Bryston BDP-1 digital audio player BDP-2 IAD Upgrade

Larry Greenhill updated the BDP-2's audio board in February 2016 (Vol.39 No.2):

In the June 2011 Stereophile, I reviewed Bryston's BDP-1 digital player ($2195) and purchased the review sample. Twenty-one months later, Bryston released a new version, the BDP-2 ($2995, footnote 1). The new Bryston player looked great, and bumped-up the BDP-1's processing power, system memory, number of input options—now including six USB sockets in place of the BDP-1's four, a rear-mounted slot for a self-powered eSATA drive, and provisions for an optional internal SATA drive—and USB-port current capabilities, the latter a boon for users of high-capacity USB drives. The BDP-2 sounded just as detailed and dynamic as the BDP-1, but with more effortless highs and significantly faster load times. The changes greatly enriched the BDP's versatility and value.

On May 28, 2015, a Bryston press release announced that the BDP-2 had again been upgraded: The audio board now included a new Integrated Audio Device (IAD, above). This board is installed in all new BDP-2s; at the same time, Bryston offered an update kit ($500) so that current owners of BDP-2s could bring their players up to spec.

In its press release, Bryston explained that "The new IAD delivers improved specifications and replaces the current two-piece third-party sound card and SPDIF interface module (AES/BNC) utilized in the BDP-2." What inspired the change? First, the proprietary IAD has "the capacity to free BDP-2 production from the constraints of third-party supplied devices. Premium quality sound cards are challenging to source, and the IAD alleviates these supply chain concerns completely." In addition, Bryston suggested that the upgrade would improve the BDP-2's sonic performance, as a result of the new IAD's in-house manufacturing, hand-selected and -tested circuit-board components, consistent quality control, and the elimination of three internal connection points.

James Tanner, VP of Bryston, arranged to have an IAD upgrade kit sent to me. I asked Bryston to also send along their latest DAC, the BDA-2, to be included in this Follow-Up. Tanner explained that the BDA-2 differs from the BDA-1 in that it "employs an AKM DAC chip instead of the Crystal DAC. The USB input on the BDA-2 is what is called ASYNC which means if you use the USB input from your computer the quality is determined by the DAC not by the computer's sound card."

The BDP-2 upgrade kit included the IAD circuit board, a data cable, an internal power cable, multiple screws, and three different bits for a (presumably) user-supplied ¼" screwdriver handle. Most important, the kit included four pages of instructions on "How to Retrofit a BDP-2 with the Bryston IAD Integrated Audio Device," each step of which is accompanied by a color photo. The instructions made the upgrade a simple task, which I completed in one hour. I then reconnected the BDP-2 to my system and the AC; upon power-up, its front panel immediately displayed the latest firmware: S2.12 2015-15-15.

Only minor problems arose during the installation procedure, and I was able to get help via e-mail from Bryston's Mike Pickett, who quickly replied with helpful comments. First, the instructions say to use a No.1 Phillips bit to remove the two screws securing the AES/EBU connector to the rear panel, but Bryston had not included this bit. I pulled out all my Phillips screwdrivers and bits—but, as none was numbered, I had to find the right one by trial and error. (I was concerned that the wrong bit might strip the screw heads and require me to drill out the shanks.) Fortunately, the fourth bit I tried worked extremely well. Pickett said that Bryston had assumed that everyone has a full set of Phillips bits, but from now on will include in the instruction sheet's list of "Tools You Need" a No.1 Phillips bit.

Second, the BDP-2's power and data cables must be correctly oriented in their header sockets for the player to work: Bryston uses locking connectors that fit into their sockets only one way. However, the orientation of the cables' colored wires in the instruction sheet's "Before" pictures didn't agree with my pre-upgrade BDP-2. The power-supply cable's white lead was at the right as it sat on the power-supply circuit board; in the "Before" picture, it's shown on the left. During the upgrade, I made sure that the connectors went into the header sockets easily and then clicked to lock. When the task was completed, all three white cables were on the right; the instruction sheet shows right/left/right. Pickett: "If the white wires are all on the right hand side, it will work, but it indicates that the smaller cable is installed backwards. . . . Since both sides are backwards, it will work, however."

Third, I couldn't quite tell how to fit the data cable's 8-pin header into the motherboard's 10-pin socket—the image in the instructions is very dark. Pickett sent me a PDF of the instructions that was much brighter, which was helpful.

Several weeks later, I noticed that the BDP-2's top plate was hot to the touch. I switched the unit to standby, but an hour later the top was still hot. I removed the cover, but could see nothing smoking or in any way out of order. I unplugged the BDP-2 and let it sit, and in two hours the entire case was cool. I unplugged and plugged back in all the internal data and power cables and replaced the cover. The next day, I plugged the BDP-2 into the AC and turned it on. From that point on it ran coolly, with no change in sound quality. Bryston's Gary Dayton told me that only the motherboard's CPU generates heat; perhaps it had crashed. If so, it rebooted successfully, and presented no further problems.

Incidentally, with the BDP-2 powered up and its top cover removed, I saw a blue LED at the center of the IAD shining brilliantly (see photo). Pickett told me that this LED illuminates only when the IAD is communicating with the motherboard.

I was pleased to have installed the IAD upgrade myself, and wasn't disappointed with the results. First, I listened to the IAD-equipped BDP-2 with my Bryston BDA-1 DAC. Percussion transients were quicker, the timbres of different instruments were more involving, and dynamic contrasts were even less strained than before. Some recordings lost their etched quality. Changing over to the BDA-2 DAC enhanced my system's imaging: Soundstages, already excellent, were now deeper and wider, particularly when I listened to choral music through my Quad ESL-989 speakers. There was more air surrounding the soprano singing "Piè Jesu," from Timothy Seelig and the Turtle Creek Chorale's recording of John Rutter's Requiem (CD, Reference RR-57), and the pipe-organ accompaniment was as solid and massive as before, without diminishing the sense of hall ambience in which her voice blooms.

If you already own a Bryston BDP-2, don't hesitate to get the IAD upgrade kit. But make sure you have the ¼" screwdriver handle—Bryston says these are easy to find—for the supplied bits. And do request from Bryston the PDF file of the instructions, so you can more easily identify the colored connectors.—Larry Greenhill

Footnote 1: See my remarks about the BDP-2 in its listing in the April 2015 edition of Stereophile's
Bryston Ltd.
PO Box 2170, 677 Neal Drive
Peterborough, Ontario K9J 6X7
(800) 632-8217

audiomuze's picture

"...consistently delivering open highs, rich midrange timbres, a stunning dynamic range, and three-dimensional imaging."

You must be referring to the DAC!