- Written by John E. Johnson, Jr.
- Published on 15 April 2013
I tested the BDA-2 with an OPPO BDP-105 (as a transport, with the RCA digital coax output going to the RCA coax input on the Bryston BDA-2), Pass Labs XP-20 preamplifier, Classé CA-M600 power amplifiers, and Carver Mark IV ribbon speakers. Cables were Wireworld. Much of my music these days is in the SACD format, but I used the CD layer as the digital output to the BDA-2 in those cases.
Piano is a difficult instrument to reproduce, not only because its lowest note is 28 Hz, but the attack has intense transients. No better way to test this than with Rachmaninov, in this case, his 24 Preludes (London 443 841-2).
Vladimir Ashkenazy knows how to play Rachmaninov, and his dexterity as well as his interpretation are flawless. The sound was flawless as well. The Bryston delivered clarity to the attack transients, and they sounded unrestrained, testimony not only to the DAC chipset, but also to the output stage.
Ah Mozart! Violin Concertos, produced by the rapidly-becoming-famous Norwegian recording company 2L (SACD 2L38). The violinist soloing amongst the other strings and brass can get lost if there is significant IM distortion. As you will see in the bench test results, IM in the BDA-2 was almost non-existent. Thus, not only was the soloist Marianne Thorsen quite separate, she was still delicately integrated into the overall music. The SACD's high resolution capability was a gift to her playing in a note so high in the register, it must have been near the highest note playable on a violin. And it was clean, clean, clean . . . astonishingly so. Again, the 32 bit DAC and fine output stage of the BDA-2 really make a huge difference when listening to music like this.
Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms make up the "Three B's" of classical fare, but if one tried to create the "Three H's" using Haydn as a member, who would the other two be? Certainly, he is of the same genius as the B's, and this SACD recording of some of his string quartets (Praga Digitals 16136) demonstrates his prowess as a composer, rather than simply that he was prolific in output.
The four stringed instruments were placed across the soundstage, and easily identified in their position. Again, if there were significant IM distortion, the soundstage placement would have been much more of a blend, and the strings would have sounded harsh.
In summary, I would classify the Bryston BDA-2 as detailed and neutral, with nary an audible hint of distortion.