Bookshelf / standmount speaker impressions

Discussion in 'Speakers' started by rlow, Feb 10, 2020.

  1. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    Anything with a more limited tweeter dispertion, standard 2khz or so crossover dip in the presence region, or darker tweeter will help.
    Dynaudio would be great if you can tolerate warmbutt woofers with a normal, sturdy tweeter.
    Quested has the Morel tweeters that are dark and can blow but the woofer rules.
    Older PMC are cool but are V shaped with smoothed bass and dry top. Typical Brit-fi New ones have build issues and the plate amps they use SUCK. They're not just like not up to audiophile spec like JBL. I mean they are Bryston class ab and fragile class D.
    Proacs are good but you must stay within the "studio" style ones. I don't know what they are offering now but they are like a standard 6.5" woofer hifi system meets a studio monitor hybrid. The drivers are not as cool as real pro shit. No crazy doped paper (ATC and Volt) or Kevlar/carbon fiber woofer goodness. Standard Danish paper.
    Some of the modern JBLs (708 and better, nothing without the tech from the pro line) are very good but have horn flare, underbuilt cabs, and a top end sheen. The waveguides actually limit dispertion (good for poor rooms) and make the sweetspot artificially wide. The latter can be good or bad. depending on the pannings.
    A lot of the AMT stuff is very good but has the sheen (from higher THD that is tuned) and small sweetspot. The small sweetspot means limited dispersion but its so limited you can't move your head a lot of the time.
     
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  2. murphythecat

    murphythecat Self Imposed Exile

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    I heard the same thing when i auditioned the scm19. no soundstage, a forward treble, but very good plankton and timbre. I slightly preferred Harbeth in the same room.

    Id be very curious if you could snatch a pair of AN-E or AN-J and Harbeth 30.1 and compare to your stack of speakers.

    oh and yeah Bryston sucks. terrbily overpriced for a junk class ab design
     
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  3. yunie_

    yunie_ Acquaintance

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    I was in a shop recently and doing a comparison between audionote ank and Graham ls5/9.

    I just did two songs comparison and was listening specifically to timbre and naturalness of sound. Audionote is very disappointing in that regard as compared to ls5/9. But the audionote being sealed, has a very tight punchy low end. The 5/9 seems so much looser as compared.

    One of the song that we've used, hotel california hell freezes over, everyone commented that the guitar lacks weight and doesn't sound like an actual guitar playing in front of you. But the kick drum on the an-e is as tight as I've heard it to be.

    Also, I was at the harbeth distributor and he was telling me how this lady customer of his, after home auditioning the p3esr, trade in all her audionote speakers, big floorstanders to big bookshelves, for 3 pairs of shl5+ and 1 pair of c7.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2020
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  4. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

    Slaytanic Cliff Clavin
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    The lack of “soundstage” or “depth” with ATC is due to the even, present midrange. ATC are very conservative and don’t do stuff like try to crossover an 8” woofer to a 1” tweeter for more bass at the expense of definition and detail. Very few 8” two ways sound acceptable but a few of the better ones are studio staples. ATC midrange domes are the only ones to not be overdamped in three ways. They don’t boost the dome in the crossover because the dome is heavy and overdamped like most other hifi and monitor manufacturers do.

    Most other manufacturers’ non cheapo speakers peak for midrange response and detail at the 6-7” woofer two way models. Midrange in bargain basement speakers peaks usually in the smallest possible model because the cabinets are so underbuilt and resonant, the drivers’ magnets so weak, and the intended amps or plateamps underpowered. Usually the 5 incher. ATC peaks in the single woofer three ways. Their SL dome is an amazing, unequalled technical feat.
     
  5. murphythecat

    murphythecat Self Imposed Exile

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    personally, I didnt think the scm19 had better midrange then the harbeth using a 8 inch + 1 inch tweeter. quite the contrary, the harbeth had better mids. its so wrong to generalize that 6 inch is better for midrange detail compared to 8 inch even if the challenge to match the bigger woofer with the tweeter is harder. I seem to constantly prefer all the advantage of the bigger midbass (less distortion, better bass, bigger image, etc)

    I think the "real" ATC speakers starts with scm50, the active version. anything under this seem to have really mixed up "review" especially their passive offerings.
     
  6. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    Harbeths ewww. might as well reprogram the motor of a Hitachi magic wand to vibrate at the frequencies of stringed instruments.
     
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  7. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    The reason most two ways top out at 6-7” woofers I thought is due to the crossover frequencies of most dome tweeters running around 2k. Unless you’re able to feed the tweeter lower frequencies, you’re going to get beaming from a woofer larger than 7 inches at a 2k or higher crossover, which will mess with their dispersion characteristics. Maybe not a big deal for nearfield if you have them pointed at you, but mid and farfield you may run into issues. I’m actually impressed at the off-axis FR of the Harbeth SHL5+ in that there isn’t a significant trough in the response around the crossover frequency, for that size of a woofer. I suspect the actual radiating surface is closer to 7 inches than 8, but not sure. I suspect part of it is also due to the baffle width, but I’m a bit out of my depth on the intricacies of speaker design.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2020
  8. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    And some people never get a crossover really right like Dynaudio hahahahaha. The computer modeled Waveguides let manufactures cross over lower to a piece of plastic like JBL. It works in the 305, 708, and M2. Not really anything but else but you can definitely hear that it’s crossing over to a spot where the tweeter is less responsive.

    Even in nearfield, the only super common 8” woofer two way, primary mixing monitor is the HS8, where the woofer basically doesn’t move at all and there’s a limiter slapped on it all the time too. That is actually the most common monitor in music focused studios that don’t still have NS10m or old school Genelecs. A7X declined in popularity because it’s harder to get stuff done on. The colorations on it are super euphonic in a bad way. Boosted mid/upper bass, low mid mud cut, crossover dip. Yeah.... it’s harder to mix on than Dyns with the unresponsive crossovers.

    btw the a77x is dope too. There are some used deals. It’s v shaped but sounds huge and good.
     
  9. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Buchardt Audio S400 impressions

    Intro:

    Never heard of Buchardt Audio? You’re probably not alone. They’re a fairly young speaker company that only seem to have gained notoriety within the last couple of years, mostly due to some popular YouTube audio reviewers that went ga-ga over their recent models.

    Since then, these speakers have become mini YouTube sensations, with glowing praise from just about everyone who reviews them (there’s a few written reviews out there as well). Buchardt appear to be a fairly new company based in Denmark and apparently they have ex-Dynaudio folks on staff/contract. They also apparently share some space with SB Acoustics as well (who also supply their drivers incidentally). Lots more background elsewhere if you want to know more about them.

    One other thing I will mention - these guys are one of the only speaker makers I know that actually publish a suite of measurements for their speakers. That should be applauded IMO. Would love to see others follow suit. You can find the S400 measurements on their site.

    Setup:

    18B65D08-0453-415B-86AB-F03676BC5117.jpeg

    I’ve owned these speakers for about 5 months. During that time they traded places in my system with the ATC SCM19 and the Graham Audio LS6 speakers. My room is about 10.5’ x 17’, and the speakers are about 3’ from the wall behind them and about 6.5’ apart. I sat about 7.5’ from them.

    Chain was: Sotm SMS-200Ultra Neo USB streamer > Yggdrasil A2 DAC > Freya preamp (tube mode) > 2 x Vidar Monoblocks

    Build:

    I purchased the white version because I’m not a fan of plain black speakers, and I had also read that the satin black paint they use was a fingerprint magnet. I also wasn’t a fan of the “smoked oak” veneer, plus it costs more, so I just stuck to white.

    301B031D-FA3B-42A9-B38C-B4B270FA47AD.jpeg

    The satin white finish is nicely done - smooth with no discernible flaws. But it’s fairly plain. If you’re into really simple looking minimalist/monochrome design, you’ll probably like it. They are Danish after all. I find the finish to be fine, but a bit boring.

    The black midbass driver and the tweeter/waveguide however make up for it - they look really cool, and extremely well made. The midwoofer is aluminum, but you wouldn’t know it due to the black coating that’s intended to provide dampening and eliminate any potential for metallic ringing (which I believe it absolutely does). The rear of each speaker has a large passive radiator that takes up most of the back side. Check out the Buchardt Audio website for a ton more info about the tech in their drivers and the waveguide. Binding posts are also very good and solid as well, mounted on an aluminum plate.

    Overall very good, solid build quality, but with a somewhat plain paint finish in the version I have.

    Incidentally, you can also get the S400 on occasion as a “Signature Edition” which uses some pretty spectacular (IMO) wood veneering. But the cost of that model is SIGNIFICANTLY higher (there are other enhancements as well besides the cabinets, including the crossover and internal wiring etc). @Metro purchased a set of these in the raw Nordic oak and they look awesome.

    Overall sound signature:

    Rich, warm, dense, full, smooth (sounds like a great coffee doesn’t it!), solid, punchy, cohesive and refined.

    Treble:

    These speakers have a very smooth and forgiving top end - these are not sparkly, airy or metallicy sounding tweeters. In fact, metallic instruments like cymbals, high hats, tamborines and even acoustic guitar strings may sound a bit too damped and not “metallicy” enough for some. But they’re not lacking in detail. I wouldn’t describe the highs as “rolled-off”, more than I would dry and smooth. It’s an interesting combo that I can’t say I’ve heard exactly this way before. This likely has somewhat to do with the tweeter waveguide providing controlled directivity as well. For me, they basically sound the opposite to the metal dome tweeter in the Focals. If you prefer the bite, metallicy, sparkly, airy sound signature of KEF, Focal, or B&W, you probably won’t like these. If however you dislike that sound signature and want something more forgiving on the top end but still detailed, these should be right up your alley. Although, as I’ve said, I don’t find these speakers to be rolled off on the top end, I would probably have to call them a bit dark sounding (or at least neutral), because they are certainly not bright.

    Mids:

    The midrange is sweet, rich, full and dense, but not in a bloated, muddy or smeared way. The clarity is still there. Vocals are somewhat forward in the mix, and are very clear and smooth with great body. These remind me of the Dynaudio Special Forty through the midrange (which was probably my favourite aspect of the Special Fortys) but without the midrange boxy resonance I experienced with those speakers.

    Piano in particular sounds excellent with great transients and a percussive quality with great weight, and a lack of blurriness in the notes that I hear many times on other speakers. Cello and violins have great tone and sound very rich and warm with great timbre. Warm, heavily distorted electric guitars like early Van Halen and Slash’s Les Paul sound fantastic and growly.

    Bass:

    These speakers have a very strong bottom end. The bass is very tight and very deep for a bookshelf speaker of this size, attributable to the aluminum midwoofer combined with the large passive radiator. I believe many could be fooled into thinking these were small floorstanders, or that a small subwoofer was on in the room. You probably don’t need a subwoofer with these speakers in a smaller room, unless you absolutely insist on that last octave. Maybe in a larger or more heavily damped room, but it will need to be a sub that’s fast and plumbs deep otherwise probably not worth it. My single Rel T7i sub only adds a small amount to the low end of these speakers. Bass is very taut but not overly tight and popcorny - it’s well balanced with great attack and the right amount of decay and solid weight. Great, great midbass too - not overdone or over emphasized, just really strong and punchy and full. Good timbre and texture too. Very natural sounding bass. These speakers probably do the best electric and standup double bass I’ve heard on a bookshelf speaker. Although it doesn’t have the lowest bass notes, or the power and pressure that hits you in the chest like a bigger pair of floorstanding speakers or a subwoofer, the quality of the bass is really quite impressive and probably their best attribute.

    Soundstage:

    Soundstage is fairly wide and tall, but not massive. Most of the stage width is still between the speakers, with occasions where things go beyond the sides.

    The stage is quite forward however and somewhat wraparound or U-shaped, with the center set slightly back. The more the sounds are panned to the sides, the more your hear those sounds coming from the location of the speaker (at least in my room, and I played with tons of different placements to get it dialed in as best as possible.) These speakers are also not great at depth - everything starts off very forward and never really goes a lot further back than the plane of the speakers. There’s a bit of depth there, but I’ve certainly heard far far better. Perhaps this is related to the effect of the waveguide, not sure. Layering suffers a bit here as well with many instruments/vocals sounding a similar distance from the listening positioning. Depth and layering is lacking.

    Imaging:

    As mentioned above, the more sounds are panned to one side, the closer images tend to get to the speakers, which ruins some of the imaging “illusion”. Between the speakers however, instruments are fairly easy to place but maybe slightly diffuse and less solid than some speakers. Imaging is good, bordering on very good, but not exceptional.

    Dynamics, attack/decay and plankton:

    These speakers sound quite dynamic (macro) and punchy, but I do think they need power to really sound slammy (think over 100w/channel, and even more will be better). Bass and mids attack/decay is well balanced - not too wet, not too dry. Sounds really natural. The highs as I’ve mentioned before though are a bit dry but smooth - you just don’t get the initial bite and the reverb tails like you get with some some speakers - the treble is more blunt.

    On plankton and atmospherics, I think these do ok, but don’t compete with the best, again likely due to the treble dryness and lack of decay. They don’t recreate the atmosphere/space in the recording particularly well, but they’re ok.

    System matching and placement:

    This is another one of those speakers that likes decently high power and damping factor - not necessarily to get loud enough depending on room size (I’m going to guess they’re actually around 86dB sensitivity, but rated 88dB), but you’ll need some juice in order to get the midwoofer and passive radiator moving - similar to a standard sealed design like the ATCs.

    I also wouldn’t suggest pairing these with overly smooth and dark gear unless you’re really trying to double-down on those aspects. They actually pair really, really well with the Schiit gear I’m using right now IMO, since they tame a bit of that top end incisiveness, and the Vidar monos really kick the bass out. I would be interested to try them with a pair of Aegir monoblocks, but I don’t know whether the Aegirs would have enough power or low end kick.

    Placement wise, they seem to be a bit easier to place than a rear ported speaker in that I could get them a bit closer to the walls without bloating the bass massively- up to a point. Getting them closer to the walls however kills the depth of stage even further, so I generally had them about 6 inches closer to the walls than my ported speakers typically are (the front drivers were about 3 feet from the front wall).

    Incidentally I did have a massive bugger of a time with placement for the first few weeks when I first set them up and was burning them in (which, incidentally they take a long time to do). I appeared to have a large room resonance around 145Hz (confirmed with Umik-1 and REW) that I could not kill no matter where I placed the speakers or my chair. Unfortunately this corresponds almost perfectly to the D3 note, and every time a track had a strong D3 hit, I would get this fuzzy/messy peak. Certain songs where this note is strong or repetitive drove me crazy. I was almost to the point of sending the speakers back, when I finally realized that the resonance would disappear when I stood up. So I tried raising them up a few inches with books, but no difference.

    Then I tried flipping the speakers over (Buchardt says you can do this) - Jackpot!! Resonance gone! (Again, confirmed with Umik). The bass range evened out perfectly and became tight from top to bottom. This is how I run them now (upside down). The height of the stage drops a little bit in this configuration, but actually not by much (at least in my room, I sit about 7-8’ away). The only thing I can figure out is that the height of the woofer and passive radiator combined must have been at the perfect height to create a standing wave at my sitting height.

    Overall thoughts:

    I like these speakers. A lot. They are great all-arounders and work with all music types from rock to classical to jazz to folk to EDM, etc (disclaimer: I don’t listen to much EDM).

    The only things they don’t do well is depth of stage and the “disappearing act”, nor do they have that top end air or sparkle. So for live performances and some well recorded acoustic music, you lose some of that holographic 3D-staging and those spacial characteristics and decay from airy symbols and acoustic guitars etc that you get from some other speakers.

    But otherwise I have no qualms about them. These are speakers I can crank up for hours on-end and listen without fatigue to recordings of almost any quality. To my ears, these are some of the best bookshelf speakers for rock that I’ve heard because of the low, tight bass, full smooth midrange and a top end that doesn’t rip my ears off on bad/bright recordings, but is still detailed and not rolled off. Maybe not the best you can find for jazz or live acoustic recordings or small ensemble stuff, but really not bad here either - female jazz vocalists sound pretty amazing on them.

    Overall they remind me a lot of the Dynaudio Special Forty (impressions to come), but I actually think they’re better in most ways. They sound fuller and richer without being bloated. Bass depth, quality and quantity is WAY better. The Special Forty had bass that sounded like it was trying too hard, sounded popcorny to me and too dry and not particularly deep. The S400s bass however is strong and deep and balanced perfectly (to my ears) between wet and dry - natural attack and decay. The Dynaudios also sounded rolled off and slightly dark on the top end to me. Although they had an airy quality, the treble definitely dropped off in level up high, unlike the Buchardts which are more even, but less airy. The Dynaudios stage a bit better than the Buchardts however, but not significantly so. The Dyns also have congestion and boxy resonance through the mids not present with the Buchardts.

    Pros/Cons:

    Pros:
    • Strong, deep and tight bass for a speaker of this size (and many times larger)
    • Dense, uncongested timbre and tonality through the mids
    • Clear, clean, liquid vocals with great body
    • Smooth unfatiguing top end
    • Relatively wide/tall stage
    • A bit easier to place than some ported speakers.
    Cons:
    • Lacking in depth and layering of stage
    • Never quite “disappear” (in my room at least)
    • Plankton and atmosphere not the best
    Either/or (depending on your system, music and preferences):
    • Smooth/dry treble that doesn’t have sparkle/air/decay and some metallic bite
    • Forward/intimate vocals and stage
     
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2020
  10. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    How much did you mess with toe-in? The contour response looks like they might benefit from being toe-ed in to the point where they're crossing in front of the seating position so there's as little room interaction above 1-2kHz as possible. Of course, every room is different... Thanks for the informative review!
     
  11. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    A fair bit, however I only crossed in front of my seating position once, and got a weird diffusion of the center image. I did see elsewhere this was suggested however, so I’ll likely mess some more with it. I do find the more you point them at/toward your ears however the more localized the sound from speakers becomes, but crossing in front I will do some more messing with and let you know.
     
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  12. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    Man, so much Bryston hate in here. I was happy running my SCM20 with a pair of Bryston 2B's in bi-amp configuration (I had unfortunately sold off my 4B and 3B by then). I'll agree that the price creep of the modern iterations is a bit much, but I feel the old ones are still decent value. You just have to make sure they've been kept in good shape. It's tough to judge an entire brand's lineup if your only experience is with one that's thirty years old with no maintenance.

    Also of note is that a big woofer in a nearfield monitor makes it really funky to try and get coherence between the tweeter and woofer simple due to the greater separation between them. Good/fancy design only lets you cheat the physics so much.
     
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  13. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    So I tried crossing the aim of the speakers in front of my seating position at a few angles and what I found was the sound finally separated from the speakers (good) and maybe added a bit of depth, but the overall stage narrowed and tightened up, and some of the mids became congested. I kept the speaker stands and my chair in the same position as when they were fully forward facing, so I may mess with that as well and see if I can improve things.

    However I suspect my room may be too small to use this setup - the reflected sound may be coming back too quickly to my seating position. Maybe with room treatments, but I suspect it may work better in a wider/longer room than mine. Others out there claim an improvement in imaging by crossing in front. I may have heard a bit of that, but other aspects were degraded and the overall sound was less open. The best toe-in I’ve found is almost straight ahead, maybe toed-in 5 degrees from straight.
     
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  14. exocer

    exocer Rando

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    Several months ago, I went to audition the Special 40s with hopes of falling in love with them. They were impressive but not exactly the sound that suits me. Aside from the sound, they were gorgeous. The S400s also get high remarks in the looks department.

    @rlow - how noticeable is the baffle slant on the S400s? I would think this would look a bit strange in the upside-down position, with the top tilting a bit outward.

    These exact two speakers were on my shortlist not that long ago (right before falling into the DAC rabbit hole). Very interested in your Special 40 impressions.
     
  15. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    The Special Forty, in my opinion look vastly better than the S400 in the painted finish. The cabinet on the Dynaudio, although I’m sure is not to everyone’s taste (especially color wise) is exceptional. The S400 is very plain and flat and monochrome. Some will like that of course, but the beautiful gloss finished vertical patterned veneer on the Dyns is awesome. The S400 look cool mainly because of their simplicity and driver design, but the cabinet is nothing special in the painted finish. Now in the Signature Edition, esp the raw Nordic Oak, that’s another story - beautiful IMO.

    The baffle slant when flipped over like I have them is almost unnoticeable in my setup and my listening distance (~7.5’). The actual slant is only a few degrees I believe, so not that much. If I focus on them, would I prefer them the normal way? yes. But actually if I didn’t have the room resonance, I would have had to get taller than the 24” stands I have now (or somehow raised them up) because I found the tweeter to sound a bit dull in that config, becuase it was too low and wasn’t at my ear level (and I don’t think I sat far enough away for the slant to compensate). I far prefer the sound of the highs on my 24” stands in upside-down configuration.
     
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  16. Walderstorn

    Walderstorn Friend

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    Having read your last review may i assume that the quest to find those characteristics continues?
     
  17. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Yep still searching for that exact combination of all aspects to suit my tastes. But isn’t pretty much everyone on here?? :D

    The Buchardt S400 though I could absolutely live with long term if I had to. They’re great and within the top 2 speakers I’ve owned, and overall I prefer them to the ATCs (but the ATCs still do some things a bit better).
     
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  18. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    I have no bloody idea what could be a reason of hating Bryston, I have 4BSST2 and when I tried them in the seller's room with some large floor standing speakers they sounded superb, absolutely perfect. They do not play nice with the treble of my Totem Hawks, but in terms of bass control, transparency I am more likely to change the speakers than the amp. Unless I will switch to powered monitors.
    So when I something like that:
    I just ignore it continue reading other posts it.
     
  19. crazychile

    crazychile Eastern Iowa's Spiciest Pepper

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    Since we’re on the topic of Bryston, I sold the brand in the early 90’s for about 3-4 years. During that time the amps progressed through the following series:

    B - I caught the very tail end of production when we brought in the line. Kinda muddy, but still a slight upgrade over the Adcom amps. Would drive hard stuff like Maggie’s and Thiels better too.

    B NRB- this series didn’t last long but was a slight improvement over the B series. Still a bit muddy but the highs weren’t quite as choppy as the B.

    B ST - This was a whole new amp. Nice tight bass, would drive about anything, and the highs were detailed but smooth. I owned a 3B ST with a BP5 preamp and loved it. But that amp was $1500 retail and I haven’t heard anything Bryston since. So now that the amps are nearly 3x more expensive than then, the value per dollar doesn’t pan out. Unless they sound like magic, but you’ve got a world of other amps when you get into that kinda money.
     
  20. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

    Friend BWC
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    Bryston is still trying to keep everything within Canada, and that's going to tank them eventually on costs. They used to have a foot in the pro market but it's all class D now. That crazy 20 year warranty is wonderful, but the market has developed an increasingly shorter attention span and that long warranty doesn't hold as much appeal as it used to. I'm honestly not sure how much longer they'll be able to last, and I'll be sad to see them go as I do genuinely like their stuff.
     

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