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Article: Power Amp Comparison | Cambridge Edge W, Benchmark AHB2, Bryston 4B Cubed


JoshM
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Great review. You probably made Bryston some money.

Very clear explanation of the similarities and differences between the amps.

Main listening (small home office):

Main setup: Surge protector +_iFi  AC iPurifiers >Isol-8 Mini sub Axis Power Conditioning+Isolation>QuietPC Low Noise Server>Roon (Audiolense DRC)>Stack Audio Link II>Kii Control>Kii Three >GIK Room Treatments.

Secondary Listening: Server with Audiolense RC>RPi4 or analog>Matrix Element i Streamer/DAC (XLR)+Schiit Freya>Kii Three .

Bedroom: SBTouch to Cambridge Soundworks Desktop Setup.
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What a great review.

You called my attention to https://www.philharmonicaudio.com/.

That diy kit must be fun.

I wonder if you could elaborate a bit about the difference between your two speakers. The KEF of course I already know and appreciate.

The "Phil" is not know of this side of the Atlantic, I guess. But it ticks some of my favorite boxes...

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Great comparison, thanks, that unboxing video, hmmmmmm, not sure about that.   This review made it easy to understand the differences between amps. I noticed that two of the three amps have a bridge to mono option. I realize that may not be possible to addition this way and the reviewers speakers certainly didn't need the extra power, but perhaps at another time it would good to know if the amps perform as good in bridged mono as in stereo.

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11 minutes ago, steve21 said:

Great comparison, thanks, that unboxing video, hmmmmmm, not sure about that.   This review made it easy to understand the differences between amps. I noticed that two of the three amps have a bridge to mono option. I realize that may not be possible to addition this way and the reviewers speakers certainly didn't need the extra power, but perhaps at another time it would good to know if the amps perform as good in bridged mono as in stereo.

OMG, I forgot to look at that. Over 11.5 minutes before the box even gets opened. That's time I'll never get back :~)

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Fascinating analysis and good write up. But a quick question would I find the soundstage too wide and deep with the Bryston?  It was not an issue when I’ve had Benchmark stuff in my office.  Easy live example, the last time I heard the Cowboy Junkies live the soundstage was about five feet deep. The distance from the front amps to the back amps.

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Out of curiosity, did you ever consider the Raggy 2?

 

And also out of curiosity, could you describe what drew you to the list of amps you've auditioned and now tested? I'm wondering what sonic characteristics made you explore what seem to be very different amp design reputations.

 

And maybe they're not so different and I am just unaware? Emotiva, NAD, Classe, and Benchmark? Interesting...

Sum>Frankenstein: Schiit Yggdrasil A2+Shunyata Venom/PS Audio P3 Regenerator+AVOptions Tibia, W4S Remedy/Uptone LPS-1.2, Linn LP12/Hercules II/Ittok/Denon DL-103R, Naim 72/HiCap/250 DR, Tellurium Black II, Monitor Audio Silver 500, Epos, Uptone Audio ISO & EtherREGENs, Witch Hat/Audience/Silnote/ZenWave/Mapleshade/Shunyata/Transparent Audio cables/cords, and nice room w/treatment.

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Quote
  • The Benchmark has a U.S. MSRP of $2,999. The Cambridge has U.S. MSRP of $4,000. The Bryston comes in at a U.S. MSRP of $6,795.

I greatly enjoyed the review, especially the comparisons. However, at the price of the Bryston, one would expect it to prevail. It is the best of the amps tested, but now I wonder, how does it compare to others in its price range?

 

“To doubt everything or to believe everything are two equally convenient solutions; both dispense with the necessity for reflection.” 
Bertrand Russell 

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14 minutes ago, audiobomber said:

I greatly enjoyed the review, especially the comparisons. However, at the price of the Bryston, one would expect it to prevail. It is the best of the amps tested, but now I wonder, how does it compare to others in its price range?

 

I think the Bryston 4B3 when it first came out was "only" US$5695 (and probably slightly cheaper through most dealers in Canada). Most early dealers and customers were shocked by the performance of the amp compared to previous generations (which I thought were truly meh). Of course, cost of materials have increased but I think most of the price increase to $6795 was also because Bryston wanted to price it more appropriately for its performance.

 

@JoshM, thanks for the fantastic review. I have had the pleasure of hearing AHB2 driving headphones and 4B3 driving speakers but I have always wondered how AHB2 would sound driving speakers. Your review was extremely informative.

Roon (convolution filter using Acourate) > ultraRendu > Peachtree X1 (Toslink) > Chord Hugo M-Scaler > Chord DAVE > Chord Etude > Dynaudio Confidence C1 Signature

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IME with inefficient speakers like Magnepans (86db 1w/1m) its not the peak wattage, its how many watts of class A you get before you change to class AB.

The Bryston is a class AB design. Makes sense that a 500w amp has more class A watts in the gas tank than  the other lower wattage amps included. The trade off I dislike

in most amps that go larger is the heat factor... its not pleasant to be in a small listening room with most. Does the Bryston run cool? How long did you feel it

needed for break in?

 

 

Regards,

Dave

 

Audio system

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Thank you for your review Josh.  I walked through each of your test tracks listening to my 4B3 with Magnepan 1.7 and found I was in complete agreement with every comment you made about the Bryston.  When I started on the "Oh Mercy" album I found I had to listen all they way through. Space and separation in "Man in the Long Black Coat" is sublime. The soundstage and control of the 4B3 has made this an end game amplifier for me.  

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2 hours ago, davide256 said:

IME with inefficient speakers like Magnepans (86db 1w/1m) its not the peak wattage, its how many watts of class A you get before you change to class AB.

The Bryston is a class AB design. Makes sense that a 500w amp has more class A watts in the gas tank than  the other lower wattage amps included. The trade off I dislike

in most amps that go larger is the heat factor... its not pleasant to be in a small listening room with most. Does the Bryston run cool? How long did you feel it

needed for break in?

 

 

I own a Bryston 4B3.....and even at full tilt, the top of the amp is barely warm to the touch.

Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not." — Nelson Pass

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Great review!  I love comparisons, and I especially love that you were so specific on the listening.  Traveling today, but I cant wait to get home and test my amp on Street!

 

Also, a real tribute to the Schiits that you had to spend 3X to beat their amp

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Good to see that Bryston is still doing 'magic' - at an audio show I went to their top of the line amps were easily superior to anything else I heard there; the only rig that delivered competent SQ with seeming limitless ability to go as loud as one desired, with no losses of quality.

 

The interesting aspect of this review is that the Benchmark which makes the claim that it has all important distortion artifacts well and truly under control, is very much of a lesser standard when subjected to a head to head comparison.

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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Use two Benchmarks, still under the cost of one Bryston, and see if mono-blocking makes a difference.  I mean comparing a 3K amp to a 7K amp is not really fair as what is the basis of the comparison?  Its like comparing a Tesla Model S Plaid to a Bugatti Chiron :) and we know which one is faster!

 

I enjoyed reading the review, well done!

RIG:  MB Pro - Benchmark DAC3 L - LA4  AHB2 | Paradigm Sig S6 Cables:  Van Damme, Canare 4S11, Lifatec optical, Wireworld and IsoTek power

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I'm totally fine with the comparison given the price. Items don't have to be extremely close in price for a comparison to be meaningful. I think people would've had no problem with the price difference if the Benchmark would've come out on top. 

 

Josh's review lets people know if they want something better than the Benchmark, and they have the same tastes as him, then the Bryston may be a good option. 

Founder of Audiophile Style

Announcing The Audiophile Style Podcast

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Ofcourse the real magic in a pre/power is provded by the pre amp so it will be interesting to see if you compare the HPA4 with a $7K pre amp in your upcoming review. 

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14 hours ago, firedog said:

Great review. You probably made Bryston some money.

Very clear explanation of the similarities and differences between the amps.


Thank you. A really interesting part of this is that the Bryston amp wasn’t a loaner unit from the company. I had an alert in HiFiShark for it, and bought a two year old one for a good price. When I emailed Bryston to ask a few questions and told them it was a for a review, I partly expected them to say, “We don’t want you reviewing a used unit.” Understandably, sometimes companies are worried about what might’ve happened to a unit out in the wild. But they had no issues with my reviewing the amp I bought, and expressed confidence that I would like it. They were right! 

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12 hours ago, davide256 said:

IME with inefficient speakers like Magnepans (86db 1w/1m) its not the peak wattage, its how many watts of class A you get before you change to class AB.

The Bryston is a class AB design. Makes sense that a 500w amp has more class A watts in the gas tank than  the other lower wattage amps included. The trade off I dislike

in most amps that go larger is the heat factor... its not pleasant to be in a small listening room with most. Does the Bryston run cool? How long did you feel it

needed for break in?

 

 


My experience is the same as @SoundQcar. The Bryston was barely warm to the touch even after running it for hours. It’s giving off some heat, of course, but my Raggy gets much hotter than any of the other amps mentioned. 

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13 hours ago, feelingears said:

And also out of curiosity, could you describe what drew you to the list of amps you've auditioned and now tested? I'm wondering what sonic characteristics made you explore what seem to be very different amp design reputations.

 

And maybe they're not so different and I am just unaware? Emotiva, NAD, Classe, and Benchmark? Interesting...

 

13 hours ago, audiobomber said:

I greatly enjoyed the review, especially the comparisons. However, at the price of the Bryston, one would expect it to prevail. It is the best of the amps tested, but now I wonder, how does it compare to others in its price range?

 

4 hours ago, photonman said:

Use two Benchmarks, still under the cost of one Bryston, and see if mono-blocking makes a difference.  I mean comparing a 3K amp to a 7K amp is not really fair as what is the basis of the comparison?  Its like comparing a Tesla Model S Plaid to a Bugatti Chiron :) and we know which one is faster!


I think the above comments are all related in my mind. When I think about equipment, I don’t necessarily first categorize them by price. What drew me to all of the amps I tried is that they either measured well, got good subjective reviews, or both. So, for example, even though I don’t tend to like Class D amps, the NAD M22 got great reviews, measured well, and I found one used at a good price. I tried it, didn’t like it, and resold it. 
 

Now, there are obviously limits to my budget. I don’t have Henry Rollins’s setup, and I know there are people on this site who probably have amps that cost more than my (new) car. So price is, of course, a factor. However, MSRP conceals a lot. With the exception of headphone (germs!) I tend to buy most of my equipment used or “open box.” So I pay more attention to street price than retail price. On top of that, there are a lot of pieces of equipment that get labeled “giant killers” (or similar) and supposedly stack up against all but the very priciest unobtanium (for mere mortals) gear. In some cases, that’s correct. The Raggy successfully slayed (or equaled) amps costing many multiples of their price, at least in my view. 
 

These amps got grouped together because they were near the end of my “to audition” list, and I managed to get them all in the house at the same time. My only regret is that I didn’t have this review in mind when I had the ATC amp, which I think had a lot in common with the Cambridge. I’d have liked to have done a more precise comparison of those two. 

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