Bryston BP25-MC preamplifier Page 2

The line section had good bass extension, with a powerful, focused bottom end. Synthesizer-generated deep bass chords in "The Hit," from James Horner's Patriot Games soundtrack (RCA 66051-2) sounded clear and solid. The pace and energy of the choir's foot-stomping on Lyle Lovett's "Church" (from Joshua Judges Ruth, MCA MCAD-10475) were easily experienced. The Bryston BP-25MC rendered the full weight and power of the bass drum in La Fiesta Mexicana, from Fiesta (Reference Recordings RR-38CD). Bass slam came from the bass guitar and drum kit on "Behind the Veil," from Jeff Beck's Guitar Shop (Epic EK 44313). Gain-matched comparisons between my Levinson ML-7A and the BP-25MC showed equal abilities to render the impact and clarity of deep bass from synthesizer and bass drum heard on the "Main Title" track of Horner's Clear and Present Danger soundtrack (Milan 35679-2).

The BP-25MC's phono section was equally competent in the bass, reproducing 32Hz pipe-organ notes as well as the rhythmic drive and pace of the double-bass sections of orchestral music. This was evident in its accurate portrayal of the wide dynamic range and powerful orchestral rhythms found in Shostakovich's Symphony 6 (Stokowski/CSO, RCA LSC-3133). Similarly, the BP-25MC equaled the ML-7A in reproducing the rhythmic drive of Bartók's Concerto for Orchestra, as heard on Classic Records' remastered LP of the original RCA recording (Fritz Reiner/CSO, LSC-1924). This firm, solid bass was also heard on "After Anthem," from the LP of James Horner's Glory soundtrack (Virgin ST-VR-897678, 1-91329). The full orchestra and the Boys Choir of Harlem presents a dense, colorful sonic fabric; the BP-25 MC conveyed a lovely, warm string tone and the full strength of the soprano voices without strain or distortion.

The BP-25MC's midrange reproduction convincingly captured instrumental and vocal timbres. On "I Don't Get Around Much Anymore," from the When Harry Met Sally... soundtrack (Columbia CK 45319), Harry Connick, Jr.'s voice had just the right timbre without sounding tubby or nasal. On "Grandmother Song" (from The Raven, Chesky JD115), I heard Rebecca Pidgeon's delicate soprano center-stage in a palpably three-dimensional sonic image. The piano placement on that recording—slightly behind and to the right of the singer—is eerily precise, and was depicted with equal precision by the BP-25MC and the ML-7A, as were the dynamics of Pidgeon's voice. However, the ML-7A was slightly more transparent and more immediate, and did a better job of rendering the sweetness of that voice.

The Bryston BP-25MC captured the timbre of string instruments while playing two of my favorite excerpts from the chamber music literature. One is from the third movement of Haydn's Quartet in d ("The Quinten"), recorded live by the Lindsay String Quartet (CD, ASV CD DCA 622). This movement features a canon with two violins playing together in octaves, followed three beats later by viola and cello; its driving tempo has earned it the nickname of "The Witches' Minuet." The music was greatly enhanced by the timbre of the instruments, the warmth of the viola and cello resonances, the tonalities of wood and bow, the sweetness of the violin strings.

This recording contains the usual ambient audience noise found in a live recording, including coughs and chair movements, which added to the hall ambience. The BP-25 MC gave a wider soundstage than the ML-7A, with the cello far to the left. The ML-7A, however, was more neutral, with clear delineation of instruments and space. The '7a also captured more timbre from the cello and viola, more sense of wood and bow. Violin string tone was equally sweet through either preamplifier.

The second piece—the Assai agitato of Schumann's Quartet in A, Op.43 No.3 (Joachim Koeckert Quartet, Calig-Verlag CAL 50849)—showed that the Bryston BP-25MC was the ML-7A's equal in capturing the rhythmic pace inherent in brilliant chamber music. The BP-25MC captured the dark, swirling torment of the L'istesso tempo section, and its preservation of natural string resonance was quite involving. Dynamics and good transient response were also evident with the BP-25 MC, as heard during the opening movement of Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet on the original direct-to-disc vinyl (Leinsdorf/LAPO, Sheffield Lab 8). Both the ML-7 and the BP-25 MC were able to capture the dynamics of "Romeo Resolves to Avenge Mercutio's Death," totally involving me. While the BP-25MC did a better job of creating the orchestra's rhythmic drive, the ML-7A was somewhat better at conveying the width and depth of the orchestral sonic image, as well as its timbre.

The BP-25MC's treble register was extended and neutral. Space was well depicted, almost equal to the ML-7A's transparency and ability to reveal the sense of air around instruments. Generous soundstage depth and width were heard playing Holst's Chaconne (Howard Dunn/Dallas Wind Symphony, Reference Recordings RR-39CD). Driven by Bryston 7B-STs or the ML-7A, the Snell Type A Reference System created a seamless choral fabric behind José Carreras, spread across the soundstage in the opening Kyrie of Misa Criolla (Philips 420 955-2, DDD). The spoken "Well done!" was perceived correctly over both preamplifiers at the extreme left stage, where it appears at the end of Anna Maria Stanczyk's performance of Chopin's Scherzo in b-flat, Op.31 (on Stereophile's first Test CD).

Overall, the BP-25MC proved to be fast and powerful, and excellent in bass response and soundstage presentation. In direct comparisons to the (discontinued) ML-7A, the $2995 BP-25MC lagged behind only in terms of transparency. However, it does have a remote control for the volume and an internal phono module that accepts low-output moving-coil cartridges, which the Levinson does not.

Summing up
The moving-coil features and its purist, low-profile chassis and outboard power source make the Bryston BP-25MC preamplifier perfect for the audiophile market. It is optimized for quiet operation to handle low-output moving-coil phono cartridges. I grew totally addicted to the remote-control options, so I warn you right now: If you take this preamp home as a loaner from your local audio dealer, you'll buy it.

If you do, you won't be disappointed—the BP-25MC has world-class bass response and a midrange that can capture much of the natural instrumental timbres of chamber and orchestral music. Bryston has done very well with the BP-25MC; I recommend it as a solid Class B product for any system.

677 Neal Drive
Peterborough, Ontario
Canada K9J 7Y4
(705) 742-5325