Brys­ton

BP-2 MM/MC Phono Preamp with the PS-3 Power Sup­ply

NOVO - - REVIEW -

Brys­ton, the Cana­dian high au­dio man­u­fac­turer who has been around for decades, has thrived with a loyal cus­tomer base be­cause they do many things that just make sense. They are en­gi­neer­ing driven, re­fus­ing to chase fads and trends, and price their gear very fairly. Their prod­ucts are made in North Amer­ica, with a build qual­ity com­peti­tors should envy, with leg­endary re­li­a­bil­ity, backed by 20 year war­ranties on many prod­ucts. For­get model churn, or mar­ket­ing flash, you won’t find it here.

The com­pany has footholds in both the pro and con­sumer au­dio mar­kets, which should be seen as a huge pos­i­tive. Re­cently, Brys­ton has fleshed out their prod­uct line to in­clude vir­tu­ally ev­ery cat­e­gory, in­clud­ing power con­di­tion­ers, pas­sive and ac­tive speak­ers, sub­woofers, ca­bles, along with their long time of­fer­ings in am­pli­fi­ca­tion. The last piece of the puz­zle was de­sign­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing ana­log play­back gear, in­clud­ing a turntable and stand alone phono stages.

DE­SIGN & FEA­TURES

This brings us to the sub­ject of this re­view, the BP-2 MM/MC phono pream­pli­fier. The unit sells for $1750 US and must be con­nected to an out­board power sup­ply. Brys­ton sent along their PS-3 ex­ter­nal sup­ply, which re­tails for $1000 US. They have a sim­i­lar foot­print, so they look like two of a per­fect pair. Brys­ton says that own­ers of the Brys­ton MPS-2, the dis­crete power sup­ply used to power the BP-26 preamp, will not need the PS-3. The MPS-2 will power their out­board phono stages as well.

Spin­ning vinyl on a high end sys­tem in 2018 earns you an au­dio­phile badge, even with the pro­lif­er­a­tion of high res­o­lu­tion dig­i­tal sources. There are a num­ber of rea­sons for this in­clud­ing ques­tion­able dig­i­tal mas­ter­ing, the ti­dal wave of vinyl reis­sues, many of ex­cep­tional qual­ity, and the no­tion that dig­i­tal can never truly cap­ture the spirit of mu­sic recorded to tape. On the flip side, there are many vinyl reis­sues pro­duced from dig­i­tal files, which is seen as a com­pro­mise at best, and ex­ploita­tion, at the worst. In­ter­est­ingly, there has never been more af­ford­able, high qual­ity vinyl play­back gear avail­able to those who pre­fer to spin the black cir­cle.

When Brys­ton de­signed the BP-2 phono preamp, they did so with their usual modus operandi, us­ing solid en­gi­neer­ing,

and pri­or­i­tiz­ing sonic per­for­mance. Flashy looks, or fash­ion­able fea­tures are not part of the plan. In fact, the BP-2 and PS-3 are beau­ti­fully built, and ex­ude class. Both are avail­able with either sil­ver or black face­plates.

The BP-2 is de­signed around a dis­crete Class A out­put stage, and Brys­ton claims their RIAA equal­iza­tion is ex­tremely ac­cu­rate. It of­fers enough con­fig­urable op­tions that should make it com­pat­i­ble with most car­tridges on the mar­ket. Brys­ton says their ul­ti­mate goal was to make sure the del­i­cate, low volt­age out­puts from car­tridges were ren­dered with ul­tra low noise and dis­tor­tion, for a bet­ter lis­ten­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

The PS-3 is a fully ana­log power sup­ply de­signed with a toroidal trans­former. Brys­ton says the PS-3 pro­vides ul­tra clean cur­rent via fil­tra­tion and ef­fec­tive reg­u­la­tion. High qual­ity power is es­sen­tial for all com­po­nents, but es­pe­cially im­por­tant for vinyl play­back.

Set­ting up the BP-2 MM/MC and PS-3 needed no spe­cial con­sid­er­a­tion. My usual pref­er­ence with out­board power sup­plies is to sep­a­rate them from the com­po­nents they are pow­er­ing. The um­bil­i­cal cord sup­plied was long enough to al­low me to sit­u­ate the BP-2 on my rack and the PS-3 on a block of cedar­wood, on the floor be­hind the sys­tem. The only “tweak” was the use of a PS Au­dio power cord on the PS-3, in­stead of the stock ca­ble. The BP-2 has a Mute but­ton on the front panel which was most wel­comed. It re­ally was a very use­ful fea­ture, es­pe­cially when clean­ing the sty­lus, and chang­ing records.

To start, I used my Rega Pla­nar 3 (2016 model) with a Rega Elys2 Mov­ing Mag­net car­tridge. In the in­ter­est­ing world of au­dio­phile ex­is­tence, this may seem as a very mod­est table, but it pro­vides tremen­dous mu­si­cal plea­sure to this lis­tener. It is equipped with the Rega Neo out­board power sup­ply, and a Groove­tracer sub plat­ter. The set up is by the book and sim­ple, and sounds ex­cel­lent. Since the Elys2 is MM, with no un­usual pa­ram­e­ters, ev­ery­thing was plug and play. All that was left to do was dig out some vinyl and drop the nee­dle.

PER­FOR­MANCE

Dis­claimer, no “au­dio­phile demo” records were played dur­ing this re­view. I played records that I en­joy, and that are com­mon to many mu­sic lovers. With that out of the way, the first record I played was one from child­hood, Wild Cherry’s 1976 self ti­tled de­but. The funk is so thick, and the grooves so deep, if I am not mov­ing around the room, some­thing is wrong. Well, noth­ing was amiss as the Rega / Brys­ton combo pre­sented the mu­sic with im­mac­u­late pre­ci­sion, and, most im­por­tantly, it was su­per fun. “Play That Funky Mu­sic” in­deed, fit­tingly, the ti­tle of the mon­ster sin­gle from the al­bum.

The mood stayed vin­tage, and next up was Traf­fic’s bril­liant self ti­tled sec­ond al­bum from 1968, on United Artists. I never thought this United Artists press­ing was stel­lar, but I had to re­con­sider after hear­ing it via the Brys­ton. The in­ter­play be­tween the great Steve Win­wood and Dave Ma­son was far more ap­par­ent, and all sorts of hid­den as­pects of the mix came to light. The al­bum was less psy­che­delic then their de­but, and less jazzy than sub­se­quent re­leases. The BP-2 and ex­ter­nal power sup­ply made me want to pro­cure an even cleaner copy.

The pre disco Bee Gees’ had a bril­liant run from 1966 to 1972, and the al­bum Trafal­gar, from 1971 is a mas­ter­work. This early Atco press­ing con­tains their end­lessly cov­ered “How Can You Mend A Bro­ken Heart?” and other gems like “Don’t Want To Live In­side My­self”. Each song is a like a mini pop sym­phony, and the lay­ers of acous­tic gui­tar, strings, and the mag­i­cal har­monies of the Gibb brothers was breath­tak­ing. The BP-2 cre­ated a very widescreen pre­sen­ta­tion here, and I had re­quests to spin this al­bum sev­eral times from vis­i­tors.

The BP-2 also al­lowed me to be con­clu­sive about al­bums I was on the fence about. For ex­am­ple, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes 1975 al­bum To Be True, a clas­sic no doubt, al­ways made me un­sure of how Teddy Pen­der­grass’s raw and pow­er­ful vo­cal de­liv­ery fit into the group’s smooth ar­range­ments and har­monies. The Brys­ton al­lowed me to con­firm my long held be­lief. As great a vo­cal­ist as Pen­der­grass was, his no holds barred style did not quite gel for me. The dis­tinc­tion be­tween the back­ing vo­cals, the clas­sic Phil­a­del­phia soul grooves, and his lead vo­cal was clear as day. In con­trast,

it was also easy to hear the set­ting for Pen­de­grass’s self ti­tled 1977 solo al­bum, which was more sym­pa­thetic, as it fea­tured heav­ier grooves, and a less lush back­ing. This was a great lis­ten.

A friend brought over an in­cred­i­bly hard to find LP, by Cyn­dee Peters, Black Is the Color, on the ter­rific Swedish la­bel Opus3. It is very much a purist record­ing, with min­i­mal­ist mi­cro­phone tech­niques and no added am­biance. The au­then­tic mix of gospel, blues, and folk is just en­chant­ing, and the BP-2 seemed to place all the in­stru­ments and singers in spe­cific lo­ca­tions in the record­ing space. Play­ing this LP was one of the high­lights of my time with the Brys­ton combo.

Half way through this re­view, I re­ceived the EAT C-Ma­jor turntable with their new Jo. No. 5 Mov­ing Coil car­tridge. (A full re­view of this table and car­tridge will fol­low). I ini­tially played all the same records to start. The only thing I needed to do is flip the tog­gle switch from MM to MC on the back of the BP-2. There was plenty of gain, and since the rec­om­mended load­ing for the EAT cart is 100-300 Ohm, I did not need to make any ad­just­ments. If one needs to change the load­ing on the BP-2, sim­ply open­ing the case with a hex tool and con­fig­ur­ing the DIP switches is all that is needed to be done.

As great as the BP-2 / PS-3 duo sounded with the Rega, it went up a notch with the EAT table and MC car­tridge There was an added del­i­cacy, depth, and pre­ci­sion that had guest lis­ten­ers ex­tremely im­pressed, and quite frankly, re­quest­ing LP after LP. The records as de­scribed above still sounded won­der­ful, but with a bit more def­i­ni­tion in the bass, and it was eas­ier to hear in­side com­pli­cated pas­sages. Lis­ten­ers found both pre­sen­ta­tions very sat­is­fy­ing, and clearly the BP-2 ex­celled in both Mov­ing Mag­net and Mov­ing Coil modes.

I thought a fair com­par­i­son for the BP-2 and PS-3 would be against the Ger­man made Lehmann Au­dio Black Cube SE, which re­tails cur­rently for about $1500 US. It in­cludes an out­board power sup­ply and han­dles MM or MC car­tridges. Head to head, I felt the Brys­ton pair was su­pe­rior, specif­i­cally, with bet­ter de­fined bass, a wider sound­stage, an over­all ad­van­tage in trans­parency. Don’t get me wrong, the Black Cube SE is an ex­cel­lent sound­ing unit, it was close, so what I am de­scrib­ing is a mat­ter of de­grees. But if I had to pick one, the Brys­ton gets the clear nod. Of course, fac­tor in that the Bys­ton pair is $1200 US more. But you def­i­nitely get what you pay for and more here.

The Brys­ton BP-2 / PS-3 duo is a stel­lar com­bi­na­tion. If you are a lis­tener whose pri­or­i­ties are su­perb trans­parency, tonal neu­tral­ity, and su­perb, ac­cu­rate bass, these prod­ucts are very highly rec­om­mended. If you are look­ing for col­ored sound, or a pre­sen­ta­tion that is not true to the source, you may want to look else­where. It should be noted that the BP-2 phono board can be or­dered in Brys­ton preamps.

In fact, the BP-2 re­vealed so much of what was in the grooves, it pro­vided an in­cen­tive to en­gage in record hunt­ing, which this house­hold has not done for a while since we own a healthy col­lec­tion. Out came the wal­let and dur­ing this re­view, we scored sev­eral choice press­ings that have been on the shop­ping list. At $2750 US, this combo is in no way in­ex­pen­sive, but it will more than likely be a pur­chase that will pro­vide nu­mer­ous years of good lis­ten­ing. Hav­ing had hun­dreds of re­view com­po­nents come through our sys­tem, it has never been so dif­fi­cult fac­ing the no­tion of pack­ing up and send­ing gear back to the man­u­fac­turer. The Brys­ton pair was sim­ply trans­for­ma­tive for my vinyl lis­ten­ing.

Brys­ton Lim­ited www.brys­ton.com 1-800-632-8217

Brys­ton BP-2 MM/MC Phono Preamp

Price: $1,750 US

Brys­ton PS-3 Power Sup­ply Price: $1,000 US

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