Part-Time Audiophile

Vancouver Audio Festival 2017: Bryston goes active – or what’s in a crossover anyway?

Tower of Power.

Bryston is a name that has kept high fidelity tongues wagging for decades. The Canadian company is well known for their powerful, authoritative amplification, and for their incredible 20-year warranty on their products. But lately Bryston is becoming known for another avenue in music reproduction: active speaker amplification.

Bryston BP-Series preamplification.

Vancouver Audio Festival coverage brought to you by Hifi Centre.

For those uninitiated in the dark arts of active amplification, and strange acronyms like DSP (Digital Signal Processing) which companies like Sonos, Devialet, and KEF are championing, I’ll attempt to enlighten you somewhat. A crossover is the electronic network which determines which frequencies in the audio signal go to which driver (tweeter, midrange, woofer). They can be simple (1st order crossover) or complicated (4th order crossover) depending on the number of drivers used (two-way, three-way, 3.5-way, etc.), and the type, and slope of the crossover frequencies chosen for each driver, etc. Wikipedia goes into far greater detail HERE.

Live an active lifestyle.

Passive crossovers – those which most of us in this hobby are familiar with – come after amplification, and usually reside inside the speaker housing, attached to the internal bracing or a dedicated board, and out of sight. Some more expensive loudspeakers have external crossover housings which are attached via a shorter length of cables when the components used in the crossover itself (capacitors, resistors, wound wire for induction) become too large to house within the speaker enclosure proper.

Active crossovers position the network before the amplification (as opposed to after in the passive design), and electronically filter the incoming audio frequencies to independent amplifier channels first, (usually one for treble, one for midrange, and one for bass), and then on to their respective drivers. One of the benefits touted by many manufacturers of an active design is that rather than having the incoming signal split to individual drivers from one amplifier – forcing it navigate multiple components in the passive crossover design to reach the transducer – each driver has it’s own amplifier output stage dedicated to controlling it directly, thereby allowing for more accurate control of the driver.

14B3 with 900 watts into 4 Ohms to keep things in control.

Hopefully that helps make things clear as mud… the whole point of which was to focus your thoughts on the active system that Bryston was showing off at the Vancouver Audio Festival being hosted by Hifi Centre. The full system list is at the bottom of the post, but the gear was doing a great job of showing off what the Model T Signature loudspeaker was capable of doing with active crossovers in this massive setup.

Playing a mix of streaming and local digital files, as well as CD.

This was the classic Bryston sound I remembered from my teen years, with tons of drive, dynamics, and SPLs. Regardless of volume level, the sound was exceedingly clean, distortion-free, linear, and accurate with crisp upper registers that possessed a sparkling clarity. Midrange had real punch, and the bass was taut, and fast.

A fun system that will get listeners turning the volume dial ever higher.

–Rafe Arnott

Bryston Active System

Model T Signature Speakers
BCD3 CD
BDP2 Digital Player
BDA3 DAC
BP26 Preamp
7B Amp (x two)
14B Amp
4B Amp
BIT 20 line conditioner