A Shout-Out to Bryston

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Solid-state power amplifiers
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Bryston 7B-SST2
A Shout-Out to Bryston

The comedian Emo Philips once said of women: “You can’t live with them, and you can’t get them to dress up in skimpy little Nazi uniforms.” I often recall this line as I contemplate my relationship Goldmund, the Swiss maker of my long-standing reference electronics. I absolutely love the way these components sound. But, yikes, are they frustrating!

The problem is inherent in the design. Long before recent brands like Soulution, Goldmund discovered the benefits of ultra-wide bandwidth. We’re talking megahertz here. As with your home Internet connection, the higher the bandwidth, the faster the electrons move across it. There’s no music up in the frequency stratosphere, but that’s not the point; the circuitry is lightning quick and therefore able to follow the music and produce transients with uncanny realism. Unfortunately, this extreme bandwidth also makes this gear vulnerable to all sorts of radio spectrum disturbances.

Further, Goldmund pushes their transistors hard. They feel that that’s when they sound their best, and I couldn’t argue the point. Of course, transistors on the edge will inevitably fail more often than those that are coasting along. The upshot is that my Goldmund gear spends more than its fair share of time in the shop. And, as you might expect, repairs aren’t cheap. I could buy a very nice amp for the cost of one recently failed monoblock module.

So there I was with only one channel’s worth of reference amplification, and a backlog of components to review. What to do? I thought of several manufacturers who might be kind enough to lend me something suitable, but as reliability—in addition, of course, to sound quality—was foremost in my mind, I approached Bryston.

Bryston is a sort of anti-Goldmund. Their designs are conservative and overbuilt by nature. They offer an unprecedented 20 year warranty on analog electronics because they’ve built in commensurate durability. This stuff is not only meant to keep working, it’s meant to take punishment and keep working. Further stoking my interest was the fact that recent reviews, including those from our own HP, have given enthusiastic thumbs up to the latest SST2-series amps, which I had not heard.

The company asked me what I’d be driving, and then came through with a pair of 7B-SST2 monoblocks. At 600 watts, they had plenty of power for anything I’d be driving. The amps sell for $7,990 a pair, far less than my Goldmunds but still squarely in high end territory.

The Brystons sounded good right from the get-go, and when I eventually got my wounded Goldmund back from the hi-fi hospital, I was able to make a direct comparison. The 7B was not as “Technicolor” as the Goldmund, nor quite as dynamic. What can I say—nothing I’ve heard is. But otherwise the 7B acquitted itself admirably in that intimidating comparison. Its bandwidth is smooth, neutral, and uncolored. The amp is quiet as carpet, and details never go missing. In my time using the 7B-SST2 in my reference system, I was always able to hear even the most subtle distinctions between components. Note, for example, that I conducted my recent survey of USB cables—not exactly the most differentiated of products—using the Bryston.

Although I was overjoyed to get my Goldmund back, I never found the Bryston wanting. And though I didn’t live with the latter long enough to formulate a full-length review, I felt it worth noting here how Bryston in general, and the 7B-SST2 in particular, came through magnificently when I was in a pinch. Thank you, neighbors of the North!