Brys­ton BCD-3

FOR Neat, de­tailed, even­handed pre­sen­ta­tion; build AGAINST Re­mote costs ex­tra; bass lacks a bit of bite and scale

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

Why buy a ded­i­cated CD player such as the Brys­ton BCD­3? It’s a fair ques­tion in this age of stream­ing and file down­loads. The an­swer is sur­pris­ingly sim­ple: it’s good. If you have a large col­lec­tion of discs and don’t have the in­cli­na­tion to move to com­puter-based au­dio, this Brys­ton could be just what you need.

It will come as no sur­prise to any­one who fol­lows this Cana­dian brand that the BCD­3 is a purist af­fair. It’s a plain, understated box that, at a glance, could pass for a budget ma­chine. That im­pres­sion fades when you see the unit in the metal and no­tice the thick alu­minium front panel and gen­eral so­lid­ity of build. This is a pre­mium prod­uct – but rugged and durable with it. It’s avail­able in a black or sil­ver fin­ish.

Tasty in­gre­di­ents

In­side you’ll find a dig­i­tal de­sign that bor­rows heav­ily from the com­pany’s well-re­garded BDA­3 dig­i­tal-to-ana­logue con­verter us­ing dual bal­anced AKM 4490 32-bit/384khz DAC chips. Great care has been taken to re­duce jit­ter and min­imise dis­tor­tion. The ana­logue out­put stage is a Class-a de­sign us­ing the com­pany’s own dis­crete op amps. The ana­logue and dig­i­tal sec­tions have their own power sup­plies to min­imise any in­ter­ac­tion that could spoil the sound.

There’s no doubt that Brys­ton has worked hard on this prod­uct. But what does throw us a bit is just how far the com­pany has stripped back the pack­age. There are no dig­i­tal in­puts, which have be­come some­thing of a stan­dard fea­ture in most re­cently in­tro­duced CD play­ers.

Dig­i­tal in­puts are a good way of keep­ing the player rel­e­vant even if the owner de­cides to move to com­puter au­dio. Af­ter all, a CD player has a DAC cir­cuit built-in, so why not make it ac­ces­si­ble to other dig­i­tal sources too? The idea makes sense – but Brys­ton also feels it could com­pro­mise CD per­for­mance due to hav­ing to ac­com­mo­date a wider range of in­put sig­nals and sam­pling rates.

The com­pany has been a lit­tle tight-fisted by not in­clud­ing a re­mote hand­set as stan­dard – come on Brys­ton; that’s just mean. Even budget play­ers a tenth of this price have re­motes. You can buy a rather fetch­ing all-metal BR­2 sys­tem hand­set from the com­pany for (take a deep breath) £400, or use a ded­i­cated custom-in­stall con­troller.

Up to stan­dard

That apart, ev­ery­thing here is pretty stan­dard. There are both sin­gle-ended and bal­anced ana­logue out­puts, as well as coax­ial and AES/EBU dig­i­tal outs. Don’t get too ex­cited by the pres­ence of an eth­er­net socket; the con­nec­tion is there for firmware up­grades, along­side a USB and a trig­ger in­put for sys­tem in­te­gra­tion.

Lack of re­mote apart, there’s lit­tle out of the or­di­nary here when it comes to us­abil­ity. The front panel con­trols feel pos­i­tive and are nicely laid out. The dis­play isn’t par­tic­u­larly big, but it re­mains clear enough to see from the other side of the room, and the drawer glides rather than stut­ters as it moves.

Our re­view sam­ple has already been prop­erly run-in by the im­porter, so there is lit­tle else to do than plug it in, use a de­cent sup­port and leave it on repeat for a cou­ple of hours. We use our reg­u­lar ref­er­ence sys­tem of Gamut D3i/d200i pre/power and ATC SCM50 speak­ers.

Those ex­pect­ing sonic fire­works are in for a dis­ap­point­ment. The BCD­3, like most Brys­ton prod­ucts, just doesn’t swing that way. It’s bal­anced, mostly neu­tral and de­tailed, and avoids the temp­ta­tion to hype the record­ing.

Co­he­sive and con­vinc­ing

Play Ge­orge Michael’s Fast Love and this player is right at home. The BCD­3 sounds co­he­sive and or­gan­ised, man­ag­ing to tie the song’s nu­mer­ous in­stru­men­tal strands into a con­vinc­ing whole. Michael’s vo­cals are com­mu­ni­cated with so­lid­ity and nat­u­ral warmth, the Brys­ton avoid­ing the overly etched and slightly lean qual­ity that many higher-end play­ers use to em­pha­sise de­tail. This is a more nat­u­ral, if less overtly im­pres­sive sound. We like the way the player han­dles nu­ances in the mu­sic and the way it shades small-scale dy­namic shifts.

Rhyth­mi­cally it’s sure­footed. There’s not quite the sense of mo­men­tum we hear in play­ers such as Rok­san’s cheaper Caspian M2 or Naim’s pricier CDX2, so there’s an element of ex­cite­ment lost, but there’s still enough to keep us in­ter­ested.

Mov­ing on to an old favourite in the form of Hans Zim­mer’s Gla­di­a­tor OST al­lows the Brys­ton to show off its con­trol and or­gan­i­sa­tion. Bat­tle is one of the most de­mand­ing tracks we know with its com­bi­na­tion of sav­age dy­nam­ics and com­plex or­ches­tra­tion. The BCD­3 copes well. It’s in­sight­ful, de­liv­er­ing a good amount of in­for­ma­tion and ar­rang­ing it nat­u­rally. We’re rarely dis­tracted by what the player does, which leaves the mu­sic in the spot­light.

The player’s tonal­ity is nicely judged too, tread­ing the bal­ance be­tween weight and agility well. Stereo imag­ing is pre­cise and rea­son­ably spa­cious, but it lacks a lit­tle scale. The low end isn’t flaw­less ei­ther. It’s pre­cise, ex­tended and nicely tex­tured, but sounds a lit­tle po­lite. While the mid and higher fre­quen­cies have a good amount of bite when the mu­sic de­mands, the bass fre­quen­cies seem a touch re­served. It means the piece’s drama is some­what di­luted.

Make no mistake, the BCD­3 is a fine CD player, and cer­tainly worth a place on your short­list if you’re af­ter a higher-end unit. Its well-bal­anced na­ture means it will slot into a wide range of sys­tems with ease and, in the best pos­si­ble way, fade into the back­ground. That’s the mark of a good piece of hi-fi.

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