Bryston BHA-1 Amplifier Impressions and stuff

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by tommytakis, Jun 16, 2020.

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  1. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    If it matters, I go fully balanced on all my setups where possible. I have not even tried the SE inputs on the BHA-1. In fact, I don't even have an SE source unless I use an adapter cable for my Prism Lyra, which does technically bootstrap the circuit internally so it's not chopping off one leg. I could try that out later if people really insist, but it's difficult for me to change the cables right now given it's tucked deep into a shelf.

    rapid test setup...Mercury dac feeds to phonitor2, using phonitor preamp control to Bryston, BHA-1 level adjusted to match phonitor headamp output, using switch to bounce between phonitor headout and BHA-1. Both headphones wired for balanced, so I'm obviously using a TRS->XLR4(f) adapter on the Phonitor2 headout.

    Test song: Michael Jackson - Black or White

    HE-6: (unfair comparison as always)
    Phonitor struggles on power obviously; it works but taps out on heavy passages. BHA-1 wins easily here. The difference is exaggerated in my words. The phonitor has lots of power all things considered.
    BHA-1 pulls the vocals out, where they feel smothered on the phonitor


    HD25-13 (600 ohm):
    Phonitor is the study nerd while BHA-1 is the jock.
    Clarity better on Phonitor
    BHA-1 for slam
    V shaped tonality of the BHA-1 is exaggerated here
    Vocals here are better on the Phonitor, they are cleaner, whereas on the BHA-1 they are more upfront
    Instrument are a tossup, they are again cleaner on the phonitor but I like the oomph from BHA-1


    For my thoughts on Phonitor 2 vs X, I have a few posts starting here:
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/spl-phonitor-x-e.3574/page-8#post-346701
     
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  2. JeremiahS

    JeremiahS Acquaintance

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    I find that some solid state amps are revealing and can highlight the sound of your DAC better. You mentioned about lack of dynamics and this is what I experienced with the Gungnir A1 which to me sound veiled (especially in the midrange) and lack impact compared to the Sonic Frontiers SFD-2.
     
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  3. loadexfa

    loadexfa Friend

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    BHA-1 Loaner Impressions

    Summary
    Haha, RD and his shit posting.
    <I do the same comparison at home>
    Motherfu**r, he's right. For the most part I had the same impression with dynamic drivers too. I didn't dislike The BHA-1 as much as RD but I can't argue with the Magni3+ comparison. To those wondering if this an issue of going SE, I was balanced the whole time for the BHA-1 on high gain.

    Chain
    Roon (Qobuz + Ripped CD's) -> Pi2AES->Pavane->Freya S ->
    BHA-1 (Balanced input and output)
    Magni 3+ (SE)
    Stratus (SE input, balanced output)

    Headphones
    HE 6se (modded by RD), HD 800 (SDR mod), Clear, Auteur, Atticus

    General Thoughts

    Magni

    Considering the price point this is an absurd comparison but here we go...
    • Can hear grit in the sound
    • Most compressed sounding of the three. Air? Separation? What are these things?
    • Excellent tone, kept headphones feeling full and alive
    • Despite being compressed, still avoided the "wall of sound" feeling
    • Not shouty. This is my biggest concern with Schiit amps and DACs. Sometimes I love them, sometimes they shout at me and my ears cry.
    • Very pleasantly surprised at how broadly I enjoy this amp, was not expecting that. I hadn't done much listening previously even though I've had it for a month or so.
    BHA-1
    • Great slam while not overdoing it. Especially nice for some percussion
    • Great clarity
    • Instrumental tone is either dry or thin (or both)
    • Vocals (especially women), definitely thin tone
    • Tuning tasteful and balanced. I was not expecting this considering it's reputation for SLAM.
    • Tone my least favorite by a wide margin
    • Good air and separation
    Stratus
    • Great clarity
    • Excellent tone, easy favorite of the three. It's a little wet and rich. I'd call it tasteful, it's not trying to smother you with either of those attributes.
    • Less slam than BHA-1 but didn't feel lacking
    • Great air and separation
    • Presence by far my favorite. This amp knows how to present music in a "real" and pleasing way

    Specific Headphone Additions

    HD 800
    I only listen to classical with the HD 800.
    • Why don't I hate these on the Magni?? Interesting. Of course I'd still go with the Stratus but was expecting to dislike the Magni here.
    • BHA-1 thinness most noticeable with string and brass instruments
    • Stratus stood out even more with how well it handles busier passages
    Auteur
    • Sometimes liked the BHA-1 the best. Definitely paired the best with the BHA-1 of my headphones. I'm using perf suede pads.
    • Despite above, female vocals still clearly worse on BHA-1
    • BHA-1 great at making the Auteur come alive
    Clear
    • BHA-1 added some sharpness to acoustic guitar. A good kind of sharpness, gave it more life and grabbed me.

    Final Thoughts

    I was surprised by how much I like the Magni3+ and the displeasing tone of the BHA-1 considering it's popularity. The Stratus did not surprise me, it's still fantastic. :) The BHA-1 is definitely not for me, tone is one area where I don't compromise. The 6se pairing was particularly bad, a very poor tonal match.

    @Accrued thank you for loaning out your personal gear, very generous of you. :cool:
     
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  4. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    Nice review @loadexfa

    Sounds like my impression of the lack of "slam"/dynaics could be because of SE input but my impressions of the tone of the amp would have been the same regardless. It's understandable that some people would not hear this tonality. This amp was only like 40% to Gilmore tonality and a lot fo people think Gilmore amps sound great. I think an iPod sounds better than every Gilmore amp I've ever heard. Seriously. I can't stand that cold sterile flat sound. Talk about sucking the life out of music.

    And my impression of the Magni3+ sounding better than the BHA-1 wasn't meant to create a fuss. It's my honest opinion. I would take the Magni3+ over the BHA-1 if the price was equal. (Otherwise I'd sell the BHA-1 and buy something even better)
     
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  5. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    1. I have never read anyone say that about the sound of the Gungnir. I call BS.
    2. Have you ever heard a good tube amp? There are lots of bad tube amps out there.
    3. "revealing". Every time I see someone use the word “revealing” without enough experience, what they are really doing is blaming upstream gear for problems with the gear that is "revealing". On head-fi anytime someone calls a headphone "revealing" what they really mean is that the headphone is really bright and resonant and is making recordings harsher than they actually are. I suspect what you're dong is blaming upstream gear for the sound of your solid state amp's glare/etch/digititius/flatnes/lack of dynamics/cold tonality etc
    4. I have never heard a solid state amp that is actually "revealing" the Magni3+ has great tone but has sins of ommission. Good tube or tube hybrid designs are much more revealing of upstream gear and much more accurate tonally, dimensionally, and dynamically than most solid state amps.
     
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  6. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    I am not suggesting that it would affect your impressions but I wonder where was you volume control with balanced high gain? 7,8?
    In my view, unless you need BHA-1 for a monster like HE6, BHA-1 had a volume setting issue with all the headphones I used: HD800S, HEKv2, HE 500 even HD560 Ovation. I could not pass 9 and it was either too loud or not loud enough. The mod by factory to lower gain -12dB (high and low) changed it all. It just sounds much better set to 3-4 on low (HD800S) and 12-1 on high with planars. For me it was game absolute game changer. Not sure if BHA-1 loaner is moded or not.
     
  7. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    I’m pretty sure it has not had this modification. I had very little usable volume range even on low gain with the LCD-X and I think on high gain with the HE6 I was at 9 or 10 o’clock. It in fact played sound even with the volume turned all the way down on low gain with the LCD-X.
     
  8. loadexfa

    loadexfa Friend

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    Due to using the Freya, I have a lot of volume range, I was able to try from 11 all the way up to max.
     
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  9. loadexfa

    loadexfa Friend

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    I had a Gilmore amp and also hated it. I’m not trying to stir up a fuss either, my impressions are genuine. The BHA-1 definitely wins in some categories over the magni but is too lacking in others for me to like it better.
     
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  10. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    For the record I would never call the Gilmore Lite MK1 or MK2 cold or sterile. GSX Mini seems to be a departure in sound that may have those qualities. The Lite is more liquid, relaxed, warm...it sounds like a BJT Adcom amp for you 2 ch folks. Like a GFA-535 or something. Not quite as relaxed as Cavalli Liquid Carbon, not quite as authoritative as Mjolnir 1 or 2. Way warmer than MJ1 or BHA-1, or Magni 3+, yet more detailed and less hazy than Asgard 2.
     
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  11. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    I would :)

    Though I don’t know the names of his amps well. I heard all his amps back in his hay day pre 2012 when I was going to meets and am
    pretty sure the lite was one of them and I thought they all sounded like a crime against humanity.

    But maybe he found a soul in that egotistical pompous ass he resides in and made something good sounding since then?

    AFAIK Gilmore and Bryston are both in the “design by measurements” camp and their amps sound similarly wrong because of this. They don’t know how to listen to them and do something that defies THD but sounds better. Measurements are extremely limited at capturing what we hear especially with amps and DACs.
     
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  12. k4rstar

    k4rstar Britney fan club president

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    you guys are just describing the sound of Bryston equipment in general: pale tone, not much nuance, too much gain and brute force. XLR in or out is not going to make any difference in these areas

    it will be good for people who think everything needs to be balanced for no reason and fans of the RME ADI2.
     
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  13. loadexfa

    loadexfa Friend

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    The Gilmore amp I had was the Lite MK2. I don't remember details, it was a couple years ago, but if memory serves I think "sterile and boring" would have been my description. I felt the same way about the Drop THX 789, I never understood why that amp had so much hype after I bought it. (Never tried the 789 with IEMs, I know that is a popular pairing but IEMs annoy me, they make my ears itch.)

    For those that like Bryston/Gilmore and disagree with my description, that is fine with me. I'm not trying to change your mind. How we perceive audio is weirdly complicated. It's useful for all of our perceptions in these impression posts to help others once they know where their taste fits.
     
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2021
  14. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    ^ this
     
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  15. JeremiahS

    JeremiahS Acquaintance

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    About the Gungnir Multibit I'm sorry if I wasn't clear (English is not my first language so typing my thoughts take more effort). But I was meaning its weaknesses relative to other DACs. Compared to Chord Qutest, Sonic Frontiers SFD-2, or even its bigger brother Yggdrasil A1 there is a lack of dynamics and a kind of fog or haze about its sound.

    I also tried to say that some solid state amplifiers just transmit the sound of your source better than others. Right now I have AMB Beta 22, Dynahi and GS-X MK2. I feel that the first two impose their sound signatures more than the GS-X which is more transparent. I'm not saying this transparency to your source is a good or bad thing, just my observation.
     
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  16. wormcycle

    wormcycle Friend

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    If you set it on balanced high gain without the mod you did not even had to turn it on, I think you should revisit you evaluation if you have a chance.
    Preamp or the DAC with gain adjustment would be useful. I was about to sell BHA-1 a couple of years ago, until I heard about the gain mod. It was very questionable design decision by Bryston, lot's of people complained ,but you have not heard the BHA-1 potential unless you can operate it in the knob range 3-4 on low and 11-1 on high.

    I use it with everything from Ara (sensitive like hell), Vega, Etys, HD800S, LCD-X 2021, HEKSE, HD650, HD560. Different gain setting, different RME ADI-2 Pro profiles for all those setups. But that's not the amp for everyone, its strong points are black background with almost any headphones and IEMs, clarity, transparency. The tone changes significantly depending on what volume range you are able to use. What would surprise you the most is BHA-1 performance with HD800S.
    But with the knob between 7-9 on high it is thin, unappealing and I think there many alternatives in 20% of its price range that would sound way better.
     
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  17. wbass

    wbass Almost "Made"

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    FWIW, I continue to enjoy the BHA-1 and think it hangs in there, in many ways, with the DNA Starlett and EC Studio Jr, both of which I also own. I find it excellent with the HD800(S) and LCD-2 but mediocre with the Focal Utopia (think it's an impedance thing?). The volume control is weird and annoying, but I control the volume digitally via a Lumin streamer.

    I sort of wore myself out with A-B comparisons last year, so all I can say is that BHA-1 seems to require little warm-up time, has a great and evenhanded tone with the Sennheisers, and perks up the LCD-2s a bit in a way I enjoy.

    To each his/her own however. If it doesn't work for you, I'm not here to say otherwise. Funny how the hype trains sometimes change direction.
     
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    Last edited: Aug 15, 2021
  18. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    Gimore Lite MK2 and THX 789 are not even in the same ballpark. One has dynamics, one is a congested mess. I also forget you guys all used to craptastic stock power supply. It is flat and boring with that poor excuse for an SMPS. Thing improve drastically with an LPS, but that puts it as a $700 amp - which may or may not be some people's bag.

    I find it funny for those that absolutely love the BHA-1 or thw Gilmore and some absolutely hate it. I for one don't want a lazy, slow, hazy, warm poo, congested, amp. For @loadexfa, @rhythmdevils, and @k4rstar, what SS amps have done it for you that you really liked (besides Magni 3, some for real amps please)? I am curious and maybe I might understand your preferences.

    All this is making me feel like I should try a Magni 3+ again. All I remember from 3 is dull, but aggressive until full volume, then the dynamics really showed up. It just too constraind at actual true listening volume.
     
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  19. loadexfa

    loadexfa Friend

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    Keep in mind it's been a while since I've heard either and never compared them to each other. I don't remember the exact details but I do remember hating their tone. The 789 struck me as particularly sterile, I got it in the first batch. With regards to mods/upgrades (power supply in this case), my thought is if I don't like it without mods/upgrades, I'm at a much higher risk of wasting money. If I already like something, I still risk making it worse or not hearing a difference but at least I know it has a foundation that I like.

    I find these descriptors an odd choice: lazy, slow, hazy, warm poo, congested. I've never seen those applied to the Stratus nor would I describe my preference that way. I know you're not specifically calling out the Stratus but it is the amp that won my comparison. To be fair, it is by far the most expensive of the three, especially when you factor in the cost of better tubes.

    To answer your question, I like the Black Amp despite it's lack of slam and bass. It has fantastic tone and great clarity. Tone is probably the biggest factor when it comes to my enjoyment though I do love clarity, detail, and air. Tuning depends on my mood and sensitivity to fatigue on a given day which is why I have a variety of headphones.

    I also like the V1 Black Widow but am planning on selling due to fatigue issues. The tone is good and it has great detail for the price.

    FWIW, due to using a Freya, I have to turn the Magni to max volume to hear it. With amps, I've sometimes found a different volume level to make a difference but if I like/dislike an amp that doesn't change due to using the better volume position. In the case of the BHA-1, requiring a mod or a preamp to make it sound good at a specific volume level strikes me as a design flaw. I know it's not unusual for an amp to have an ideal volume level but this one is designed to prevent people from getting there for some reason. And listening at that level didn't change what I disliked.
     
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  20. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    We had a meetup yesterday so I got to try out the BHA-1 with a bunch of other headphones. The general gist that I got is that the BHA-1 seems to be a moderately polarizing amp depending on the headphones use. I still maintain that it has a nearly V-shaped sound and puts in a lot of slam and energy, though not universally. Other notes below.

    Comparisons strictly vs the SPL Phonitor 2 (which as a whole "played nice" with nearly all headphones), but also using the Phonitor as preamp to feed into the Bryston. Volumes roughly matched by adjusting the BHA-1 (typically around 12-3pm).
    Source = SPL Mercury to Phonitor, all balanced the entire way
    rapid fire test tracks = Michael Jackson (Dangerous - vinyl rip), Dangerous and Give In To Me

    Audeze LCD-1: wtf boxy sounding frumpus is this? it sucked from both Bryston and Phonitor. No winner here.

    Audeze LCD-4: sleepy yet detailed if that makes sense, and surprisingly power hungry. Got sleepier on the Phonitor, and got a much needed caffeine boost from the BHA-1. Easy nod to Bryston on this one. Still can't believe this headphone is $4k... give me a good LCD-2 over this any day.

    ZMF Aeolus: Fun headphone, I liked this one a lot on the phonitor, but in a complete reversal of the above it felt more dynamic on the Phonitor and more compressed on the BHA-1.

    Senn HD560s: ugh on Bryston, slightly less ugh on Phonitor... upper mid-heavy hollow sounding headphone only made worse on the BHA-1. SPL technically wins here but we're all losers with this headphone. How did they take the good sounding 558/598 series and turn it into this?

    Senn HD650: polite but nuanced on SPL, punchier on Bryston but rougher around the edges. I could go either way but give the slight nod to Bryston when the wind blows in a northerly direction.

    Mr Speakers Aeon Closed: a perfectly competent and clean sounding headphone that I just don't care for (except for the great comfort). Maybe I'm just biased against Mr Speakers though. Like the Aeolus, I preferred this one on the SPL

    HE-6 (og 4-screw, modded yadda yadda): nice and punchy from Bryston, I really like this pairing. The Phonitor simply doesn't have the grunt to fully drive this (the Phonitor X came closer though)

    Special mention for the Audeze LCD-R (just the the sake of dumping my notes in one spot), obviously these could only be tested on the modified Jot-R. But anyhow, these were kind of a disappointment. I know they aren't "true" ribbons but are more of a low impedance planar, but I was expecting more than "just another audeze sound". I feel like it had potential, maybe if they put some actual effort into tuning their headphones. Some say that it is the amp holding it back, but that still doesn't sort out the FR irregularities or the strangely closed in sound.
     
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    Last edited: Nov 20, 2021

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