Bryston 28B-SST monoblock power amplifier Page 2
The 28B-SST's midrange was just as sweet, clear, and open as its treble, and full of new musical information—all reminiscent of the triode mode of the VTL S-400 tube amplifier, which I used to review VTL's TL-6.5 preamplifier (Vol.30 No.6). Whether it was Natalie Merchant's dusky rendition of the title song from the One Fine Day soundtrack (CD, Columbia CK 69716), or Suzanne Vega's thin, reedy voice in "Tom's Diner," from her Solitude Standing (CD, A&M CD 5136), or the honey and whiskey voice of Diana Krall singing "Garden in the Rain," from her Love Scenes (CD, Impulse! IMPD-233), or Willie Nelson's slightly nasal sound in "Darkness on the Face of the Earth," from his Teatro (CD, Island 314-524 548-2), or the Turtle Creek Chorale in John Rutter's Lord Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace, from Requiem (CD, Reference RR-57CD), the Bryston 28B-SSTs delivered each singer's distinct vocal timbre. Whether it was the separation of voices in a massed choir, or the cut-from-solid-stone, three-dimensional image of a lone vocalist, these amplifiers created maximum emotional impact.
The 28B-SST rendered the brassiness of trumpets without adding irritation or edginess. The trumpets in Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Orchestra's recording of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (CD, Reference RR-70CD, tracks 21–24) had an attention-grabbing brassiness that added just the right amount of raw, hot, musical texture this work demands.
The 28B-SSTs' imaging was outstanding: a seamless, wall-to-wall soundstage. I was startled by the new information I heard, particularly the huge, deep soundstage of Stevie Nicks' "Silver Springs," from Fleetwood Mac's The Dance (CD, Reprise 46702-2). Nicks swayed closer to and then away from the microphone to add emotional impact to her vocals. Later, listening to David Hudson's Didgeridoo Spirit (CD, Indigenous Australia IA2003 D), I was engulfed in an Australian rainforest, complete with a soft rain falling, exotic birds calling, and wind rustling through the leaves. Orchestra Baobab's Pirates Choice (CD, World Circuit/Nonesuch 79643-2) transported me to a steamy Dakar nightclub for what the liner notes describe as "soothing, spell-binding, relaxed rhythmic grooves." I was particularly entranced by "Werente Serigne," which placed the percussion on the left, a droning blend of singers on the right, and the main singer and a syncopated tenor sax in the center.
The 28B-SST provided fast, deep bass with good pitch definition, utterly devoid of overhang and midbass bloat. This proved just the ticket to showcase the Revel Ultima Salon1s' ability to reproduce the deep bass of pipe-organ music. Without the JL Audio subwoofers, I heard and felt the full impact of the thunderous, tight, crushing pedal notes at the end of John Marks' recording of Howells' Master Tallis's Testament (see "The Fifth Element," June 2007). The rumbling notes pressurized my room without bloat or excess, made the air shudder, and rattled loose objects. This also was heard in the Allegro of Widor's Organ Symphony 6, from Marcel Dupré's Recital (CD, Mercury Living Presence 434 311-2). Gnomus, from Jean Guillou's performance of his own transcription for organ of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (CD, Dorian DOR-90117), was reproduced with a mix of the shuddering bass notes and the delicacy of his large instrument's trumpet pipes that recreated a sense of space and depth appropriate to the recording venue. I heard the smooth but powerful blend of male singers and organ-pedal chords in Rutter's The Lord is My Light and My Salvation (CD, Reference RR-57CD), but was still able to sense the space of the recording venue, a church.
Other low-register instruments, including bass drum, double bass, and synthesizer, all benefited from the 28B-SST's power and control. Double-bassist Glen Moore's plucked notes on "The Silence of a Candle," from Oregon's Beyond Words (CD, Chesky JD130), were rendered with distinct tonal steps, and were both taut and well damped. The huge bass drum and synthesizer in "Silk Road," from I Ching's Of the Marsh and the Moon (CD, Chesky WO144), seemed convincingly deep, resonant, and tuneful. I was startled by the explosive bass-drum beats in Herbert Owen Reed's La Fiesta Mexicana, from Howard Dunn and the Dallas Wind Symphony's Fiesta! (CD, Reference RR-38CD), which contrasted strongly with the shimmering, reverberating chimes that follow.
The 28B-SST's raw power was a revelation—clear, undistorted music played at rock-concert levels. The Escalante Design Fremont speakers hit 112dB peaks playing Lyle Lovett's foot-stomping gospel song, "Church," from Joshua Judges Ruth (CD, MCA MCAD 10475). This track's clean, tuneful, well-defined kick drum propelled the music like a steamroller—when it pulsed, the 28B-SSTs delivered with tremendous speed and no compression. Blady Blades' take-no-prisoners drum solo toward the end of "The Maker," from Emmylou Harris' Spyboy, erupted in huge, explosive tom-tom, kick-, and snare-drum notes that remained intact, exact, and clear, even at top volumes. Explosive piano scales erupted from dead-black silence in the "The Hand-Off," from the Sneakers soundtrack (CD, Columbia CK 53146). The opening timbales solo in "Tito," from Arturo Sandoval's Hothouse (CD, N2K 10023), exploded in gunfire-like rim shots, even though I could still clearly hear subtle changes in drum-head tonalities during the crescendo.
The 28B-SST's reproduction of HUGE dynamic contrasts in synthesizer recordings was accompanied by an ability to reveal emotionally evocative musical details. The oppressive bass pulsations in A3's "Woke Up This Morning (Chosen One Mix)," aka the main theme of HBO's The Sopranos (CD, Play-Tone/Columbia/Sony Music Soundtrax 63911), conveyed Tony Soprano's desperation and blind anxiety. In the excerpt from Strauss's Also sprach Zarathustra in Terry Dorsey's electronic composition Ascent, from his Time Warp (CD, Telarc CD-80106), the Brystons communicated a dense, fearful dawn via a deep, rumbling, sustained 32Hz note from Dorsey's synthesizer.
At $16,000/pair, the Bryston 28B-SST is a serious investment for any audiophile. But for those with large listening rooms and speakers of low voltage sensitivity and 6–8 ohms impedance, the Bryston's price and 1000W power rating compare well with those of other high-end, solid-state monoblocks. It combines the top-end delicacy and sweetness of my Mark Levinson ML-2 class-A solid-state amplifier with the raw bassmaster capabilities of a Bryston 4B-SST or 14B-SST. In many ways—high power output, monoblock flexibility, basically wireless construction, reliability, stability, and 20-year warranty—the 28B-SST is one of the most outstanding amplifiers at any price. Come to think of it, the 28B-SST is just the right amplifier to capture the raw power, passion, sonorities, and subtle inner details of Golijov's Azul, should a recording of the work ever be released. I can't wait.