Bryston BDP-1 digital audio player Page 3
First, I was directed to connect the BDP-1 to the Internet. I ran a CAT5 patch cable from the BDP-1 to my home network's router. Then I had to access the player's internal software from a networked PC. The manual explained how to display the BDP-1's network-assigned numeric IP address (192.168.1.7) by simultaneously pressing the Up and Left keys on the front panel. Plugging the IP address into my browser instantly brought up the BDP-1's internal home page; from there, I could pull up its settings menu for upgrading the player.
Then I was asked for the BDP-1's user name and password. I couldn't find any mention of these in the manual, on the shipping carton, or on Bryston's website. Another call to Bryston got me written firmware-update instructions, a default user name and password, and a small BIN file that automatically scripted the BDP-1's updating procedures. The BIN file directed the BDP-1 to Bryston's online FTP site so that it could download and install the newest version of its firmware (S0.97, dated 12/28/10). Downloading and installing this took 15 minutes, after which the BDP-1 could simultaneously access four USB devices without crashing.
Tanner informed me that the Bryston website will, by the time you read this, contain the default user name and password to access the settings portion of the BDP-1's internal webpage, the latest version of the BDP-1's manual, the text file that lists the date of and improvements included in each version of the firmware, and the upgrade instructions. The owner must supply Bryston with the serial number of his or her BDP-1 in order to get the BIN file that automates the upgrade. This is to prevent access to the upgrades by gray-market dealers.
I ripped favorite selections from CDs I've listed in various editions of Stereophile's annual "Records To Die For" feature and copied them to my 16GB USB 2.0 flash drive; I copied hi-rez files to the 320GB hard drive. I navigated between these sources using the BDP-1's display and front-panel controls, but I much preferred using the MPoD remote-control software on my iPhone 4. The BDP-1's display read "NO DATA" for 35 seconds before a drive's playlist would appear; the remote applications loaded the hard drive's full playlist instantly.
With the BDP-1 feeding the BDA-1 via the AES/EBU link, the files ripped from CDs revealed: the rich timbres of guitar and saxophone from the L.A. Four's Going Home (Ai Music 3 2JD-10043); a three-dimensional image of Patricia Barber's voice floating between my speakers in "Nardis," from her Café Blue (Premonition/Blue Note 21810 2); and Emmylou Harris's softly beguiling, enveloping soprano in "Calling My Children Home," from Spyboy (Eminent EM 25001-2). The vibes solo on "The Mooche," from Jerome Harris's Rendezvous (CD, Stereophile STPH013-2), was cool, translucent, and shimmering, with no sign of harshness.
To play the hi-rez files, I used my iPhone to guide the BDP-1 to the 320GB hard drive. This contained 24-bit, 176.4kHz files from Reference Recordings, 24-bit/88.2kHz files from Stereophile master recordings engineered by John Atkinson, 24/88.2 WAV files of the Chamber Soloists of the Royal Philharmonic playing Mozart's serenades for winds (Naim Classical HD126), a 24/88.2 file of Beethoven's Symphony 3 with Andrew Manze conducting the Helsingborg Symphony (Harmonica Mundi HMU 807470), and the 24/96 version of Chesky Records' Ultimate Demonstration Disc, Volume 2 (originally on SACD, Chesky SACD343).
Through the BDP-1, hi-rez tracks like Valerie Joyce's cover of Jimi Hendrix's "Little Wing," from the Chesky sampler had warmth, fullness, depth of soundstage, and layers of musical detail. Beethoven's Symphony 3 was deeply moving, with an immediacy I've sometimes felt at live performances. The bass in the hi-rez files was quicker, punchier, less diffuse than the CD versions. Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Symphony's 24/192 recording of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring (Reference HRX RR-70) had clean, tight bass, with leading edges that were totally integrated into the rest of the music's textures. Wind instruments stood cleanly apart from the thunderous stomping of strings as the pulsing tempo and surging energy mounted in Adoration of the Earth and the explosive Dance of the Earth. The bass synthesizer in David Chesky's Urbanicity was captured with dead-on pitch definition, adding pace, energy, and emotional weight to the sound of the orchestra (24/48; or CD, Chesky HQCD351). Mark Flynn's flash-bang drums-and-cymbal opening to "Blizzard Limbs," from Attention Screen's Live at Merkin Hall (24/88.2; or CD, Stereophile STPH018-2), was more energetic and urgent-sounding than the CD version.
The upper midranges and highs in these files were clean, open, effortless, and free of grain. Clarity and extension were terrific, as heard in the lilting tenor voices in Edie Hill's A Sound Like This, from male choir Cantus's While You Are Alive, engineered by JA (24/88.2; or CD, Cantus CTS-1208). Piano treble notes in Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, also engineered by JA, were effortless, translucent, open, and extended (24/88.2; or CD, Stereophile STPH017-2).
I listened to "Kote Moun Yo?" from February 2011's "Recording of the Month," Markus Schwartz & Lakou Brooklyn's Equinox (CD, Soundkeeper SR1002)first through my BCD-1 CD player, then as a 16/44.1k file downloaded from Soundkeeper's website and played on the BDP-1, both players' digital outputs fed to the BDA-1 DAC. Listening to the CD, I easily heard the entwining of Monvelyno Alexis's guitar, Jean Caze's trumpet, Schwartz's shakers, and Paul Beaudry's double bass. Switching to the CD-resolution file sourced from the BDP-1, separate instrumental lines were a bit easier to discern. I then played a 24/192 file of the same tune on the BDP-1 and was blown away. What a difference! I loved the totally black background, deep soundstage, greater dynamic range, and smoother highs of the hi-rez files.
The Bryston BDP-1 is simple in function and purist in design, a combination that worked well in playing high-resolution music files. Its slim chassis and case of silvery brushed aluminum, simple controls, and outstanding sound make it a prime example of classic Bryston value.
Setting up the BDP-1 was more challenging than I had anticipated, and its manual lacked key troubleshooting information. Bryston plans to post this information on their website, which should be in place by the time you read this review. However, once its firmware had been upgraded, the BDP-1 was completely reliable. It played every hi-rez file I could lay hands on, including 24-bit/192kHz FLAC, WAV, and AIFF files, consistently delivering open highs, rich midrange timbres, a stunning dynamic range, and three-dimensional imaging.
When you hear it, you, too, will find the BDP-1 a keeper.