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Comparing the Bryston BDA-1 to the Ayre this weekend


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Woo hoo. Fun for me. I'll have a G5 w/Lynx card feeding both dacs. I have the Bryston inhouse now and it sounds great with the USB interface. I thought the optical feed was to shrill on the top side on the Bryston but then I have very revealing speakers that are pretty analytical and will sound hard if given an opportunity (Thiel 2.4s).

 

 

 

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I assume you'll be using the Bryston via the Lynx to AES, but the Ayre (assuming the QB-9) will be connected via USB?

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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But don't compare the Bryston's USB input to the Ayre. Connect the Bryston to the AES/EBU output of your Lynx card can compare that to the Ayre. And please report back.

 

Mac Mini 5,1 [i5, 2.3 GHz, 8GB, Mavericks] w/ Roon -> Ethernet -> TP Link fiber conversion segment -> microRendu w/ LPS-1 -> Schiit Yggdrasil

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And ? the best for you ?

 

MacMiniDB+Amarra >>digital AES/EBU cable>> Bryston BDA-1 >> Klinger Favre analogue RCA cable>>Bryston SP1.7 >> Klinger Favre Studio 15 amplified (front) & Bryston 4BSST+Klinger Favre D26 (rear)

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Well okay here's my big review. Take it for what its worth. ONE guys opinion. I spent hours with both these devices over the holiday weekend. There was some more less normal relaxed listening to each piece and then given the time constraint of the fact that I had both only days there was A/B ing of the same material adjusted for volume level using a trusty high tech radio shack sound pressure level meter. I am SO well aware that system matching is important so your results may different from mine. I listen to mostly classical music and a good bit of jazz, acoustic, and vocals.

 

My brother was with me for part of this testing with a high end Aesthetix tube preamp occasionally taking the place of my B&K Ref 50 v 2 for linestage volume control. The equipment was:

 

Itunes library stored on a Drobo connected via Firewire 800 to... > Power Mac G5 > to the dacs through their USB ports to > (the aforementioned preamps & FYI yes the Aesthetix sounded better in all scenarios but only marginally so to my ears) to > bel canto e.one 300 monoblocks > Thiel 2.4s (newest incarnation).

 

Remember this wasn't a trial based on weeks of listening to both pieces obviously. That's how reviewer's choose their equipment but us mortals have to make due with 2 day home loans of equipment.

 

The Ayre sounded good to me, perhaps a little softer than the Bryston. The Bryston sounded more detailed - no doubt about it. Why the Ayre wasn't really "congested" in difficult orchestral passages where a lot was going on throughout the orchestra it was not as clear and delineated as the Bryston. On vocals the Ayre had a lovely slightly three dimensional effect; the Bryston also achieved this but to a noticeably lesser degree. My speakers are ruthlessly revealing and I thought i might prefer what I was hearing as a sort of "softer" presentation of the Ayre. Ultimately I went for the higher resolution, the increased clarity and detail, and the flexibility with regard to other equipment and connections of the Bryston. I could be happy with each. I will say that I LOVED the digital sampling display on the Ayre. The displays on the Bryston consist of tiny lights next to tiny writing which are difficult to see 8 feet away especially by a 51 year old guy like me. The exterior design of the Ayre was elegant but the box itself was surprising light and having seen a photo of the Ayre's interior there's not much there there - there is what appears to me to be a rather smallish transformer. The Bryston has real heft to it and along with what has to be a much larger transformer. NOW MIND YOU none of this makes any difference and its the sound that matters - I'm just pointing these things out.

 

It didn't help the argument on the side of the Ayre that I had already purchased a Power Mac G5 and installed a Lynx card capable of feeding the Bryston through its AES/EBU interface. That wasn't part of the test but that combo really opens the Bryston up as far as detail goes. The Ayre will play high resolution files up to 24/96000hz through its USB input. You have more flexibility with even higher resolutions files being played at native resolution using the Bryston/Lynx/G5 combo.

 

You'll recall that I said the Ayre had a "softer" presentation than the Bryston. I would stand by that. My system can sound a bit bright at times. The Bryston isn't bright it just provides GOBS of low level detail.

 

Both devices output were run to the respective preamps using single ended interconnects. The B&K HAS 'balanced' inputs for sources but the're not truly true differential balanced inputs so I decided to do the comparisons with single ended cables.

 

I think there is much more to the dac debate than whatever way these devices tame jitter. The implementation of digital and analog filtering is hugely important. All the details about each device matter. Also system matching, your particular input/output configuration needs -- all these things come into play.

 

For me, the Ayre went back to the sto'. I still have the Bryston.

 

 

 

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Hi. I completely respect your comments and appreciate your taking the time to share. I have never heard the Bryston so my intent is in no way to way to quibble with your conclusions. I suspect system matching is as important as you stated. My only reason for writing was because I have an Ayre on hand and the difference between it the first day and after about 300 hours was pretty striking. I was curious as to how much time the piece you listened to had on it. If it was a demo off the dealer floor it was probably already run in. I know some don't believe in break in and I don't want to get into that debate but, for me at least, digital pieces tend to be more important than analog ones.

 

I left the new Ayre playing while I was at CES. It opened up a little and became a bit more focused. I suspect it would do very well comparing USB inputs on the Bryston but I am getting ready to follow you into the G5 approach. It didn't hurt that my Audio Research REF 5 was breaking in at the same time (glorious!) but that's another story and not so much geared to the site's main focus.

 

Thanks again for your insights.

 

Rick

 

Audio Research DAC8, Mac mini w/8g ram, SSD, Amarra full version, Audio Research REF 5SE Preamp, Sutherland Phd, Ayre V-5, Vandersteen 5A\'s, Audioquest Wild and Redwood cabling, VPI Classic 3 w/Dynavector XX2MkII

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Thank you for the review. It sounds like you mainly tested the Bryston through its USB input (against my recommendation. oh well), but still preferred it. Did you happen to compare the Bryston USB to the Bryston via AES/EBU from the Lynx card? How would describe that difference?

 

Dan

 

Mac Mini 5,1 [i5, 2.3 GHz, 8GB, Mavericks] w/ Roon -> Ethernet -> TP Link fiber conversion segment -> microRendu w/ LPS-1 -> Schiit Yggdrasil

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As I said - everything that was slightly better about the Bryston through its USB interface -- was again better still through the Lynx/G5 combo. I did my comparisons between the Ayre and the Bryston using mostly good standard 16/44khz cds ripped to apple lossless files.

 

The Lynx/G5 combo just opens everything up a bit more. More clarity, more detail, better focus, better soundstaging. The Bryston/Lynx/G5 had significantly more detail and more clarity on my system than the Ayre through its USB port.

 

As far as burn in goes, I would speculate that the Ayre had considerable hours on it since was a dealer demo floor unit.

 

When I said the Ayre sounded "softer" I have a hard time putting that any other way. Occasionally on vocals the Ayre did seem to have a little bit more body, more dimensionality than the Bryston. However in terms if its ability to resolve low level detail I think the Bryston is simply better. If you're going to invest in the Bryston though you owe it to yourself to invest in feeding it through its AES/EBU input from the Lynx card.

 

The Ayre may sound better on a different system and it can play high resolution files in their native sampling rate up to 24/96000 through its USB port alone. Now someone may experience some revelation about the Ayre that I've not experienced and we're certainly dealing with all kinds of system interactions. I would be interested in hearing others' opinions.

 

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I think the moral (if it really is a moral) to this story/review; and is echo'd in other "reviews" such as the Berkerley vs PS Audio PWT/PWD combos a week or so ago, is that just having a state of the art interface (and/or digital conversion stage) is not enough for a product to stand head and shoulders above the rest. As with the Bryston, a more modest DAC chip, coupled with good quality filtering and output stage can sound better.

 

I hope this post didn';t sound like an attack on the Ayre, it wasn't intended. Just meant that the headline "interface" doesn't mean everyone will prefer it over similar priced DACs.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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I have the Ayre and havent heard the bryston either. But I can only wholeheartedly agree with the break-in statement. My unitnow have about 300 hours on it, and it now seems somewhat stable. Just out of the box, and without asio setup, it didnt sound very good tbh. But now, its just sweet. :)

 

Is the Bryston better, well maybe. Haven't heard it. :)

 

Edit: Btw. I can only agree with the reviewer that the voice is very 3 dimensional on the ayre.

 

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