Review: Bryston 4B-ST Amplifier

Category: Amplifiers

Why do so many people, including dealers, dismiss Bryston? I have had this unit for two years now and it has done nothing but performed remarkably well and, as my habits require, with all kinds of recordings. Sure, some amps might sound better with small ensembles or female vocals, but if one listens to everything from Beethoven's Eroica to Sebadoh, you need equipment that brings you a full tonal spectrum, and I haven't found a whole lot lacking in the Bryston, particularly since I added the Richard Gray and a PS Audio Lab Cable II to the mix. But let me be more precise.
The Bryston provides consistent, quiet power, and is responsive to dynamic recordings, meaning, it leaps when I (or the CD player) say "leap." The Eroica, Hogwood version, starts out fast and furious. Likewise, Maogwai's slow, ascending jams ascend, and they burst when the lads kick it in, distortion and all. At first I thought it sounded a wee bit bright, e.g. with muted trumpets, solo violin, say, Pearlman's Bach recordings, or Dolphy's flute on Coltrane's "Ole," but that's all but disappeared now that I've paired it with the Musical Fidelity Pre and cleaned up the power with cords, a line conditioner, and PS Audio's fancy, shiny, plug. I imagine I might find a sweeter amp, but will it have the dynamic range and power of the Bryston? I don't know, and I'm unconvinced but what I've *read* (yes, I know-- no local dealers) that Classe or Nelson Pass gear will do the trick. And then there is the bass. Some folk think Maggies lack bass. WIth my power in order, my IIIA's have all the attack and richeness I want from the low end. (I hate boomy bass -- it blunts music and highlights what is often the least interesting aspect of a recording IMHO.) Take Acetone's *York Blvd.* All of the texture and richness of the erstwhile Richie's bass sings. And the two basses, one bowed, the other plucked, from Colktrane's *Ole* are articulate. Yes, articulate bass. It's a pleasure and the Bryston delivers it. Questions: At times I wonder if the sound stage could be bigger. I doubt it could be deeper, though. Dimensionality is great in my system. Also, I've heard folk complain of grain, but I'm not sure what they're talking about. If someone could help me with a concrete musical reference, I'd appreciate it until I discovered it and ended up wanting a new amp. Gripe: As many note, the binding posts area pain in the keester. Not a crucial issue in my view. Bonus: Twenty year transferable warranty. That makes this one very sound buy, new or used, but particularly used.

Associated gear
Magnepan IIIA
MFidelity A3cr Pre-amp
Arcam Alpha 9 CD
Yamaha CT7000 Tuner
Tara Labs RSC Prime 5000 Sp. Cable
Analysis Plus Silver Oval IC's
PS Audio Power Cord
R Gray Line Conditioner

Similar products
Musical Fidelity A3cr
Nice review. The Brystons are great amps, especially at their price point. I moved from the 3B to the 4B to the 7B's (all ST's) and noticed a marked improvement in bass and midrange "density" and presence at each step. I also noticed a touch more articulation in passages with a heavy concentration of instruments with each step upward. All of the Bryston amps are impressive and they are all clean and accurate throughout the band. Excellent amps.
In thirty years of listening, I have found quality pro audio gear often gives the best sound for the money. After all, audio professionals have to make a living with the equipment they buy and require above all accuracy and reliability. The Bryston ST (and now SST) series represents an excellent example of this quality. Yes, you can spend 2 or 3 times as much and get better performance in one area or another, but, for most of us, Bryston delivers very high quality sound and doesn't require a neurosurgeon's income or a second mortgage.
I have listened to the 4B and loved it. I have a 3B which is built like a tank. The detail is fantastic and the bass incredibly tight.
The main point, besides a "sane" price, is the warranty. 20 years and transferable! Does anything else come close?
Sorry, but the 4BST is NOT that good sounding an amp. I did extensive comparisons of it with McCormack DNA225, McCormack DNA-1 Rev. A, McIntosh 352 solid state, and various tube amps.

The Bryston has a bright, piercing quality in the lower treble. It becomes easily confused during demanding, highly complex passages, with the imaging going to hell. It has a rather "blanched" sound, which others call neutral.

I agree the Bryston is built very well, with a fabulous warranty, and, at the time, I very much wanted to like it and to buy one. But if you have the ears to hear, it is not my choice in solid state amps by any means.
The 20 year warranty is irrelevant!!!

Yes, it is always mentioned because it is unusual, but who would want to listen to poor sound for 20 years? Not I.

On its merits, the 4B-ST is a powerful SS amp that is very neutral yet smooth, and takes control of the bass with athority. It matches easily with other equipment, and in my experience doesn't have such a profound sonic signature that it masks other parts of the "food chain". In my system (Rega Jupiter, ARC SP9 II, Oracle Delphi MkIII, Magnaplanar 2.7, and my room!) it sounds great. I found the McCormack's rolled off and lacking punch (in my room!). Compared to Classe' the Bryston is more athoritative and better at unraveling detail (in my room!).

It is a wonderful sounding amp: big and authoritative, detailed yet warm (not euphonic, but warm), and revealing without a hint of hardness. To my ears it is not brittle, strident, or etched in any way. FYI: I listen to just about everything from classical to grunge, but mostly spin 50's & 60's Jazz.

The warranty, however, is horrible, it flutters in the breeze, crackles when folded, and is wrought with surface noise. Don't listen to it!

Brystons are worthy products on their sonic merits and like every component; subject to the associated components, source material, room, and sonic preferences of the listener.
Bravo, Fzxguy!
I'm late to these reflections. Some thoughts in return. Of course the warranty is sonically irrelevant. For those buying used, however, it is a factor when considering which amp to buy. Is the amplifier "bright and piercing" in the lower treble? Not to my apprently deficient ears (dear Kevziek). I'm now using the MF DAC and the sound is sweet top to bottom, and across the spectrum: cymbals in the new version of "A Love Supreme" and on Bowie's "Ashes to Ashes," the violin in Bach's "Partitas," trumpet, alto, and tenor sax across *Kind of Blue,* soprano sax and flute on "Ole," alto and soprano voices (e.g. Fleming and Figueras), and so forth. To cut to the chase, I think some folk like tube-sounds b/c of what it reveals and conceals. Others don't. I have always found tube pre-amps and amps rolled off, and occasionally smothering with regard to upper range ambient detail. Is that acumen or taste? I don't see how one could resolve that debate objectively, so I prefer to leave acoustical character assasination to the side of the debate. I encourage others to follow suit.
I have spent a decent amount of time with the 4Bst it is a really nice amplifier. I think it can be a little hard on top sometimes but it may just be asscoiated equipment? I recently went through about 4 amplifiers until I realized that my speakers are bright. (I never claimed intellect)
The most notable attributes of the bryston are its ability to take control of the speakers and its ability to resolve.
Hey guys!!!
stop to be insecure about your audio gear, and spend your money on buying high quality records, and spend more time to listen to music. A little story, one of my friend, who knows classical music better than 95% of mankind, had a pair of Spendor speakers,driven by Naim audio equipment, with a Pierre-Clément (turntable). Ten years ago, he bought a complete audio system including Bryston 12B and 4B. He spent 10K also on his audio room, double sheetrock tichness, frequency analyzer study, 5000k of tube traps. the room modifications, was a major upgrade,that gave much better improvements than the upgrade of the equipments. He listen between 8-10 hours of classical music, 365 days a year. He doesn't read audio gear reviews, and he doen't mind. Before choosing, its new gears that includes the Bryston setup, he took 6 months shopping and listening to all the audio shop of montreal, listening to Krell, Naim, Linn, McIntosh, etc. He finally made his choices and bought also a pair of Pierre-Etienne Leon(speakers : Integrale), and a Sony X77ES cd player. He never was more happy, and after all theses years, he still love it, as at the time of purchase.
He never complaint about graininess, treble too forward, etc.
Bryston = value. I have the passion but not the money to build a dream system. For now, at least Bryston let's me peek into the door of Hi Fi. My amps include a 3BNRB, 4BST, B60, and a 3BST. Always realiable, providing clean brute power. AND I must agree, the plastic shrouds around the newer binding posts are unfriendly, especially to my stiffer AQ cbl. Small complaint I suppose given the 'bigger picture'. Great bang for the buck.
I unfortunately must also look to value in the used equipment market.

Purchased 2mth old Bryston 4b-sst. More power and removes much of the brightness and limitations of the earlier 4b-st. Measured at 330watts, vs. the 4bst's 250 - low end with much more control and precision.

At the $2K range, a great deal for an amp which retains its value quite well in the used market. Hence the warranty is deemed quite important, as I can purchase used in confidence. Not sure what else at the price point, where one can do significantly better.

Highly recommend the 4Bsst version over the 4bst.

Best regards.
I've not heard them yet, but your debate has sparked me to go check them out! I wonder if the folks woh don't like them would change their minds if they auditioned them under optimal conditions (i.e., in their own systems at home or in a studio)?

I'll have to see if the local dealer will gimme a sample!

-joe m.
With the proper test equipment, you could look at the sound generated by the amp as compared with others discussed here. Though frequency plots and distortion measurements don't allow for a human element (subjective/objective listening), they can easily reveal any serious peaks, dips, or distortions throughout the whole freq. spectrum.
I won the SST version of this amp. It is alot smoother than the ST (I did a side by side) and still retains the detail and bass control
I've had a Bryston 3B-ST for 4 yrs. now and still cannot find a flaw with it. It has exceeded all my expectations in sonic clarity, both low and high freq. Up until today, I drove a set of Klipsch Forte II's with this amp and thought it amazing. Today I purchased a new pair of Paradigm Reference 60 V3's. The 3B-ST grabs these speakers by the throat and shakes the listeners roots, driving them effortlessly. I can by no means afford $100k for the 'finest' in audio gear, and nor would I want to. I've demo'ed many amps over the years, Bryston, Krell, Mark Levinson, Classe, Anthem... and while ALL are amazing in their own right, my Bryston quietly (and cheaply) puts them back to bed. If you are looking for an entry level amplifier with rock-solid performance (I, like Fzxguy's posts, do not even consider the warranty) then you'd be hard pressed to do better IMHO. Everyone has their tastes for what sounds good and bad. My recommendation would be to find what sounds good to you, then buy it, and more importantly...enjoy it.
Been away from any and all audio gear for several decades, and a recent walk into the high-end store left me a total stranger. Through the internet, I found that I could crawl back to a time and place where I could find a firm footing, and try to back-track up to the present.
Fat chance. At least I can read through the mountains of reviews and get a feel for what's hot, and what's not.
To Business......
An old dream speaker of mine was the Dahlquist DQ-10, and I just recently aquired a pair, in rather good shape.
Realizing I would need fresh gear to drive these baby's-alas, my pride and joy from the 70's has been a combination of door-stop and closet clutter for quite a while, and will be the topic of another review-
so after asking around, and throwing out names that I can remember-SAE, Phase Linear, GAS, Audio Research-(these were serious power amps, sometimes twichie, often finicky, but always awesome). "Yes, those will do nicely, if you stay at or above 200watt/per channel, but for about the same money--have you heard of Bryston? I'm thinking of the 4B, and it's varients...."
So here I am. Various reviewers on these pages, (of other amps that were name-dropped in my lap, names I had also considered for purchase), projected less than rave reviews concerning quality and craftsmanship.
Maybe a tube pre-amp, if budget allows, (later,later), but for now, what additional imput/recomendations can I get on the 4B?
Less than rave reviews of quality and craftsmanship regarding the Bryston 4B? Q&C is Bryston's bread and butter. Depending on your budget, start with a 4B SST (~$2000 used), 4B ST (~$1500 used), 4B (~800 used). The SST series is the most refined of the bunch. Steve Nugent at Empirical Audio (do a Google search) might be willing to modify a 4B and turn it into something special. Just an idea.
Oops!! I'm bad! What I ment to imply, (while trying to be cute), was that various reviews of OTHER (contemporary) amps had left a bad taste in my mouth---the last thing I want to get across is a misconseption that I have heard something negative about this product.
I address this forum because all of your comments ARE genuine and totally unsolicited. If there is science on the table, good. If the topic is a purely subjective one, better!
I origionally put the "which amp?" question to some old time buddies who have dabbled since we used to have hair, and they in turn put me on to some serious bigshot engineer/tech's who maintain their stuff.
When I relayed my budget, (I'm broke), and my extensive amplifer research, (I'm lost), combined with the recent purchase of the DQ-10's, (I'm REAL lucky),
ALL of these ol' geezers, to the man, recomended the 4B. Mind you, they also recomended old analog stuff- so I wouldn't feel TOO stupid- but when they said the name Bryston, it just rolled off their tongue like a favorite nephew.
My dear old dad would remind me that talks cheap-
but here, it's golden.
And in good faith I truely feel fortunate to be able to sift through years of use and abuse, and to see what stunk, sunk, and what sailed off into the sunset. (I want that one!)
So Tvad, and to anyone else I may have offended, accept my apology, please.
(I will take note of the wizzard of Empirical Audio, but untill I test the water, I will start out with a minimum of letters after the "B", and hold off on any mods. untill I understand a lot more about has happened in the last 20 years).
Only then will we see what I can smuggle past my wife.
Untill then, can anybody relate to hungry speakers, and impart how the 4B will adapt?
No offense taken whatsoever. I only had experience with 4B SST and 14B SST. The 4B SST easily drove my 89dB/6 ohm VonSchweikert VR4 SE speakers. The 4B SST had a tougher time with my 87dB/? ohm Aerial 7B speakers, and the protection circuitry would kick in at loud (hard rock) listening levels. Unless you're looking to experience Metallica at live performance level, you should have no problem. All in all, one doesn't often hear of a 4B having trouble with any beast.
I do appreciate that Tvad, and let me assure you that I have no desire to re-experence the anatomic face-lift I received at my one-and-only Greatful Dead Concert. I fully enjoy listening to, (at modest levels), jazz- bop and new age, the torch singers and crooners, classical and chamber music, hell, I'm listening to Blue Grass now that I've heard Allison Krouse------but then that's the real secret to our meeting here. (REALLY hearing).
Of course you realize that I'll have to wander about the net, and do some research into your selected speakers, in that I've never heard of them. (Or 2/3 of everything I read about in these reviews).
But then, I'm here to learn, and I'm in good company.

My first serious system was a combination of new and used gear, a pair of Heresy decorator models, an AR-XA table combined with a feeble, yet modestly successful attempt to graft an SME 3009 type II arm, The Marantz Model 8 power amp, and a Dynaco PAT-5 preamp kit.
(A buddy and I split up a Model 7 preamp and the 8, he got a couple of Dyna mono amp kits, and the other same new gear).
Yes, the 8 was used and already 15 years old, but some new Mullard's cleaned it up and unleashed a sweetness and warmth that took the edge of the horns, and even raised some eyebrows from the audiophiles who helped us assemble our "budget starter systems".
(I still have the gear, and thru the net, have been piecing it back together).
It was in the home of one of those audiophiles, so generous with their time and patience, that I first heard the DQ-10's. Upon later visits, I noticed that all the gear kept changing, all except those 10's. And of course, what I didn't see was the parade of components that finally hypnotized me into lusting after those speakers. (I wish I had paid more attention to what the system evolved into).
So here, at this point, based on the Dahlquist's and a Bryston 4B, I should think a tube preamp may be the best bang for the buck.
Any thoughts on that subject? Any experence with one design over another? Or maybe an outstanding trans. design? How about a CD player? It's your ball game.
And thanks for keeping in touch. Mac
Spotless, there are so many choices and so many opinions, and the opinions amount to mostly that. I use a First Sound Presence Deluxe II tube preamp. You'll find plenty of posts here about the model. It's clear, dynamic, remote control and no phono stage.

I've read good things about the Audible Illusions 3A, but another recent thread tells a lamentable tale of stunningly poor customer service and repair delays.

You might consider your budget for each component and do a search of the threads. The questions as to "which is the best so-and-so for x amount of dollars" have been asked many, many times. The answers are often helpful, and will give you much to consider. Have fun.
Having been in this hobby/business since 1957 have damn near seen it all and owned and sold more gear than I can remember. I do remember when Bryston started in the mid 70s about 1977 if memory serves me correct.First products were the 1B Preamp and 2B power amp. By the way the 1B is still one very fine preamp by any standard.

To be candid in my opinion on an overall scale there is little to fault with any Bryston gear. No it cannot compete with the exhaulted gear such as Pass Labs,Levinson,Krell, Threshold and the like. But is not that far off the mark either and when paired with right speakers,cabels and such produces wonderful sonics that anyone can live with nicely and for a very long time.

Build quality is excellent, and service from Bryston is par de excellence on any scale.

Recently had a customer trade in two Bryston 2B-LP amps and a 12B Preamp for some Threshold spearates.

First tried the 2BP-LP as a stereo amp and later switched them to mono blocks, easy to do, switch on the back of these makes this very easy. And while at it inserted the 12B preamp. All of these units had time remaining on the 20 year Bryston Warranty.

Gave them about a week of 24/7 operation. I have no idea as to why all the carping on the Bryston product range. These examples are excellent performers and play music with a solid authority. To do better than the Bryston gear, and you can, you will spend dearly to do so.

And yes, the warranty does matter. How many products that we have all bought, that took a nose dive, just when the warranty expired. Face it we all have. My hats off to Bryston to have the faith in their product to offer this outstanding committment to thier product, that damn few others will even contemplate. Bryston takes care of their customers - "WHAT A CONCEPT"!!!!!

Nearing retirement now, I am thinking, that I just may keep this Bryston gear. While it does not have the sonic signature of these Class A output amps around here. The Bryston is not a total letdown to switch to. Plus the fact weight wise a lot easier to move when needed.

After all this hobby is much more about the music, than the gear. Bryston plays music with an ease and signature that lets the music come through with authority.

Over the years have had much of the Bryston product line come through here and all of it has been very good indeed. In fact of all the Bryston gear that I have resold,none has ever come back. Wish I could say that about other gear. One can do far worse in not choosing the Bryston line for their systems. I have seen some very esoteric and highly acclaimed gear, that was by far more poorly built and had a sonic signature of a Fisher-Price toy piano.

Bryston is a solid reputable company, producing wonderful amps and preamps that will satisfy all but the most jaded mavens among us. In my opinion Bryston should be on anyones short list for fine audio components and certainly one does not have to makes excuses for owning any Bryston product.
Nice review. I am not sure I agree with all the detailed "sonic qualities" discussion in the thread. As far as I am concerned the 4B-ST must be one of the all-time best value power amps available second hand. A "no-brainer" if you are like me and you want high power and damping to control accurately the music (especially bass) and don't want "colouration" in the sound. I would say the Bryston 4B-ST is about as neutral sounding as they come. And with the 20 year guarantee you are covered even on a second hand purchase! Amazing.

I am sad to report what others may have also found in terms of reliability of high power, high current audio gear that runs hot enough to toast bagels: my SONY TA-N80ES power amplifier died (one channel) after 6 years (one year after the warranty expired!*%$#) ....that is when I got the Bryston 4B-ST. (I still own a third 220 Watts PC power amp that also died on one channel and was repaired under warranty..this one was not a SONY but an old Kenwood M2))

Could I tell a difference in the sound of these similarly powerful amplifiers....NO

Am I more comfortable knowing that I have about 12 years left on my Bryston 4B-ST warranty....YES ABSOLUTELY

Do I blame SONY not at all...I am not trying to scare anyone away from SONY as they make great products too. I used the SONY amplifier an awful lot and moved house (shipping/storage) three times. I also blew a couple of drivers over that 6 year I am sure I contributed to the SONY power amp's demise.