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Amp/Preamp Asylum: REVIEW: Bryston 3B SST Amplifier (SS) by NeuGeo

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REVIEW: Bryston 3B SST Amplifier (SS)

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Model: 3B SST
Category: Amplifier (SS)
Suggested Retail Price: $1900
Description: 150 watt/channel dual mono power amplifier
Manufacturer URL: Bryston
Model Picture: View

Review by NeuGeo ( A ) on March 07, 2006 at 15:37:38
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for the 3B SST

I’ve been listening to the 3BSST for less than a week now. Purchased as a demo, I was able to get a terrific deal on a reference-quality amplifier with a twenty year warranty and no break-in required. I’m still struggling with words to precisely describe this amplifier.
I cant quite articulate exactly what it sounds like. However, this is a review and I’m honor bound to express my opinion. So here it goes. The highs are crystalline and extended. As extended as they need to be at a given moment. The midrange is entirely genuine and is everywhere that it needs to be and nowhere that it doesn’t. The lows? Bass sounds unpretentious and powerful, only when called for. That’s it, digression time.
I’ve had to re-examine my orientation or perspective in trying to determine the Brystons sonic character. Even after going through several of my favorite CD’s I’m still struggling with words to precisely describe this amplifier. The talented people at Bryston can best tell you in their own words why it is that I am hearing what I’m hearing….or not hearing!

"All SST amplifiers use Bryston's proprietary output stage, which we call `Quad-Complementary' [which] improves linearity to a new standard of accuracy, while virtually eliminating aggressive higher harmonic distortion products. The overall harmonic distribution...closely approaches an ideal Class-A output, except that the overall distortion is much lower."

Everything I throw at this amp comes back at me, sounding perplexing and different than what my ears were expecting. Seemingly the quality or production fundamentals of the recording will be the determining factor as to how this amp will sound. No two commercial recordings sound alike ( unless recorded in exactly the same way), consequently a different acoustic landscape is created with each different recording. The absolute nothingness that this Bryston imparts is neither accurate nor musical. Its just there! Try to recall the straight wire with gain ideal.
Theoretically speaking, isn’t that what an audio amplifier is supposed to do?
I expect the SET clique will rip-me-a-new-one for that statement.

“Brystons proprietary Quad Complimentary Circuit uses PNP (positive-negative-positive) and NPN (negative-positive-negative) complementary bipolar output transistors in precisely matched pairs on each half of the output stage. This complementary arrangement counters the non-linearity’s of the individual output

Music as processed by the 3BSST appears to emanate from all-around my Epos M12 loudspeaker, as opposed to directly from the speakers. The three-dimensional acoustic field that I’m experiencing, extends past the boundaries of the loudspeakers physical location. Music seems to come from sources other than the speakers and it is this presentation that I am completely unaccustomed to. The word soundstage does not appropriately articulate this effect. Yes, this is an effect. The listening room, the loudspeaker(and positioning), the upstream components and source material all contribute to the effect. The height, width and depth of the SST soundstage is astounding.

“…Precisely matched output transistors. Both the PNP and NPN devices must have similar (but inverted) gain and impedance values to work together. Once the parts have been selected, the circuit has several sensors to monitor the bias of each one so they can remain tightly correlated. Not only does it reduce the input capacitance of the output devices by a factor of four, but the output devices' transfer functions meet seamlessly at the zero-crossing point, resulting in virtually zero crossover distortion.”

My pre-Bryston set-up included the Conrad Johnson Premier14 Linestage, the Classe CDP-10 CD/ HDCD player and two Classe CA-101 (bridged dual-mono configured) power amplifiers. This combo is accurate and musical. So why then would a reasonable fellow like me attempt to improve on this? Allow me to digress a bit more.

The Holy Grail of Audiophilia is musical accuracy. By that I propose that the music sounds the way it’s supposed to sound, music’s harmonics are accurately reproduced and palpable (sounds like real music). It means that there is little or no deviation from the original recording. Most high-end audio manufacturers have made this claim about their products at one time or another. To some it’s a mission statement.
If this is, in actuality, a corporeal reality, then all audio components should sound exactly the same. The fact of the matter is that reproduced music cannot be made to sound like live music, with live music being the indicator for accuracy (electronically produced music is a different bag o’tricks). In the final analysis, it is actually the recording engineer’s intention that we are trying to realize. Can you hear what he heard?
In order to remain relevant and generate revenue, a high-end manufacturer must rely on audiophile/consumers with an acquired taste for specific extracts of reproduced reality. Its all about personal preferences. How do you like your music cooked? Burned to a crisp or bloody as hell?

And then there’s this. The hearing curve .

“As you slowly evolve your system, you’re assembling a musical jig-saw puzzle that is more and more enjoyable as you go along, and also is an evolving self portrait; the unique expression of your own, ever-more-refined musical and auditory sensibilities. Becoming a seriously committed audiophile means you’re working as much on yourself—your own abilities to be open, to focus, to be aware of your moment to moment responses to music—as you are on your system. Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, wrote. ‘the real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself.’… So it is with the very subjective and sometimes lonely experience of developing a high-end system that suits you, whether you get objective validation from your friends, or simply learn to bask in your own joy. You and your sound system are in an interactive, upward-spiraling feedback loop. As your ability to make subtle auditory discriminations becomes more and more refined—you are learning what does and doesn’t make you respond as if to live music—you will refine your system to mirror these same subtle sensibilities. And as you refine your system, you will have available more and more grist for the mill of your own self awareness. Dr.Michael Gindi, Clinical Psychologist, NY NJ.

My recent upgrade to the 3BSST was wrought by a need to see further into the music.
With its ruler flat frequency response, dead-silent background and seemingly unadulterated perspective of reproduced sound, the Bryston puts me where I want to be.I just didnt know where that was 'till I got there. This is a damn good amplifier (a damn good amplifier) that easily meets the criteria for “state of the art” and a true high-end bargain. Did I mention the a twenty-year warranty?
I Digress. Enough said!

Product Weakness: I cant answer that 'cause I havent figured it out yet,maybe later.
Product Strengths: sounds great

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: Bryston 3BSST
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Premier14
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Dual CS5000
Speakers: Epos M12
Cables/Interconnects: DIY
Music Used (Genre/Selections): jazz, hip-hop, rock, pop, sountracks, alternative, trip-hop, r&b, etc.
Room Size (LxWxH): 24 x 12 x 8
Room Comments/Treatments: Wool Felt Cloth(6 yards worth) hung on wall opposite of the loudspeakers
Time Period/Length of Audition: three days, average six hours a day
Other (Power Conditioner etc.): PS Audio UPC-200
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner
Your System (if other than home audition): yeah its my system,
Bought and paid for.

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Topic - REVIEW: Bryston 3B SST Amplifier (SS) - NeuGeo 15:37:38 03/7/06 ( 2)