On a 24 hour wait for the delivery of this . Stay tune all.
HiFi: ClearAudio Concept TT, Musical Fidelity M6i and M6 DAC, M1s (CDT, CLiC, ViNL), Onkyo TA2600, SONY MDSJA20ES MDP, ProAc D18 with full Siltech cabling.
HT: Samsung UA55B7000 LED, OPPO BDP 95-EU,Marantz DV4003, Yamaha RX-V2067, Philips DVDR7300H, Infinity Primus Center, Wharfedale WH2, SW15 Sub, Mission M34i with full QED cabling
Bedroom: Apple AE, Bose WAVE Music Sytem III, Musical Fidelity M1 HPA headphone amp, Bose Over the Ear
HeadFi: Alessandro Grado MS Pro, Beyerdynamic T1, Bryston BHA-1 headphone Amp.
Office: iTunes, UD110 USB DAC, Bose Companion II, Bose AE2w
I finally received and hooked up this wonderful piece of kit 2 days ago and this is my first 24 hours review.
First of all, why the change from Musical Fidelity M1 HPA headphone amp? http://www.whathifi.com/forum/headphones-etc/musical-fidelity-m1-hpa-a-personal-review
I blame it on the Kuala Lumpur International AV show held in July this year. For this year event, I didnt have anything in mind to purchase. Just attended the show to look around and support a few fellow hifi friends who was show casing their set up. However, it was written in the star that I was to catch a glimpse of this unit on demo from the local supplier. I have several times listened to Bryston set up several times and it has its own merit. But when I saw this headphone amp, I said to myself, I have to try it, especially that it was paired with Grado PS1000
My my my....it was a jaw dropping experience. As soon as I put on the cans, I was instantly disconnected from the busy surrounding and my mind just focussed on how this unit can deliver such a lively, detailed and natural sound. Such beautiful presentation. But, is it the amp or PS1000 giving me this experience. So, I told myself, I have to try it with my Alessandro Grado MS Pro. Unfortunately, I can only attend 1 day of this 3 days event. So, I guess I have to pay the dealer a visit after the show. And only this week in Oct I have the time to do it
I went to the dealer's shop (AV Designs) with a good hifi buddy of mine from Indonesia. The shop is actually in the same office building as mine and requested a demo on this unit again. However, just to reconfirm the experience I had in the show, I tested it with the PS1000 cans first. Sure enough, I was not dreaming during the AV show. In fact, it sounded even more natural this time. After discussing with the dealer on some technical queries and commercial of course ...I told them that I would need to test the amp with my cans. So, I popped in again the next day with my Alessandro Grado. Part of me hoping that it will not sound as good with my cans to avoid me parting with about GBP1000 and ditch my MF M1 HPA. And.... I lost the battle and succumbed to luscious Bryston. It still delivered such a lively and non-exhaustive listening session. And now the unit is hooked up to my system.
This unit is built like a tank, a typical Bryston feature. I opted for the all black unit to match the rest of my black MF set up. The dimension L x W x H is 17 x 11 x 2.425 inches and weighs 5.3 kg. The volume and balance knobs are sturdily fitted and has the right amount of friction to gradually increase the volume in a smaller scale. Thw power, input and gain switch however are of an old school electrical switch which I dont particularly fond of but the MF M1 HPA uses the same switch too. On the rear, the RCA connection is of gold plated. The power supply connection is IEC and comes with a basic power cord with a UK 3 pin plug. The front fascia is a mix of modern and vintage look and for some might even say it looks a bit industrial. The blue LED power indicator is also soft to the eyes.
Its a Class A amp but does not run really hot. In fact, my Class A/B M6i runs hotter.
Inputs and Outputs
There are 3 inputs available:
1. Single ended RCA
2. 3.5 mm stereo jack
3. XLR Balanced
The unit can drive 3 headphones at one time but with different output connection:
1. 1/4 stereo jack
2. Stereo Balanced output (4 pin XLR)
3. 3 pin Balanced Output
NOTE: there is also high and low gain switch to match your headphones.
I am limited to use the RCA input and 1/4 stereo output.
The Set Up
I hooked up the unit via the tape loop on my MF M6i integrated amp using QED RCA Signature series IC and QED Qonduit power cable.
1. MF CDT via M1 DAC with Siltech XLR cabling throughout
2. MF M1 CLiC with Siltech IC
3. Clearaudio Concept TT via MF M1 ViNL
Gain was set to low.
1. Alessandro Grado MS Pro
2. B&O P5 (courtesy of my Indonesian buddy)
1. Girl from Ipanema (Stan Getz/Gilberto) - FLAC
2. My Hero (Foo Fighters) - MP3 48kHz 320 kbps
3. Time to Say Goodbye (Andrea Bocelli) - CD
4. Hotel California (The Eagles) - FLAC
Out of the Box Performance
I was so excited with the purchase that I put aside the ‘run in’ principle. Hooked it up and immediately put on the cans and fired up Foo Fighters. Even out of the box, this amp delivered a very powerful yet subtle bass from the drummings on this track. Very detailed presentation in which the 'overlapping' drum beats can be heard on each note. After listening to this track, I went out for dinner and let it run in for 3 hours. In fact, the dealer did mention to me I can actually enjoy the high SQ even fresh out of the box.
The Listening Session
After 4 hours of running in, I started to run my playlist above. First up was Girl from Ipanema. The vocals on this track was somehow elevated and created a personal space to me. ONce the music came, it gave me a different experience compared to playing Foo Fighters. A very relaxing sensation kicked in due to ambience delivered by this unit. However, maybe because its FLAC file, the volume seems a bit lower compared to playing Foo Fighters. I tried switching the gain to high. It did increase the volume level up a notch but I loose the subtlety that I was enjoying. So I wswitched back to low and increase the volume to about 10 o' clock. Previously it was at 9 o' clock. With power output rated at 1 W into 32 ohm, it can easily drive my cans.
Next up was Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. This track has always been one of my favourite track for reviewing as I measure the performace of the unit tested against Andrea's and Sarah's vocals. Both of their vocals compliment each other to have a balanced tone (high and low pitch). And sure enough the Bryston delivered this flawlessly. This was one part of where the MF M1 HPA having difficulty to deliver the balance for this track.
I then went back to a FLAC file Hotel California. Listening to slow rock and in this live performance by the Eagles is even much more soothing. The live ambience was delivered by the Bryston through my cans that made me feel that I was at the concert and audience are supplied with a personalised headphones. The drums and guitars on this track was so refine and detailed out that you can here every single strumming and plucking the Eagles. This was one track that I repeated thrice just because it sounded too good to be true that I had to confirm and reconfirm the statement I made above. And each time, the Bryston just keep presenting a lively experience.
I went through all the tracks again using the P5 headphones. Unfortunately, the pair didnt give me the same satisfaction. This made me further believe that just like speakers needs to match the amp, headphones are the same. I am not saying the P5 are not good headphones but it just didnt rhyme nicely with the Bryston. A bit on the harsh side.
So there you go. A solid performer this amp is.
Is it worth the price? I strongly believe so.
Will I let go of my MF M1 HPA? Not so soon. It will do some office duties first.
Will I recommend this amp for head-fi-ers? Definitely with a word of caution. Demo it before purchase with your own cans.
But now I am curious how would a balanced headphone sounds like????? Will there be another quest for a new pair of cans after the Alessandro?
Thanks for the indepth review El Hefe, I'm a big Bryston fan and had a BHA-1 on order to go with the rest of my Bryston kit for over 6 months, like you say above, it does not dissapoint, I was wondering if you have explored the balanced cable route yet as this is something I'm looking into at the moment as I've got the HD800's, HE6's and LCD2's in the shop which can all be run balanced. Knowing how the BHA-1 really responds to a balanced feed in I'd imagine a full balanced system will be pretty special.
I'm thinking about approaching Toxic Cables as they seem to do a very strong range of cables for a variety of headphones so I may buy some to give them a try, have you or anyone else used these guys before?
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I am still looking to experience the balanced headphones using this amp but I cant seem to find a headphone model that offers such connection (4 pins). I had a Stax headphone for a while as a loan form a friend but it uses 5 pin (DIN) connection.
I have however, tried connecting my M1 DAC and M1 ViNL using balanced interconnect straight to the BHA1 amp and it did sound even better than single ended. However, I was still using single ended connection for the Alessandro Grado. SO it was a not a true balanced set up.
This is the first Bryston unit I own. And now I have also heard the new B135SST2 integrated amp and it sounded sweet.
Have a read of the interview I did with Bryston president below.
I've used Toxic Cables before.....I bought a "Silver Poison" (Pure Silver and Gold Alloy) custom cable from them for my Heir Audio 4.Ai IEM.
Build quality is excellent and this cable made a night and day difference to the original stock cable...really opened up the sound.
I am actually looking at getting a second cable myself or my HD650's.
Portable: iBasso DX50 / iPhone 5 / iPad 4
Amps / DACS: Mayflower O2/ODAC
Headphones / IEMs: DreamEarz AUD-8x / Sennheiser Momentum
And now I have also heard the new B135SST2 integrated amp and it sounded sweet.
I have the B135 SST2 on demo and it really is quite a brilliant piece of kit, matched with the right speakers it really does give you a massive slice of Bryston excellence without the relative cost of a SP3 and power amps, I run it mainly with the PMC Fact 8's, not a cheap system by any imagination but in the grand scheme of things in the hifi world I think it is a very special combination that doesn't cost the earth.
A really interesting article El Hefe, as big Bryston/PMC enthusiast myself I like question regarding bringing the Model T into the UK as that really is a speaker I'd love to hear but I fear in the UK we may never get the chance, keep up the good work
Thanks for the feedback Jason, I really must get in touch with Toxic Cables and get some balanced cables in for my HD800's, LCD-2's and HE-6's as I'm now running a balanced source into the BHA-1 so running a fully balanced system should be a pretty amazing headphone experince.
Does anyone know how to make the Grado PS1000's balanced? I really don't feel like cutting the cable and soldering really isn't a strong point of mine, I just wish all high end headphone manufacturer's made their cans with detatchable cables, it just makes so much sense.
No problem Paul,
Frank's workmanship and components are first class, I need to order a Silver Poison cable for my HD650 I have just bought.
One thing to bear in mind though is that he is working to about a 7 week lead time at the moment.
Should be worth the wait though
7 Weeks, wow, Good to hear that he is that busy, just goes to show that quality products will always be in demand, also shows how popular quality headphones must be at the moment, great news :)
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