Bryston BDA-3 D/A processor Associated Equipment

Sidebar 3: Associated Equipment

Analog Sources: Linn Sondek LP12 turntable with Lingo power supply, Linn Ittok tonearm, Spectral cartridge; Day-Sequerra 25-year Anniversary FM Reference tuner.
Digital Sources: Bryston BCD-1 CD player & BDP-2 media player with IAD sound board; Oppo BPD-103 universal Blu-ray player; Sony SCD-C555ES SACD/CD player; Lenovo P50 computer running Windows 10 Professional (64-bit), Bryston USB driver, JRiver Media Center 22.
Preamplifiers: Bryston BP-26, Mark Levinson No.526.
Power Amplifiers: Mark Levinson No.334 (stereo) & No.536 (monoblocks).
Loudspeakers: Revel Ultima Salon2, JL Audio Fathom f212v2 subwoofer (2).
Cables: Digital: Wireworld Starlight (coaxial). Interconnect: Bryston (balanced), Mark Levinson Silver & Red Rose Silver One, Pure Silver, Totem Acoustic Sinew (single-ended). Speaker: Coincident Speaker Technology CST 1, Pure Silver R50 (biwire double ribbon), QED X-Tube 400, Ultralink Excelsior 6N OFHC.
Accessories: JL Audio CR-1 electronic crossover; Torus Power Isolation Unit Tot Max power conditioner (120V, 15A max, 1725VA, 6 outlets); Studio Six iTestMic for Apple iPhone6 & Apple iPad; Studio 6 Pro Mike1 Audio Analyzer. Listening room: 26' L by 13' W by 12' H with semi-cathedral ceiling, moderately furnished with sound-absorbing furniture. Large bay window in left wall covered with Hunter Douglas Duette Honeycomb fabric shades. Rear of room opens into 25' by 15' kitchen through 8' by 4' doorway.—Larry Greenhill

Bryston Limited
US: Bryston Service USA
30 Coventry Street
Newport, VT 05855
(802) 334-1201

georgehifi's picture

This could be one that pulls me away from Multibit, very nice measurements JA must be one of the better ones I've seen.
Pity/shame Bryston didn't see fit to include the digital VC that the AKM dac is capable of. Hopefully in the BDA-3 MkII??

"Output Volume (PCM, DSD) The AK4490 includes channel independent digital output volumes (ATT) with 256 levels at 0.5dB step including MUTE. This volume control is in front of the DAC and it can attenuate the input data from 0dB to –127dB or mute. When changing output levels, it is executed in soft transition thus no switching noise occurs during these transitions. It takes 7424/fs from FFH (0dB) to 00H (MUTE). The attenuation level is initialized to FFH by initial reset. Register setting values will be kept even switching the PCM and DSD modes."

Cheers George

MusicEar's picture

Using the internal volume inside the DAC means DSD has to be converted to PCM(according to AKM data sheet) which negate the effect of DSD recordings. Besides, it is preferred to use the pre-amp volume as opposed to digital to improve the SNR for low level details.

georgehifi's picture

DSD does nothing for me because there's no music available that I like that is "Native DSD".
Give me DXD (pcm) if in the future it can get the music content I like.

Cheers George

MusicEar's picture

Check out pure DSD recordings direct from DSD masters

strettonufo's picture

Really curious how playing back music files in all formats supported by the DAC via HDMI compares with playback via USB. Disappointed that the review didn't get into this.

ToeJam's picture

Thanks for the Bryston review. If it had MQA I'd consider purchasing it.

Will you soon be reviewing the Mark Levinson components used in this review? I'm interested in the 536 and 526.

enrique majluf's picture

Hi everyone, maybe it's silly what I'm going to ask. I request help to know if the Bryston BDA-3 being turned off can transmit video passthrough HDMI thorought. That is from a blu ray connected via HDMI to the BDA-3 and then from this to the TV / LED?


sfage's picture

“Hey man. What’s that box do?”

Let’s pretend it’s the late 60s, early 1970s. Bell-bottoms, long-ish hair, mom and dad had the console stereo and television extravaganza replete with the obligatory liquor cabinet. Rock and roll, right? Colour television? Fancy! Then, we all had that one friend that was an audio nut. So we called him / her up and asked where to begin. “Well, since it’s the start of the signal chain, you’re going to need a good turntable with the best needle you can afford.” So, the two of you got in the car and drove down to the audio shop. You’ve decided on a turntable, and now you begin to go down the signal chain. Preamplifier? Yup, I understand that. Then there’s another box and all it has on it is a power switch, a light bulb and not much else. “Hey man. What’s that box do?”

Flash forward to today, and guess what? Not much changes.

I recently purchased the Bryston BDA-3. Was it a financial tick? Sure. Good stuff costs money. But, look at it this way: a lot of people think of a DAC as an add-on. An after-thought. Well, it’s not. It’s like that 1973 turntable. It’s the start of the signal chain. It basically “is” that turntable.

The price is up there... but it won't sink your battle ship.

The BDA-3 is relatively attractive as far as DACs go. It has a serious face plate and chassis that’s made out of real metal. So far so good. It has a bunch of lights on it. Tells you what it’s doing. Groovy. There is a metric tonne of connectivity. There’s a whole bunch of HDMI, USB, optical, coaxial and other stuff. I can’t think of what one could possibly need beyond that.

Is it eye candy? I dunno. The point of the exercise, here, is what the thing does. Right? “You must ween yourself off the eye-candy roller-coaster, grasshopper.”

The BDA-3 is musical. That’s the heart of the matter. It’s very musical. The sound stage, depending upon the recording, is really excellent. For example, I was listening to Macy Gray’s “Stripped” last night. The presentation of that recording is old school. It’s “as if” the engineer had two microphones and a quarter inch mastering reel at 15ips (the truth is, it’s a binaural recording). But, that’s it, baby. I was going to say “awesome” but that’s not really 1970. In the 1970s, the word awesome was taken literally. Hmm. Wait. The sound stage is awesome. Never mind. I’ll stick with that.

Time to move on. It’s 2018, right?

My academic background is music composition. I have written for all manner of ensembles in all sorts of configurations. It was my job: make sounds that work, and don’t turn in to a traffic jam for orchestra. While that may not matter to most people, it matters to me. I’m the guy standing there in dress rehearsal with the score in hand and a pencil. So, I am listening to the BDA3… like that.

Yeah, I’m grumpy… and the violin section is annoyed because it doesn’t sound like Mozart. Did they practice their part before they came to rehearsal? Well… umm… you know… NO.

I flipped on Markus Eichenberger and Daniel Studer’s “Suspended”. Clarinet or bass clarinet, and double bass. There are schwack of extended techniques for each of the instruments. Slap tongue, key clicks, harmonic sorts of stuff, col legno battuté, open string and fingered snap pizzicato. All sorts of funky stuff that I can guarantee you didn’t hear on the hit parade in 1973… or the TV commercial: we were all supposed to buy each other a soft drink.

The bass clarinet and double bass are in the room. Like, really… in the room. See, I love stuff like that. It’s like dress rehearsal, the final run-through and the audience is in the lobby sloshing vino ten minutes before the ushers open the doors and start handing out concert programs.

Structured and non-structured contemporary improvisation is not for everyone. However, we’re talking about the way the BDA-3 is going to handle this, right? Yeah well, here’s a really big seller: the BDA-3 is percussive. Slap tongue on the bass clarinet has that really great “thoop”. The percussiveness is as important as the pitch itself. They each have their own place in the sound of the action upon the instrument. The BDA-3 will give you that. All of it. All forms of pizzicato on the double bass is astounding. It makes you want to hear all of that stuff, more. The BDA-3 does percussion and percussiveness really, really well. In fact, I would almost say its this DAC’s strongest point.

Streisand? Barry Manilow? No no no. This is not that. In terms of choice of music, you came to the wrong show, brother-man.

Electronic and electro acoustic music: that’s another matter. I have been discovering some really cool contemporary Scandinavian and German Jazz lately. I found Thomas Strønen on Tidal a while ago. “I liked it so much I bought the company.” Oh wait, no, I bought the CDs. The other thing was shaving. Hippies don’t shave, or get haircuts.

Thomas Strønen’s “Pohlitz” is not like his other music. He’s a jazzer, generally… but this Cd is really cool. It’s not Jazz. It is what you might expect from a lot of electronic and electro acoustic music. There are musical “events” that happen and each of them must be accounted for, together, and separately. The BDA-3 will handle this panoply effortlessly. It separates these events and puts them where they are supposed to be on the sound stage. Each of the events sound good, and most importantly, sound musical. Remember, that’s why we’re all here.

My advice to Bryston is: go with what you know. The thing the BDA-3 does REALLY WELL is percussiveness. Does it do do percussion well? Yup. Really well. But remember, technically, piano and guitar are percussion instruments. The string is struck or plucked, and then it decays. But it’s not that it happens… it’s HOW it happens. It’s fast. The BDA3 is really fast. You know that comic book character that zips around the room and everyone else is slow-mo? The BDA-3 is fast, like that.

Does BDA-3 sing? Yup. You want Streisand? Go ahead. Violins in a section? Sure, why not? It’s awesome. You’ll want to buy the world a Coke. You want to go to the Copa Cabana? Go ahead. The BDA-3 will make you want to get out your tie-dye shirt and a pair of bell-bee dungarees. Maybe some Gene Simmons heels, too.

Shane Fage.

PS: The BDA-3 does not suffer bad recordings well. It won't fix bad recording engineering. In fact, "If any of you cats dropped the brown acid, make your way to the hospital tent, ricky-tick. It's a bummer trip, man."