Bryston BDA-3


  I have a lot of SACDs.  I am therefore intrigued by this Bryston DAC, claims to decode DSD from SACD over HDMI.  I can't find any reviews of the product.  Does any one have any experience with it?
mahler123
I just got one in about a month ago. I was auditioning various DACs and the BDA-3 interested me because it features the new AKM4490 chip. I did critical listening comparisons with a Sabre DAC, proprietary R2R DAC, and casual comparisons with some other DACs. I decided the BDA-3 to be the best choice among those, and am now using it in our reference 2-channel system and applied to become a Bryston dealer because of my decision on the BDA-3.

I feel the Sabre DAC has a little more distortion, and the R2R DAC is too laid back (not as punchy) with slightly worse transient response. The BDA-3 is clean like the R2R DAC but has the quick transient response of the Sabre DAC. I think there might be further improvements possible if I could select the AKM4490 filter, but that's not possible and I don't know if Bryston will make it possible. In the meantime, I am using Dirac Live RCS to help with that a little.

I have not tried DSD over HDMI myself, however I know people are successfully doing that from the OPPO BD players. I am primarily using the USB, coaxial, and TOSLink connections.
Thanks nekoaudio.   I'm also interested in the BDA-3, but its hard to find much on it.    I've been interested to hear how it sounds vs some of the Chord products and the yggdrasil.  

Your description helps a lot as I also am interested in keeping some of the quick transient response of my current sabre dac.
mahler123 ,
Two links for you:

http://www.hifistatement.net/tests/item/1708-bryston-bda-3

http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?PHPSESSID=otcv5gm25aa6k1a3umaam6slp5&topic=138471.380

The first link is in German. So you might want to use Google Translate.
Thanks milpai  The first link is actually referencing the second.  the google translator doesn't seem to work to well for me, but thanks for the link.
You are welcome.
You can reach out to some of the users on Audiocircle.com, who actually own the BDA-3 and check with them. Seems like a promising product.
If you look into the predecessors it may be somewhat helpful as well. Bryston is a company that continuously successfully builds onto platforms once they have established. They dont wander too far off the beaten path or rediscover the wheel so to speak. They will often upgrade as technology evolves and permits without necessarily making it known unless there are very significant improvements to be made. They never seemed to share the reinvention of the wheel type of mentality that so many companies seem to posses. Or come out with a new model after a few tweaks and improvements. Instead they will make improvements behind the curtain. I found this true with their products. With the progressively larger steps in digital advancements in technology you can pardon the obvious exceptions. An honest brew makes its own friends. Thats a good one.  
I don't know that looking at the BDA-1 or BDA-2 are going to give an accurate picture of the BDA-3 sound. The BDA-2 uses the AKM4399 chip which has a choice of two internal filter settings. The BDA-3 uses the AKM4490 chip which has a choice of five internal filter settings. I happen to know the filter setting on the BDA-3 is not one of the two available on the BDA-2. In my opinion the BDA-3 filter choice has a subtle but audible impact on the sound character.

Are there any Bryston dealers or customers near you? Trying to hear the BDA-3 first hand is most likely the best option. We have multiple DACs, including ones from brands we do not sell, at our location that make direct comparisons possible.
Not accurate but perhaps somewhat helpful in getting to know a little more of what the brand is about. But your right its mostly moot. I think this is what set me going "I think there might be further improvements possible if I could select the AKM4490 filter, but that's not possible and I don't know if Bryston will make it possible. In the meantime, I am using Dirac Live RCS to help with that a little".

They seem to stay on top of what people are after, or they just know what sounds good and stay on top of upgrades and tweaking of models to improve upon them. 

Your preconceived points are why I added the last bit. I have heard the BDA3 and do like it. But then a lot of people like a lot of things. I have a feeling this isnt helping much... 
Does anyone know if Bryston intends to add MQA support to their DACs?  I would hate to by the DAC 3 only to find it was added the next week...
This thread re:MQA with James Tanner may be of interest to you: http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=141825.0

Nekoaudio,

Can you elaborate further on the sound of the Bryston BDA-3...does it give some flesh to the wonderfully detailed but possibly a bit thin sound of dsd decoded by the Oppo 105D, and does it significantly improve on the more audibly dry sound of cd's and DVD audio decoded by the Oppo? 

If you are a dealer, where are you located?

 Thanks.

I think it depends on how much body you're looking for. Depending on what you're looking for when you say that, you may want to consider DACs other than the BDA-3. Although I think you will have to give up some cleanliness of sound and detail retrieval in exchange.

That being said, Dirac Live RCS might give you what you're looking for with your existing BDP-105D, or a new DAC like the BDA-3. I find it brings back some of the life-like quality to music that can be otherwise lost, without changing the overall sound signature of the rest of your gear.

Dirac offers a two week free trial period for their computer-based software. It's also available in a standalone box from miniDSP so you can use it with all your sources.

I'm located in San Jose, California. We carry Bryston and are a sales affiliate for Dirac so we can demo both of those. We also have some other DACs here that we do not sell but also highly recommend.
Nekoaudio, thanks again for your response.
I am considering the Luxman DA-06, the Bryston BDA-3, the Auralic, and am less enthusiastic about the Hegel  HD30 and the Wadia di322...of course this ranking could be far from the mark.  Considerations include compatibility with the Oppo 105D which thus far seems to do a phenomenal job with high resolution DSD files.  The OPPO will not output un-decoded SACD, which is not an issue since I possess very few such recordings.  As I mentioned it does wonderfully with hi res DSD files....possibly the audio is a bit thin....and less than optimally with CD's.  As I increasingly appreciate, the quality of the recording itself, CD or DSD, is all-important.  That said, the Oppo is wonderful but nonetheless perhaps the weak link in my otherwise high end system, so that improving on its audio output....CD's foremost, DSD's possibly, DVD audio (including blu-ray)....is worth some effort and expense.
Further thoughts and recommendations are of course appreciated.
Well, the BDA-3 is probably going to be the most functional of the bunch, considering you want to feed it DSD from your BDP-105D. I recommend you audition the Auralic Vega though, even if it won't be as functional as the BDA-3. Also, I personally find it a little harder to navigate through the Auralic UI instead of just having buttons for everything like on the BDA-3.
Reviewed by The Ear: http://www.the-ear.net/review-hardware/bryston-bda-3-digital-analogue-converter , also by Soundstage: http://www.soundstagehifi.com/index.php/equipment-reviews/977-bryston-bda-3-digital-to-analog-conver...  Hope these help!
Thanks, Bill K.  Unfortunately neither reviewer comments on the HDMI input
On AudioCircle there are people who are using the BDA-3 with HDMI and DSD. You may want to ask for opinions there.

http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=138471.msg1519263#msg1519263
I had a BDA-1 and BDA-2 and thought they were both excellent.

Well before the BDA-3 was released I upgraded my BDA-2 to a Berkeley Audio Alpha DAC Series 2.   The Berkeley had more resolution but I actually found it a little too clean (or maybe too detailed/analytical) sounding and missed some aspects of the Bryston (a little thicker sounding with more timber).

I then swapped the Berkeley for a Simaudio 380D which I love.   Not counting its ability to play DSD (which I've tried and sounds good)  I found it a nice mix between the BDA-2 and Berkeley.   Its super musical (by far the most musical DAC I've tried) with nice resolution and a little more meat on the music than with the Berkeley.   I have no idea how it compares with the BDA-3, but it is certainly a nice choice if you find a used one.   I've also never heard the  Luxman DA-06  but based on reviews of each, I wonder if they wouldn't have a very similar sound.

Nekoaudio and ddafoe,
You appreciate that the Oppo 105d will not through-put DSD
or SADC files...failure to do so for SACD appears so some sort of copyright issue, and DSD a technical issue.  So a  streaming device is required to input un-decoded DSD files to the DAC...in this case a Luxman DA-06.  The Luxman cover plate identifies it as a DSD-capable unit.
I therefore await the arrival of a streaming device that will allow me
to employ the Luxman for decoding of DSD....in this case an Auralic
Aries.
The result should be enlightening.
Thanks neko that was interesting.  There seems to be an issue with a loud 'pop' at the end of tracks played in DSD.
I believe the pop is addressed via a firmware update.

http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?topic=138471.msg1515738#msg1515738
Gentleman, and particularly nekoaudio,

I wish first to address sonic quality obtained with different 'outboard' DAC's, and in the following context.

The context is that I acquired a Luxman DA-06 in part due to
price and local convenience.  I had previously employed a Denon
1713UD, with Burr Brown 1795 chips.  Regarding the Denon's DAC, the sound was non-fatiguing but inferior to that obtainable with
vinyl, specifically employing the AT33sa and AT ART9 cartridges.  I replaced the Denon with an Oppo 105d, which uses the Sabre 1918 DAC chip, and noted an increase in clarity but increase in 'fatigue'.  Addition of the Luxman DA-06 as an outboard DAC eliminated the 'fatigue' experienced with the Oppo 105d's 'inboard' DAC, and achieved greater clarity than that provided by the Oppo.  The sound of CD's decoded by the Luxman and vinyl played with the AT ART9 cartridge was not not far fromequivalent...highly enjoyable, with the advantage possibly going to the 'redbook' CD's.

With regard specifically to the Oppo Sabre-based DAC and the Luxman BB 1795-based DAC, and after toggling repeatedly between these two DAC's and after now prolonged listening, it appears to me that the increased clarity of the Sabre-based DAC relative to the Denon's BB 1795-based DAC was in part fallacious, reflecting deficient harmonics surrounding most notably the high frequency sounds (eg violins).

So regarding the Bryston BDA-3, I remain intrigued as to how its sound compares with other DAC's you auditioned.  As you know, the Bryston employs an AKM 4490 DAC chip, and the Auralic employs a proprietary chip, both selling for the same price.  The new (undeniably high end) Mark Levinson 526 pre-amplifier employs a Sabre 1918 chip.  The French 'Totaldac' employs an R2R DAC, and is by one account superior to all the DAC's just mentioned save possibly the Levinson. 

Lastly, regarding the Oppo 105d, I believe that it will input and natively output DSD64 only by HDMI, and that it will 'support' DSD 128 only if audio data in that format is received via a USB-connected computer or streamer, in which case the Oppo will convert DSD 128 to PCM 24/88.2 and output if exclusively via HDMI in that form. 

As aluminum disks become obsolete and high end audio gravitates to electronic digital storage, and as the relative virtues of 'universal players' pale in comparison to those of streamers/DAC's and related processors,
I ask what role 'universal' players will have in the future, and whether DVD's, blu-ray or other', including operatic and orchestral audio-visual recordings, will equally transition to entirely electronic media,


I think you will find the Bryston BDA-3 to be exceptionally clean and accurate. However it uses a specific filter choice, and you may or may not care about its impact on the sound. Many people prefer that choice of filter so it is not a bad choice. However I like being able to choose the filter on the Auralic Vega.

I believe the Auralic uses a Sabre chip. I find the Auralic kind of sits in-between the OPPO and the Bryston, in terms of sound character. They're all exceptional products, which is why I use all three myself. If you are liking the Luxman because you find the OPPO has a bit more audible distortion (e.g. fatigue in the high frequencies) then I would guess you will prefer the Bryston.

But you also mentioned you wanted a bit more body. Which I'm still not sure you will get from the Bryston. Since usually that does mean a bit of added harmonics—i.e. a less dry presentation. Are you getting that from the Luxman?

Also, the Bryston brings out everything. So you will hear clipping on hot tracks and recording errors etc. Those same sounds are present but less audible with other DACs. Which may be undesirable depending on the music you listen to.

BTW - If you are hearing some high frequency distortion and thus experiencing listening fatigue, have you also considered your amplifier? It may not be solely a question of your DAC.
Nekoaudio, thanks for your detailed and well considered reply.   Let me correct an error in my last post...the Levinson 526, at $20,000.00, employs the new Sabre 9028 chip, which apparently will be available in the Oppo sonica at $800.00, and the new Ayre QX5 at $8000.00.   I believe that whereas the Auralic Altair uses the Sabre 9018, the Vega used proprietary DAC chips.
So regarding your comment that 'more body' is tantamount to added harmonics....a less dry presentation...the issue from my perspective is whether those added harmonics are euphonic noise, which term or similar has been used to describe the measurably high distortion but very pleasant sound of vinyl recordings, or constitute enhanced clarity....an analogy might be the sense of spaciousness or 'sound of the room' often adduced as attributes of superior stereo reproduction.  
I wish it were possible to A/B the Bryston, whose sound you state is closer than that of the Auralic is to the Luxman, with the Luxman, or with the Ayre QX5 for that matter.  Unfortunately, as you likely know better than I, in this age of internet reveiws and sales few if any dealers have more than one or two 'audiophile' DAC's available for audition.  If you do  have occasion to audition a Luxman DA-06....keep in mind its wonderful treatment of piano music, as a benchmark...in comparison with ?? the new generation of DAC's which might better approximate the holy grail of clarity and rich, euphonic harmonics, I....and I'm certain other audiophiles....would be most grateful for your further impressions.
I think your definition of "more body" may instead be whether or not the sound is recessed and narrow with some masking of sound, versus wide and deep and all sounds properly weighted. I believe this may be better characterized by the impulse response measurement than the harmonic distortion measurement.

In which case the Bryston BDA-3 plus Dirac Live RCS might be your best choice if you prefer the most detailed, cleanest, and accurate sound with the above definition of "more body". But you will want both.

Unfortunately I think it unlikely I will have a Luxman or Ayre for direct comparison anytime soon.
Nekoaudio, I again applaud your descriptions.  A dealer near me (I am very far from California) will have a BDA-3 for audition in a week or two, and I will seize the opportunity.   I am tempted to borrow/purchase and bring to that audition an Oppo Sonica, when that DAC becomes available, and if that opportunity arises I will report on the experience.    
Got my BDA-3 DAC  two weeks ago, driving it with my 2 1/2 year-old Oppo 105D that was fully modified by EVS [Ric Schultz]. I use a Nordost Blue Flare HDMI cable to connect the two. I play RBCD and SACD two-channel exclusively-no downloads.
Setup was simple and the DAC locks on flawlessly. Although I still need plenty of burn-in over the factory's  100 hours, the music it produces is superb-just like Greenhill's review in Stereophile.This is enhanced by the over $1000. in EVS modifications done to the transport portion of my Oppo.
The biggest improvement was to  RBCD. The DAC has resurrected my CD collection. HDCD comes through as PCM. The already great sounding SACD's are further improved in soundstage, imaging and most importantly in tonal quality.
This DAC was well worth the wait.

@papaned great to hear

I ordered mine around XMass and it isn't in yet.  I also have an unmodified Oppo 105 which I currently using as a transport with the Mytek Manhatten for RBCD..

  The Mytek has enhanced my system and now I would like to get more out of my SACDs.  If the Bryston sounds great all around then I probably will swell the Mytek, since I don't care about MQA...

 

@papaned,
Congratulation on the new acquisition and Thanks for sharing your experience. Looks like the BDA-3 is awesome. How are you playing the SACD (DSD) streams over the DDA-3? Is it via HDMI?
milpai - You are correct, the BDA-3 decodes the DSD stream directly from SACD players via HDMI.
Maybe the problem is also the Oppo itself I am not sure how good it is a CD transport , Maybe you need a dedicated CD transport without inner DAC to fulfill the full potential of the BDA-3 DAC.
From my experience CDP and blu-ray players are lousy as transports to external DAC .
As a point of reference I run the BDA-3 DAC using a PS Audio PerfectWave Transport for disc playback with excellent results. The PWT plays both CDs as well as hi-res PCM files burned to DVD-R discs.
Can anyone of the BDA-3 owners comment on the affects of the upsampling feature on the overall sound quality? Thanks.
Depending upon the recording some discs are reproduced with more apparent detail with upsampling on, but I generally prefer the sound with it off listening to the native sampling rates.
Ok. I have my unit.  Every SACD or Blu Ray sounds better than via the OppoPlanar 105 DAC.   But...I can't seem to get native DSD.  Every disc played triggers the Bryston LEDs that say I am getting DSD over PCM.  I've got the settings on the Oppo to output DSD from SACD.  Any ideas?
  Migh 24/96 downloads also sound amazing when played from a USB stick via the Oppo.  My other DAC, the Mytek Manhatten, won't play these without a horrible grinding noise at the end of each track.
  Alas, the red book and  other digital inputs sound much better with the Mytek...looks like I will be using 2 DACs.
Have you checked the OPPO settings to make sure it is set to output DSD?
Yes, it's outputting DSD
@mahler123,
How long have you been using the Mytek? Is the Bryston BDA-3 new in your system? Curious because many reviewers seem to like th Bryston. How are you playing the SACDs on the Mytek?
I am using the Oppo 105 as a transport for both the Manhatten and the BDA-3.  I use the coax out to the coax in for the Mytek, and the HDMI out for the Bryston.  First I had to program the Oppo to output DSD from SACDs.
  I've had the Mytek for 5 months, and the Bryston for about 3 weeks.
DSD over PCM or DoP really IS DSD. It's just packed inefficiently, so there are limits to the DSD, usually DSD 128 is the maximum.

Native DSD is better only because it allows quad DSD over USB, and has no real benefit for playing the round disks, only useful for downloads.

Best,

E
Thanks, E.  My HD downloads sound spectacular on the Bryston, but the L.E.D. still lights up as DSD over PCM...
I know that you own the Brooklyn, E.  I've never had a chance to compare the Brooklyn vs the Manhatten, but as I've noted, the Manhatten clearly bests the Bryston in red book and my other digital sources ( for me, primarily, my Bluesound Vault 2).  If only Mytek would add HDMI inputs...The Bryston is enhancing my SACD, however, so I am going to keep both DACs and eat rice and beans for a while
Nekoaudio,

Could you please tell us what R2R and Sabre DCS`s you compared the AKM4490 to?
@mahler123,
I am wondering - DSD does not output from coax in case of Oppo. So how were you able to compare the same SACD on Bryston Vs Mytek? Or maybe I got it wrong, and you are comparing only the PCM on both the DACs?
@plutos AKM4490, R2R, and SABRE implementations in general? Here are some DACs I can remember right now with those chipsets/designs, that I had  recently or have right now.

AKM4490: Marantz AV8803A, Bryston BDA-3, AKM Reference Board

R2R: Audio-gd Master Something, Schiit Yggdrasil

SABRE: OPPO HA-1, OPPO Sonica DAC, Auralic Vega

@milpai 

I am sorry for the confusion.

The Mytek can not take SACD, as noted.  I am comparing the SACD decoding of the Bryston vs the SACD decoding of the Oppo105

When I reference comparing the Mytek to the Bryston, I am refering to non SACD replay, such as red book CD, or my Bluesound (bypassing the DAC of the Bluesound)

np mahler123. You are so lucky to be able to compare 3 very good digital products! If I read your post correctly, are you indicating that you prefer the Mytek over Bryston for CD playback? I have the Bryston on my mind for future upgrade. Can't afford 2 DACs like you :-)
Hey Mahler!

Yeah, it depends on the software I use. I only do DSD via USB to the Mytek.... and unfortunately the Squeezelite agent only does DoP. Quad DSD gets re-sampled to PCM.

It's not a hardware limit, I was going to hack the source code and enhance it, but then got sick and couldn't follow through.

Best,

E
Nekoaudio,

Thanks!  OPPO Sonica has the newest ES9038PRO Sabre DAC. Can you share any impressions of the sound?
@milpai 
i was auditioning the Bryston hoping that I would love it so much that I would sell off the Mytek.  When I had purchased the Mytek it made everything that it does play sound so much better that now my SACDs in two channel via the Oppo didn't stack up well against red book via the Mytek.  As I have said the Bryston helps the SACD and Blu Rays and it bests the Oppo for red book but the Mytek
still is superior --clearly--than the Bryston.
  It is a real stretch to own 2 DACs.  One consideration is the rapidly falling price of DACs.  The Mytek has lost 50% of it's value on the used market in the months that I have owned it.
  I also drive a 12 year old Honda Civic.  My friends laugh at me because my stereo costs more than my car.  I tell them that my stereo takes me to places that my car never will
 I tell them that my stereo takes me to places that my car never will
This is so true mahler123. Very well said.

I will have to hear these 2 DACs personally. Thank You for your feedback. Trying to convince my wife to make a trip to Chicago AXPONA this year and spend 2 days, instead of 1. Want to hear as much DACs as I can.