Review: Bryston 4B-ST Amplifier

Category: Amplifiers

Why do so many people, including dealers, dismiss Bryston? I have had this unit for two years now and it has done nothing but performed remarkably well and, as my habits require, with all kinds of recordings. Sure, some amps might sound better with small ensembles or female vocals, but if one listens to everything from Beethoven's Eroica to Sebadoh, you need equipment that brings you a full tonal spectrum, and I haven't found a whole lot lacking in the Bryston, particularly since I added the Richard Gray and a PS Audio Lab Cable II to the mix. But let me be more precise.
The Bryston provides consistent, quiet power, and is responsive to dynamic recordings, meaning, it leaps when I (or the CD player) say "leap." The Eroica, Hogwood version, starts out fast and furious. Likewise, Maogwai's slow, ascending jams ascend, and they burst when the lads kick it in, distortion and all. At first I thought it sounded a wee bit bright, e.g. with muted trumpets, solo violin, say, Pearlman's Bach recordings, or Dolphy's flute on Coltrane's "Ole," but that's all but disappeared now that I've paired it with the Musical Fidelity Pre and cleaned up the power with cords, a line conditioner, and PS Audio's fancy, shiny, plug. I imagine I might find a sweeter amp, but will it have the dynamic range and power of the Bryston? I don't know, and I'm unconvinced but what I've *read* (yes, I know-- no local dealers) that Classe or Nelson Pass gear will do the trick. And then there is the bass. Some folk think Maggies lack bass. WIth my power in order, my IIIA's have all the attack and richeness I want from the low end. (I hate boomy bass -- it blunts music and highlights what is often the least interesting aspect of a recording IMHO.) Take Acetone's *York Blvd.* All of the texture and richness of the erstwhile Richie's bass sings. And the two basses, one bowed, the other plucked, from Colktrane's *Ole* are articulate. Yes, articulate bass. It's a pleasure and the Bryston delivers it. Questions: At times I wonder if the sound stage could be bigger. I doubt it could be deeper, though. Dimensionality is great in my system. Also, I've heard folk complain of grain, but I'm not sure what they're talking about. If someone could help me with a concrete musical reference, I'd appreciate it until I discovered it and ended up wanting a new amp. Gripe: As many note, the binding posts area pain in the keester. Not a crucial issue in my view. Bonus: Twenty year transferable warranty. That makes this one very sound buy, new or used, but particularly used.

Associated gear
Magnepan IIIA
MFidelity A3cr Pre-amp
Arcam Alpha 9 CD
Yamaha CT7000 Tuner
Tara Labs RSC Prime 5000 Sp. Cable
Analysis Plus Silver Oval IC's
PS Audio Power Cord
R Gray Line Conditioner

Similar products
Musical Fidelity A3cr
The 20 year warranty is irrelevant!!!

Yes, it is always mentioned because it is unusual, but who would want to listen to poor sound for 20 years? Not I.

On its merits, the 4B-ST is a powerful SS amp that is very neutral yet smooth, and takes control of the bass with athority. It matches easily with other equipment, and in my experience doesn't have such a profound sonic signature that it masks other parts of the "food chain". In my system (Rega Jupiter, ARC SP9 II, Oracle Delphi MkIII, Magnaplanar 2.7, and my room!) it sounds great. I found the McCormack's rolled off and lacking punch (in my room!). Compared to Classe' the Bryston is more athoritative and better at unraveling detail (in my room!).

It is a wonderful sounding amp: big and authoritative, detailed yet warm (not euphonic, but warm), and revealing without a hint of hardness. To my ears it is not brittle, strident, or etched in any way. FYI: I listen to just about everything from classical to grunge, but mostly spin 50's & 60's Jazz.

The warranty, however, is horrible, it flutters in the breeze, crackles when folded, and is wrought with surface noise. Don't listen to it!

Brystons are worthy products on their sonic merits and like every component; subject to the associated components, source material, room, and sonic preferences of the listener.
I'm late to these reflections. Some thoughts in return. Of course the warranty is sonically irrelevant. For those buying used, however, it is a factor when considering which amp to buy. Is the amplifier "bright and piercing" in the lower treble? Not to my apprently deficient ears (dear Kevziek). I'm now using the MF DAC and the sound is sweet top to bottom, and across the spectrum: cymbals in the new version of "A Love Supreme" and on Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes," the violin in Bach's "Partitas," trumpet, alto, and tenor sax across *Kind of Blue,* soprano sax and flute on "Ole," alto and soprano voices (e.g. Fleming and Figueras), and so forth. To cut to the chase, I think some folk like tube-sounds b/c of what it reveals and conceals. Others don't. I have always found tube pre-amps and amps rolled off, and occasionally smothering with regard to upper range ambient detail. Is that acumen or taste? I don't see how one could resolve that debate objectively, so I prefer to leave acoustical character assasination to the side of the debate. I encourage others to follow suit.
I have spent a decent amount of time with the 4Bst it is a really nice amplifier. I think it can be a little hard on top sometimes but it may just be asscoiated equipment? I recently went through about 4 amplifiers until I realized that my speakers are bright. (I never claimed intellect)
The most notable attributes of the bryston are its ability to take control of the speakers and its ability to resolve.
Hey guys!!!
stop to be insecure about your audio gear, and spend your money on buying high quality records, and spend more time to listen to music. A little story, one of my friend, who knows classical music better than 95% of mankind, had a pair of Spendor speakers,driven by Naim audio equipment, with a Pierre-Clément (turntable). Ten years ago, he bought a complete audio system including Bryston 12B and 4B. He spent 10K also on his audio room, double sheetrock tichness, frequency analyzer study, 5000k of tube traps. the room modifications, was a major upgrade,that gave much better improvements than the upgrade of the equipments. He listen between 8-10 hours of classical music, 365 days a year. He doesn't read audio gear reviews, and he doen't mind. Before choosing, its new gears that includes the Bryston setup, he took 6 months shopping and listening to all the audio shop of montreal, listening to Krell, Naim, Linn, McIntosh, etc. He finally made his choices and bought also a pair of Pierre-Etienne Leon(speakers : Integrale), and a Sony X77ES cd player. He never was more happy, and after all theses years, he still love it, as at the time of purchase.
He never complaint about graininess, treble too forward, etc.