Need feedback from Bryston amp owners

I'm thinking of buying the Bryston 3B SST amp. Does anyone have this amp or a comparable amp like the 4B SST? I heard they are strong in the low end (bass).
I owned the Bryson 4B. "Strong in the low end (bass)?" How about powerful, solid, extended and visceral. As good as I have heard in SS. In my DJ days I used the 4B animalistically. 4 hours (six on New Year's Eve) with the clipping lights blinking like mad. Never overheated/distorted. A work horse. In my home system: a strong B in the midrange and treble coupled with an Audio Research Pre.
I had a 4BST for several years and then the 7BST monoblocks until I became a fan of Krell. Bryston makes great sounding, solid equipment that I never found to anything but well balanced. The only drawback for me was an inability to handle very difficult loads at loud volumes like the original Thiel CS7.

Having said that, my friend in Montreal still has his original 2B powering Thiel CS0.5s and that little system still sounds full and sweet.
My 4B never had a problem running tough loads. Ran Magnaplanar Tympani 1Ds. Talk about a difficult load. 4BST and the 7BST? No experience, but the 4B was a gem. Don't they still have their 20 year warranty?
Prodigious, tight bass. Expansive, precise image. Dead quiet background. Unrefined top end (its downfall, IMO). Used in conjunction with forgiving loudspeakers, a Bryston amp could be a jewel.
"unrefined top end" never thought of putting it that way, but that may give you more than my B rating: I agree with Tvad. The midrange is wonderful (maybe I was a little too critical B+), and just misses greatness. Still a honey of an amp in the right rig..
After using a 4B some time ago (and an ML335 in between)Bryston,in their new SST series,hes created (IMO)a truly
great amplifier.The old "unrefined" HF sound has been replaced w/ a crystal clarity just below sweet - while keeping their well known low frequency wallop.I use their
14BSST to power my VS VR-4HSE's with very good results.
Cannot imagine you being less than pleased w/the 3BSST
-assuming you have reasonably sensitive speakers.
I own a 4B ST; great value for money product. Great low end, good dynamics,neutral without being cold, built to last a life time, and a perfect match for my PMC speakers. However you need careful pre-amp pairing to smoothen out the upper mids/ lower highs.
What really sets Bryston apart however is the people behind it; their service sets a bench mark for other companies; send them an email and the VP will get back to you in a matter of a few hours; 24/7. The twenty year warranty is no joke; mine had a problem after being hooked to a speaker with loose wiring. They fully seviced the amp free of charge and shipped it back long distance as well.

Shortcomings: not the most refined upper mids/ lower highs, sound stage could have more depth. I belive the SST series corrects those faults though. Overall a highly recommended product.
FWIW, my comments above were made based on my SST series Brystom amps (4B SST and 14B SST).
I'm starting to think the Bryston 4B SST might be a better amp.
Depends on the speakers. The 3B SST is wonderful. I heard it driving Sonus Fabers and it was lovely. If you don't need the watts, the little guy should do the job for you.
What is the definition of an amplifier? It's an electrical circuit that increases the magnitude of it's input signal. To create an exact replica of it's input, it must increase all frequencies equally. What comes in should come out exactly the same, only bigger.

That's the ideal. Of course, reality is usually something different. If you take a look at John Atkinson's amplifier measurements using the dummy speaker load, you will notice that SS amps generally fit the definition stated above. So why don't some people like them?

If you look at the same graphs for reviewed tube amps, you will notice a pretty big spike centered around 1KHZ-2KHZ, followed by a dip in the 3KHZ-8KHZ range. Remember that decibels are logarithmic in nature, so a 1DB difference is about 20%, 3DB around 50%. Note that this frequency range y coincides with a typical tweeter crossover, which is not surprising since the dummy load is supposed to simulate a real world speaker.

So why do people perceive an amp whose high frequency performance is just about perfect as have an "unrefined" top end, especially when compared to other amps that don't really have a top-end, at least into an inductive load? When did omission and non-linearity become synonyms for refinement?

Given the current fads in speakers, i.e. two way monitors with small drivers, my guess is that tube amps don't deliver enough output at the frequencies near the crossover where the mid/bass driver is starting to misbehave for it to be noticable. Maybe that big peak at 1KHZ is masking the errors, some people are just more sensitive to them.

I was using a Bryston 3B-ST to drive a pair of Proac Response 1.5s. I was pretty unhappy, and was looking to change amps. By coincidence, around the same time Dynaudio revamped their Contour line and I ended up picking up a pair of 3.0s which I had been lusting after.

I never looked back at changing the amp, although I would like to play with a little more power. I believe the real difference is that the Dynaudios have a dedicated midrange driver. That little 6.5 woofer had to work too hard to produce bass, and I think it's long travel was screwing up the upper mids. On some tunes with a lot of low bass, you could actually see the thing flexing asymetrically.

I am not trying to invalidate anyone's choices, or even defend Bryston. I just find it amusing that we use wildly inaccurate devices (loudspeakers/ears) to measure the quality of an electronic circuit, when it probably should be the other way around.

What! A voice of reason. Keneallyfan, thanks for posting rational thoughts. Glad someone can read JA's measurements.


Dazman, I own the Bryston 7B-SST monoblocks. I think Bryston is one of the best engineering companies in audio. Their long history and solid reputation speak well for them. Their amplifiers to not exaggerate any portion of the audio band. They are transparent.

I suggest you pick the Bryston amp with the largest power rating your budget will allow.

All the best,
Bryston's don't like low impedances and are dynamically limited. I've said this for several years and Stereophile confirmed this in their last review of a very large Bryston amp. Sonically, i find them to be both unimpressive and uninvolving.

If you have a softer ( treble and upper midrange reduced ) sounding speaker that maintains a higher average impedance and you listen to music that is both moderate in terms of dynamic range and average spl requirements, have at it. They are ruggedly built and have a phenomenal warranty that they definitely DO stand behind. Sean
Sean, you are correct about the low impedance issue, however, that can be adjusted when the amp is ordered.

Please explain dynamically limited.

Dynamically limited relates to the quantity and speed of power available during dynamic transients. In other words, i've found Bryston's to be lacking in "useable" dynamic headroom. The aforementioned Stereophile article notes this also, as the reviewer found the 500 wpc Bryston going into clipping before the 350 wpc Levinson unit that he compared them to. There was also another smaller ( than the Bryston ) amp mentioned in that review ( can't remember what it was ), but they also stated that it also "dynamically" out-powered the Bryston.

Other than that, a well designed SS amp just keeps delivering more power as impedance is reduced. Obviously, it's going to run out of steam at some point, but prior to that point, it's either got it or it doesn't. Sean
Adding to my last post, the lack of headroom and resultant momentary clipping could explain why some folks experience listening fatigue with Bryston's. That is, the non-linear high frequency distortion and smearing that result bother them enough to make the amps unlistenable over a period of time.

Obviously, not everyone or every situation may run into this problem. Some can hear things that others don't. Some have loudspeaker & cabling loads that might aggravate the situation whereas others may have more benign loads. Some might / might not listen loud enough for the problem to arise. This could be why there seems to be such a controversial take on this specific subject. Sean
Sean, your comments might explain why my 4B SST shut down prematurely when driving Aerial 7B loudspeakers, and why I found both my 4B SST and 14B SST to be bright sounding.

Anyway, I eventually sold them both.
Sean, so am I understanding that dynamically limited is a function of handling low impedances (or impedance + phase)? I know the Brystons don't "double down" as some amps do like Krells. So it seems this is entirely speaker load dependent. And as such is a good example why the amp + speaker should be designed together as a system.

THanks for the response.
Is this the review you are talking about?

I don't see where they compared the Bryston to any other amplifiers in terms of dynamic headroom, either in the review or the measurements section. Greenhill does talk about the amp's dynamics on page 4, but not in a negative way. As far as measurements, the amp seemed to meet it's published specs at 4 and 8 ohms. Bryston doesn't provide a 2 ohm rating, but the amp could be said to fall short there. Only 720W with one channel driven.
As the review explains quite well, the bridged design has trade-offs. Depending on expected speaker load the amp can be configured for series or parallel operation. Could it be that the ability to swing such large voltages is required in the professional audio world?
If the 7B is rated at 500 wpc at both 8 & 4 ohms, that was the amp / Stereophile review that i was referencing. When i saw that spec, i laughed out loud and immediately thought that Bryston was a fan of SS Mac designs.

As far as being dynamically limited, this has to do with many different factors, impedance being one of them.

In terms of "doubling down" and rated power, most all of that is BS. Very few amps come close to doubling down in reality, even if they are factory rated to do so. If you doubt this, forget the "rated power" and start looking at the actual power as measured at clipping vs impedance. Manufacturers can fudge a rating however they want to make a product look good on paper, but what it actually does "balls out" is what really counts.

Once you start looking at the power at clipping vs impedance, you'll soon see that most amps are quite lacking in power supply, quite lacking in output capacity and / or a combination of the two. Things really get hairy when you start seeing what some of these supposed "big" amps do when called upon to deliver steady state power into very low impedances.

There are some highly reviewed SS amps that actually do less power at 2 ohms than they do at 8 ohms. Needless to say, these amps will behave like "sonic chameleons" depending on the speaker / cable load that they are connected to. Just as the impedance dips and the amp needs to step up to the plate, it lays down and "bogs out".

Needless to say, this doesn't sound good, although it may be difficult to understand why a certain amp / cable / speaker combo just doesn't sound "right". That is, unless one knows how to interpret test results and can put 2 + 2 together.

This is one of the reasons why some speaker cables seem to work better with some amp / speaker combo's. That is, by changing the nominal impedance ( along with some other factors of the cable ), the cable itself can act as a "buffer" to what the amp sees. Obviously, if the amp is having a hard time driving lower impedance loads, using a higher impedance cable can help stabilize the system.

On the other hand, if the amp is truly up to driving the speakers, and the amp and speakers are both reasonably accurate performers, something along the lines of the flat Goertz cabling / Electro-Fluidics ( British made Goertz clones ) / Magnan Reference and possibly the Ridge Street speaker cables should sound best. I can't say for sure about the RSA's as they don't have any worthwhile info posted about them on their website. From what i can see, they would appear to be a low impedance design utilizing flat solid core conductors for minimal skin effect. This description should not be confused with the design of Nordost speaker cabling, as it is anything but a low impedance design.

Selecting an amp that exhibits unstable performance into low impedances can tend to have you juggling tons of variables, especially cabling, in order to get decent performance out of it. In the long run, many find that it is both cheaper and easier to just buy another amp that is both more stable and more robust in design.

In this regard, the Bryston 14 that you referenced wasn't quite this bad, but it only went up 30 watts going from 8 ohms to 2 ohms at clipping. You have to admit, this is pretty pathetic in terms of percentages vs what one would / should expect according to theory. On top of that, and if you REALLY look at the chart, the amp is actually going into clipping just prior to the rated 900 wpc rating @ 4 ohms. You can see this as the distortion by-products start to climb through the roof on what looks almost like a straight vertical climb at this point. This is usually a sign of high negative feedback, which tends to make the amp sound "sterile" and lifeless. High frequency performance of such a design is sometimes described as sounding cold, hard or bright, especially when being pushed.

While some would say that this power level is so high that nobody would ever hear it / experience this under normal conditions, those are the same people that have never really measured dynamic power demands of low efficiency, low impedance speakers at higher volumes. Obviously, some of this can be avoided through careful system matching, but once again, unless one knows how to properly interpret test results, this can be a long and frustrating path.

Obviously, everything that i've discussed here pertains to SS designs ( and not just Bryston's ), as tubes work in a VERY different manner. Tube amps really are very different creatures in most cases. Sean
i've owned the 3bst , 3bsst. Both are very good amps. Very strong in the bass, dynamic, bold and powerful.

However, i was able to borrow the mccormack, Krells and classe of similar power rating.

I feel that after the audition, the Bryston could use some refinement. The mccormack, Krells and even the classe-- i personally feel is more refine, more finesse. The mccormack especially has a very nice mids and highs that I prefer to the colder sounding Krells.

Its best you do an audition if possible to see if the Brystons are for you. I'm keeping my Brystons for what they can do.

Someday I can use these for HT apps.

Good luck.
For what it's worth, I think Bryston has a history of being fairly honest about the performance of their products in terms of driving very low impedances. For example, it is well documented in the owners manual not to use the bridging feature with speakers rated at less than 8 ohms, and have seen them discuss this on the web as well.

I am not sure I understand the comparisons to tube amps. How many of them double into lower impedances? Just taking some random shots in the Stereophile archive, I didn't see any. Is there actually audio tube amps in the marketplace that will deliver 700W into any load? The most powerful amp I saw was the VTL S-400 at 350W, but it costs as much as a Camry.
Sean, thanks for the comments. Some of your points are well taken and highlight a couple of things:

1) amp designers are at the mercy of speaker designers

2) speakers that present as whacky loads should be avoided

3) the amp/speaker should be designed together as a system
Keneallyfan: There are NO tubed amps that "double down", at least as far as i know. As i mentioned, tubes operate very differently than SS amps. There really is no comparison in terms of power and current capacity, especially as impedances drop.

Bob: Amp designers are only at the mercy of their own skills and design / manufacturing budget. After that, it's strictly a matter of the consumer doing their homework and purchasing / using compatible equipment. Hopefully, this thread and some of the information contained within it may help some people do just that i.e. further educate them about this subject and help them with their future purchases. Sean
These are great comments from all; but a Bryston amp is a great bargain, goood bang for the buck, backed by a 20 year warranty. Sure there other amps that sure pass the Brystons but what will that set you back. I own the 4BST mated to a Cary slp98 love its sound and capabilities.
Something is a bargain only if it does everything that you need or expect of the product at a drastically reduced price as compared to the competition. Obviously, this would be system and personal preference based, resulting in the value of any audio based item being left up to the "ear of the beer-holder" : ) Sean
"Amp designers are only at the mercy of their own skills and design / manufacturing budget."

As an academic exercise, this may be true. But, in the real world someone will eventually connect a speaker to the amp. The amp designer can not anticipate what will be connected. So Bryston's approach of publishing the load that the amp was designed to drive removes the guess work for the consumer.
Keneallyfan's comments about speakers is spot on. All too often Bryston gets blamed for a crummy source as well after the owner goes to an amp that covers source deficiencies.
Again, my comments were more of a metaphysical nature than a defense of Bryston. Basically I am asking when we hear a noise from our systems that we don't like, why do we assume it's the amps fault? Any speaker on the market is tons less linear, but they always seem to be blameless. And nobody ever thinks about changing the room around.

Yes, the amp/speaker interface is important. But the reality is that most amps can coax sound out of most speakers. Yeah, there are those how want to listen to Mahler on Apogee Scintillas at Who concert levels, but they are the exception, not the rule.

To me, listening to reproduced music is like watching a movie or any other type of entertainment. It's all about your willingness to suspend disbelief. If we constantly fret about equipment choices, we are preventing that suspension from happening. My advice is that we all throw our Stereophiles in the trash and spin some tunes.

Another thing I have picked up from participating here and on the Asylum is that human hearing isn't very accurate and no two people hear alike. Guys will alway say they just had a hearing test and scored aces when challenged. Even if that is true, every test I ever had was of the 'raise your hand if you hear that" variety. I haven't had one since I left public school, so I can't remember. Does the doctor show you a graph after one of these?

I have used the same amp to drive four different pairs of speakers. It satisfied my requirements in all cases. Some of these speakers are considered "difficult loads", such as Magnepan and Dynaudio, but I have never really noticed any shortfall. I guess they aren't as difficult as some people think, or I just don't listen loud enough.

I am sure there are better amps out there, but how much money would it cost me to find them by trial and error, and would I be any happier if I did? I am too busy looking for a cue that will let me bust nine ball like Johnny Archer...
I have a 9B-SST. I would make sure that the amp you get has enough power for your speakers and that it at least doubles into 4 Ohms if it does not have a lot of power at 8 Ohms. The 9B-SST is an excellent sounding amp, but I did have problems feeding my B&W 802Ds with it. On recordings with a lot of dynamic range the sound would become flattened because my speakers can dip down to 3.5 Ohms often, which would make those recordings sound bad.

I always felt it was the recordings themselves until I recetly replaced the 9B-SST on the front left and right speakers with Ayre MX-R monoblocks which are 300 Watts into 8 Ohms and 600 Watts into 4 Ohms. Those recordings that previously sounded distorted/flattened at intense musical moments are now clear and dimensional. I think the combination of speakers that dip down low to 3.5 Ohms and the low Watts per channel of the 9B-SST were just a bad combination.

I believe the 9B-SST is around 125 WPC, but I know it doesn't double into 4 Ohms. As long as the 4B-SST provides plenty of power at both 8 Ohms and 4 Ohms you should be fine, as it does supply more WPC than the 9B-SST if I remember correctly. I would definitely check your speakers and see what its lowest Ohm rating is so you don't have to worry about running into this kind of problem. It doesn't have to necessarily double into 4 Ohms, though that would be nice. Doubling the wattage would likely make the amp a lot more expensive as it requires a lot more quality put into the design.

I'm still using the 9B-SST as a part of my system, but now it is only going to be used for the surround elements, such as the center channel and two rear speakers. Other than the problem I listed, the Bryston sound is excellent, it is transparent, it adds nothing to the sound, which is what a good amplifier should do... So the bass would be a product of the recording engineer's ability and choices, not the amplifier.
Bob Reynolds: Until the mass majority of speakers are able to present relatively benign loads with consistent impedances to them, my thoughts are that a supposedly "beefy" SS amp should be able to deal with most anything you throw at it. Obviously, there are exceptions ( big Apogee's, etc... ) to every generalization ( including this one ), so take that for what it is worth.

Obviously, not all SS amps are "beefy", nor are they all able to deal with various loads equally. Even if the manufacturer thinks their products are up to snuff and rates them accordingly, that doesn't mean that they actually will be able to in real life. Knowing what to expect ( good or bad ) and / or what one may end up dealing with ( good or bad ) before shelling out big coin can be a real blessing.

Keneallyfan: When one can substitute any one of a couple dozen amplifiers into the same system in a matter of minutes, it's not that difficult to make comparisons of what each amp brings with it, how they sound with those other specific components, how well each amp can drive that specific load, etc... Drawing both logical and repeatable conclusions from such an approach becomes rather easy after a while.

With that in mind, most people don't have the means or capacity to do such things. At the same time, many of these same people seek the honest opinions of others and want to hear their thoughts about that specific subject based on their experiences, observations, etc... As such, hearing the good and bad of any situation allows one to make a more informed opinion, even if one might not agree with all of those opinions expressed. Sean
Sean: In contrast, I often find it difficult to compare stereo components. Admittedly, my experience is pretty limited. I have done speaker and amp comparisions at dealers, mainly due to logistics. The only home audition involved a couple of CD players.

To be honest, I drove myself crazy. By the time I get the other box hooked up, I have pretty much forgotten what the other one sounded like. My audio memory is just too short. I am not saying I didn't hear differences, because I did. But more than once those perceptions have not been consistent between swaps. Also, it is not always easy for me to say one is necessarily better just because it is slightly different.

Obviously, matching amps to speakers would demonstrate a lot more variation between samples. But once you narrow it down to a couple that meet the requirements, after six months go by does it make that much difference which one you picked?

I am a avid pool player and compete at the regional and national level. I also collect custom pool cues. I can't tell you how many times I have picked up a friend's cue and started playing lights out with it. If I kept the thing a week, I would eventually end up playing the same speed with it as with any other cue I own. Why is that? Well, my brain noticed the different weight and balance, and I started to pay more attention. Once I get acclimated to the differences, I fall back into my comfort zone. I think the same thing happens when you audition stereo equipment.
my brain noticed the different weight and balance, and I started to pay more attention. Once I get acclimated to the differences, I fall back into my comfort zone. I think the same thing happens when you audition stereo equipment.
That's a terrific insight.
Keneallyfan: When it comes to pool cues, you adapt to the differences presented to you and make the best of them. That tells me that you have both skill and experience in that particular field. If such were not the case, you would not have been able to discern the subtle differences between presentations and you would be lacking the skill / experience to adapt accordingly.

Without being skilled and experienced, you wouldn't know that compensation was needed. Nor would you know how much compensation was needed or where, when and how to apply it. You've obviously developed skills, and my guess is that it has come over a period of time, primarily due to exposure and experience.

Audio really isn't all that different. Just like pool, there are some things that remain concrete, but most of it boils down to personal feel and proper implimentation of the tools and knowledge at hand. In that respect, nobody can teach you what feels "right" for you, you either know it or you don't.

There are obvious parallels between playing different tables in different environments to system requirements in different acoustics, and both require skill, experience and logic. Obviously, not everyone has the same level of skill, experience or logic, so some may achieve more consistent results than others. This is to be expected.

The bottom line is, one must enjoy what they are doing and the results that they achieve. Otherwise the "fun" factor disappears and we no longer enjoy what we are doing. I want to try and keep this "fun", so this is where i'll shut up. I hope that we can all enjoy ourselves at whatever we do. Otherwise, it's simply not "fun" : ) Sean
Bob's right. FYI If you run any Bryston at clipping, your already deaf. Strong, dead quiet, flat response, tells the truth on the input side or the output side. Low impedance issues? Bryston has answers for that i.e. 7B in low imp. mode. My 3B ST drove a shorted out speaker (that's 0 ohms) for 12 hours (I wasn't there to save it). The amp worked for another week (on different speakers) before it finally crapped out, then Bryston fixed it, without an appointment, in 4 hours, for free. Beat that. Only arc welders are tougher.
Tt509: That's called protection circuitry. Most commercially built amps have this to one degree or another. Many believe that it is this type of circuitry that audibly degrades the sonic potential of some otherwise very solidly engineered amps.

Outside of that, you can do much the same thing to a Crown, but the difference is, the Crown will probably keep working far longer than a week after the problem has been resolved. With all of that in mind, that doesn't mean that a Crown actually sounds good or that i want to use one for my home audio system.

As far as warranty service goes, Bryston is untouchable in that regards. I experienced much the same thing with them and can say nothing but good things about Dennis at their U.S. repair facility. Kudo's to both Bryston and Dennis for standing behind their product. Sean
I've had the H/K Sigature series 2.1 and the 1.5 and can't find another amp like it i think 5x100 is not enough for my infinity's 7.1 series 2 spakers any comments on this equipament.
It has fuses, it doesn't have protection circuitry like my mid-fi stuff. There is no click off, click on. You have to do something pretty bad to stop it from working. There are fuses at the back AND inside. Didn't know that until she blew and I'm not screwing up the warranty by opening it up. Do fuses degrade sound quailty like breakers?P.S. I'm a biased CDN.
Look at the gauge of conductor in a fuse, the materials used in a fuse and then compare that to what you're trying to pass signal through the rest of the way. Having said that, yes, fuses in the signal path do degrade the sonics of a product. Breakers do too. Sean
Those original "B-ST" series power amps still sound good to these ears.
The newest (cubed) series will certainly present more refined sound/presentation.