Bryston 7B SST2 monoblock power amplifier Page 3

Chad Kassem had sent along 45rpm test pressings of some albums by Nat King Cole that he's reissuing on his Analogue Productions label, using, for the first time, Capitol's original three-track master tapes. With the Brystons in the system, I listened to "When I Fall in Love," from Love Is the Thing (Capitol SW-824). Without first refamiliarizing myself with the sound of this track on a 180gm reissue of this album from the mid-1990s (Capitol/DCC Compact Classics LPZ-2029), it seemed that the 45rpm version produced a wider stage on which I heard a far more detailed rendering of the strings, though with seemingly less woody lushness, and less sparkle in the sound of the harp. Cole's voice still had the familiar harshness it does on this track, but it was less bottom-heavy and less warm than I remembered it sounding on the DCC—but without hearing the track through the MF Titan, it was impossible to draw any conclusions.

The same track from the DCC reissue sounded bottom-heavy through the Brystons—as it should have—but it lacked the last bit of familiar heft from the tacked-on EQ. The expected edge in Cole's voice was still evident, but softened and less pronounced, and while that produced a more pleasant sound, it wasn't necessarily correct. The strings on the DCC were lusher and warmer than on the newer reissue, but the big strings' growl was softened, and the violins' sheen was somewhat more homogenized than I was used to hearing.

Overall, through the Bryston amps the DCC edition sounded noticeably less vivid, less holographic, more reserved, and not nearly as dramatically focused as I was accustomed to hearing it. When Cole sings this song's opening words, "When I fall in love," it was as if a giant head had been propelled into my lap. Through the Brystons, Cole's voice was farther back on the stage between the speakers, presented in three-dimensional space not nearly as dramatically—nicely rendered, but not nearly as cleanly as I know is possible with this recording.

Switching to the Titan, the DCC reissue once again projected Cole dramatically into the room in tighter, rounder focus, with more chest growl in the lower registers and a sharper etch to his harshly recorded voice. When Cole popped the microphone diaphragm on the word cool, the room shuddered. The harp glistened as the harpist's luxurious plucking of each string sliced through the "black" backdrop. The strings once again exhibited the expected gritty textures.

Through the MF Titan, the 45rpm pressing derived from the three-track master tape sounded more naturally three-dimensional, with the layered strings appearing well in front of the speakers, and even farther apart than through the Brystons. This version's better resolution of detail was now fully fleshed out, the Titan making it more apparent that far less EQ had been applied to the 45's bottom octaves, resulting in more natural and appropriate vocal and string tones. The slightly hard leading edge of Cole's voice remained as a fine ridge of false detail inherent in the recording.

No doubt the new reissue more accurately represents what's on the tape. Fortunately, the rest of the performances on this album were better recorded—not that "When I Fall in Love" is bad! This reissue of this classic album will sound stunning through either amp, but it will sound more dramatically so through the admittedly much more expensive Musical Fidelity Titan.

Esoteric, makers of SACD players, recently released three pricey reissues on 200gm LPs. One of them is Falla's The Three-Cornered Hat, with soprano Teresa Berganza, mezzo-soprano Marina de Gabarain, conductor Ernest Ansermet, and L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande (Decca SXL 2296, Esoteric ESLP 10003). Sampling had yet to be invented in 1918, but it sounds as if Falla had channeled Stravinsky, Mussorgsky, and some others while composing this colorful ballet. The original master tape was digitized at 24-bits/192kHz, with no compression applied, and decoded via Esoteric A/D and D/A converters, with lacquers cut at the JVC Cutting center (it still exists!). A thousand "one-step" copies were then pressed in Japan from the "father" and inserted in appropriately deluxe packaging.

Recorded in Victoria Hall in Geneva, Switzerland—a narrow, deep, tall "shoebox"—the 1961 recording effectively conveys all of the venue's depth, height, and narrowness. Both amplifiers managed the depth, particularly with Berganza's voice, which was placed way back. As shown in a photo on the album insert, the Victoria's unusually narrow stage required that the orchestra's seating plan be considerably deeper than it was wide. The Titan conveyed this with great clarity, and particularly the sidewall reflections, which seem to wrap around the orchestra in almost a U shape. The Bryston flattened that effect, but it also confused the delineation of the direct and reflected sounds into one great wash that diminished the spatial cues as well as the focus of individual instrumental images. The overall effect was pleasing, especially tonally, but the sonic picture failed to fully resolve.

The Brystons' reproductions of the orchestra's full weight and overall dynamic contrasts were impressive, but this recording's macrodynamics fared better than its microdynamics through the 7B SST2s, despite what I'm sure will test out to be the amps' superbly low levels of noise.

Roll over, Beethoven
I sampled a variety of digital tracks through both amplifiers, using the Meridian-Sooloos music server as a source, decoded by the DAC of Playback Designs' SACD player. The Sooloos makes reviewing, not to mention listening, much more easy and pleasant!

Bryston Ltd.
P.O. Box 2170
677 Neal Drive
Peterborough, Ontario K9J 7Y4, Canada
(705) 742-5325