Bryston VS Musical Fidelity

Hi gang,

I'm looking for opinions on this. Has anyone compared
The Bryston 4BSST to the Musical Fidelity A5 power amp?
I trust you'll hear various opinions for various reasons. Here's one comparison no one can argue with - I'd think about who has more confidence in their product, and fewer caveats - why doesn't Musical Fidelity cover ex-demo pieces anyway?
As always, trust your own ears.

Musical Fidelity - Musical Fidelity Limited warrants this product to be free from defects in materials and workmanship for a period of one year from the date of purchase, subject to the limitations set forth below:
This warranty is in favour of the original purchaser only and is not given to any person deriving title to the product through him or her.
This warranty will not apply to any ex-demonstration product as evidenced by invoice price, condition and date of manufacture.

Bryston - Bryston has a major commitment to produce the most accurate and reliable product available. We offer a full 20 Year transferable warranty, parts and labour, on all our products.
I own the Bryston 4BSST and love it. It is neutral and excels lin letting you hear exactly what is there. It has the power to control your speakers and allow them to sing
Id say it depends on what you want to power with it, ive heard Totem mani-2's set up in an all bryston system (4bsst and bp25 pre) and in an all musical fidelity system (a3cr pre and power) and no contest the musical fidelity was more enjoyable, despite being obviously underpowered for those speakers (the bass was far lighter than i know there capable of)musical fidelity was smoother, easier to listen to, more musical in general, trebel was sweeter. the bryston had way better bass.

that said my father uses bryston 7bst and they've workes flawlessly for years, they sound very good, but to my ears not particularily engaging
I own and like my Musical Fidelity amp.
However had I know about the warranty in advance I'd not have purchased it.

That said, bought a amp based on ears and warranty a few years ago. Ten year warranty from a company with a long history in audio.
If the company goes out of business (Threshold) the warranty is as good as the piece of paper on which it's written.
Thanks for the response. The warranty angle is something to consider. Also Musical Fidelity seems to change their
product line alot, while Bryston seems to make smaller
changes, as apposed to dumping an entire line and starting
a new one.

I guess the bottom line would be sound though. I currently
have all Rotel gear driving B&W CDM7SE speakers. I know
I need better amps.. but where to turn. I looking at the
two in question for one main reason, "dual mono" I'm using
two amps now, and it's great. I would like to just have one.
Here's my take on warranties.. Craftsmen hand tools offer a life time warranty. And they get a lot of warranty claims, all the time. They can afford to offer lifetime warranty because the tools are not real expensive to build. Mac, or Snap-On, don't offer lifetime warranties, but their tools are less likely to break. They don't need to offer lifetime warranties to sell their products.

At any rate, I don't believe the poster's question was about warranty, but about comparing sound quality of the two. I can't offer any advice, except this: I had a Bryston 3B for a while, and promptly traded it in. I currently have a Musical Fidelity A3, and think the build quality is excellent, and I'm very happy with the sound as well. The best option is to demo both in your room if the chance arises.
Geesh guys, I started out saying that "this is something no one can argue with" and you guys start (sorta) arguing.
My point - Bryston has a superb warranty, virtually unmatched in the industry. No argument right?
I don't believe your analogy is useful S7horton - Bryston's are extremely well made pieces of kit. If they weren't we'd all know about it. And - Mr. Greg Lett's question was regarding a comparison - the Bryston warranty wins hands down. No argument - right?
BTW, this also has some implications for the value of the amp later on - check what 10-15 year old Brystons sell for. If you don't like it, no biggee getting your money back.
I own a 4B ST. Is it the last word in refinement? - nope, but it's damn good at it's price point, and I could sell it to you in 15 years and it would still be under 5 years of warranty (yes, yes, assuming they're in business HBarrell - but they have a pretty good track record), whereas if I sold you a 10 minute old MF amp they have already said too bad. Even if it were a demo piece - who else does that?
I also do not like MF's strategy of changing the model line constantly, with (for instance), the new $999 DAC allegedly whipping the living wee out of the old $2500 DAC according to Stereophile.

The bottom line of my (requested) comparison - Bryston's warranty is orders of magnitude better (20 times to be exact, unless you're buying a demo where it's sorta infinitely better).

We can't really say too much regarding a performance comparison without knowing your speakers. I have Martin Logan SL-3's and the control the amp puts on the woofer, combined with it's rather neutral rendering of the treble works great with the 'stat - your mileage may vary!

Don't know how a MF would sound - I'd bet real good, maybe the Bryston has that elusive synergy with the ML's, maybe the ML would be better - don't know - can only provide my experience to date.

Listen to the two pieces and buy the one you like the best.As I said before - trust your ears!
Thanks for the response. The warranty angle is something to consider. Also Musical Fidelity seems to change their
product line alot, while Bryston seems to make smaller
changes, as apposed to dumping an entire line and starting
a new one.

I guess the bottom line would be sound though. I currently
have all Rotel gear driving B&W CDM7SE speakers. I know
I need better amps.. but where to turn. I looking at the
two in question for one main reason, "dual mono" I'm using
two amps now, and it's great. I would like to just have one.
I don't know if going from Rotel to Bryston or MF is going to give you the difference you're looking for.Maybe if the Rotel's are real small.
What's your source? Any room treatments yet? I spent $350-400 on room treatments and it would have taken at least 10 times that much in equipment to get anywhere near the difference the treatments made.
Also - careful on the "dual mono" stuff - it doesn't mean that much.
Bryston amps are very neutral, extended and balsy. No coloration. Used by more professional recording studios than any other brand. The highs can be a little irritating with the wrong speakers or front end. Other than that, they are exceptional. If this sounds like what you want, go for it.

Try to hear both in your own system if possible.

Also, Brytson's hold their used value extremely well. They are safe "buy-and-try" amps if you get one used and fairly new. You'll be able to re-sell with little problem, IMO.
Thanks guys. Snofun3: My source is the Rote RCD-1072 CD player, I also have the RC1090 pre-amp. The amps are old
120watt Rotels (I have 2 bi-amping) I get much better sound
bi-amping. Cables are: inter connects Audioqwest Jaguar, speaker-Audioqwest Granite. I was also considering the Rotel RB-180 (200W),also in a bi-amp configuration.
sigh.. so many choices.
Having looked at your original post, I wouldn't recommend the Bryston amp with B&W speakers. The result is likely to be too bright.
To me, Musical Fidelity gives meaning to the term ''Flavour of the month'' in Audio. Their ''Limited Edition'' way of putting out products is marketing hype aimed generating a false sense of urgency for overpriced gear. I've had a few MF units over the years. They sound OK at best but do not really engage any magic. I know its a matter of taste, but I do not like their 'Glitzy disco looks'' especially the not-so-old ''Gold and Silver'' looks. How tacky can you get? I feel Bryston is somewhat better,less flashy, but right up there with MF sonically and beats it in a few areas. I'm sure that Bryston is ''easier to live with''. The comparison with hand tools (Craftsmen and Snap-On) is totally ridiculous. Bryston should not be penalized for offering an honest warranty, and this is no judgement on their reliability record, which is excellent - just ask any Bryston owner. Ever seen MF gear in smoky nightclubs as main amplifiers ? This is the land of the fittest on reliability, and it is Brystonland.
Got to disagree with Tvad. Have used a Bryston/B&W combo for close to 3 years with a tube preamp and the results continue to be magical. Would be weary of using the earlier bryston preamp( the new version has a beefier power supply and sundry other improvements).Started with the 4BST and switched to a 14BST.There are many folks out there with a 14BSST/B&W 802 combos(something I can only dream about).
IMHO, the Bryston is leagues ahead of MF in value for money at a given price point.
I have read these posts at somewhat a distance as the only experience I have with Bryston was many years ago, like 15 years ago. But I am compelled to chime in because this thread has seemed to turn into a, “mine is better than yours”, thread and much of it based on warranty.

There is no denying that Bryston’s warranty is one of the best, if not the best, in the business, which I commend them for; but this has nothing to do with the sonic performance of their gear, nor the fact that they are in many “night clubs”, which is a target market for Bryston.

As someone who recently purchased two MF pieces, I will simply state that I am very happy and I could mention many other “testimonials/quotes”. In like manner you will find many happy Bryston owners and testimonials. But it still boils down to, for the original poster, which of the two amps will work best for them and can anyone with experience with both give their thoughts, I don’t have this experience nor has anyone in the above posts.

From things I have read, it is my opinion that you have chosen two fine amps and I can understand your curiosity. Sorry I don’t have more to offer between the two but I find some of the comments in these threads to do you a disservice, not that they are not entitled to their opinions. Having my own, I feel MF is generally very good gear for the dollar.
I would also add thet the neww SST versions of the Brystom amps are less birght than the ST counterparts. MGD in Bound for Sound characterized the 4BSST as a warm amp
I have compared MF and Rotel. I can not tell the difference.
I think that it would be a sideways move for you.
I owned a 4B SST and 14B SST which I used with Aerial 7B and Von Schweikert VR4 SE louspeakers. I would not characterize the Bryston amps as warm. Neutral, yes.

Ehoehn, you own a Bryston, right? Would you characterize your Bryston as warm?
I would characterize it as neutral. it doesn't overemphasize any one area. It is neither bright not warm
Tvad, that is why I was surprised by your post saying it would be bright. You recent statement is more accurate IMHO, neutral
Ehoehn,the Bryston's were bright with my Aerials, and I may have incorrectly compared the Aerial and B&W sound to be similar in the top end, thus my comment.

Bottom line, IMO, if a Bryston amp is under consideration, it's a no-brainer to buy an SST series, try it, and re-sell if it's not what the listener wants. Almost no risk involved.
How would you compare the Bryston with the VAC Tube Amp.
Forget conventional wisdom and all the techno talk, just, how do they compare?
Which is better in your humble opinion, why, and so on.
My assessment, humbly is, that the Bryson sounds, although, I dislike this characterization, slow and lacking in fine detail.
Inasmuch as tubes are finely detailed though somethat flawed in the bass region, the Bryston sounds unrefined and slower than I would characterize as being accurate musically.
It is the proverbial workhorse versus the thorobred horse.
It lacks refinement and detail, but has good bass and other good qualities.
I don't know what slow means. If it means instrument get fuzzy and blurred and blend into each other, then I did not hear this in my system when using the 4B SST or 14B SST. I know my 14B SST imaged like crazy and threw an expansive soundstage. When the dog barks behind my right ear, and the telephone rings behind me during Roger Waters' "Amused to Death", I know the amp is doing something right. The VAC throws an expansive soundstage in the zero global feedback mode, but it loses bass and sounds unbalanced toward the highs. The VAC regains the balance and bass when run with global feedback, but it loses its soundstaging width. The VAC has no serrated knife edge in the highs like I occasionally experienced with the Bryston.

But, this is not a Bryston vs. VAC thread. Greg_lett, is asking for comparisons between the 4B SST and A5. While I have never heard the A5, I have heard two Bryston SST series amps, and I have absolutely no reservations suggesting buying a used 4B SST and trying it in one's own system. The re-sale is rock solid, and you just can't get hurt in the wallet, making the experiment completely worthwhile, IMO.

As an alternative to the Bryston, you might seriously look into the $1600/pair NuForce Reference 8 mono amplifiers.
Hey Greg - Do you have a chance to go to any shop that has both of these, or alternately, two shops that have the same speakers. Where are you?
So far we've got bright, slow, neutral, lacking in detail and detailed.
May I suggest you start another thread - B&W CDM7SE - what amps are you using. Maybe some others have already been where you've been.
I am going to be auditioning a pair of the nuforce in mid may. I am hoping they will do well in my system

I've heard the Bryston 3BSST and 4BSST with Paradugn S4 speakers. The 3B was not very good with the speaker
it just did not make the speaker come alive. To me the
3B, sounded alot like the Rotel RB-1080. The 4B was much
better it made the speaker come alive.

The dealers in my area NYC don't have both, so I have not
been able to compare. I've heard the 4B with Paradigm as
mentioned above, and I've heard MF with Audio Physic speakers. I've only been able to audition Rotel and B&W.

The Rotel B&W combination is good. I actually had the
new RB-1080 amp and the Paradigm S2. I sold them to buy the RB-1090 and B&W N804 but something came up, so I borrowed my cousins two old 120W rotels and purchased the CDM7SE used.
Using the two Rotels in a Bi-amp configuratio is wta got me
interested into looking at the Bryston and MF. There is more
debth to the music when I bi-amp. My next speaker will be
the N804 (used) or a Paradigm Studio 100. I have to stay
within the 2K range (baby formula and pampers dictate that).

I was even thinking over the last few days, to just forget
about Bryston, and MF and get two RB-1080 Rotels and call
it a day. The price of the Rotels is great. I can get them
for $900 each. What do you think?
I think if you're considering spending $1800 you should watch the classifieds for a used Brytson 4B SST, which you should be able to buy around $2000, or you should try a pair of NuForce Reference 8B monos ($1600/pair). The NuForce go loud without distortion. Don't let the 100wpc power rating fool you.

Why do I suggest these options? Because with the Bryston, you will be able to re-sell it for what you paid. I did, and you can do the same. You'll have had the opportunity to hear it in your personal system vs. a dealer's showroom. Concerning the NuForce, the same theory applies, except with the NuForce you'll be able to return them within 30 days for a refund (minus shipping...6 pounds...big deal). I can think of no better way of trying two amps in your own system with less risk.

You will not be able to buy Rotal amps and re-sell them down the road at the same price. So, if you buy Rotel...and you certainly should if they provide the sound you want...plan to keep them, or be willing to accept the price depreciation.

I think I will put my nose in where it doesn't belong.

I have not auditioned a Bryston. Before I started my upgrade spree I had the CDM9NT driven by a B&K ST2140. Moving to the MF A308 integrated was a huge step for my system, after burn in the sound stage opened up the bottom end was more extended and forcefull. Wish I could go into more detail but that was over a year ago.

Since you can't audition both side by side. This makes your decision that much more difficult. Not to mention we haven't been that much help either.


Remember to take the system as a whole.
you are so correct! That's what started it all. I figured if
I'm going to spend close to 2K maybe I should look at other
Thanks for all the info.
I've thought about the 'slow' comment, and it is admittedly vague. I think I always thought of the Bryston as less refined sounding than some others. For example, many will disagree, but I find the Levinson to be uninteresting, musically. I am not sure if it lacks dynamic contrasting, but to me, (just to me IMHO) not interesting.
The Bryston, (and I was a dealer for them for a short time) many years ago; the same characteristic sound is found for me in their OEM Lexicon Amps. Solid well built, probably never break, but not as detailed as some others I like more. Hell, maybe it's just neutral.
Just, not a fan of it's 'sound' perhaps.
Larry, I would argue that perhaps your experience with the Bryston amps many years ago was with a line that is not current (ST vs. SST, and perhaps before the ST series?). Therefore, the sound of Bryston may be different than what you recall. Possible?
My friend used to own CDM 7NT + CNT.

He used the internal amps of a Yamaha RX-Z1, then switched in his older 70w Accuphase Integtrated and eventually ended up with a Bryston 6B SST.

The Yamaha could barely drive the 7NT and the Accuphase was imediately switched in which made the music so much better.

I lent him my 4BST and the sound became more livelier.

However, once I lent him my 6BSST, he got plagued and bought one himself. The sound was much more refined with the SST.

We have also listened to the new 805s with some MF equipment and it was a good match.

I believe B&W speakers are a good match with MF.
Bryston does work well too due to its high current capability.

It all boils down to your prefenerece and matching with your other components.

Try to go out for some demo's.
TVAD I don't know why I softballed your question, when you said, "I don't know what slow means" or words to that effect.
For many years now, rise time, slew rate, have become lesser talked about figures in some circles than in others.
I think the now deceased John Ivorsen of Eagle, was the first designer to talk to me about the speed and relative speed of amplifiers, and how capacitive loads dramatically effect the measurements: which is why different engineers have different measurements for seemingly the same product.
He also, this was in 1986 talked about how most designers did not understand the proper utilization of 'current' in design work, then he started losing me at that point in my career. At that time his amp was vastly 'clearer' and I guess therefore sounded 'faster' to me, in the way that tubes offer more delicacy (to me) and low level resolution.
My early days with Bryston date to 1985, then as I traveled the country for THIEL. Their distribution became spotty when the brothers split and Chris and John went separate ways, Chris going with Classe I believe.
But explaining speed is almost like explaining, as I said, tube delicacy. It's not that it doesn't exist, its just hard to make clear.
That is as when people talk about S/N ratios and they don't realize that 80db s/n ratio is 1/10,000th, then begin to what seems like a nit pick, with 80 db versus 100db, once you're already at 1/10,000th, isn't that already good?
So speed--yes, I think, that to me Bryston sounds softish, and slower than many other good amps. If that sounds like an indictment I apologize. But we ALL hear things so differently, one thing that is obvious to one person is not as obvious to another.
At 56, I had a hearing test, and my left ear was rated, according to the doctor, as 'perfect, and really remarkable', (he had the good grace not to say, for your age.) But the scale was not age relative, it was just perfect. I now realize why 'possibly' I hear and quantify things other people don't. Please don't take that as bragging since most of the things I hear, are unpleasant, so perhaps a curse in some ways.
I am sure your amp is excellent, just not my personal favorite.
Spectral, probably sets the world on fire with it's recovery times, yet to me sounds stark, and dry. So what does that tell me? Who knows?
Lrsky, thanks for the explanation. You didn't answer my question, though, about which series of Bryston amps you sold or have heard. It's generally accepted that the sound of the Bryston amps has been refined considerably from the original "B" series, to the "ST" series and further in the "SST" series. So, while I would never question your ears, or your opinion, since it is your opinion, I believe it would be beneficial to the discussion to know with which series of Bryston amps you are familiar.
Actually I did, in that I (even though I did not include the dates) stated that I heard plenty of Bryston's and their current Lexicon which is their OEM product.
Bryston is so damn good, that it is ridiculous to have any nit's but if you can imagine a square wave with the front part rounded, that is what I hear. It doesn't sound like a square wave, but a 'rounded' wave to me, with the leading edge missing.
Hope this helps, AND we still have the offer of the master bedroom for you and Chris to visit you dog. Please come to Louisville, hear my LSA's and let me show you Louisville.
You can meet the entire LSA crew, and take home a pair of LSA 3's in Rosewood.
Lrsky, the Bryston amps and Lexicon amps are two different animals despite Lexicon being a Bryston OEM product. A quick look at the specs shows the Bryston amps to have better Signal to Noise ratios, double the damping factor, lower THD, and the list goes on. I would argue that based on the published specs, hearing a Lexicon home theater amplifier may not equate with a Bryston 3 or 2 channel amplifier.
I might point out that Bryston, in an effort to justify their pricing and quality differences, other than the obvious warranty differences, would intentionally show much better spec's than their OEM Lexicon counterparts.
I would bet that the spec's are identical on both pieces, and that the difference is one of marketing. Smart, and meaninginless in terms of differences.
I. E. Why buy a Bryston, other than the 20 year warranty unless the spec's are different?
I know you like the Bryston, and well you should. It has been a staple in the industry for years, and only a 'taste' difference, in terms of 'sound' would lead one to a different product. I prefer it overwhelmingly to Krell's high frequency 'hash' for example. My preferences lean to tubes and their delcate presentation relative to solid state. The distortions of tubes are pleasant versus, unpleasant in solid state, with odd order harmonics.
Think about your system, and how the Bryston sounds better in some ways. That has to do with the speakers, capacitance etc, as much as anything.
Lrsky, are you implying that Bryston is publishing fraudulent specs either on their own website or on the Lexicon website? If so, I'm stunned. Honestly, stunned that you would level this accusation.

I'm not posting here because I am a standard bearer for Bryston. The man asked opinions about Bryston and Musical Fidelity amps with some pricing constraints...specifically a $2000 price point. I know that Bryston offers a good product that is within reach...certainly better than Rotel, IMO.

Let's move beyond the Bryston debate. What alternatives would you offer Gregg_lett at a $2000 price point?
Musical Fidelity is overrated but more musical to me than the Bryston.
Yet there are many tube amplifiers that have more musicality than either. So I guess I am a tube groupie, in that regard. Tubes sound more like music to me than solid state, and further, hybrid combo's of tubes and solid state, with tubes as pre's and solid state as the amplifiers sound most life like.
For example, in the past an Adcom amp, with a conrad johnson amp had a more palpable sound with regard to sonic realism to me, than many other combinations.
There is a reason why amps use mosfet designs, and it has to do with the sense of tube like sound.
The question is, what do I recommend. VAC is a good place to start. Oftentimes Kevin Hayes of VAC has used pieces for sale on his website. Or just call and talk to him. You will learn more about tube gear from him in minutes than I could write in hours.
I've compared and used many solid state amps. The Brsyton SST series amps offer great sound quality within their price range and up. As a matter of fact the only amp that has sounded better (in my current system) than my 4B-SST, has been a Pass Labs X-250.

Bryston amps have some of the best bass I have ever heard, solid, fast, and extremely well controlled. The SST series have very competitive mids and none of the exaggerated highs of the much earlier models.

As far a a MF to Bryston comparison, well... you can see I have no MF gear. They make fine products and I have never heard a MF piece that made me say, ugh!
Lrsky, in the two years we've known each other, you have owned SS or digital amps...Belles, Spectron, Gryphon, Halcro, Jungson and now the unmentionable one. Have I missed any? I know you look for tube qualities in your amps, and you write of being a tube-o-phile, yet you own SS. You're not walkin' the walk, my friend.

Gregg_lett is asking about a 300wpc SS amp for $2000 (4B SST). What does VAC have at that price point...even used...that's comparable?
Has any one listened to the Bryston and Belles amps side by side? What are the sonic differences? Also is there any difference in the Bryston line between the 4bsst and say the 14bsst or 7bsst mono's, or is it just headroom?
I have listened to both the 4B SST and 14B SST in my system. The 14B SST plays with better dynamics...especially lower volumes. Sonically, the two amps sound the same to me.
OK. Let's throw another amp into the mix.
How about a Rotel RB-1090? That's a
380WPC dual Mono amp. Two transformers
four power supplys, plus it's only 2K.
Rotel isn't in the same league as Bryston or MF.
Where are you located? I live on Staten Island and might be able to help you in your decision. Email me off list or at least let me know.

TVAD,I owned a Belles,which has tubes in the Pre amp, and Iowned a VAC Avatar,and have owned several CJ pieces over the years; I even questioned Fleming Rasmussen of Gryphon about using a Tube in the pass through for the tube sound.
I have probably spent more on tube gear in my life than most people spend all together on all equipment. Plus the Integrated I own now, has a $250 pair of Telefunken tubes. What walk, and what talk am I missing? Plus it is possible that everyone 'needs'something different than they want.
Advise is only valuable if it broadens the perspective of the enqirer.
Lrsky, I was specifically referrring to tube amps since the originator of this thread is asking about amps, not preamps. So, with that in mind, neither the Belles nor the DK qualify since they're not tube amps. I was not aware of the Avatar or the CJ pieces. Nevertheless, the originator of this thread is enquiring about a solid state amp in the $2000 price range...specifically the Bryston 4B SST or MF A5, and now a Rotel. What amp might you recommend in this price range as an alternative?