By Lee Scoggins
Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to be invited by Mike Burns to his beautiful lakeside home in Dawsonville, Georgia. The Bryston folks were in town and showing off two systems, both with the latest Bryston electronic and speaker offerings. I’ve known Mike for a while and he is quite an audio expert. Mike helped me purchase an Audio Research Ref 3 back before I lucked into my current used Ref 5SE. Mike started Wolfsong Audio a few years ago and built the primary listening room in a garage building outside his house. It’s a beautiful facility with a nice office for Mike and a room with superb acoustics and a highly reinforced floor, much of it done by Mike himself. For this event, Bryston brought their top of the line stuff including:
- Bryston BLP-1 turntable and phono stage ($4k). A typically solid Bryston effort, the tonearm is titanium and has six different segments to disperse vibrations. A belt-driven machine, the BLP-a uses a high-torque, low-speed motor with a bearing that has silicone damping fluid to keep things smooth and very quiet. Platter is 35mm thick Delrin with a heavy clamp and a hardened chrome steel bearing manufactured in Germany
- Bryston BDP-Pi ($1.3k) digital music player. Built on the Raspberry Pi platform, this 1/3 width component can stream TIDAL and play music off a connected hard drive. The demo for this event was controlled from an iPad. Bryston also has an optical drive and USB converter that can connect in.
- Bryston BDA-3 digital to analog converter ($3.5k). This is what I was mostly intrigued about. I have followed the range through the BDP-1 and BDA-2 offerings and have been impressed but the BDP-3 adds DSD playback capability (PCM playback up to 32/384 khz). The BDA-3 uses AKM4490 chips and lots of flexibility on inputs with 4(!) HDMI inputs, 1 Toslink, 1 AES/EBU XLR, 1 RCA and 1 BNC SPDIF. Bryston does galvanic isolation on each electrical input and all incoming PCM data is reclocked to the onboard master clock. Digital audio is converted to analog by proprietary discrete class A op-amps for output.
- Bryston 28B^3 mono amps ($22K for both). The 28 B^3 is a solid state amplifier with 1,000 watts of 8 ohm power output and weighs 90 lbs. a piece. Build quality looks superb with thick front plates, handles, and an overall solid feel. Bryston claims the “Quad-Complementary” topology of the circuit design greatly eliminates higher harmonic distortion products in a way that mimics a Class A design but with much lower distortion. The Bryston amps come with the famous 20 year warranty.
- Bryston Model T Signature speakers ($9K for the pair). These tall tower speakers have a frequency response of 25hz to 20khz with a sensitivity of 89db and a nominal impedance of 4 ohms. There are three bass drivers, two midrange, and two tweeters. Very solid walls and a 1.5 inch thick front baffle created a very inert cabinet. They have large external crossover boxes in the Signature version where Bryston has focused a good deal of attention to correct minor non-linearities in the large set of drivers. The second system had the Bryston Mini-T speakers at $1.7k per pair driven by a Bryston B135^3integrated amplifier.
Mike’s main listening room has an arched ceiling and a fairly modest amount of acoustic treatments which is on purpose as Mike wants to create a more “real world” home living environment. A Bryston power conditioner and DH Labs SilverSonic cabling round out the system.
I have to say I was impressed. The amount of bass this system produced on the Model T Signature speakers was tremendous but not exaggerated. No doubt the 1000 watt a piece Bryston amplification was helping pressurize the room as was demonstrated at (too) high a volume. Of even more interest to me was the BDP-Pi and BDA-3 digital playback. It offered superb sounding digital on the source files we played. While it seems there really is no sanctuary from show track “No Sanctuary Here” by Chris Jones, the Bryston rep apologized in advance but said it would really show off what could be done. Dammit, he was right. The vocals and instrument rendition were stellar. All the detail was being pulled out of those hirez files by the BDA-3 and even 16/44 sounded quite good. Vocals had a proper amount of weight and the imaging was strong. The Bryston sound was a bold one and quite different from what I’m used to. But I kind of liked it. This a lot of sound from a $9k investment, which while not financially insignificant, was pretty impressive. Certainly a high value offering in a tower that can produce room shaking bass. Guitar reproduction was dead-on with a very lush midrange, but not exaggerated in any way. I am not sure a big classic rock guy would need anything else.
After an hour or so in the big room, Mike invited us to his home which sits next to the main room but further down the hill closer to the lake. This living room housed a more modest Bryston Mini-T and integrated amp system with digital from the older BDA-1. UPS had unfortunately lost the BDA-2 in shipping. No matter, it sounded very good anyway. The Mini-Ts on regular speaker stand sounded very good and the bass was also substantial, well above what you would expect from a small monitor speaker.
Wolfsong Audio is a terrific addition to the North Georgia and Atlanta high end audio scene and fortunately Mike will soon lead a meeting for the Audio-Video Club of Atlanta. Mike also sells Rogue Audio, Ryan loudspeakers, and Kii Audio (a personal favorite of mine). I believe our Canadian friends at Bryston are well set up for 2017. And I am not sure you can find a more comfortable auditioning environment for high end brands in Atlanta.
Now if I can just time my next visit to Wolfsong when there is boating weather…don’t worry Mike, I’ll bring the beer.