Bryston BCD-1 CD player Page 2

The DAC's analog signal is fed to an output stage running in class-A and assembled from discrete components, which makes possible higher power outputs than are obtainable from integrated circuits. Bryston's extensive sorting and grading of the components comprising the analog output amplifiers are claimed to result in superior test-bench performance.

The BCD-1's shape and compactness allowed me to place it on one of my narrow equipment shelves, where it neatly replaced the Krell KPS-28c that had been returned to the manufacturer. Having reviewed and loved the sound of Bryston's plug-in digital-to-analog converter module for their B100-DA integrated amplifier (April 2007, Vol.30 No.4), I hoped that the BCD-1, seven years newer than the Krell CD player, might sound at least as good.

Although I didn't do a direct comparison of the two players, my listening notes suggest that the Bryston sounded better than the Krell's own internal DAC, or when the former's digital output was processed by the DAC of a Bryston B100-DA integrated amplifier. The BCD-1 reproduced my CDs' bloom, body, and warmth, with none of the edgy, irritating quality heard from the early-generation D/A processors I had around for comparison purposes.

The BCD-1's imaging was simply sensational. The orchestral beginning of the excerpt Christopher Brown and the Huntingdonshire Philharmonic's performance of Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius, on Stereophile's Test CD 2 (Stereophile STPH004-2), transformed my listening room into a semblance of the acoustic of Ely Cathedral, the choir set far back from the solo singers in the tremendous space. The solo bass was to the far left, the tenor to the right. Through the Burmester B25 loudspeakers, the pipe organ's deep, solid chords were clearly evident under the choir and orchestra. I also heard a large cathedral ambience in Gnomus, from Jean Guillou's performance of his own transcription for organ of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition (CD, Dorian DOR-90117). The BCD-1 could also convincingly reproduce the sounds of recordings made in more intimate settings, such as of tenor Gary Ruschman on Eric Whitacre's Lux Aurumque, from male choir Cantus's While You Are Alive (CD, Cantus CTS-1208).

The BCD-1's highs were clean, open, effortless, grain-free, and extended. In Henryk Górecki and the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra's recording of Górecki's Symphony 3, Zofia Kilanowicz's lucid soprano was entrancing and crystal-clear (SACD, Polskie Radio PRSACD2). Paul Simon's sibilants at the beginning of "Trailways Bus," from Songs from the Capeman (CD, Warner Bros. 46814-2), were natural, not irritating. The ride cymbal played with wire brushes by Billy Drummond at the beginning of "The Mooche," from the Jerome Harris Quintet's Rendezvous (CD, Stereophile STPH013-2), had a realistically shimmering metallic quality.

The BCD-1's midrange reproduction was smooth and effortless. Played through my Quad ESL-989 speakers, Jane Monheit's rendition of "Besame Mucho," from The Frank and Joe Show's 331/3 (CD, Hyena SD9320), had the "seductive timbral voluptuousness" John Marks reported on in his column in the April 2006 issue (Vol.29 No.4). Marc Anthony's tenor voice remained warm and crystal-clear, without any tubbiness, during his work on Paul Simon's Songs from the Capeman.

The BCD-1's bass response was particularly involving when it was teamed up with the pair of Burmester B25 speakers I reviewed in December. Although the B25s rolled off quickly below 40Hz, as heard on the low frequency warble tones, on Editor's Choice (Stereophile STPH016-2), I still found myself enveloped by the sustained pedal chords of the Lay Family Concert Organ during Timothy Seelig and the Turtle Creek Chorale's performance of John Rutter's The Lord Is My Light and My Salvation, from Requiem (CD, Reference RR-57CD), and by the staccato synthesizer notes in "Something's Wrong," from Randy Edelman's score for the movie My Cousin Vinny (CD, Varèse Sarabande VSD-5364). Subtle changes in pitch could be easily discerned in the synthesizer notes in the "Behind the Veil," from Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop (CD, Epic EK 44313), and in the timpani notes in Eiji Oue and the Minnesota Symphony's recording of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring (CD, Reference RR-70CD).

Additionally, the BCD-1 easily captured the wide dynamic range of David Bowie's whisper-to-scream introduction to "Putting Out Fire," from the Cat People soundtrack (CD, MCA MCAD-1498); the eerie synthesizer in "Ascent," from Don Dorsey's Time Warp (CD, Telarc CD-80106); the startling piano scales that erupt from black silence during "The Handoff," from James Horner's Sneakers soundtrack (CD, Columbia CK 53146); the firecracker rim shots and drum beats mixed with calls from the audience during the drum solo in "The Maker," from Emmylou Harris's Spyboy (CD, Eminent EM-25001-2); the explosive drumwork from Mick Fleetwood that opens "Dreams," from Fleetwood Mac's The Dance (CD, Reprise 46702-2); and Mark Flynn's flash-bang kick drum and rim shots at the beginning of "Blizzard Limbs," from Attention Screen's Live at Merkin Hall (CD, Stereophile STPH018-2).

The only candidate I had on hand for comparison with Bryston's BCD-1 was the nearly-three-times-as-expensive Krell KPS-28c ($7500 when available), which had been connected with Krell's proprietary CAST links to Krell's KCT preamplifier ($8500). That I much preferred the Bryston's sound is probably due to the tremendous improvements in DAC circuitry that have taken place in the past seven years. (I have yet to hear PrimaLuna's ProLogue 8 tube CD player, which was reviewed in the July 2008 issue by Fred Kaplan and John Atkinson, and is far more comparably priced at $2495.)

I greatly enjoyed the Bryston BCD-1's detailed, revealing sound. I was just as pleased that its $2695 price gives you an extremely well-engineered, solidly built, compact CD player with a beautifully made, backlit remote control. Mated to my Quad ESL-989 speakers, the BCD-1 played with open highs, detailed imaging and soundstaging, well-defined and authoritative bass, and an ability to reveal the most subtle musical details. Like Bryston's B100-DA integrated amplifier, the BCD-1 CD player connects me to those crucial elements of music: pace, rhythm, and emotion. It's so good that I no longer miss the KPS-28c, and that's a strong recommendation indeed.

Bryston USA
30 Coventry Street
Newport, VT 05855
(802) 334-1201