IMHO go for more power than you think you will ever need - the bigger amp. On some tracks you will be glad of the extra head room.
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So it's not like the 3BST isn't powerful enough, just that the 4B will sound better? Will it sound 1500 bucks better, do you think? (I know that's a subjective call; I just want to make sure, if I go with the 3B, that it's not struggling to power the speakers. I know that can be a concern with more expensive speakers.)
Put it this way....at high levels and with significant bass material the 3B will clip before getting the most out of your speakers. Clipping is the main cause of speaker failure: bass woofer sucks up too much of the amps power and then (most often) some nasty clipped signals heat up and burn out the tweeters. The sad part about this is that just before it blows it actually sounds less loud as the coils are by that time very hot (usually the third song played too loud)...in my view clean power especially with SS amps is worth it because it not only protects your speakers but reduces the awful clipping that you sometimes get from peaks in challenging material (unlike tubes, SS amps do not clip softly and sound plainly wrong when clipping)
So it sounds like a matter of how loud do I want it.
But tell me this: does the 4B *sound* better than the 3B at normal volume? What would I be gaining other than power, if anything? I've been running the 3B, but I never tried to really crank it, as it seemed...unnecessary. OR maybe I was afraid of blowing something. I'm basically unaware of the limits of my stuff, and not inclined to find out the hard way. Anyway I've never noticed any clipping at what I would consider fairly high levels; maybe I'm not as deaf as some. My imagination suggests the potential for more bass rez, or more effortless highs, but...whatever.
I owned a 4B SST and I ran it with Von Schweikert VR4 Gen III HSE loudspeakers (89db/6 ohm). Even at it's rated 250wpc (or whatever it was...I forget), the 4B SST would clip and shut down when running at relatively high volumes (95db-98db).
Eventually, I bought a 14B SST. The low volume performance was improved due to the better bass in the 14B SST, and the amp never clipped or shut down.
Everyone's recommending the higher powered amp, but I'm not really getting what it's going to give me. Louder? Is that it? I won't have to turn the volume knob as high? What about the tone quality? Forgive my ignorance. Both amps spec the same, except for the wattage. But when I turn up the volume on my current amp, it can get louder than I would care to listen already.
Better dynamics (especially bass response) at lower volumes with the higher powered amps. Sonically, the lower and higher powered Bryston amps are probably very close.
Specs don't mean anything when it comes to how an amplifier recreates music. Some of the lowest distortion, best spec'd amplifiers in the world sound lifeless, cold and unmusical.
I just helped as buddy put in a 4 BST into a rig with Maggie 3.6's (which even for Maggies which are known to suck curent really be power hungry) it was still excellent up "break the lease" volume levels.Since you have and easier load and probaly higher effciency rastings it should be to paraphrase Goldilocks "Poridge that is just right".The 4 BST is rated for 250 but should bench out closer to 290+ per side and unless you are a head banger with a really large room you shouldn't have problem clipping it.Don't get new 4 BSST I don't think tech is worth the price increase new or used.The big leap foward in their technology was when they went form the the B to the B ST models.TH SST does not have enough to reccomend it's price increase though of course dealers and reviews wanting ad revenue will say the newer one is this or that to me it's not worth it to go SST.If you look around for $1200 you should get one for with 10 years left on 20 year waranty (and new ones though transferable i think you have to produce sales slip to get repair the ST series you don't just look at the code and if you have warranty left you good to go just sending it in-another plus for cheaper ST series)Just put in one 4 BST into my freidsn rig with highly revealing Maggie 3.6's replacing mid fi Denons 150 watt'ers that wer bi-amped horiontally and therefore gave out 225 wats total and replaced with the 4 BST which is closerr to 300 wats with way more curent and finally my bvuddy "got it" The Maggies f0or the first ttime sounded like the brand which is the best selling audiophile brand of all time.Our jaws dropped.If one can't afford a $5K and up tube amp for Maggies I was told by sources I trust,contacts I made whilke putting 6 years in as a salesman selliung Mac,Krell, etc etcbut not having Brystons I found out why they are Maggie woners favorite combo if they don't have an Arc 100 wat glass job.With your spekers again which should not produce the load of effciency problems the Maggies have means they should work out jest fine!
Absolutely DO get the SST version over the ST version. I've owned both and for the few hundred bucks additional, the SST gets a lot of things right. ...even when compared to the big boys.
Dont sweat the resale, Bryston holds its value extremely well.
Concerning the power, I would bet, if you compared both side by side, you (or I) couldnt tell the difference. That is, until you crank it way up. You know your volume needs better than I. If you like to Jam go for more juice. ...and maybe some gin too!
When I ran Thiel speakers, I preferred the 4BST to the 3BST -- it just sounded a bit more natural and deeper to me. Hey, you can't ask a question on Audiogon without getting conflicting answers, eh? For full disclosure, I also preferred the 7BST to the 4BST. I noticed a significant change in the ease of presentation with each upgrade.
My friend is a bit shy. In response to this topic, he wrote:
"The 4B-ST really makes my F-30's sing. I think that they absolutely need the 4B's power to perform at their best. I am getting full range, nuanced performance from my setup. Of course it helps that I am running excellent front end gear, the ARC LS-3 pre amp & Naim CDX, as well as excellent Kimber Monocle-XL and Transparent Reference interconnects. If I went anywhere, it would be more towards more power and dynamics, probably to monoblocks."
I would only add that his listening room is roughly 13 x 20 x 8, and that my Revel Salons, which are admittedly a different speaker, did like power.
I use a pair of 7B-SST which I bought to replace a Krell KAV300i (150wpc) to drive a pair of Meadowlark Kestrels. What I noticed with the 7B was an obvious sense of ease and effortlessness. Whether that was due to the additional power or the difference between the voicing of a Krell and Bryston I don't know.
If you buy the larger amp, six months from now you won't be second guessing your decision.
MrTennis makes a good point about alternative amps. CI Audio D200 sounded better to me than my Bryston 4B SST, due to their warmer character, and they use less power...and cost less (I think).
Also, consider a used Odyssey Audio Stratos Dual Mono. 20 year warranty, and my Stratos Mono Extremes reminded me of the 4B SST, although with a warmer tonality (and they sold for $1595!).
Thanks for the replies.
I'm soon going to be auditioning the Van Alstine 350EXR Ultra (a tube-MOSFET hybrid amp). It has more power than my 3B (rated 160wpc, but Frank Van Alstine told me it's really closer to 200) and is supposed to sound, you know, better and stuff. (It uses tubes to handle voltage and MOSFETs to drive current. Or some such thing.) We will see. Many thanks for all the different recommendations, especially Raquel for tracking down your friend. The observation that the Revels like power is duly noted. Frank told me if the 350 isn't enough I can upgrade to the 550 (250wpc) for the price difference of the two. But I will definitely be keeping the higher powered Brystons in the back of my head, as I like the amps' neutrality and resolution pretty well.
So anybody please feel free to discuss and opine on these Van Alstine products, as I know they are somewhat out of the mainstream (not being sold by audio dealers). They're pretty inexpensive and seem to have the reputation of outperforming far more expensive stuff. Anyway I'm looking forward to trying it out.