b&k or Bryston or McCormack?

Greetings. I am purchasing the new Martin Logan Ascent (replaces the SL3)loudspeakers.My quandry regards amplification. My budget is limited following the speaker purchase but I need amps. The B&K Reference 4420 is on closeout at my local retailer for $800 (225 watts @8 ohms x2). I was originally considering buying either the Bryston 4b-st, of the McCormack 225. However for less than the price of one of those amps, I can buy two B&Ks and bi-amp. My room is 27 ftx 18 ft, speakers are for music primarily, but will see some HT action. My musical tastes are varied but primarily alt/classic rock. I don't really have the luxury of an in-home audition, so I thought I would turn to the web for some wisdom. Thank you all in advance for your thoughts and consideration, I really appreciate your input.
They're all good or better than good amps. The Bryston has the advantage of state of the art design coupled with a 20 year warranty. McCormick also has a fine reputation. However, you mentioned the importance of cost. So, B&K should not be rejected simply because it is less expensive. I don't think that you'll be disappointed with any of them. Modern solid state equipment from quality manufacturers is reliable and durable. Relying on a subjective opinion or even a consensus subjective opinion may be reassuring but may be of no meaningful value to you. You should at least have the option of a satisfaction or return guarantee. I would have more concern over a seller who won't offer that option than whether or not you might prefer the VERY subtle differences of one amp over the others.
I have a pair of the SL3s and upgraded my McCormack DNA 0.5 to a used McCormack DNA 1/Rev B for about $1600. Within the confines of my room, system, budget, and ears this was the combination that worked for me. The latest Stereophile compares the 225 with a DNA 1/Rev A and puts it as basically a wash.
Out of the three mentioned, the McCormack is probably the best sounding. However, it does appear that you have a pretty good sized room with speakers that are not especially efficient. While the sound quality that they are capable of is quite reasonable, the added headroom and dynamics that they would offer in your specific situation along with the price might outweigh the better sonics of the Mac. Since your primarily a "rocker", this further reinforces my thoughts on this. You can't have enough power when your jamming. Just be careful with your speakers. Adding an electronic crossover sometime down the road would further enhance both sonics and system efficiency. Check out Marchand for something like that when the time comes. Sean >
I own a B&K EX4420 2-channel amp. My associated equipment is as follows: Acurus ACD-11 CD player MSB Link DAC Aragon 24K pre-amp PSB Goldi Speakers NBS Dragonfly ITC's DH Labs Q-10 Bi-wire cables Denon 1500CD-RW Player I am totally satified with the performance of the B&K amp that I use and it has no problem handling the full range of music and frequencies that it's reputation promises to deliver. Is it quiet? Yes!! Is it powerful? Yes!! Does it have the same characteristics of the Bryston or McCormack? I doubt it. Does it sound better than either of the two amps in question? That's relevant to your system and how it's put together. Do I wish I owned a Bryston or McCormack? For bragging rights maybe. Hey, I did always want to date the prom queen back in the days but my girlfriend who ended up being my wife turned out to be the steal of the century!!!
I've owned the B&K 4420. It was very nice but I bought a pair of Hales Rev 3s that are a difficult load. Mr. Hales (speaker designer) suggested the Aragon 4004 or 8008 for their effortless ability to drive difficult loads. I havn't listened to the Bryston but many people compare the sound of the Bryston with the Aragon. If I didn't have the Hales I would have been very happy with the B&K and saved some cash. Don't let what is currently popular change you decision. The B&K will do the trick unless you have very difficult to drive speakers.
Mspencerod: Sorry, I should have looked at your speakers more carefully. I just checked the Martin Logan web site and your speakers might be a difficult load. (4 ohms, 1.2 ohms at 20kHz) You might want to look for a amp that doubles down (ie. doubles wattage when halfing the load). Ignore the power ratings, especially at 8 ohms. The B&K is rated 225 watt/8 ohm but only 350 at 4 ohms. To double down it would need to go from 225 to 450. You might want to call Martin Logan and see if they can suggest some amplifiers (after all they designed the speaker).
By separating the high frequencies from the low frequencies, you effectively double the power reserve of each amplifier and increase its stability. Since he would have a dedicated amp to deal with the "low current" sections ( panels ) at the reactive high frequency points WITHOUT having to deal with the high current demands of low frequency reproduction, he should be fine. In turn, the current demands needed for low frequency reproduction would not be affected by the tweeters reactance at very high frequencies, letting it concentrate on supplying power where it is needed most. As mentioned, an electronic crossover would further increase the efficiency of the system and allow fine tuning / tailoring to meet the tonal balance of ones' room. Kev's suggesting about contacting Martin Logan is a very valid one though and would surely be worth the time and money. Sean >
The Ascent is no big deal to drive, a 1 ohm dip at high frequencies will not present a problem and is not a difficult load. There are not huge impendance swings with this speaker -- this is the real challenge -- so, without question, any of the amps you mention should be fine. Why am I so sure? I'm driving CLS's with a McCormack DNA1 Deluxe and am quite happy. (Can I do better? "Yes". But this the amp I had on hand. There's more possible with a high current/voltage tube amp and a REL sub-woofer -- my next moves -- but since this amp drives the speakers without effort, images well and makes damn fine holographic music I have no doubt whatsoever that whichever of the amps you mention will do a good job.) Just pick the one that sounds best to you. The person who advised bi-amping (imho one amp for the panels and one for the woofers is the way to go) is right on. This makes a huge difference with the Logan hybrids and gives you a great deal of flexibilty -- pick the best sounding amp for the panels and another for the bottom end. By the way, I hear that the Ascents do a much better job of integrating the woofer and panel than the SL3. Let us know how you make out.
I have owned the DNA1, B&K, and the Bryston 4BST. In my system, the Bryston was the most controlled in the bass and the most transparent in the midrange. The DNA1 was close. The B&K was warmer however. A very fine color, but pleasant. Almost tubey. You should use a tube preamp to get a little warmth also. The amp I would use with that speaker is the Aragon 4004 or the 8008 I think they call it now. The 4004 has worked well with ML speakers and can drive that wicked load. If you can find an ARC D300, that is a good amp with that speaker also. Even better than the Aragon, but more money. Try before you buy.
have had theBryston 4b for years,is real good for power-hungary speakers as those,yet is also open and clear,cant speak for those other amps,can only say you will be satisfied splendidly for the money,bob
In a direct comparison using all of the same components and speakers, a Bryston 4B (original model, non ST model) had a harder time driving some very low efficiency / low impedance speakers than did my old Classe' 70 amp. Keep in mind that the the 4B was rated for 400 wpc @ 4 ohms while the Classe' was only rated at 150 wpc @ 4 ohms. Needless to say, i found this pretty perplexing given the excellent reputation of the "built like a tank" Bryston's. It's possible that the Classe's dynamic headroom of 3 db's helped it out quite a bit, but it still sounded measurably better than the 4B. The 4B had just came back from their U.S. service facility after a complete overhaul and very thorough inspection, so i know it was up to factory specs. I also found that a Yamaha M80 sounded much better than the Bryston 4B when used in the same system. The Yamaha is rated for the same appr. power, but was much cleaner sounding all the way around. Needless to say, i sold the Bryston within a very short period of time. Just my observations ( for what they're worth ). Sean >