Bryston 7B SST2 monoblock power amplifier Page 4

I'll spare you the long list of the (virtual) discs and tracks I used, but among them were: Arturo O'Farrill's Live in Brooklyn (Zoho Music), one of the best-sounding CDs I've ever heard; Tommy Flanagan's Sunset and the Mockingbird: The Birthday Concert (Blue Note); Badfinger's Straight Up (Capitol); and the Beatles' The Capitol Albums Vol.1 (Capitol).

Oddly, it was the primitive-sounding The Beatles' Second Album, including the American meddler Dave Dexter's added reverb, that clarified both the differences between the amplifiers and the Bryston's basic personality. The first track, "Roll Over Beethoven," begins with the familiar Chuck Berry guitar figure played by George Harrison in the left channel, with reverb added to the guitar in the right, behind which can be heard a slight hiss that becomes less apparent as the handclaps begin to float in the reverb.

The Musical Fidelity Titan's rendering of the reverb—a microdynamic event—was delicate and three-dimensional, placing it in front of a "black" backdrop, though with the hiss occupying its own distinct space; the Bryston's rendering was cloudy by comparison, and relatively indistinct against a not-so-"black" background, into which the hiss was mixed. The handclaps enter in bold relief through the Titan, fleshy and distinct; through the Brystons, they were softer, less distinctly fleshy, less three-dimensional, and partially submerged in the reverb.

Harrison picks up the guitar part in the left channel, behind him Ringo Starr heavily accenting the splash cymbal, to which Dexter seems to have added more reverb. In the right channel, just before the singing begins, there's a distinct event: seemingly punched-in left-track leakage that adds some drums. George Harrison's double-tracked vocals then begin: "Gonna write a little letter, gonna send it to my local DJ . . ."

Through the Titan, there was space between the guitar and drums, each striking of the splash cymbal cleanly rendered. When the right channel's added track begins, it's a distinct event in a separate space. Now there are two splash-cymbal tracks, one left, one right, slightly separated in time. When the singing begins, each track of Harrison's double-tracked voice can easily be heard separately in three dimensions. In the left channel, Paul McCartney's bass line has body and texture, and is easily heard separately from Ringo's kick drum.

The space between guitar and drums was smaller through the Brystons. The splash-cymbal strokes washed into each other, the extra-track entrance in the right channel was more of a sneak than a "pop," and it was in the same plane as what was already there. The doubled splash cymbal produced an undifferentiated wash that was not in 3D. The vocal's double tracking was harder to unravel, and neither vocal track sounded 3D. Paul's bass line and Ringo's kick drum were less distinct. The instruments' low-end extension was there, but the clarity of each sonic event and its separation from the other events were diminished.

When I then played this track through both amps without paying such close attention to details, the Titan sounded like a series of dramatic, information-packed, rhythmically driven, well-focused events; the Bryston, though very similar tonally and very pleasing overall, didn't carve out space and time with nearly the same precision. The Bryston 7B SST2's attack was softer than the Titan's; its sustain was less well controlled and almost too long.

A Second Pair of Amps Arrives
When sent the preprint of this review in order to prepare a possible "Manufacturer's Comment," the folks at Bryston weren't exactly thrilled with what they read. I don't blame them. However, according to Bryston CEO Chris Russell, a running change to a new type of transformer, originally designed specifically for the flagship 28B SST2 but later found to produce a marked sonic improvement in both the 7B SST2 and 14B SST2, had not been included in my review samples, which had been sitting at the publicist's home for many months awaiting my go-ahead to ship. Russell claims (for technical reasons I don't have room to include here) that the transformer change considerably improves the 7B SST2's focus, dynamics, depth of field, and other performance parameters in which I found the original review samples lacking (footnote 1).

Footnote 1: Subsequent to the review's original publication, Bryston's James Tanner clarified that they went to the newer transformers on the 7B SST2 at serial number 001826. Upgrades are available for owners of 7B SST2s with serial numbers between 001563 and 001825.—Ed.
Bryston Ltd.
P.O. Box 2170
677 Neal Drive
Peterborough, Ontario K9J 7Y4, Canada
(705) 742-5325