I have heard both and the Burson sounds better to my ears.
10 responses Add your response
I haven't heard the latest Rega...but your comments re/neutrality don't surprise me. Rega IMHO has never sounded neutral to my ears. They HAVE been remarkably consistant with their voicing though, to their credit.
The average consumer who hasn't dabbled in circuitry can't imagine the diversity/predictably so, of sound that one can 'engineer' into an audio piece...after experimentation, one can predict and create pretty reliably.
Kudos to Burson for such great gear for what most of us would seem to think is budget pricing.
I have heard both, and to my ears the Rega is by far the better DAC. The Burson did not impress me at all with red book CDs, but it was much better with hi-rez files. I only heard the Rega with regular CDs, and I find it to be the best I have heard so far (but have not heard that many).
On another comparison with the Bryston DAC, I also preferred the Rega by a significant margin. That audition was on a very revealing system that included Vandersteen Model 7, an expensive AR preamp and Bryston amps. The Rega was very close to good analog sound and was free of most digital artifacts. I borrowed the Rega for a couple of days, and my opinion has not changed. As with all digital electronics, make sure the unit is broken in and has been on for about a day before a serious audition. The Rega sounded a bit harsh when cold.
I'm intrigued by your comment regarding Rega vs Bryston BDA. Did you consider the Rega "better" because it had a sound signature more to your liking, or were both along the same sound signature with the Rega being better? Did the other/s preferred the Rega as well? Was the Bryston also broken in?
The Bryston is very highly regarded and I'm seriously considering it, so would value your input.
I havent heard the Burson DAC nor the W4S DAC, so I can't comment on if the Rega DAC is better or not. Neither are available locally to me, and I'm not big on Internet direct brands, especially when W4S doesn't offer 100% money-back if you return it. I'm a bit too particular in what I'm looking for and too frugal to get involved with shipping stuff back and forth. Add to that that I've got a great local Rega guy, and my decision to audition the Rega DAC was a no-brainer. With all that being said, a bit of insight on the Rega vs Bryston BDA-1...
I've owned the Rega since the first shipment to the US (serial # 25 I believe). I've heard the BDA-1 many times, and own a Bryston B60, so I'm obviously a Bryston fan.
The BDA-1 and Rega are different animals. They're similar in some ways, but different. The BDA-1 is more detailed, open and airy sounding. It has a larger and perhaps closer and more intimate soundstage, and images are truer in life-like proportions. Bass is a bit lower and more controlled. It's a better DAC in every hifi sense. The Rega doesn't do a single hifi thing better IMO. The BDA-1 isn't all hifi and no music though. It's extremely musical to my ears. Music glows with ease and poise.
The Rega seems a bit more closed in and distant sounding. Not in a bad way, nor in a laid back way; the soundstage is smaller and a bit further back.
The Rega DAC's truest and best strength is that it just makes sense of the music and gets it right. Very hard to explain. Listening to Hendrix's Little Wing made me get this very quickly. That track is a mess with every other source I've heard it on. One of my favorite songs, yet I can't listen to it more than once an hour or so. Until I brought home the Rega anyway. The first night I had the DAC, I played that song 3 times in a row. The third time was to make sure I wasn't imagining that my purchase was justified.
Another track that made me appreciate the Rega was Metallica's Orion. It's an instrumental track with 2 bass solos in it. I always knew which solos were the bass solos, but they never sounded like bass guitar to me. With the Rega, they became obvious.
These things weren't due to increased detail or anything like that. The only way I can describe it is to say the Rega just makes sense out of music. It may sound like a cop out on my part, but it's not.
The BDA-1 is a better DAC. When taking price into account, you have to factor in features like connectivity, sample rate flexibility, etc. This adds to the cost and doesn't keep the two on exactly even ground.
Had money not been an issue, I'd have brought home the BDA-1 and Rega DAC and compared them directly. Not sure if the BDA-1 would have done what the Rega is doing though.
I hate the analog analogy, as I think it's used way too often. However, the Rega sounds like a great turntable. Not a smoothed over, warm, lush and slow turntable, but a great turntable that gets the heart and emotion out of the grooves and into your room.
If you're looking for new details in your music and/listening to bits and pieces of your music rather than the overall picture, you won't get what the fuss over the Rega is all about. If you're sitting back and experiencing a complete performance, the Rega DAC should make itself very well known (in a good way, not a 'listening to the component' way).
The BDA-1 is a more polished and proper sounding DAC. Not sure if it gets the music as right as the Rega DAC does. I'd love to hear them both in my home, side by side for a few days.
Also keep system synergy in mind. A friend with trusted ears didn't have the same experience with it as I did. He heard what I heard, but in his system (I think his speakers moreso than electronics) the Rega was reportedly overly warm and bass boomed a bit too much for his ears. He has an Exposure integrated and was running older Castle speakers if I'm correct.
Synergy will make or break a system IMO.
Even though the W4S DACs are pretty much universally praised here, there are people who didn't like it. Another trusted friend found it a bit too dark sounding. He wanted to keep it, but after a while he grew tired of it. Again, synergy will make or break a system. I've heard the dark sounding criticism of it from a few others, but I don't know them to be able to tell their preferences.
Just for clarification...
The Rega DAC isn't closed in sounding and nor is it distant sounding in an absolute sense. That's just compared to the BDA-1. And the differences in these regards aren't very big between the two, but they are easily identifiable.
My system throws a very big soundstage that goes back pretty far, and comes close enough when it's in the recording. The BDA-1 just pushes those boundaries a bit better than the Rega IMO.
As a reference, I'm using an Apple TV gen 1 with Apple Lossless files, Bryston B60 integrated, and Audio Physic Yara Evolution Bookshelves. I auditioned a ton of $1k and below DACs, and didn't find anything that made me give up my Rega Apollo or my Theta Cobalt 307 DAC (used with ATV) until I came across the Rega DAC. There was newer and better out there, but not better enough until the Rega DAC.
All IMO of course, take it as you will.
"The BDA-1 is a better DAC"
Not based on your above comparisions.
The Rega DAC seems to have completely involved you emotionally into your music, replayed the same song "3 times" that says it all. The Bryston was apparently better with the hifi/audiophile checklist, yet did`nt compel you to replay the same songs repeatedly. Why not? because it was incapable of making the music connect(is`nt this the whole point of musical enjoyment?).Without this essential emotional bond the hifi parameters are meaningless.