Australian HIFI - - CONTENTS -

If you had to buy your very last CD player, re­viewer Martin Iredale reck­ons the Brys­ton BCD-3 should be the one you buy.

Aques­tion I am of­ten asked is: ‘Why would any­one buy a CD player these days?’ I usu­ally just an­swer with a sin­gle word: ‘Sim­plic­ity’. I am now con­sciously try­ing to re­duce the stresses of modern liv­ing by mak­ing my own life as sim­ple as pos­si­ble. When I want to play mu­sic, I rather like that I can just pop a CD in a drawer, press play and be lis­ten­ing to mu­sic im­me­di­ately. Yes, I have ripped all my CDs. Yes, I have a mu­sic server con­nected to my sys­tem. De­spite this, when I want to lis­ten to mu­sic, it’s more likely that I’ll browse the CDs stored on my shelf, se­lect one and play it than that I’ll pull out my phone, fire up an app, browse through the mu­sic stored on my NAS and play from that.

The same ques­tion must of­ten be asked of the folks up at Brys­ton, in Canada, be­cause they have an an­swer pub­lished on their web­site. Here it is, ver­ba­tim: ‘ Although high res­o­lu­tion dig­i­tal down­loads dom­i­nate the at­ten­tion of au­dio­philes, many mu­sic lovers have hun­dreds or thou­sands of CDs that re­quire the finest play­back equip­ment to sound their best. Though uni­ver­sal disc play­ers or DVD play­ers can play back CDs, they cer­tainly won’t re­solve the full dy­namic range and nu­ance the medium is ca­pa­ble of. Such play­ers in­her­ently com­pro­mise CD play­back to sup­port ad­di­tional for­mats.’

The equip­ment

The Brys­ton BCD-3’s front panel looks quite stan­dard un­til you switch it on and the dis­play lights up and you dis­cover that it’s amaz­ingly crisp and sharp.

In fact it’s down­right beau­ti­ful… prob­a­bly the best dis­play I have ever seen on any CD player ever. It turned out to be an OLED, of course, but in the course of dis­cov­er­ing this, I also dis­cov­ered that it comes in dif­fer­ent colours: blue and green. You can choose either, but it’s a fac­tory-only op­tion, so if your lo­cal hi-fi store doesn’t have both colours in stock, or­der­ing a dif­fer­ent colour might take a while.

De­spite the pro­vi­sion of this state-of-theart dis­play, Brys­ton has in­cluded an op­tion that means you don’t have to use it. If you con­nect the BCD-3 to your lo­cal area net­work (via the Eth­er­net in­ter­face on the rear panel), you can con­trol it via a web browser.

You can also up­date the BCD-3’s firmware via Eth­er­net for the pur­pose (ac­cord­ing to Brys­ton) of ‘ en­sur­ing re­li­able op­er­a­tion and add new fea­tures.’

If you choose to op­er­ate the Brys­ton us­ing the front panel con­trols you’ll find all the usual but­tons are there, along with the less-usual ‘Re­peat’ but­ton (though it only does Track and Disc re­peats, not A–B re­peats), and ‘Ran­dom’. If you use Brys­ton’s BR2 re­mote con­trol to con­trol the BCD-3 (which will re­quire an ad­di­tional pur­chase, since Brys­ton doesn’t pro­vide one with the BCD-3), you will get a fea­ture that is not avail­able from the front panel: di­rect track ac­cess us­ing 0–9 but­tons. This is handy if you reg­u­larly skip tracks on CDs that have dozens of tracks, but on most CDs I find it’s faster

Down­right beau­ti­ful… prob­a­bly the best dis­play I have ever seen on any CD player ever!

to just press the ‘Pre­vi­ous’ or ‘Next’ but­tons mul­ti­ple times. This sys­tem of skip­ping tracks works par­tic­u­larly well on the BCD-3 be­cause it has a buf­fer than al­lows you to press mul­ti­ple times very quickly, and track ac­cess is also quick, so I prob­a­bly wouldn’t bother buy­ing the re­mote un­less I had other Brys­ton com­po­nents (though if this were the case you might al­ready own a BR2 re­mote!).

The disc drawer is very solid and, rather re­fresh­ingly, made of metal rather than plas­tic. Rather too solid in fact, be­cause there are metal rods either side of the tray that no doubt in­crease rigid­ity but make it very hard to re­move discs un­less you jamb your fin­ger into the CD’s cen­tre hole and re­move the disc from the tray that way. I found it al­most im­pos­si­ble to re­move a disc from the tray by grasp­ing it by its outer cir­cum­fer­ence.

The rear panel of the Brys­ton BCD-3 has both bal­anced (XLR) and un­bal­anced (RCA) ana­logue out­puts, and AES/EBU (XLR) and S/ PDIF (RCA) dig­i­tal out­puts. It also has RS232, Eth­er­net, USB and ‘Re­mote’ con­nec­tors. Note, how­ever, that the USB in­put is only for sys­tem con­trol—it does not ac­cept (or out­put) dig­i­tal au­dio sig­nals. There is also no head­phone out­put—either on the front or the rear panel which, be­cause I do a lot of head­phone lis­ten­ing and pre­fer my head­phones to be as close to the orig­i­nal source as pos­si­ble (so as to have the least cir­cuitry in the way) I view as a fairly sig­nif­i­cant over­sight… but you might have a dif­fer­ent opin­ion.

Not sur­pris­ingly (since they were both de­signed by the same per­son and they have al­most iden­ti­cal model num­bers) the BCD-3 uses most of the same dig­i­tal cir­cuitry as Brys­ton’s BDA-3 DAC, in­clud­ing ex­actly the same DACs (AKM 4490s) in ex­actly the same con­fig­u­ra­tion (two per chan­nel, in dif­fer­en­tial mode). And, as with the BDA-3, the ana­logue out­put sec­tion of the BCD-3 op­er­ates en­tirely in Class-A, and all the gain and buffer­ing de­vices are dis­crete and all the com­po­nents for it are on their own PCB. The power sup­ply is on an­other PCB all by it­self and the dig­i­tal cir­cuitry is split over two PCBs. In fact, in a rather beau­ti­ful piece of elec­tron­ics de­sign, there are only 12 ‘thru­hole’ com­po­nents in the en­tire ma­chine… all else is sur­face-mount. Well done Dan Marynis­sen! I have to men­tion the build qual­ity too, which is ex­cep­tion­ally good, plus the fact that the BCD-3 is made in Brys­ton’s own fac­tory in Canada.

In Use and Lis­ten­ing Ses­sions

Af­ter load­ing my very first CD into the player (and these are the only discs the BCD-3 will play, by the way) I played around with the trans­port con­trols a lit­tle and made a few dis­cov­er­ies. The first was that the fast-for­ward and fast-re­verse but­tons are multi-stage so one press will start a slow-ish search and a sec­ond press will speed that search up. Press­ing the but­ton a third time drops you back into play.

The ‘Play’ but­ton does the usual, but if you press it while a disc is play­ing, it will re-start play at the be­gin­ning of the track. Con­versely, if you press |<< while play­ing a track, it skips you back to the be­gin­ning of the pre­vi­ous track. I was not used to this func­tion­al­ity, but once I be­came used to it, it then seemed like an ex­cel­lent way of ar­rang­ing the trans­port logic.

What wasn’t quite so log­i­cal—at least to me—is that the player won’t skip tracks while a disc is paused, and in or­der to get the player out of its pause mode you need to press pause again: press­ing ‘play’ won’t do it. An­other quirk I dis­cov­ered was that when­ever I con­nected the BCD-3 to my net­work and used my browser to con­trol it, what­ever CD I next tried to load into the player would rarely load, with the dis­play just show­ing ‘Read­ing’ con­tin­u­ously. Eject­ing the disc and then re-load­ing it al­ways fixed this is­sue, so it’s ob­vi­ously just a pro­gram­ming gl­itch and will likely al­ready have been fixed by the time you read this re­view, be­cause the ma­chine I was us­ing had old firmware (V2016.12c).

The very first disc I just had to play was a strange one ti­tled ‘Colour Think­ing’ by Hu­man 2.0 that was recorded by Dutch out­fit trptk in 352.8kHz 32-bit DSD us­ing only state-of-the-art tech­nol­ogy. The com­pany makes its record­ings avail­able in all for­mats, but ob­vi­ously I was lis­ten­ing to the CD ver­sion. It’s a con­cep­tual al­bum that mar­ries con­ven­tional in­stru­ments with elec­tron­ics and sam­ples plus a small choir. I’d been find­ing it strangely be­guil­ing on other com­po­nents and in other for­mats and I wanted to hear how well the Brys­ton BCD-3 would re­pro­duce the sounds on the disc, more than lis­ten to the mu­sic it­self. Wow! It was im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous just from the very first track ( Progress) that the sound from the Brys­ton BCD-3 left the sound from my own player in the shade, which rather stuck in my craw since BCD-3 re­tails for just over half of what I paid for my own ma­chine. I was hear­ing deep, rich, bass sound, su­per-au­then­tic per­cus­sion (cym­bals in par­tic­u­lar, but the sound of the snare drum was also amaz­ing), but it’s the over­all sound­scape that’s cre­ated by the BCD-3 that is the most mes­mer­iz­ing. The gui­tar sound on Prob­lem Child howled from my speak­ers like a ban­shee, echo­ing the howl of lead singer Robin Coops.

De­spite its strange­ness, I liked this disc so much that I in­voked the BCD-3’s ‘Re­peat’ mode, and through a cu­ri­ous twist of fate dis­cov­ered that this mode is eter­nal: if you switch it on, the Brys­ton will con­tinue to play the disc (or track) for­ever.

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