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REVIEW: Bryston 4BST Amplifier (SS) Review by Monty at Audio Asylum

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I nearly got rid of this amp. After corresponding with Bryston and talking with several Bryston dealers I decide to wait it out and I’m glad I did. In fairness to Bryston, they immediately offered to go over the unit and replace it if necessary. This unit took over five months before it began sounding like it should.

Right out of the box, the 4BST had an annoying mechanical or "white" quality on some recordings. These were mainly analog recordings reissued on older CD’s. Digital recordings sounded fairly good from the beginning. I also have a Bryston B60 which I use as a preamp. It took awhile for the B60(used as an integrated) to sound better, but not this long!

This amp has so many virtues I figured that even with the slight "hifi" sound, I could use it to biamp. I never had the 4BST clip and I’ve cranked it up to the threshold of pain powering PSB strat gold i’s. The bass capability of this amp is truly amazing, deep and tight even when brand new. The Telarc "Organ Blaster" disc will demonstrate this, as will Scott LaFaro’s bass playing on the Bill Evans’ trio disc "Waltz for Debby". I’m not into HT, but I think this amp would be a killer for that app.

The main adjective I would use to describe the 4BST is dynamic. A great dynamic range is available from a whisper to a cannon blast. This dynamic is evident even on chamber music or vocals. I guess I would say this quality is the opposite of polite. If you like polite you may not like this. It seems like there are more gradations of loudness between piano and forte than in other amps I have heard. Part of this may be due to the extremely low noise level. I turned the volume control to the max and could hear no noise with my ear right up to the speaker. That was after I operated the groundlift switch. Yes, ground loops will make the amp sound grungy. Just flip the groundlift switch and you clean it right up.

Neutral would be another adjective. A neutral perspective which when used with the PSB’s gives a slightly forward presentation that I enjoy on rock groups and jazz combos. This may not be what is desired on classical though. While you can hear the reverb of the room or hall, the presentation is much more forward than what you would hear on some amps like the Denon 100 watt integrated. Needless to say, it’s not totally the amp. Brass and woodwinds are impressive on a good recording, say Mehta’s version of "The Planets".

Resolution is quite good, but you need the right interconnects here. The amp sounded midfi with my old Monster Cables. When I switched to Silver Audio Silver Bullet 4’s several veils were lifted, unfortunately at this point the amp was brand new and the mechanicalness of the midhighs became troublesome. An audio dealer suggested a solution in the form of StraightWire Symphony II interconnects. These softened the highs, but also cast some of that veil along with a sense of compression back over the sound. Overall, though, the sound was musical and listenable, if somewhat midfi and bass shy as well. I listened to the amp with these interconnects for about a month until one night I noticed a change as the system was playing. I was reading and had a Haydn Quartet on. It was as if the recording went from mono to stereo. I set the book down and looked at the system. From that time on I seemed to enjoy listening to music more actively.

Today I replaced the Straight Wire Symphonies with the Silver Bullet’s. At this point I’m hearing pretty much what I want to hear. Very good resolution, and the vocals and violins have smoothed out on some of the "problem" recordings. The tonal coloration is beginning to approach the "burnished golden" tone someone wrote about. The bass is unbelievably dynamic and deep. Oh yes, I’m playing it louder as well.

From the beginning the problematic areas of the amp were mainly noticed in classical vocal and violin reproduction, especially older recordings. Most rock and jazz sounded pretty good. Now that the amp has broken in, it is even suitable for classical.

My opinions on other amps which I’ve heard lately: Bryston B60—excellent sound, sweet highs, resolution perhaps not up to the 4B, a bit lightweight—clipping time; Denon 100 watt integrated—smooth sound, overly polite; Proceed(the model costs about 3K)—better resolution than the Bryston 4BST, but has a mechanical sound driving Martin Logans. Adcom 555 Mk II—great bass, but not as tight as the 4b, loads of power, limited soundstage, not much hall reverb, somewhat dry treble and some sibilance.

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Topic - REVIEW: Bryston 4BST Amplifier (SS) Review by Monty at Audio Asylum - Monty 20:04:49 08/2/99 ( 8)