Bryston Middle T loudspeaker
Bryston probably got a taste for purveying speakers when the company was the North American distributor for the studio and domestic speaker models made by the British company PMCand over the years, Bryston seems to have made wise choices of loudspeakers to partner their own products at audio shows.
Still, while speakers were far from Bryston's area of expertise, the company has again taken its usual conservative approach. They've partnered with established Canadian speaker maker Axiom, whose testing and production facilities have provided Bryston with a base from which to rapidly generate a broad line of models, and the new speakers themselves seem to employ no radical new technology.
Bryston's first loudspeaker, the Model T (for Tanner), is a large "statement" tower, offered in two versions, the standard Model T and the Model T Signature (featuring an outboard crossover), each at a very attractive price compared to physically similar speakers ($6495/pair and $9495/pair, respectively); both have been warmly received at audio shows. The T comprises a vertical array of three woofers, two midranges, and two tweeters, and, as I heard at one show, is capable of prodigious power as well as overall high sound quality. Given Bryston's deserved reputation for quality, I was immediately interested.
However, the task of picking a Bryston speaker to review was soon complicated by the launch of further T models and, soon after that, the smaller A models. My choice of the Middle T was primarily based on two criteria: its base price in wood veneer finish is $5400/pair, and it has only one midrange driver and one tweeter. My preference for this sort of driver configuration is based on the complexity of getting multiple drivers in those frequency ranges to provide broad, even dispersion on all axes. In addition, the Middle T stands a fraction under 40" tall, which places its tweeter very close to the usual height of my ears when I'm seated (though the optional outriggers elevate it another 2"). After a long wait, I finally received a pair of Middle Ts, which I set up in my Manhattan system.
My initial visual impression was mixed. Clearly, these were solidly built and cleanly executed speakers, and setting them up on their spikes went off without a hitch. I really appreciated the clean, unadorned cabinet design with the four drivers on the front and, at the back, two fluted ports near the top and, near the bottom, two sets of sturdy, multiway binding posts.
The 1.5"-thick front panel is significantly wider than the rear panel, and front and rear are joined not by curved or sharply angled side panels but by two panels on each side. The side panel toward the front is angled at 90° to the front panel, as in an ordinary box speaker, but about halfway back, a smaller panel is angled to connect it to the narrower rear panel. This construction serves to reduce the production of standing waves inside the enclosure and increase the overall rigidity. The latter is further ensured by the inclusion of multiple internal frames and cross-braces. Sure enough, at 81.4 lbs, the Middle T is quite heavy for a speaker measuring 39.4" high by 10.4" wide by 16.3" deep, and notably stiff.
On the other hand, I wasn't impressed with some of the Middle T's cosmetic features. First, the expensive, optional Red Rosewood veneer (add $1520/pair) was undoubtedly real wood, but the grain was too open and textured for my taste. In addition, the grain matching between the top and vertical panels seemed casual. So while the quality of the materials themselves was not in doubt, I would have preferred a more polished finish (though of course this will have no impact on the sound).
My second concern is for something that might have sonic consequences for some users. Bryston provides three separate grilles for each Middle T: one for the midrange and tweeter, and one for each woofer. Each grille is covered with sheer black fabric and is attached to the front panel with strong, hidden magnets. I found the grilles ungainly, and thought they detracted from the simplicity of the speaker's appearance. The frame for each panel is so sturdily and heavily constructed that I feared it might compromise the dispersion of soundwaves, especially from the midrange and tweeter. Indeed, that was the case, so I did all of my listening without the grilles. Still, the hidden magnets mean that, when the grilles are off, nothing mars the Middle T's clean lines.
I rolled my B&W 800 Diamonds out of the way and replaced them with the Bryston Middle Ts, connected them to my system, began listening.
My initial impression of the Middle T's sound was of such integrity that it might have been generated by a single driver, even though that was belied by its dynamics and wide frequency range. Center fill and imaging were good, but were vastly improved with adjustments in the speaker positions. In this I used the DEQX PreMate D/A preamplifier-equalizer to take nearfield measurements to distinguish soundwaves directly radiated by the speakers from their reflections, both early and late, from the room walls and large objects. It revealed that increasing the toe-in angle from my usual 1015° to almost 20° delayed a significant reflection from a large credenza that stands against the room's left wall. This not only improved the subsequent DEQX operations, it so improved central imaging that the Middle Ts seemed to entirely "disappear" into a wide, deep soundstage.