Saturday, 3 December 2016

HECO Direkt - Style With Substance


My wish of listening to this stylistic-retro-looking speakers in my home came true recently, courtesy of Audio Art, Ipoh via David Kestez and an FB acquaintance. After my love at first sight (or hearing) during the KLIAV show back in July, I have been wondering how these unique speaker design will sound in living room with my current set up. The looks itself already impresses not only me but also my wife. With this high Wife Acceptance Factor (WAF), I quickly said yes when David offered me for a home review. I feel even more honoured when I was informed that this will be the first time the HECO Direkt being reviewed locally. Thanks David. Thanks Audio Art! Thanks FB acquaintance!

On a fine Saturday evening, the speakers were sent to my house together with a Soul Note 710 monitor amp. The two fine gentleman who delivered the items were fully attentive in setting the Direkt in my living room. I requested for them to set it up with my resident Musical Fidelity M6i amp first as I would like to hear this speakers with my usual set up. 













 


DESIGN


The Direkt are a 2 way speakers that combines the dynamics and bass extension of a large floorstanders. It comes with a 25 cm subwoofer  with the HeCO kraft paper diaphragm. Dont let the slim thickness fools you. Inside the cabinet is equipped with two flow optimised, rounded reflex tubes on each side of the bottom of the cabinet to provide optimum acoustic coupling to the room. The tweeter is a 28 mm silk compound cone which delivers up to 2.3 kHz.


It comes with a pair of solid binding posts and the cabinet is supported by a 3 legged support at a tilted position. The speakers come with the option of spikes with steel footers or a rubber spikes. The fabric grills for the woofer and tweeter are magnetic. If you opt to use them, ensure that you have 'lock' the grill by turning it clockwise to ensure the magnets are aligned.

The sensitivity is high at 95 dB with 4 to 8 ohm impedance, first indication that I will not have any issue drivnig this speaker with my 200 watter MF M6i amp.

Size wise, it stands at 440 x 998 x 397 mm including foot construction and weighing at 25.8 KG each.



THE SET UP
  • Musical Fidelity M6i integrated amp / Soul Note 710 monitor amp
  • Lenco L78 TT with MatYeoX RCA to phono stage
  • Musical Fidelity M1 ViNL phono stage
  • SONY HAP Z1ES Hi Res player with Siltech Classic Anniversary XLR
THE TRACKS

With MF M6i
  • Little Train by Niels Hennings and gang (WAV 24/192)
  • Whiskey in The Jar by Metallica (WAV 16/44.1) 
  • Countdown to Extinction by Megadeth (LP)
With Soul Note SA710
  • One Fine Day by Natalie Merchant (WAV/16/44.1)
  • Take Five by Dave Brubeck (DSD)
  • Temptation by Diana Krall (WAV 16/44.1)
  • Wishlist by Pearl Jam (LP)
THE FIRST IMPRESSION

Straight out of the box, the Direkt delivered quite an impression on the bass. I did not experience that during the KLIAV show. In fact, one of my concern about this Direkt  was that it could deliver sufficient bass. Boy I was wrong. With the downfiring ports, it really worked like a charm. Soundstage was big and giving me a fuller picture of music. The overall sound however was also giving me quite a sharp sound in the higher spectrum region. Time to run in the speakers....

THE SESSION 1 - WITH MF M6i

By the time the serious review started, the Direkt would have seen at least 200 hours of various musical genre being played through it. Things have started to gel together and the high frequencies have started to sound sweeter rather than sharp.


With this double bass track by Niels Hennings and gang, the Direkt delivered an impressive low frequency performance. It may not dig deep like PMC's ATL but the it could really capture every single note coming out from the 2 double bass playing with also good separation.Its not one of those jumbled up bass delivery. Excellent layering of percussion in the background as well. The high frequencies coming out from the tweeters are now more tamed and sweeter with the snare and tambourine blending in perfect harmony



James's  vocal on this Whiskey in The Jar track was revealing, stealing the show from the shredding guitars of Kirk and drums of Lars. Kirk's guitar sounded darker than usual which brings up another element of surprise. I must be frank that I was skeptical on whether the Direkt can handle metal and rock music. It surely can. It gives quite a hard hitting bass and it does make rock or metal music sounds fuller and bigger. Again, the bass section gives an overall warmer and bolder sound even for metal or rock music.


Lets try rock on LP by ex Metallica guitarist, Dave Mustaine of Megadeth. The intro sounded very authoritative. Again that bass section was very evident, injecting a good vibration and energy to the overall presentation. Its about hard hitting bass but do not sacrifice subtlety with substance. Its not about focusing on a particular instrument but the low frequency encompasses everything; it injects a deeper voice to Dave, certain authority on the guitar even during the solo and a more bold percussion or drums.

Now that I know what Direkt can do with my MF M6i, time to move one to partnering it with Soul Note SA710.

THE SESSION 2 - WITH SOUL NOTE SA710

The Soul Note SA710 was introduced to the system as part as an integrated system review. It will also be reviewed with my ProAC D18 speakers in the next detailed review.



One Fine Day

Airy.... It sounded airy and just lively and full of emotion. This has been my choice of romantic track and the Soul Note just elevated the the Direkt to another level. For a 10 watter amp, it surely impressed me where it can provide enough juice to the Direkt to deliver such strong and wide sound signature. Natalie's vocal was upfront and full of life. The soft hi hat and snare hits surfaced to be very detail and the kick pedal sounded refined. What went away was a hard hitting bass effect but subtlety and refinement kicked in. very involving overall presentation. Refinement at its best.

 Take Five
The bass extension on this one if quite remarkable. Gone was the 'in you face' bass but a more extensive bass where it matters. Even the snare sounded fuller and meatier. The wind instrument sounded airier with in depth detail, giving a big soundstage but without loosing the texture behind the track. A bit loose on the high frequencies section but nothing too serious. Overall presentation was leaning towards quite a natural sounding sound with an emphasize on micro refinement on the low frequency section.


Temptation
Now, this track have been my reference track for the past few months. While with the Soul Note, the Direkt continues to serenade me with its sweet and refined sound, this track loss some energy in it. The opening percussion sounded less lively compared to when the Direkt was driven by the MF M6i. Diana's vocal was the emphasis which it sounded  very energized and deep. The string works on this track also showed a similar performance; very high on refinement but does not dig deep in the low frequency part.


Now, another challenge for the Direkt with this track from Pearl Jam - Wishlist. Even for a heavier and grungier track like this, refinement kicks in with high level of transparency. The swooshing effect in the track can be felt as it was  swirling wind going across the hall. Excellent delivery of details, layer by layer. You don't get fatigue easily with the Direkt. Eddie's vocal sounded powerful with real enforcement on his baritone side.

CONCLUSION

Are you ready for it? If you are in the market for a new set of speakers, do not buy anything yet until you have given the Heco Direkt a good demo. German engineering meets retro artistic design. Oh, did I mention the sound is pretty darn good. Vocal,sound stage, subtle bass but refined, high transparency with sweet treble. Mids sounds fairly upfront. Flexible to accustom to your existing amp may it be a power house solid state amp or mini wattage tube or transistor amp. Both will give you a different experience but no worries on whether it will sound good or not. Is just a matter of your preference is for hard hitting and strong presentation or refined but extensive overall presentation.It is currently retailed at RM22,786. Oh... just to make it clear... di I mention the sound is pretty darn good? :)

If you are interested to demo this babies, please contact the following:

KL - Selective HiFi
68-2, Block F, Zenith Corporate Park, Jalan SS7/26, SS7, 47301 PJ
Call David on +60 12-249 9823 or Vinson on 0129071955

Ipoh and Northern - Audio Art
Contact Yoon on 012-5201066

Sunday, 27 November 2016

SVS PB16 Ultra and SB16 Ultra Product Launch


Maxx Audio in Seremban hosted a product launch event for the new SVS PB16 Ultra and SB16 Ultra on Saturday 26th November. This long awaited event was attended maaaannnyyy HT enthusiasts in the country and also by the regular audio reviewers like Willy Low, Vinod, Dick Tan and that one troublemaker of all time...Myself. The event kicked off at 11 am an officially ended at 6 pm wuth a steady flow of AV-philes throughout that time. It was so packed that Max had to arrange for every one to experience the new subs in a few demo sessions.



No hifi product launch in Malaysia can be conducted without having delicacies. Max and Ben specially ordered Nasi Lemak bungkus NIzam and also Bee Hoon goreng and also hot curry puffs. Yours truly arrived at about 1015 to provide Max with the Samsung 4K UHD BD player and once set up, this nasi lemak started make its way through my mouth. Yummy. Once done, the official demo started.



Batman vs Superman DOJ on 4K UHD


One of Epson on display projector



Max explained the new design adapted by SVS in this PB16 sub. With 1500 watss RMS power, this 16" sub , this sub guarantees a substantial LFE will be provided in one's system. It goes as deep as 13 to 280 Hz. The sub can be adjusted via its mini remote control and also iOS and Android bases apps. It weighs at a staggering 95 kg mark and it can easily be mistaken to be a small washing machine hehehe. You would need a big room for this to be made looked smaller. Customer have the choice of piano black or black ash finishings.

Max has deployed a 7.2.4 channel system in his 16.5 x 19.5 ft room. A bit crowded with speakers but still comfy enough to enjoy a full fledge ATMOS/DTS-X surround sound. The full set up list is as follows with its RRP:

  • SVS PB16 Ultra - RM14,499
  • SVS SB16 Ultra - RM 11,499
  • Klipsch KL-650-THX - RM 7,600 each
  • Klipsch KL-525-THX surround - RM6350 each
  • Klipsch CDT-2800-C II Top front and Top rear - RM1,150 each
  • Denon AVR X7200WA - RM 13,999
  • ATI 807 7 channel power amp - RM15,000
  • Parasound A23 Stereo power amp - RM6800
  • Oppo BDP-105D - RM5,999
  • Epson LS10000 projector - RM30,500










KL 650 THX Centre (similar to LR channels)


ATI 7 channel power amp


Oppo 105D, Samsung K8500, Parasound 2 channel power amp and Denon X7200WA


Klipsch rear speakers


OK enough of the tech talk. Now lets get into the nitty gritty:

When Max show case his set up, several different type of movies were played. Ranging from rain effect, bullet spraying war scenes, helicopter swirls, building collapse, martial arts and many more. My favourite was the war scene in the movie Bengazi. The PB16 shook the LazyBoy sofa with tremendous power and agility. I was surprised that there was rattling of the ceiling. The LFE provided by the two subs was enough to provide the guests on that day what these new Ultras can do. 

The sound of the spraying bullets and its impact sounded deep but subtle enough to differentiate it from explosives sounds. The speed and accuracy of the subs were evident enough that even in a chaotic scene like this, it delivers continuous LFE impact on each relevant sound. Matched and properly set up with the Klipsch speakers, the dialogue was still crystal clear. The mid bass was also presence where in a quieter scene of dialogue, the vocal sounded energized and with a deeper tone and emotion. 

The Klipsch THX Ultra 2 speaker set up was also very involving and gives out details of the movie with a high level of precision. With up to 97 dB sensitivity, they were driven effortlessly by the amplification in this set up. No sign of stress and I did not experience any fatigue listening to this set up through out the day.


Thank you Max and Ben for the invite. I a quite sure these new monstrous sub will be flying out of your shop into people's home very frequently.


Saturday, 19 November 2016

MatYeoX Interconnect: Clarity Beyond Its Price


I just love the local hifi scene. There are still a number of decent hifi and music lovers whom put forth ear satisfaction above name and price. Local DIY-ers go through various level of excitement by experimenting basic science and apply it to their hobby. I have reviewed a number of different components built by DIY-ers (most time, I will be the first to review), namely USB DAC (Stoner Acoustics), power amp, pre amp (KOGA Labs) and interconnects (KOGA Labs, Mizzal). Each have their own potential given the right approach and level of attention.

This time around, I have this pair of interconnect, courtesy of a well known HT enthusiast, MatYeo. He is not only one of those who people refer to when it comes to HT but he also caters the need of cabling for them. His debut interconnect is named MatYeoX.  


Basic Specification

The conductor material is OFC (Oxygen Free Conductor) with a gauge of 20. Braided shielding coverage is up to 95% and the diameter is about 6.5 mm. It does not sound like anything special but what matters is how the end product affect your sound.

Professionally terminated and finished with a nice red and black woven sleeve. You will be surprised how much it cost. Read on to know the pocket damage.

The Set Up

I used this IC with 2 sources:
  1. Lenco L78 to the Musical Fidelity M1 ViNL phono stage
  2. SONY HAP Z1-ES hi res player to Musical Fidelity M6i amp
  3. HECO Direkt speakers with Vermouth Audio Black Pearl cables

The Tracks

  1. Little Train by Niels Hennings and gang (WAV 24/192)
  2. Whiskey in The Jar by Metallica (WAV 16/44.1)
  3. Countdown to Extinction by Megadeth (LP)
The Session

The MatYeoX have been in my system for over a month now and have been part of many reviews actually. Even the PMC and Bryston. Hidden gem it is.


Little Train by Niels Hennings, Orsted Pederson and Sam Jones

This double bass track was the ultimate point where I find the glory of this IC. A heavy bass track like this, given the wrong cabling, may end up with a muddled or boomy bass. MatYeoX opens up the track to be more than just double bass emphasize. The guitar was made to be heard as nice back up instrument with quite rhythmic percussion. Rim shots sounded hard and detail under that layer of heavy bass. The HECO played a big role in expanding the bass line but the MatYeoX brought up a more refined overall sound. This was indeed the highlight for me when it comes to this IC.


Whiskey in The Jar by Metallica
Again, MatYeoX brought up that clarity of the metallic metal riffs by Kirk and gang. Somehow, it brings up the energy of the guitar, hi hat and even James's vocal. The bass drum somehow was subdued by the ferocious sound of upfront presentation. For a track like this, you may need a good IC 'moderator' to avoid any overwhelming bass impact.

The guitar on this track sounded sharper and more clarity can be heard compared to my previous Canare IC. The high hat sound on the percussion side also very accurate and detail alongside the warm bass I get from the kick pedal. Dave's vocal also sounded more upfront and coherent within the entirety of the track. It made this classic track sounded bold and really managed to recreate that 'dark' ambient to the listener. 

Conclusions

The MatYeoX is a no nonsense interconnect. It brings up a lot of clarity in my system when it comes to high frequency importance. It somehow will tame some low ends impact to avoid any extra unwanted boom. The built is of high standard with high quality materials as well. Its not one of those rigid type ICs physically. Easily to be 'snaked' into any tight set ups.

For RM90/meter complete with RCA, try it if your system suffer from certain boomy or muddled bass issue. It it does not work, its not going to burn your pocket or get a scolding from the wife. Contact MatYeo at 019-2224914


Friday, 11 November 2016

Samsung ATMOS Soundbar HW-K950 - All In One for the Simple Minded






This is a mirror from audiofi.net where my review was initially posted. 

+ Centre-channel clarity, engaging subwoofer, effective up-firing ATMOS speakers and flawless wireless connectivity. ATMOS effect well delivered with an immersive sound.
– Lack of calibration software and not much of a two-channel music experience.
Sound: 8/10
Value: 8/10

DOLBY ATMOS has been around for a few years and is now quite a stable platform, and it is increasingly common for moviemakers to mix their surround audio effects in this format. More and more movies are now screened in an ATMOS audio mix, either in the cinemas or on Blu-ray discs.
While cinema-goers are now spoilt with a more immersive sound, home theatre enthusiasts face the space challenge of setting up at least five speakers, a subwoofer and four ceiling speakers to achieve the minimum 5.1.4 ATMOS set-up requirement. This becomes a bigger challenge if the set-up is to be installed in the living room.
Samsung has come up with an alternative all-in-one, space-saving ATMOS soundbar, complete with wireless connectivity for the subwoofer and a pair of rear surround units with a built-in ATMOS up-firing speakers.
The Samsung HW-K950 Soundbar provides the minimum 5.1.4 channels through its intuitive speaker design. The soundbar unit houses the front-firing channels (centre, left and right) and a pair of front up-firing ATMOS drivers. The rear surround speakers are equipped with the rear up-firing ATMOS drivers and to complete the set-up, a subwoofer is also part of the whole equation.
What is really interesting about this package is the wireless connectivity between the soundbar unit and the rear speakers and subwoofer. A total of 15 drivers are built into this whole package, providing a wider dispersive effect.
The system provides a whopping 500 watts RMS and is equipped with six DSP modes to choose from. It does not stop there. For two-channel audio, there is also Bluetooth connectivity. It also supports Spotify, Deezer etc, streaming as well. The system is capable of handling HD Audio up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution and supports Samsung’s multi-room application.
Those with an existing Samsung SMART TV and Blu-ray/4K UHD player will be happy to know that the remote control unit that comes with the HW-K950 will integrate your existing equipment into the system and allow you to control your whole entertainment set from one remote commander. 

SETTING UP
It is recommended to have two people to unbox this system. Mainly due to its length, it is awkward to handle the unboxing alone. Do take note that “wireless” refers to the audio connectivity from the soundbar to the rear speakers and subwoofer. You will need three AC points for the subwoofer and the rear speakers. So, do ensure you have plug points where you intend to set up the rear speakers and subwoofer.

 

  
Connectivity between the components is easily set up. Just turn on the soundbar, subwoofer and rear speakers and all of them will automatically detect each other. Once connected, a blue LED lights up indicating successful pairing.
Similarly with Bluetooth and online music streaming services such as Spotify. Using your mobile phone or tablet, just follow the step-by-step instructions and you will be enjoying wireless music within a few minutes.
There are two HDMI and one optical input at the rear of the soundbar. However, there is only one HDMI output to the TV but it is equipped with Audio Return Channel module (ARC).
I connected the newly-launched Samsung UBD-K8500 4K UHD Blu-ray player to this soundbar to experience not only ATMOS, but also 4K visual on my Samsung curve TV.

The biggest challenge setting up this soundbar system is the calibration. Modern AV receivers usually come with auto calibration modules which calibrate all speaker components to adapt to the room environment in order to produce the optimum surround effect. For this review, the calibration had to be done manually by increasing or lowering the volume for each speaker to achieve 75dB on the sound level meter app on my phone.
It is highly recommended to follow the guidelines by Dolby on the up-firing ATMOS with regards to height and the material used for the ceiling. The recommended ceiling height is between 7.5 and 12 feet and the maximum is 14 feet. The ceiling material should be reflective.
LISTENING
Watching the Star Trek 4K UHD Blu-ray disc, I was really surprised by the clarity of the centre channel from the sound bar. Even in a chaotic attack scene with powerful LFE, the dialogue from Spock and Captain Kirk was exceptionally clear.




The ATMOS effect was, of course, the highlight where the sound effects of falling objects tumbling down wreckages and laser beams being shot downwards were not only immersive but quite realistic and in sync with the whole movie experience. The rear ATMOS sounded a little thin at the beginning compared with the front ATMOS but a slight volume adjustment managed to overcome that. Sitting in the middle gave me the feeling that I was actually surrounded by the actual attack scene.

The performance of the subwoofer was also unexpectedly very engaging. Since it is wireless, I decided to site the subwoofer at the rear to test its wireless connectivity and effectiveness. Throughout the movie, the subwoofer worked tirelessly, delivering a rumbling bass effect that vibrated my sofa and the floor. Any explosion scene will grab your attention as the subwoofer will shake your seat. The effect dispersion could be felt across my viewing area.
Moving to a Superman: Man of Steel, the surround experience was even more engaging than Star Trek. The scene where Superman rescues people from a burning offshore platform provided me with even more engaging immersive effect. It was also directional (versus just a blanket noise effect); hence it related to the image being viewed. The swooshing sound of Superman flying from top right (rear) to bottom left (front) can be easily heard, giving me the directional perspective of the movie I was watching.
Moving to two-channel audio for music listening resulted in a different reaction. The sound is quite lifeless. Even after I tweaked certain parameters, I just could not enjoy listening to the system. With the audio channel now focused on the front, I could not get the same level of enjoyment when watching movies.
On Andrea Bocelli’s Time To Say Goodbye, the emotion of the song could not be delivered as well as from proper floorstanding or bookshelf speakers. For heavy metal or rock tracks such as Metallica’s Enter Sandman, I was expecting a heavier impact but the guitar solos sounded flat and the drumming, box-ish.

THE LAST WORD

If you are looking for a simplified, no nonsense home theatre soundbar for your home, the Samsung HW-K950 is one worth auditioning. It is a Dolby ATMOS certified system and does not fail to provide the immersive ATMOS experience but in a smaller package.

Of course, you should not compare it with a full-fledged AVR-mega-huge-speaker set-up but for its intended audience, this Samsung system managed to deliver its main objective. Yes, the two-channel music performance is not up to par but with this level of ATMOS delivery, you will be watching more movies than listening to music.
A word of caution, though – I do believe this system works well in a moderately-sized room and not for bigger halls. In order to ensure you can experience the ATMOS effect, it is recommended that you use this system in a venue that follows the ceiling height and material recommendation by Dolby.
Gear
Samsung UBD-K8500 4K UHD Blu-ray player, Samsung UA65HU9000 65-inch Curve TV

Price: US$1,499
Malaysian price: RM5,999
Review unit courtesy of Samsung Malaysia Electronics Sdn Bhd




Saturday, 5 November 2016

Bryston BDP Pi and Product Update



Bryston fans... the Pi is here. On 4th November, the mini sized hi res player BDP Pi was launched at AV Designs showroom in Kuala Lumpur. Retailed at RM5900, this nifty little player is targetted at the new comers to hi res audio. With the exception of DSD, this Raspberry Pi based player can play various and most common formats including FLAC. The BOT-1 optical drive can also be connected to this unit and can perform direct CD playback or for ripping. It has 4 USB inputs, 1 coaxial and 1 optical out and a network port. Connect it to a DAC and network cable and you are on the way to audio nirvana.

The Pi works similarly to the BDP2 that I just reviewed including the interface.


Brian Russel, President of Bryston graced the product launched event by explaining the features of the Pi. There were various questions coming from the usual local hifi enthusiasts. To the question of why Tidal and not Spotify, it is mainly because Tidal is claimed to be providing better sounding music streaming as oppose to Spotify. Why no DSD support? Mainly because of the limitation of the Raspberry Pi platform.





The usual crowd Jo Ki, Dick Tan, Willy Low, Venoth along with AV Designs James Tan and Tony Low and of course, yours truly.



In this instant, size does not matter :)

Brian also updated us with some exciting news of whats coming:

  • BryFi - the wifi speaker system. Currently pending for license/certification approval. 
  • The CD player is coming back. Using a similar topography of BDA3 DAC, Bryston is adding a Sony transport with slot in mechanism and launch the new CD player by year end.
  • BLP-1 turntable (already available) 
  • A miniature DAC to compliment the Pi and BOT-1




What is a product launch without a meal? We ended the event with a full of laughter dinner. Brian is one entertainer. Salute to you Mr. President of Bryston.

Here are a fewer samplers:













Saturday, 29 October 2016

The Full Bryston Suite Treatment - An Experience Not To Forget!





Recently I reviewed the PMC twenty5.24 where I pair it with my resident set up, mainly Musical Fidelity M6i amplifier. While PMC is synonymous with Bryston electronics, I feel that it was flexible enough to sing with amps from other brands. Nevertheless, AV Designs being their usual accommodative hifi retailer, suggested that I should hear the PMC with a full Bryston suite of electronics. Must I even think about the proposition? NOT! A few days later, James Tan popped in with the following Bryston equipment:
  • BDP2 digital medial player
  • BDA3 DAC
  • BOT-1 optical drive
  • ...and about 1 week after that, the B135 SST2 integrated amp
  • WyWire USB cable
There is an individual review of each component but also a review as a whole system.

I believe I am bit late getting into the reviews of these items as it was already available since last year if I am not mistaken. Nevertheless, the experience here is something  that surpassed my enjoyment when I listened to them in AV Designs or KLIAV show. For nearly 2 months, my home was basically converted into AV Desigsn listening area :)

Now lets get down to business.

THE SPEC & THE INS AND OUTS

BDA3 DAC

The BDA3 DAC it is not short of inputs to cater for all the needs of the modern digital world. In fact, this is the first time I come across a DAC that has a HDMI in. The DAC is built around a dual 32Bit AKM DAC and able to support up to DSD 4x sampling and PCM up to 384 Khz. The HDMI is a 4K video pass through with audio out.

It weighs at 3.9 KG, light enough for easy installation onto the rack.



Inputs: 
  • 2 USB 2.0 Type B
  • 4 HDMI 
  • 2 SPDIF (1 BNC and 1 RCA)
  • 1 optical
  • 1 AES/EBU
Ouputs:
  • HDMI
  • RCA
  • XLR


BDP2 DIGITAL PLAYER
Based on Linux OS, Bryston further enhanced the already superb BDP1 player to another level of digital audio nirvana. With the Integrated Audio Device card (IAD), it provides an improved performance. It can handle most audio files available out there including DSD. It can perform playback from USB flash drives and USBand eSATA HDD. No news yet whether it can handle SSD. It is a network based player and support NAS connectivity, DNLA, UPNP and also online internet radio and music host TIDAL. It is fully controllable by PC, laptops, phones and tablets. One of the beauty and ingenuity of Bryston is that this player does not rely on iOS or Android app. It is basically controlled via web browser through the player IP address. This avoid the situation of support requirement from apps company.


Inputs:
  • 6 USB 2.0
  • 1 eSATA
Outputs
  • SPDIF
  • AES/EBU
  • USD


BOT-1 OPTICAL DRIVE

This is one special CD transport in which when its connected to the BDP2 player, it can be fully controlled as a CD player for direct CD playback or it can act as a CD ripper to rip CD directly onto your chosen directory of HDD, NAS or USB flash drives.

It just have one USB output to be connected to the BDP2 player and a power supply.


B135 SST2 Integrated Amp

A relatively unique power rating of 135 wpc into 8 ohms, this integrated amp Bryston all in one integrated amp with options to have digital inputs to replace the analogue inputs. It boast a separate ground paths for digital and analog, allowing a cleaner path for the two types of signal.

Inputs:
  • 6 pairs of SE RCA
  • 1 pair of RCA Record In
  • 2 optical (optional)
  • 2 SPDIF (optional)
Outputs
  • 2 pairs of SE RCA for Record Out and Preamp Out
  • 1/4" headphone jack
Built wise, all of the items here crafted and built with precision and its sturdiness is unquestionable. Bryston is known for its tank-like industrial built and these items are not exempted from that BUT I must say the fascia has improved a lot. With soft touch buttons and cool dimmed green LED, it fits well in the WAF category.


THE EQUIPMENT
The review was done with 3 different speakers:
  • ProAc Response D18
  • PMC twenty5.24
  • Arpeggio Pensato

Besides the Bryston, the following was also used:
  • SONY HAP Z1 ES HDD player

For cabling, a mixture of cabling was used:
  • Power cables : Siltech and QED
  • USB Cable : WyWire
  • RCA : Siltech from M1 ViNL, MatYeoX from SONY HAP Z1 ES, Gotham from Bryston BDA3 and also from B135 SST2 to KOGA Aimez Power Amp (when tested as pre) 
  • Speaker cable : Siltech Classic Anniversary 330L for PMC, Vermouth Audio Black Pearl for ProAc and Pensato

THE TRACKS
  • Girl Is Mine by Michael Jackson - DSD
  • Where Did The Boots Boy Gone? by ACAB - WAV
  • Temptation by Dian Krall - AIFF
  • Unchained Melody by Willie Nelson - DSD
  • Billy Jean by Michael Jackson - DSD
  • I Will Remember by Toto - WAV
  • Take Five by Dave Brubeck - DSD

THE SESSIONS
By the time the session was conducted, all the equipment have already seen at least 500 hours of music pushed through them. 

SESSION 1 - WITH PROAC D18 AS A HOLE BRYSTON COMBO

Girl is Mine

This is such a simple track but the Michael - Paul combo and its melodious tune was played through with a big and airy soundstage. The chimes during the intro sounded very clear and had the right highs to it. Michael's and Pauls' vocals were lively in its own mellow way, giving the overall tune a really bodied presentation. Emotions runs high on this track with vocals clarity seems to be the most evident trait.


Where Did The Boot Boys Gone?

I purposely chose this track because of its lack of vocals clarity and transparency. Most probably because of its level of mastering or recording. People may ask why am I using a 'non audiophile' track in a review but hey, as far as I am concern, I buy hifi to listen to music that matters to me. Not music that makes the set up sounds good. Lo and behold. Playing this track via the BDP2 and BDA3,  Megat's vocal sounded clearer and more energized. It further convinced me that clarity is one of the strongest trait of this Bryston combo. Even the angst of the rhythm guitar and the melodic lead guitar sounded  very open and it was filling up the hall. Something that it is really important in tracks like this. Guitar must sound authoritative to pump up the adrenalin to the listeners.


Temptation

Do I need to even sum up the performance of the Bryston on this track? Just listen to the percussion and the bass guitar in the introduction. That single hit of the snare fills up the entire room with the right level of highs. Its in no way shrilling but more  like making a statement that demands listener to listen. The bass guitar just sounded melodic with the right lows that digs deep into your listening area. And when Diana's vocal comes in, I was totally mesmerized by the overall performance of the Bryston kit. The sound stage sounded big and layer and layer of music interface can be experienced.... and its not even paired with a PMC yet.


SESSION 2 - WITH ARPEGGIO PENSATO TO TEST THE B135 SST2


Unchained Melody

I started with a slow number with these Pensatos. Pairing the Bryston kit with this gave me another perspective of the Bryston B135. Clarity remains as expected. Emotion runs deep as well. Dispersion of of the snare sounded crisp which I like it that way. The liveliness was however taken down a notch. Most probably its due to the change from a floorstander to this huge bookshelf. The Bryston still did not loose in delivering the big sound and clarity but the 'kick' or 'energy' was limited. I suspect that the B135 and Pensato are not really the perfect match for each other. Need further challenge.




Money For Nothing

You really want to test the energy of your system? This track provide a good test. The way the momentum of the track builds up on you, even though it was musically arranged properly, play it on the wrong system, Dire Straits will kill you for not respecting their masterpiece. This time around the B135 sounded more authoritative, providing the muscular percussion and synthesizer sound. It lets the music wraps around you and make you feel like you are in an envelope of true music. I didnt feel that the drums were in my face nor I feel uneasy with the decibel level in my chest. It was just overall lively at the right level. The test with Willie's rendition of Unchained Melody might be focusing too much on vocal.

SESSION 3 - B135 SST2 AS A PRE AMP TO KOGA AIMEZ AND PMC

Billie Jean as a Pre Amp

No issues at all to connect the B135 to the 30 watter KOGA Aimez hybrid power amp via RCA. In terms of sound, its definitely different from using the B135 as an integrated amp. However, the sound I am hearing is predominantly was a KOGA Aimez sound. A refined bass but with big sound stage. 


SESSION 4 - THE FULL BRYSTON SUITE WITH PMC TWENTY5.24


Temptation

Replaying the Temptation track provided me with a more refined and classy sound signature. Although the PMC is known for its bass prowess, it delivered a more refined bass rather than the slam I heard from ProAc. This is actually a compliment as the Bryston-PMC combo where most people would expect a thud thumping action, actually provided a more musical experience. In my previous PMC review, these babies gave me a brute slamming bass sound paired with my MF M6i. But with the B135, a more relaxing and involving musical experience was presented to me. Worried that the Bryston killed off the PMC bass? Read on folks!


I Will Remember

Listen to the intro of this track. A full bodied bass can still be delivered by the B135. Playing this track on a full Bryston electronic suite, the overall presentation was not only involving but also the clarity and that musical element that I mentioned before was even further surfaced into the overall experience. The warm vocals and sharp percussion fill the room with quite a big sound stage compared to pairing the Bryston kit with ProAc D18.



Take Five

Musical and more musical. As I keep on playing various genres on this combo, I realise how refined Bryston equipment are. Its not about being loud (which they still can) but it s about juicing out every drop of musical detail(or in this case, every digital bit). The combo of BDP2, BDA3 and B135 gave an overall clean, detail and transparent sound with high level of refinement. I can listen for hours without feeling fatigue. Just listen to the airiness on this track, from percussion to the wind instruments used here. Dave Brubeck himself would be mesmerized by the overall soundstage from this combo.

OTHER BITS AND PIECES

CONTROL INTERFACE



Its a web browser based control interface. Just key in the matching IP address where the BDP2 is connected to and you will be able to perform all the control on the BDP2 and also the BOT1 optical drive. Need some getting used to but if you are already into Computer Audio System, this can be learnt within minutes. On the same page, you can see what is currently playing, data of the playing track, list of tracks that you have selected, all the sources that are connected to the player and the control panel. Its not the most elegant looking interface but you do not have to worry about apps missing apps support in the future.

INTERNET RADIO AND ONLINE MUSIC SERVER

The BDP2 offers unlimited connectivity to internet radio. Searching for my all time favourite Classic and Jazz station  from Paris was seamless. Up and playing within minutes. For online music server, its a shame that it does not support Spotify so I cannot test it as I do not subscribe to TIDAL.

BOT-1 RIP QUALITY

For any CAS enthusiasts, they would know how important is the ripping process is. Ripping from the drive is definitely straight forward and it can be done via the control interface. A full album can be ripped into WAV within 4 to 5 minutes. Comparing a WAV file of Hotel California ripped by this BOT-1 and the one I ripped using my laptop, I could hear that the version ripped by BOT-1 sounded bolder and livelier. Somehow it has more zing to it compared to my previous rip. For the sake of trying, it can also be connected to my SONY HAP Z1 ES and similarly, it took about 4 to 5 ins to rip a full album to WAV. Compared to my Archgon DVD rom, the rip quality also sounded livelier. Makes me wonder what exactly is happening to the theory of ones and zeros are all the same.

CONCLUSIONS

BOT-1 OPTICAL DRIVE
  • Yay:
    • One of the fastest yet accurate ripping I have heard so far
    • Certain 44.1 ripped WAV files sounded similar to CD playback on this unit
  • Nay:
    • Physically noisy. When reading the CD initially especially. Knocking sound can be heard.
BDP2 DIGITAL PLAYER
  • Yay:
    • Throw any files at it and it will just smile back. No fuss player. 
    • Truly versatile in sound and style. Bryston hit the highest note by using Linux as the OS for this unit. From the sound quality, I know that Bryston did everything not to compromise on this. Best sounding player at this price I must say. The player brings out the best of your digital files. Bass is tight and clarity is the main virtue of this player. The highs do not develop fatigues for long hours listening.
    • Simplicity in its front display LED screen. Not cluttered with any unnecessary info.
    • Stability. Not once did the player crashed on me over hundreds of hours of playback.
    • Support at least 1 TB HDD. It took about 20 mins for the unit to fully recognize the 15000 tracks I have on the HDD. Direct connection is the best way to listen.
    • No issues in detecting my 2 TB NAS as well. But it does take sometime to fully scan the NAS
  • Nay:
    • Reduce number of inputs. This may reduced the offering price a bit.
    • Think of a way to have the web based browser to have a simplified version for direct play.
    • Need Spotify. Thats my preference.
BDA3 DAC
  • Yay:
    • Inputs galore. With the number of inputs it offers, you will never be short of any. Playing my MD deck and also an Oppo BDP player through this DAC, it brings up the sound quality to another level. Really defines what digital music is all about.
    • Playing DSDs through this DAC is the highlight of this review. May it be from the BDP2 or the Sony HAP Z1 ES feeding through it. The level of details that it brings up from your digital files is very impressive.
  • Nay:
    • Nothing at this price range
B135 SST2
  • Yay:
    • Refined sound reproduction. Pair it with the right speakers and you are heading towards sound nirvana. In my review, the best pairing was actually with the PMC. It really compliments the overall  musicality of the PMC. However, the PMC twenty5.24 to me deserves a bigger Bryston amp. Wattage is not everything but I feel the PMC can deliver more with bigger Bryston amp. It is a a truly a neutral sounding pair with overall best musicality reproduction but the B135 may pair even better with the smaller siblings of the twenty5 series.
    • Various options of inputs and ability to act as a pre amp
    • Decent headphone sound quality as well
  • Nay:
    • I need a remote as a standard accessories
AS AN OVERALL SYSTEM

No doubt the BRYSTON-PMC synergy is one of the most beautifully sounding pairing. It scores very high in every aspect of hifi terms. May it be musicality, clarity, bass, treble, sound stage etc, it gives you an overall musical pleasure even for long hours listening. You will not get bored with this pairing. Its just a matter of choosing the right PMC speaker for the respective Bryston amp.

If you are in the market of getting a digital audio player, you owe it to yourself to demo the Bryston BDP2. You can start off with this and pair it with your existing DAC. This is a fuss free player that only have one track mind - Purest and Highest Sound Quality  for your digital files.

Of course, you will get the full benefit if you get the BDA3 DAC as well. This digital pair will ensure the utmost bit retraction from your digital files and reproduce it with highest level of details. I may be exaggerating this but at this price, they are are not many contenders out there.

The BOT-1 is optional if you have just started to get into CAS. If you already have a a decent digital file collection, you may not need this. But if you just started, this will completely make your PC or laptop redundant for music ripping.

A big thank you to AV Designs for entrusting me to review these excellent products.

The RRP of the whole combo of Bryston BOT-1, BDP2, BDA3, B135 SST2 and PMC twenty5.24 is just slightly shy of RM100,000. 

If you are interested to hear what these items can do, do visit AV Designs at:


Audio Visual Designs Sdn Bhd
Unit M-W-1, Mezzanine Floor,
West Wing, Rohas Perkasa,
No.9, Jalan P. Ramlee,
50450 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Tel: +603-2171 2828
Fax: +603-2171 2825
Email: sales@avdesigns.com.my