Bryston BDP-2 Digital Player

From Revolution to Evolution

Equipment report
Categories:
Music servers and computer audio
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Products:
Bryston BDP-2
Bryston BDP-2 Digital Player

It is completely understandable why Bryston would want to “get out from under” the need to source the Juli@ PCI Audio Interface from ESI Audiotechnik, especially in light of the Bryston’s unrivaled reputation for long-term customer support. Several years ago, Bryston ran into a dilemma faced by many high-end manufacturers, when a supplier stopped building the drive mechanism used in its BCD-1 CD player. Unfortunately, that remarkably good-sounding CD player entered the history books far too prematurely.

Throughout my time with the BDP-2, I tested a variety of permutations, as outlined in the Configuration & Optimization article available on the tas.com website. Rather than winding my way through the highways and byways of that journey, I’ll zoom directly to the finish line: The Bryston BDP-2’s new Integrated Audio Device reduces coloration and digital artifacts even further than its standard-setting predecessor.

The first order of business was obviously to compare the BDP-2’s new Integrated Audio Device against the BDP-1’s customized ESI Juli@ PCI audio interface. Bryston’s BDA-2 DAC proved an ideal platform for this comparison, as its two BNC-coaxial SPDIF inputs facilitated simultaneous connection of both digital players. As I became familiar with the BDP-2, I began to hear residual colorations and distortions from the BDP-1 that previously had escaped notice, absent an even more neutral reference. (This inviolate truism of audio evaluation persists regardless of listening experience!) Compared with the BDP-2, the BDP-1 imposes a sweet sparkle in the high treble, with a glint of excess energy just below, accompanied by marginally over-ripe, rounded weight in the bottom end. It imbues music with a slightly loose “wet” vibe, and an engaging presence that remains enticing in its own way.

In contrast, the BDP-2’s new Integrated Audio Device exhibits a more strictly linear tonal balance, with more refined upper octaves and a bass range characterized by improved pitch definition, timbral differentiation, and expressive nuance. The BDP-2 opens up the volumetric space of well-recorded acoustic music, without the slight center-weighted emphasis of the BDP-1. During complex, dynamic passages, the BDP-2 does a better job of keeping everything solidly grounded in its proper place. With tighter focus and even less time-domain smearing than its predecessor, the BDP-2 renders every instrument and voice with more distinctive character and a richer tonal palette, since harmonic relationships are preserved with greater fidelity and presented with better-defined note shape, from initial transient through resonant bloom to natural decay.

I’ve listened to Wes Montgomery’s A Dynamic New Sound hundreds of times, but the BDP-2 granted me even deeper insight into the legendary jazz guitarist’s exquisite phrasing and expressive dexterity. The BDP-2’s superior timing accuracy was made manifestly clear by the scalpel-sharp precision of Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen dissecting the rhythmic complexities of Stravinsky’s A Soldiers Tale under Paavo Järvi’s expert direction. All considered, the BDP-2 is simply more transparent to the recording, taking a relaxed, unforced approach to uncovering detail in both the musicians’ performances and the sounds of their instruments.

After extensive comparative listening confirmed my impressions of the relative merits of the BDP-1 and the BDP-2, I moved on to assess other aspects of the BDP-2’s performance. Historically, I have found that the best BNC-terminated 75-ohm coaxial SPDIF cables convey purer tonality, richer timbres, and superior three-dimensional body than AES/EBU cables fitted with their reflection-prone XLR plugs. However, after testing a recent upgrade to my AES/EBU cable design via the BDP-2’s superior IAD output board, I am finally convinced that the AES/EBU interface is capable of performance that can match, and perhaps even surpass, SPDIF.

In light of the BDP-2’s superlative performance playing files from attached USB drives, I was curious to compare playback from networked storage drives. I copied a set of test files to the internal SATA hard drive of a Dell mini-tower PC, running a bloatware-free clean installation of Windows 7. Enabling File Sharing of the “Music” folder on the PC allowed the BDP-2 to access it as a Network Attached Storage (NAS) device. I also activated the UPnP/DLNA Media Server function of the Foobar 2000 music player program running on the host PC, so that the those files could be streamed from the same storage location to the BDP-2’s DLNA client.