Bryston 14B-SST power amplifier Page 2
Like the 7B-ST, the 14B-SST has a massive chassis with Bryston's black "thermal monolith" styling, including a row of heat-radiating fins lining each chassis side. The hand-assembled 14B-SST is available in two versions in North America, including the standard 120V 15-amp and a 20-amp models. There is also a 10-amp, 240V version for the European market.
Only a power switch adorns the 14B-SST's front panel. The only lettering besides the company name is the "ST" logo (for designer Stuart Taylor), which can be found on the membrane-type power switch. Two tricolor LEDs, one for each channel, turn green when the unit is powered on, red if the amplifier overloads or distorts (detected by the 14B-SST's clip-sensing comparator circuit), or yellow-orange during thermal shutdown. The LEDs also briefly flash red before the circuit voltages stabilize during power-up.
All set-and-forget switches and controls can be located on the 14B-SST's rear panel. These include the new On/Off Circuit Breaker switch and switches for power-up mode and external-trigger voltage turn-on options, as well as a new switch that selects balanced inputs set at 0dB or +6dB gain. Individual level controls are included for each channel. Also new is an external trigger switch. When this is set to Local, the 14B-SST will ignore the external trigger 4/12V turn-on signal, and will power up only with the front power switch.
The rear panel also contains balanced and single-ended connectors, and a switch to select one of these inputs. The balanced input uses a dual-function connector by Neutrik that takes either a balanced XLR plug (pin 2 hot) or a balanced, 1/4" TRS (tip-ring-sleeve) phone plug (tip positive). For amplifier output, Bryston supplies its 60-amp-rated red and blue five-way speaker-binding posts, which were developed to meet rigorous CE standards. Instructions clearly printed on the rear panel make it possible to set up the 14B-SST without having to refer to the instruction sheet. Finally, there is a detachable power cord and associated IEC socket.
The 14B-SST's superb build quality is evident in the minimal point-to-point wiring. The circuit boards are very-high-quality double-sided epoxy-glass, with component-designator screening. Bryston uses 0.1% metal-film resistors, polystyrene capacitors, and transistors hand-selected and -matched to reduce noise and distortion to the absolute minimum.
Each 14B-SST gets a rugged four-day factory burn-in consisting of a squarewave input signal driving the amp into a load capacitor at clipping. The driving signal is gated one hour on, one hour off, and is repeated many times. The amplifier is thus heated, cooled, and heated again; the resulting expansion and contraction expose loose connections and any devices subject to early failure. After burn-in, each 14B-SST is again bench-tested, and those results are shipped with the amplifier.
Asked why such a rigorous break-in is used, Chris Russell replied, "Nothing on the amplifier should last less than 50 years; every time there is a repair, it costs us money." Bryston offers a warranty program unique in high-end audio: all parts and labor costs, plus shipping one way, is paid by Bryston for the first 20 years of the amplifier's life.
Setup & Sound
The Bryston 14B-SST was a breeze to install. Although the amp weighs 85 lbs, the weight of its power transformers is just behind the front-panel handles, which allows one person to lift a 14B-SST out of its shipping carton and move it into place on the floor. Unlike other Bryston amps, however, the 14B-SST has no rear handles, which would have been...handy.
The 14B-SST's turn-on sequence is simple: Flip up the rear-panel circuit-breaker switch, then run your finger across the membrane, as you'd operate a touchscreen cursor control on a laptop computer.
The 14B-SST was put in service doing reviews as soon as it arrived, driving dynamic, electrostatic, and hybrid loudspeakers. It was not as fast or zippy as the Bryston 7B-ST, nor did it reproduce the shimmering, translucent highs of chimes or bells like the Krell FPB-600C, nor was it as warm and forgiving as the Mark Levinson No.334.