How best to describe the looks of Bryston equipment? Well, ‘purposeful' just about covers it: you'd never accuse the Canadian company's products of being stylish or even pretty, but they look built to last, and back that up with a 20-year guarantee.
The BP26DA, with its offboard power supply making it a two-box affair, looks like lab equipment or professional hardware that's escaped into the wider world, and that carries through to the modular design. In basic form, it's line-level-only, albeit with a generous range of balanced and unbalanced connections: five line-ins and two sets of XLRs, plus both single-ended and balanced preouts.
This two-box unit sounds astonishing
You can order it with a phono stage (either moving magnet as the BP26 P or moving coil as the BP26 MC), or with a built in digital-to-analogue converter with two digital inputs, ready to take direct digital feeds from a CD transport, digital radio or whatever. That's the version we have here, with the ‘DA' suffix.
Whichever one you buy, you get remote control, courtesy of a chunky handset, massive power supplies for a preamp, 12V trigger connections and automatic overload protection on each output. The preamp comes in black or silver, and with a choice of 17in or 19in (43.2 or 48.2cm) wide faceplates.
And in combination with one of Bryston's power amps, the BP26DA sounds astonishingly good, combining refinement with transparency and punch in a way that eludes all but the very best. Music is delivered with immense scale and free-breathing dynamics, with each instrumental strand easy to follow no matter how complex the piece gets, and there's rock-solid bass, crisp timing and a truckload of detail.
Flaws? Sonically, there are none. Yes, the extra cash for the DAC is debatable if you already own a quality CD player, but otherwise, this is a must-hear preamp.