New Amplifier: Bryston 4B ST or Pass Aleph 5


I am thinking about revamping my system and am looking for something that can work with my Magnepan MG12s and can grow with me up the Magnepan line. I haven't thought much about pre-amps (except something like a Krell 300i, but I'm not sure how that would play with the larger Magnepans), but have started thinking about amps.

After much research on this website and others, I have found two amps that seem to be recommended more than others for Magnepans: the Bryston 4B ST and the Pass Labs Aleph 5. I'd probably also consider pre-amps from the same companies, as they seem to perform well and I like the idea of a matched amp and pre-amp.

What do you guys think? I'm leaning towards the Bryston myself. I'm definitely on a budget for the amp (under $1500) so I have already discounted the McIntoshs, Krells, of the world.

I listen to classical music (primarily instrumental, solo through small ensemble music) and currently prefer Kimber Kable interconnects and speaker wire and my Marantz CD63 KI, although these preferences could change if I was properly convinced. I am also relatively new into this realm of hi-fi.

As a former owner of a Bryston 4BST and having heard it many times with Mag's I can recommend one to you. My additional advice would be to look for a tube pre, perhaps Audio Research very nice combo with mag's

Thanks for your reply. May I ask why you would suggest a tube pre-amp with the Bryston 4B/Magnepan combination? I have to admit I have never actually heard a tube pre-amp, so maybe this is something one must just hear to appreciate ;) Do you have a particular model to recommend? Do they require a lot of up-keep and maintaince? I'd really like to stay below $1000 for the pre amp, and I always assumed a tube pre would be cost prohibitive... but maybe not?!

Maybe a Audio Research LS-3 preamp would work?
As far as i know the LS-3 is a solid state pre, i would suggest looking for tubed ARC ls-7, I,ve seen them hero go for around 700 dlls., Good luck Carlos
Not all tubed preamps are pricey. If I were you, I would watch carefully until a First Sound Presence Deluxe MKI comes up for sale. Its newer sibling made deep ripples about 4 years ago on a review. The MKI version price floats between $1500-1300, but I saw someone selling one for about 1K. That is an outstanding preamp that will partner very well with almost any amp out there.

I personally have a First Sound Paramount Deluxe MKII Hot Rod, and have it paired with several different amps. With them all, nothing, I mean nothing has ever surpassed its dynamic signature.

Many tube preamp possibilities around or under $1,000:

ARC LS2, LS7, LS8 mk II, and many older "SP" series
Conrad Johnson - many
Sonic Frontiers Line 1
Anthem Pre 2L or 2L SE
Rogue 66
Audible Illusions

and many others
Thanks everyone.. However, I'm still wanting to know why I should go with a tube pre-amp? Is it due to the type of music I listen to, or my speakers, or is it just "a different sound"?
I had both of the amps you mention & want to throw out the Ayre V-3 to you as an alternative.

To me the 4BST was too analytical & the Aleph 5 was too warm. I used a Pass Aleph P pre with all three of the above amps & only sold it to get a one-box pre w/phono.

My choice of music & type of spkrs. are different & if I had to make a choice between the Bryston & Pass, I'd go w/the Pass.

I've stayed with Ayre for almost 4 yrs. now, moving up through the line.

Since you mentioned you're new to this, let me also encourage you to look into the other aspects of audio, which includes (but is not limited to) the room, AC, isolation & tweaks.

Thanks for your comments. Remember, that the Magnepans are 4 ohm speakers and perhaps that is why the Pass and Bryston are so often recommended paired together. I haven't seen many people running the Ayre amps with Magnepans, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be a good combination.

I have been doing a lot of research into some of the aspects you've mentioned and am compiling a list of "to-dos" that is growing quite large.
After doing a bit more research, will the Bryston 4B ST and the Audio Research LS-5 have impedance matching problems? They will used balanced connections between them, right? Also, it seems that the LS-5 mk2 might be a better match for the Magnepans. Anyone care to comment?

Finally, how often does one have to change out the tubes, and about how much can this cost (a range of values is fine).

These look like they might be a sweet combination that would support any movement up the Magnepan line and work well with my music tastes.

oops, perhaps I didn't mean the LS-5, as that's rather outside my budget ;)

I'd definitely like the following:
- balanced in/outs
- remote
- 12v trigger
- all tube gain stages throughout
- tube phono stage

Any takers under $1000? ;)
You are asking for the holy grail. I believe that the only preamp that sort of match your needs is an older BAT-3P? All BAT preamps are balanced and this one has remote and even an optional phono card. Tube changes should not worry you much....but then, there are preamps that use 6 tubes, the First Sound used just 4,2 0A2 tubes (around $10 a pair?) and 2 6922 or 88cc tubes, these are a little more. But, you do not need to get carried away with people telling you that New Old Stock tubes are better, modern preamps are fine with new, well tested tubes that do not have to cost you a liver or a kidney.


PS: The BAT I am telling you about runs easily into around $1500, used.
Check this link for the BAT preamp I was referring to.

I would think the Aleph 5 would not be enough power for the MG12s. I had the Aleph 2s which are more powerful and ran them with 94db efficient speakers and I wouldn't have wanted any less power. The Aleph speakers while sounding pretty great overall are notoriously wimpy as far as sounding powerful. The Aleph 5s would be a weak sounding 60 watts (which is fine when paired up with the right speakers) I had a friend who had the 1.6s with the Bryston amp, and I thought that system sounded great (for the money) driven directly by a Levinson 39 player.

I would also second the Ayre recomendation, it's just a great sounding product and far better than Bryston in my opinion.

It might be worth also taking a look at upgrading your CD player. If it were me I would split the money for the amp in half and spend the other on a better CD player.
The reason I sugested a tube pre is to smooth out the sound of the Bryston, not that it is necessary but the synergy of the two will leave you smiling. Look for a Audio research LS 15 or 16 or if you can afford it a LS25 all work well with the Bryston. You also will have the advantage of tube rolling(changing tubes to alter sound)
Okay, so I've narrowed down things a bit:

Sonic Frontiers Line 1
ARC LS16 mk II

(honestly, I'd like to narrow down to a single ARC choice, but I'm not sure which would be the most appropriate, as there are a lot of revisions)

I think I'm going to go ahead and choose the Bryston 4b ST, as I've heard it and really like the sound.

Also, remember I'll be powering Magnepan MG12s and listen to classical music exclusively (mainly instrumental, as well). I've decided that balanced in's and out's are the most important feature to me, as well as a remote.

I noticed that some of these pre-amps have more tubes than others. Is there a particular tube format that is especially desirable, or appropriate for my listening habits?

Thanks again everyone!
okay, we'll I've narrowed down more:

Sonic Frontiers Line 1

Any help, recommendations, advise, etc...
Go to the Audio asylum web site and click on the planar form. it is where the Maggie crowd hang out and post the question there. Maggies respond to power and I don't mean watts, it's current that lights the up the Maggies. I just picked up an older Threshold (Nelson pass design) at 70 watts per. I plan on useing it to by amp my MG III but have it hooked up to my MG I imp. right now and my ears prefered the 70 watt Threshold. I found it easly out performed my 200 watt B+K or my older Bryston which I sold a few months backs. The Pass will work well with the MG 12 but will not do the trick if you get into the III series. I used to have the 12s as well.
Going back to your questions about the sonic benefits of getting a tubed preamp and a SS amp, it has to do with the sonic qualities you might like. Bryston, is fairly neutral but to some, this might be too cold or unemotional. When you add the right tubed preamp, it will add a sense of warmth that will allow you to listen longer without getting sonically jaded.

Of the two choices you mention, the Sonic Frontiers Line 2 is known to be a more restrained or neutral tubed preamp.

The BAT might have a more traditional or robust, emotional presentation.

The Bat, even if it does not have the phono board, might allow you to get fitted with one from the factory, because the new, X designation model of the VK-3 might use the same physical dimensions. But, the phono board for what I can remember it was around $500 alone. You might be better off purchasing a different phono stage later.
thanks everyone for their help!