDA-1 boring. But I recommend a long listening session with it before reaching any conclusions. I find that I lose myself more easily when listening to the BDA-1, which I think is a good thing. By not emphasizing any particular spots, the BDA-1 achieves a level of smoothness that is growing on me.

That said, I can easily understand someone preferring the ECD-1 or Dodson or even the D/AC 1000. If your listening sessions tend to be shorter and more intense, with lots of rock, then those DACs may be better choices. However, if you will be listening to lots of different genres over a medium to long session, then I think the BDA-1 begins to outshine the aforementioned. It remains smooth and balanced even at high volumes.

The BDA-1 has inputs galore. I have not used the USB input. The BDA-1 can take hi res and while it sounds good to me, I don't have enough hi res to really form a solid opinion. The defeatable upsampling is a nice feature, and I find that it very occasionally sounds better when upsampling is turned off. The thing is built like a tank and looks good, too. Bryston's customer support seems to be very good, and they have a guy who is very responsive to inquiries, which is pretty cool. HeadRoom still takes the customer service award, IMO, but Bryston seems to be doing a fine job, too.

Bottom line. I can recommend the BDA-1. It presents a cohesive and refined sound without sacrificing detail. While it may not rock as hard as some of the DACs discussed above, it can rock longer. It seems that Bryston made some choices with this DAC. In many cases those choices seem to be to err on the side of do no harm. I think that was wise. The music flows well out of this machine. Regardless, I am having a difficult time deciding whether to keep it or the Dodson. I like both enough to not want to part with either. Perhaps that's the best endorsement I can give.

Finally, and somewhat tangential to these impressions, I read a pretty decent post here recently noting that many of the differences between DACs can be attributed to differences in volume based on a given DAC's output. Some are hotter than others, even when the specs say otherwise. I find this point interesting and valid. I tried to volume match, but it isn't easy (I don't have an SPL meter). Just as I am skeptical of burn-in and cable stuff, I am also willing to acknowledge points such as the volume differential, so take that for whatever it's worth.
 
Oct 28, 2009 at 9:34 AM Post #7 of 20

jpelg

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Quote:

Originally Posted by The Monkey /img/forum/go_quote.gif
As I've said before, I find it difficult to review gear...


Stereophile writers should have such problems. The above is one of the best reviews I've ever read. Really excellent.
 
Oct 28, 2009 at 12:35 PM Post #8 of 20

SunWarrior

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Quote:

Originally Posted by The Monkey /img/forum/go_quote.gif
...if you will be listening to lots of different genres over a medium to long session, then I think the BDA-1 begins to outshine the aforementioned.


As the OP for this thread, I much appreciate this review and perspective.

The sentence quoted above is the nut for me: That's what I listen to -- many genres of music -- and how I tend to listen.

And I agree with another poster who wrote that this review is better than most in the "professional" magazines.

Dave, who is still trying to figure whether to stick with the Logitech Duet that he currently owns or get the Sonos to play Apple Lossless files
 
Oct 28, 2009 at 7:26 PM Post #9 of 20

oldson

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Quote:

Originally Posted by SunWarrior /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Hi,

I'm considering buying this not inexpensive DAC ($2K US), but haven't seen many mentions here.

The review of it on some websites and magazines is quite glowing, but for that kind of money, the hive mind here would be very useful.

I'd be feeding it digital data through my Squeezebox Duet and Wadia 170 iTransport.

So, do you own a Bryston DAC? What's your review of it? Any other thoughts on this DAC?

Dave, who would sell either his Musical Fidelity V-DAC or CI Audio DAC if he bought the Bryston DAC



at $2k US that is nothing!
try buying in uk.
£2.2k
mad.gif

just buy one, thats pocket money.
jecklinsmile.gif
 
Oct 20, 2010 at 10:32 PM Post #11 of 20

leo1311

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Vincent,
 
thank you much again, your posts help me very much. Now, more one dac in my list (Bryston, PWD, ECD-1, Ref-7). If possible, could you add to the comparative characteristics of the PWD and REF-7?
 
Leonardo.
 
Oct 23, 2010 at 1:55 PM Post #12 of 20

SP Wild

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I will have the Bryston and REF7 side by side for a titanic clash in a few weeks.  There will be little bias to my subjective opinions as I will own both outright.  FWIW I managed to compare the Bryston to Benchmark Pre and Cambrifge 840 cd/dac.  All three are to notch speed and control demons.  The Cambridge 840 CD/DAC was leanest the benchmark the same with a little more midrange body...the Bryston least treble emphasis with most emphasis on midrange (ie body midrange, not airy midrange - thats the Benchmark and Cambridge) with a much noticeable more bottom end bass presence...all this without relinquishing the speed and control of the other two...with a slightly wider soundstage...and surprising...no loss of detail, which must mean the body midrange is more detailed than the other two due to a higher presence counter balancing the air midrange presence of the other two.  IMO.
 
Feb 18, 2011 at 4:32 PM Post #13 of 20

geggyaejnt

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SP Wild said:
/img/forum/go_quote.gif


I will have the Bryston and REF7 side by side for a titanic clash in a few weeks. There will be little bias to my subjective opinions as I will own both outright. FWIW I managed to compare the Bryston to Benchmark Pre and Cambrifge 840 cd/dac. All three are to notch speed and control demons. The Cambridge 840 CD/DAC was leanest the benchmark the same with a little more midrange body...the Bryston least treble emphasis with most emphasis on midrange (ie body midrange, not airy midrange - thats the Benchmark and Cambridge) with a much noticeable more bottom end bass presence...all this without relinquishing the speed and control of the other two...with a slightly wider soundstage...and surprising...no loss of detail, which must mean the body midrange is more detailed than the other two due to a higher presence counter balancing the air midrange presence of the other two. IMO.




It's quite useful, Thanks for your analysis! It is exactly what I need, Now I understand more about it.
 
Feb 18, 2011 at 4:38 PM Post #14 of 20

vrln

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You should check his other posts, those were just the first impressions with a different amp. Paired with an Audio-gd amp, SP Wild reported the REF7 slaughtered the Bryston :)
 
Feb 20, 2011 at 7:21 PM Post #15 of 20

SP Wild

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Slaughter wouldn't be an accurate description of the outcome once I got the Phoenix into the mix.  Once balanced, and into the Phoenix, the Bryston closed the gap on the Reference 7, to the point that I would have had been quite happy with that combo.  I opened up the Bryston and confirmed that there was no summing of the balanced signals, so the Bryston, as the Ref 7 ran optimally balanced.  The Bryston suffered drastically when single ended, the Reference 7 did not.
 
It was when the studio/professional orientated Bryston was initially paired with the studio/professional Lehmann amplifier single ended, that the Reference 7 held a significant advantage over the Bryston, as the doubling up of studio type signatures were not very synergistic IMO.
 
To sum up my experiences with the two,
 
subjective and individual preference differences, IE, tonal differences:
 
The Bryston had a darker treble, a cooler midrange, less overall bass presence due to a subbass that isn't as pronounced as in the Ref 7.
The Ref 7 had a brighter treble, a warmer midrange and a subbass that was very noticeably more present than the Bryston.
 
I can also summarise this to say that female voices sounded "younger" with the Bryston.  With the Phoenix amp, I am fine with either presentation...with the Lehman amp also having a cool midrange doubling up on the Brystons cool midrange...the Ref 7 was vastly preferred...these are in my preferences....which always favour warm audiophile grade type signatures over cool professional grade type signatures.  In fact with the Phoenix in the chain, there were pros and cons to the Bryston and Ref 7...in pure tonality...I had no preference for either...both sounded very nice and free from digital glare, which for me is priority 1.
 
Now onto what I felt were technical aspects, differences that remain outright and IMO are a little more objective and is not a personal preference issue (however personal preference will still easily override these technical, more objective differences):
 
I can easily discern better dynamics, a blacker background and better bass control on the Reference 7.  Moreover the Reference 7 has a more 3 dimensional, wider and more spacious soundstage with better layering and separation of left and right channels.  Differences are not huge, only slight but for me was very noticeable.
 
The above reasons are the only reasons I sold the Bryston and kept the Audio GD.  If the Bryston had equalled the 7 in the above technical benchmarks I would have kept it, as I have no preference for either dacs tonal presentation, which means the decision is based purely on the "Bryston" legacy...also the Bryston has a level of manufacture a league above the Audio GD products.  However, IMO, the Audio GD is a better electronically engineered product and hence the Bryston went up for auction on ebay.
 
This is all coming from someone that likes NOS dacs and tube amps with HD650s and LCD2s.
 

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