Bryston Middle T loudspeaker Page 2

With the Middle Ts (and no DEQX or other processing), large ensembles of all types and well-recorded operas were presented in large, holographic soundstages that approached what I enjoy with my multichannel system. Take, for example, the 24-bit/96kHz remastering of the 1963 recording of Britten's War Requiem, with the composer leading the London Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (BD, Decca 478 5433)—a towering performance that has not yet been supplanted by newer ones made with more modern recording technologies. With just a pair of Middle Ts to handle the massive forces and familiar acoustic of Kingsway Hall, there was thrilling new detail and impact, as well as a renewal of my respect and appreciation for the skills of producer John Culshaw.

In fact, I enjoyed a greater sense of presence and communication from this landmark recording than I did with two otherwise excellent multichannel recordings I had on hand: Gianandrea Noseda/LSO (2 SACD/CDs, LSO Live 719), and Richard Hickox/LSO (2 SACD/CDs, Chandos 5007). Nor was remastering the whole story here: I had a similar reaction to the classic recording of Puccini's Turandot with Sutherland, Pavarotti, Caballé, Zubin Mehta, and the London Philharmonic—on regular CD (Decca 414 274-2). Since its original release on LP in 1973, this recording by producer Ray Minshull and engineers James Lock and Kenneth Wilkinson has always been regarded as the best recording, per se, of this opera, and the Middle Ts gave me vocal and instrumental richness in spades, along with a clearly definable if somewhat changeable theatrical stage.

I think the Middle Ts' spatial performance was as much a result of their smooth, untiring treble as of the matching between the two speakers. The tweeters never called attention to themselves, but rather provided all the edge called for. Sara K.'s sibilants on her Hell or High Water (SACD/CD, Stockfisch SFR 357.4039.2) were rendered naturally, but the transients of strings and percussion also had snap and delineation (though the triple grilles clearly muted such felicities).

The midrange was equally satisfying. The Sara K. disc demonstrated how the Middle Ts could render a well-recorded voice with a most thrilling, somewhat eerie presence. The Brystons delineated Ping from Pang from Pong in Turandot, and revealed inner vocal lines of the choirs in the War Requiem. I make so much of the midrange presence because, while I found nothing to suggest that the Middle Ts were accented or peaky, they seemed to place images just a bit more forward in terms of distance, though not of character.

The bass, too, was outstanding for a speaker of this size, as attested by the sheer weight and power of the low end with the bass drum in the opening scene of Turandot, or the pipe organ (and everything else) in the War Requiem. Moreover, I could turn these recordings up to unneighborly levels with no sign of stress or limiting from the Brystons. I guess you might expect even more from the bigger Model T, with its trio of woofers and pairs of midranges and tweeters—but I doubt it could be realized in my living room.

The Middle Ts also seemed to put everything together just right, if not perfectly. Both a speaker's bass performance and the integration of its drivers greatly depend on the room and the speakers' positions in it. The Middle Ts were more tolerant of these factors than many speakers I've had here, and sounded good in almost any reasonable location. Over time, however, I found that, no matter where I put the Brystons, there seemed to be just a bit more lower midrange than I thought was right. At first, I thought, "Hey, this is great! Just listen to the power!" Male voices sounded natural, but somewhat richer and more macho than I'm used to. The same for lower strings and brass.

It was some weeks before I was sure that what I was hearing were a very slight emphasis around 200Hz, and a slight sag from there down to 100Hz. One can see this in the frequency-response graph included in Bryston's Quick Setup Guide. I don't want to make too big a deal of a deviation from flat of only ±1 or ±2dB in a frequency range hugely influenced or even swamped by room effects. I allowed myself to apply some correction in the form of DEQX or Dirac Live, both of which first confirmed Bryston's otherwise admirably flat FR curve for the Middle T. The result was simply icing on the cake, and the entire problem will probably be insignificant or nonexistent in most rooms.

In an admittedly unfair face-off, the Middle Ts sounded as cleanly and smoothly integrated as my B&W 800 Diamonds ($24,000/pair), and threw nearly as big a soundstage. The B&Ws, however, create a sense of silent space (audiophile air?) that enlivens the soundstage; the Brystons did not. Of course, that in no way detracted from the actual music the Middle Ts made. Drawing from memory and notes, I can make only generalized comparisons of the Middle T with other speakers I've auditioned in this room. Still, the Bryston competed well with the pricier B&W 804D ($7500/pair), the ADAM Audio Classic Column MK3 ($7000/pair), and the Aerial Acoustics 7T ($9850/pair). The Middle T went head-to-head with all of these models in the bass and midrange, but again seemed to lack their treble finesse. Bear in mind, however, that all of these speakers cost more than the Middle T. I suspect that the most appropriate comparison would be with Revel's Performa3 F208 ($5000/pair). Both it and the Middle T have two 8" woofers in a ported enclosure, and they're almost identically priced. Erick Lichte loved the Revels, but I've heard them only at a Consumer Electronics Show, and so can say little more than this: Those who have $5000 to spend on speakers should listen to both before making a choice.

I seem to have picked away at the Bryston Middle T. Though I have no reason to redact any of the criticisms I've made, I hope that I haven't obscured the most important message: The Middle T is an excellent speaker, and an excellent value at $5400/pair—it bears comparison with speakers costing much more. Its tonal balance is neutral, its power handling will exceed the needs (and the capacity) of most users, its bass extension is substantial, and, most important for me, it offers a generously wide, deep, and immediate soundstage with stable imaging. The Bryston Middle T is the real thing: a wonderful speaker at a reasonable price that can be enjoyed for many years as its owner basks in the security of its two-decade warranty.

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

william.meredith's picture

Made by Axiom, the K-Mart of Canadian speaker manufacturers.

Allen Fant's picture

The Aerial is way over-priced.

funambulistic's picture

The first time I saw the Model T, I thought, "That's an M80 - dual tweeters and all!" The Middle T looks like a beefed up M60. I am sure, in working with Bryston, Axiom has developed a fine loudspeaker (I have not heard either Bryston model) but I cannot help but be reminded of when I bought into the Axiom hype when the M22 was the FOTM on another review site. Not bad for the price but always left me unfulfilled...

Stanley1's picture

I have a pair of Axiom M60s and they are wonderful sounding speakers. I have to admit it took longer than usual to break them in, but was well worth the wait. Such clarity and sweetness with plenty of thump. I also have Harbeth Compact 7ES3 speakers which I love. But make no mistake the Axiom speakers are every bit as good and even better for rock and roll.

corrective_unconscious's picture

I don't know who else Axiom has been OEM'ing drivers for over the years, but it now appears they're trying to go upmarket.

I suppose the drivers could be of fine quality. What strikes me is how utterly conventional the Bryston speakers appear to be in every way. They might be good values for all I know, but there's definitely a complete lack of any unique selling proposition or visible tech breakthrough.

william.meredith's picture

My findings with the Bryston Middle T are consistent with those of the reviewer. Bryston's lack of expertise with speakers is reflected in the Middle T's lack-luster performance. It just doesn't present music as accurately and realistically with the type of imaging and soundstaging that can be experienced with more established and proven brands.

CliffS's picture

Ever since Bryston was sold off, it never quite was the same company.

Partnering with Axiom is just a prime example of squeezing out as much profit in a box as possible. These Bryston speakers are using the exact same mediocre tweeter found in most Axiom speakes.

JA revealed the cabinets are poorly braced in his tests and Kal shows just how ridiculous the grilles are and the ugly shape of the cab.

These would be fine speakers at $2k/pair but cannot compete with speakers in its price class and this is what I found when hearing them at CES. Bryston priced these speakers like they've been pricing their amps, way too high! But this is high end audio so if you slap on a high price it must be good, right?

Anon2's picture

I'll give Stereophile and Bryston credit for an honest effort and honest review with this product.

This is a first effort for Bryston. While they went to a maker of less expensive speakers, they did avail themselves of some manufacturing and design resources that would have been a difficult and resource-draining endeavor to do internally. They may go on to better things. They may abandon the effort after this first product roll-out. Time will tell.

Their manufacturing partner, while a maker of less expensive speakers, certainly has some knowledge of what it takes to make a more expensive speaker (though perhaps less R&D and actual experience than companies that devote themselves to obtaining these hard-earned findings from years of research).

This is the reason why I find it interesting, though I am not the expert who did this review, of how a first try at making a speaker gained such favorable comparisons to the notes of past reviews of the products of some very experienced, even eminent, manufacturers' products.

It is all part of the mystery surrounding the speaker industry. There are some manufacturers whose products are the result of unquestioned devotion to acoustic research (in small letters) and materials science. The results, which I have had the opportunity to hear at product expos, "speak" for themselves. Some of these manufacturers allow some of this technology to trickle down to their lower priced models. These products often gain positive reviews, no doubt with some recognition of "you get what you pay for." Still, the value per dollar proposition is good.

Then, in an industry with what I think many would say are reasonably low barriers to entry, we get a fascinating, and frustrating at times, array of products. Some of these products are in, what I have written in these forums before, this $3,000 to $10,000 gray range. This range of products, and others are free to put their own limits on it, is where the price for value equation becomes fuzzy, particularly speakers.

Yes, a $5,000 speaker is better than $1,000 speaker. But is it 5x better? Above the $10,000 level, for those who can afford it, there are products of evident merits given the prices charged to the consumer.

I have stayed out of this "middle range" of products mainly for financial reasons. But had I the resources to afford products in this middle range, I would be asking questions about what I am getting.

There are some unquestionably great speaker products, with credible R&D and advanced materials science, in the products above this price range. There are some surprisingly great values in the $1,500 and below range; Stereophile has ably reviewed many of these products.

It is this $3,000 to $10,000 range, with better electronic and driver components perhaps, but in the same low-tech encasement of the lower-end products (perhaps better braced) that make me wonder what all the extra money is going towards.

One observation I'd make in defense of all speaker manufacturers to some extent is that any high initial profit mark-ups, particularly when inventory stocking is involved, are offset by the physical distribution and inventory carrying costs of bulky, damage-prone, and slow moving physical inventories (compared to other consumer goods). Currency exchange rates and less-than-container/truckload shipping also impact some manufacturers, again my guess.

My concern is how much of the customers' money can and should go to cover these costs. Sure it is the consumer's choice to do what he/she sees fit. But with other unrelenting expenses, it's going to be a choice that collides with many other expenses of life.

An interesting solution of one very established name in speakers, and in another case the very maker of the Bryston speaker reviewed in this article, is to sell directly to the consumer through internet/phone orders. This centralizes any inventory stocks, probably promotes more of a make-to-order manufacturing process, and reduces physical inventories. I'm sure the consumer gets some savings out of all of this.

I often go back to a late 2008 Stereophile interview with a leader in coalescing speaker technology with advanced materials. The remarks of this speaker manufacturer resonated greatly with me (and if I daresay, with the writer of the interview). It often motivates me to ask these questions.