Improve Bryston B100-SST and Totem Model 1 Sig


I need advises to improve my 6 months old system: Bryston B100-SST, Totem Model One signature, Shanling CDS-100MkII, Kimber cable 8TC, Audioquest King cobra.

The sound is good but only with good recording Cds (Diana Krall, Patricia Barber or recent Steely Dan) but most of times dry and cold with bad CDs (70s).

Should I:

1. Change my Bryston for something warmer and more emotional, if so, which are your recommendations.(Plinius, Unico…)
2. Change my CD player for a let’s say Rega Appolo for a warmer sound.
3. 1 and 2.

I’ve listened a combo at my friend’s home: CJ CAV50, Totem Model One signature, Rega Planet. It’s incredible, hard to believe a 45wpc can make the Totems sings like heaven, unfortunally, the CAV50 are discontinued and I can’t afford higher CJ models.

My budget for a new amp: 2500$ US

I’ve tried Moon I-3 and Totem Arro (my old speakers) at store in Montreal and feel the sound a bit bright, salesman said because the Arro were not broken. Also have tried Totem Model one signature with Rega Cursa/Maia and Marantz CDP (don’t remember the model) at another store; the sound is very, very good, wonder if the combo Rega Cursa/Maia can beat my B100-SST ?

My room: 18X16
Music listened: Pop, Rock, Jazz , Blues, no classic.

Ricki, welcome to the world of high fidelity. :-) As your system improves, you find out how poor many recordings really are.

Just my opinion, but before getting on the electronics merry-go-round, I would add a subwoofer. Adding the additional weight of bass seems to give a warmer perception. You are fortunate that the Bryston will let you insert a bass management controller between its preamp/amp section.
This is my opinion: While Plinius is great and warmer,before you replace the B100ST which is a highly acclaimed integrated, I would look at the source to try and warm things. You might also contact several Bryston dealers to see if they can suggest how to improve upon the dry unemotional presentation. From what I've read Bryston tends to be dry, but you may be able to tailor that sound with your source. You may be able to use cables as tone controls too.

Actually the bass of Totem sig's is acceptable by me, I wonder if changing the cables will help the brightness of my system, maybe the neutral and transparent sound of the Bryston is not suit to me that why I'm wondering if another amp would warm up the sound.


Do you have any suggestions regarding alternative sources, I spoke to a salesman (James Tanner was there) at the 2006 Montreal HIFI show and he told me than Bryston B100-sst is actually one of the best integrated on the market today.

I never use the upsampling mode of the amp because while it opens up the sound but it adds the brightness to the sound, I wonder if a (costly) Bryston optional DAC route is a solution. Shanling CDS-100MkII is a highly acclaimed CD player, tight bass, good soundstage and very neutral timbre in vocals.

My only experience with warmer sounding sources is the Jolida JD 100 which I have in addition to the Modwright Sony 999ES. I like the Jolida; it's on the warmer side-but has some shortcomings in the detail deparment. I don't know anything about Totems but that may be where your problem lies if they are bright with the Bryston. Amp speaker- synergy is the key to system performance imho. If the Bryston is a poor match with Totems which is causing this brightness then you may need speakers. I can tell you after trial and error and many dollars spent, if I could start over again in audio I would have let a dealer I trust guide me in system matching my components- synergy is everything, without it, you just have a group of components.
Having owned Bryston, I know the amps are bright. I have read that the Totems can be bright sounding...especially with the Sig's metal tweeter. Based on this, I'd wager you have a bad match. The Totems are well regarded for their sound. Bryston is well regarded for it's neutrality and warranty. I'd suggest replacing the Bryston, and I'd recommend contacting some owners of Totem Model 1 Sig loudspeakers to find out what amplification they are using with good results.

Ian White writes in his Soundstage review:
the Model 1 Signatures are somewhat difficult to drive. I used three solid-state amps that supposedly put out more than 140Wpc into a 4-ohm load, but only the YBA 2 alpha HC DT worked really well. Believe it or not, but the 30Wpc Copland CTA-501 was my favorite amplifier during the review process (even though I had to turn the dial all the way up). The Model 1 Signatures work really well with tubes.

There are some ideas. You might consider a push-pull KT88 tube integrated. Also, the Lavardin IT integrated is very well regarded. There is a used one for sale now. I have no idea how it'd work with the Totems, but I suspect it would be superior to the Bryston, considering the Lavardin's reputation as having "tube-like" characteristics.

You're not going to accomplish what you seek by changing wire.
I'm not an expert like the guys above....but why don't you just cut to the chase and get a good quality TUBE amp?

Forget about fiddling with cables, source...getting a tube-like SS amp, just get a good tube amp!

Tubes rule!
Which Bryston(s) have you owned, Tvad?

Ricki, I am not familiar with the other parts of your system, but if you eliminate them as the problem and still feel you do not like the Bryston sound, another good SS choice would be Blue Circle. The NSCS integrated would come in at about the same retail as your Bryston. I would caution against making a jump to tubes (or SET) unless you have carefully analyzed ***all*** of the factors involved.

10-12-06: Baddabob
Which Bryston(s) have you owned, Tvad?
4B SST and 14B SST
After 3 pairs of speakers (Meadowlark Kestrels, Spendor S8e and now M&K S-150 + MPS-5310 sub) I have never heard any brightness with my Bryston 7B-SST monoblocks. However, brightness is a relative, as well as, subjective term. My goal in audio is high fidelity. I want to hear what is on the disc.

Others have different preferences and that's part of the fun about this hobby -- learning a little about yourself (what your preferences are) as well as the gear.
Tvad: you found them bright but you bought two of them? The 14BSST is not cheap.

10-13-06: Baddabob
Tvad: you found them bright but you bought two of them?
Yes. It was early in my audiophile journey. I was learning. Fortunately, Bryston amps are in demand, and I was able to sell them for good prices.

They are very good amps.
I just compared the older Bryston B-60 against the Ayre AX-7. The Ayre sounded less dry, more liquid and "denser." Still neutral, not golden colored like some of the CJ stuff I heard a long while back. Maybe the Ayre would work for you. I think these go for around $2k used on Audiogon.
it was the AX-7e version.
do as I did: buy your Conrad Johnson CAV 50 used off Audiogon. It turned out to be an almost new unit and I have been happy ever since.

Oddly enough, I have the same system as your friend. The reason for the system sounding so good is that the Totem Model 1 signature loves tube amplification, especially Conrad Johnson. I am not sure why but the fact remains that it is a match made in heaven.

any idea how much a used CAV 50 should be available for, if there is one ? thanks.
You might try for $200 a Musical Fidelity tube buffer to warm up the sound or even a tube based CD player. The amp and speakers are fine, it is the source that is poor.