Bryston BDA-1 DAC, any thoughts?

Curious about the Bryston BDA-1 stand alone DAC. Anyone own one of these or auditioned one?
How does the remote volume control work?
Using it with or without preamp?
I have one. It doesn't have a remote volume control, you must use it with a preamp.

I prefer it to several DACs I owned previously, including the Benchmark, Lavry and Bel Canto. The USB input is not good, however. I use an external USB -> SPDIF converter to feed computer audio into the Bryston.
How do you compare it to the benchmark? is it worth upgrading to or should I skip it and get the Berkley?
I bought one 2 weeks ago and am amazed at what the DAC has brought to my system. The BR2 remote (sold seperately) does not controll volume, sources only and must be used with a preamp.
The BDA-1 is a great unit and is work a listen.
I use the Empirical Audio Offramp to convert USB to SPDIF.

Cerrot, I think it's a meaningful upgrade from the Benchmark. It's not as good as the Berkeley (which I have only auditioned in other systems) but I don't have an opinion on whether the Berkeley is worth the price difference. However, if you are mainly doing computer audio and you are planning to do USB or Firewire, I would probably skip both of these DACs and go with something that is optimized for those interfaces, such as the Ayre ,Weiss, Wavelength, Sonic Studio or Metric Halo products.
in the last 2 years I have had these DACs

PS Audio DL3

Benchmark USB DAC1

MHDT Labs Havana (stellar, btw)

Musical Fidelity TriVista

Bel Canto DacIII

Tube Audio Design PreDAC

Berkeley Alpha

Bryston BDA-1 (current and future)

I tested the Bryston and Berkeley at the same time, and I did think the Berkeley was all around a little better, more extended, extremely rich, but the Bryston was bit warmer, and the Berkley did not justify, in any way the extra cost. I couldn't be happier with the Bryston, it's great.
So the Bryston has no volume control of any kind, with or without the remote?
The BDA-1 is not a preamp(it's just a great dac)I use to own
a Benchmark Dac-1,it is a dac and pre in one,you could connect it direct to an amp.
i thought the music hall 25.2 dac was much better than the benchmark dac after changing the tube inside the 25.2. also, you have a choice of either solid state or tube output on the 25.2.
Well, recently I replaced benchmark dac with a modded Bryston BDA-1. Much better

If I may ask -
Who modded the Bryston and were you able to compare before/after sound? Difference with Benchmark?
I did not have a chance to hear it unmodded. However I reckon for about USd500 more than retail price, its no brainer to me.
Well compare to a benchmark its knock out in round 1. Its so much more analog sounding. I listen it for hours at time without feeling fatigue unlike benchmark, which even though its transparent sounding but certainly thin and digital sounding
Search dac section- bryston bda-1 se signature. True harmonix
Just a satisfy customer
So getting a 500 dollar mod ,and u didnt even listen to it, did u see if Bryston could or would recommend this mod
Coffeey, how many manufacturers endorse modding of their products and by implication auggestthat they are not done their best for their units?
Well, if I have a manufacturer I won't endorse any such upgrade.
FYI I bought 95% of my stuffs without audition because I m not as fortunate as some of u since I m fr Malaysia where we hardly got chance to audition products before purchasing.
I did some research, the cost was affordable, so the upgrade cost was a reasonable risk to take when I have PC that cost a lot more and LPs costing as much as USD500. Fortunately I like what I heard so far. So this is my logic and my own opinion. Right or wrong is very subjective
correction :
coffeey, how many manufacturers you know of, endorse modding of their products and by implication ( at least to me) that means they have not done their best for their units?
I have owned the Benchmark and now own the Bryston BDA-1.
To my ears the Bryston(non modded)is more analog sounding than
the benchmark.I found the BDA-1 very close the Bryston's BCD-1
Definately to me the benchmark is too digital sounding,we
all listen different,muisicians,non musicians ect.
Try them both, afterall you are the one that has to listen to either one,NOW ABOUT THAT WARRANTY.
I really like my Bryston cdp,and if their dac is that close,
WHY MESS WITH IT.Just a note,I preferred the Bryston's cdp over a 8000.00 tube cdp(and I really wanted the tube cdp),
but MY EARS told me different.
Larry Greenhill has a review of the BDA-1 in the new (February 2010) issue of Stereophile. He concludes:
The Bryston BDA-1 let me enjoy the best-sounding digital playback I've ever heard in my listening room, outshining even Bryston's own BCD-1 cd player. This might be related to the fact that the BDA-1 has two Crystal CS4398s vs. the BCD-1's single chip.... I give the BDA-1 my heartfelt recommendation for the highest recommendation in Stereophile's "Recommended Components."
I haven't heard the BDA-1, or the Benchmark's for that matter, but fwiw I own a BCD-1 and I've been very pleased with it, listening mainly to classical music.

-- Al
i purchased a BDA-1 after chatting with Drubin about them vs. Berkeley.

have had it a year and have felt NO reason to upgrade at all. i like having all the digital inputs as well---since i run my BD and DVR through the Bryston....therefore only 1 set of analog interconnects are used in my system.

i also took it to a professional musician who put it in his rack/studio for a few days---to say he was impressed is an understatement.

computer audiophile reviews both and says the berkeley is a tad better, but better off saving 3k and buying more music.

like just about any other product that gets modded - it will void the manufacturer's warranty. Hopefully there will never be a need to repair it within the 5 year warranty period or at least the modder will hopefully honor the warranty...
not a review specifically but I did notice that this unit is about the only DAC I've seen that will take in 24/192 as an input. lots output that but this unit seems like it will take it and upscale from there?

might be of interest if this is true and unique for a future proofing benefit.
PS Audio's Perfect Wave DAC input is capable 192 khz 32 bit data via its I2S, XLR, and RCA Coax inputs.
I am wondering how much difference the Bryston would make with the sound of a run of the mill cd player. I have an old "juke box" technics 110 that I like to let run occasionally in a secondary system. Could one expect a good result via coax or toslink to a the Bryston DAC? Anyone with thoughts or experience?
Tamara -- Are you sure that the Technics has digital outputs? They made various models of 110 disk cd changers. I took a look at photos of some of them in eBay listings, and none of the ones I looked at had digital outputs.

Re your question, though, I would expect the degree of improvement you would perceive by using a Bryston DAC to be dependent on the quality of the rest of the system, particularly the speakers. It might be overkill for a secondary system.

-- Al
Thanks AL
Yes, It is the SLP 110, and it has a toslink optical out. The reason I am asking the question is that I might consider connecting that to the main system every once in a while as I might, say, a music server of some type. I guess the jist of the inquiry is just how important is the unit that is reading the 1s and 0s. I have a feeling that doing that might be the real test of jitter correction. Surely someone has connected a not so great player. Just an interesting question to me.
I own the bryston bda-1 and i run it primarily from the aes/ebu input. I use a stello u3 as a digital transport for my computer files. It sounds fantastic, especially with classical and jazz. With rock its pretty good too. To be honest, i really feel that it sounds a touch cold and thin compared to my vinyl playback system though, even when the bryston is at its best with the stello.... Mind you, im not sure anything can sound as good as a good vinyl system. My vinyl system is a cardas rewired technics 1200 mk3d with silversonic output rcas, a fidelity research fr-1 mk3f mc cart, and a home-made diy pass labs designed pearl 2 phonostage that sounds so sexy its all i ever want to listen to since i built it.
But this is about the digital domain.

Im 30y/o.. Raised with records, then tapes, then cds which i always thought of as the ultimate and eventually into mp3 and then finally 24bit hi sample rate flac/alac files. So im fully invested into digital. so im not a stuborn old vinylhead with a closed mind... But i have to say witn complete confidence, the old vinyl junkies of yesteryears and today have it right. vinyl soud s better provided the investment has been made into it.. i have many albums in several mediums, always imprefer the sound of vinyl, despite the need to get up twice as often to flip and clean.

The bryston dac is,a fantastic digital Decoder especially when playing digital files via my stello u3 usb to aes/ebu transport.
My rotel cd player sounds better directly though when compared to using the spidif input of the bryston to play the rotel. I dont understand why, but it does. When i bought the bryston it was to play high sample rate digital flac/alac files from my computer, which is by far what it does best. But out ofmcuriosity i tesed the spdif output ofmthenrotel into the dac and the cd player sounds best without the dac.. The dac loses some much needed warmth that the cd player provides.

As for the cd outputs on cd players and the spdif input of the bryston. Well. I did an experient several times, Fully expecting and wanting the bryston to improve the sound out of an already truly wonderful sounding top rotel hdcd player. .. To my dismay, shock and surprise, i prefered the cdplayer to the brystons decoding ofmthe same cd. .. The cdpayer didm better job decoding the cds than the bryson. The rotel was more rounded and embodied. more lifelike, albeit its soundstage a tad narrower. I still i a/b it all the time thinking perhaps its my mood that has me prefer the rca audio output of the cd deck to the spdif.. . The bryston bda-1 just sounds a touch on the dry side. Occasionally a touch too forward, verrrrry wide and incredible imaging.. But i pine for a little more sweetness and warmth.

I read an article not long ago. The author argued that most disk transports have poorly desiged spdif outputs.. Perhaps thats what it is.. Maybe the rotel has a poor spdif output, becuas the aes/ebu input of the bryston is sweeter than any spdif source ive tried.

All said though... Despite the fact that the bryston ismthe best dac ive ever heard, i still wish it was on the sweeter/warmer side. Id love a mod aimed at improving the output components.. I supose its just that im spoiled by the class a circuitry of my phonostage.

The bryston demonstrates a very remarkable soundstage. Wide and deep, though sometimes a little too forward..
the bryston handles lower gain recordings better than than higher gain recordings... Which is why i feel it does so well with classical via its high sample rate file playback via the stello transport, Which rules all digital sources ive heard easily.

Always wonder why folks reply to a 3 year old post, but since your comments are right in line with some current observations I have made, here goes.

I have a Bryston BDA-1 and used it for a number of years, primarily because I had some issues with the analog output stages of a Cambridge Audio CD player (840c) I was using. I love Class A SS amplification and the opamp/IC output stages on the CA just did not cut it. Female vocals and some horns sounded quite strident; micro-phonics and ambiance sounded overemphasized to me with the CA. I then tried outputting the digital output to the Bryston and things sounded much better. But I would assume it is not always the case; I ran some digital out (SPDIF) from a Sony player as an experiment and the opposite was true.

But to the point of my response, I soon substituted the CA 840c with a "memory" transport PS Audio PWT and fed that via AES/EBU to the Bryston and another level of detail and resolution opened up. Much better than any CD transport/deck I had heard up to this point (but I was not comparing Esoteric level gear). I began hearing details on my 80's version CDs that I only remember on the vinyl. All these years I blamed bad pressings and early D/A cd technology, but in reality that info was there, just not getting it via PCM transports.

One small example. On my Caravan album "New Symphonia" (have both vinyl and 80's cd, recent remaster), there is a section where the drummer drops a drumstick just behind the lead singer in a vocal. Have always heard this clearly in vinyl and never in the cd version (not clearly anyway) until I got the PWT. There it was again. And that was not the only case. Clearly the memory transports are better IMHO than all but the very expensive (ie 2-10x) PCM transports. I believe that is simply because the memory transports have time to "attempt" to make a perfect digital copy of the FILE, not just an analog playback of a bit stream with error correction. But since they are still trying to play a CD in real time, they do not have forever to rip a perfect (bit perfect) replica of the sound source.

So if this is true, what about (bit) perfect ripping of a CD music source with software like dBPoweramp and playback through a system like the Bryston BDP-1/2? Well, I just got a BDP-1 and it is even better than my PWT IMHO. Playing FLAC files ripped from a given CD, and A/B'ing with the same CD in the PWT, with both the PWT and the BDP-1 feeding the BDA-1, direct comparison strongly favors the BDP-1 with the digitally ripped files via dBpoweramp. Makes sense to me because the dbpoweramp files are the only real assurance that the digital representation of the CD is bit perfect.

While the PWT uses a CDROM drive, it has a limited period of time (and buffer space) to "rip" a perfect digital copy, whereas dbpoweramp can make as many passes as it needs to of a particular sector in your computer optical drive, comparing results with an international database of prior ripped cds. It also has the advantage of being on most users PC systems having Gigs of RAM and multi-core GHz CPUs for crunching. Not hardware that even a $4k memory player can afford onboard. Once a digital copy is obtained, the Bryston BDP-1 does an excellent job of turning that file into SPDIF bitstream for the DAC.

So although the infrastructure investment/time in ripping all my CDs so they can be played through the BDP-1 is serious, I have found the sonic results to be worth it, as I am re-discovering my music collection yet again.

I am sure many out there will counter that high end PCM transports will sound just as good. But I ask how much further can you go if you have a bit perfect representation of the music? That is the ultimate goal for which all transports ultimately aspire, no matter how beefy the transport, how true the rotation rate and speed, and how low the jitter. It all must end in a bit perfect representation of the music file.