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 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.

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

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.

  • 6 USB 2.0
  • 1 eSATA
  • USD


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.

  • 6 pairs of SE RCA
  • 1 pair of RCA Record In
  • 2 optical (optional)
  • 2 SPDIF (optional)
  • 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 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

  • 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

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


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.


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.


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.


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. 



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.



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.


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.


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.


  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

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

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Oppo Sonica Officially Launched in Malaysia

The new Oppo Sonica WiFi speakers was officially launched in Malaysia today. The event took place in Chandelier Wine and Dine on Jalan Syed Putra and was attended by various media reps including Mr. Dick Tan of 3DotEvent (KLIAV organiser). It was rather a simple affair but attendees were generally impressed with the Sonica which sounded big for a little guy. Steve Chua of CMY was also there to assist in ensuring the Sonica was set up to sound its best.

Mr. Adrian Lee, the sales manager of Oppo Electronics Malaysia presented the brief history and background of Oppo Digital which dated back to 2004 where they debut their DVD player. Followed by the Bluray players, headphones and headphone amp. 


The features of this Sonica fits nicely in most modern homes that aim for simplicity and yet, meeting the sound quality. The list of features can be obtained from their website but here are some of it:

  • Support DNLA and UPNP, hence can play from NAS and USB thumbdrive
  • Able to pair with another unit to set up a stereo sound 
  • Multiroom capability via a single app
  • Support hi res music up to 24/192 in various format
  • ...and many more

The Sonica will be available for purchase starting next week from CMY and later from other authorized distributors. The RRP of the Sonica is RM1299.

From my experience listening to this unit, the unit can really go loud without sounding stress. It has high level of clarity and do not underestimate its bass reproduction. The wifi control seems to work well during the event but the ultimate test would be if a sample unit can be brought home and fully tested.

Thank you to Adrian and Oppo Digital Malaysia for the invite.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Arpeggio Pensato - Another Malaysian Pride

The name Arpeggio Pensato does not really sound like Malaysian but the designer of this speaker, Mr. Victor Pheh of HiFi Creations is as Malaysian as it can be. I first heard the sound of these speakers back in 2014 when it was still in the prototype stage. The second time was during its debut in KLIAV show in 2015. But it then went quiet after the debut. What I can remember at that time was these speakers have high level of authority when run with Magnet power amps. Clarity was one of its virtue.

When Victor sent the Pensato over, I now realised how big the cabinets are. Measuring at 590 mm (H) x 340 mm (W) x 400 mm (D) and weighs at 36 KG each, it is not an ordinary bookshelf speaker. In fact, I do not know how to categorize the Pensato as bookshelf or half floorstander. Its a 3 way speaker with a 1" sonolex precoated dome tweeter, 4" paper coated cone mids and 8" nextel coated woofer. Frequency response is between 38 Hz to 30 kHz with relatively high sensitivity of 89 dB. It is also rear ported design. The pair is fully hand crafted using high quality internal components including VDH wiring.

  • Bryston B135 SST2 Integrated amp (also as pre amp)
  • KOGA Aimez power amp
  • Bryston BDP2 media player and BDA3 DAC
  • Sony HAP Z1 ES HDD Hi Res player with Skogrand Wagner power cable
  • Lenco L78 TT
  • Musical Fidelity M1 ViNL phono stage
  • Vermouth Audio Black Pearl speaker cable

  • Temptation by Diana Krall (WAV 16/44.1)
  • Silent Death (LP)
  • Unchained Melody by Willie Nelson (DSD 2.8 MHz)
  • Money for Nothing by Dire Straits (WAV 16/44.1)


With the Pensato driven by KOGA Aimez power amp, the Pensato started to show the level of music authority that I have heard before. The zing sound of percussion in the intro was definitely the clarity of sound that can really sound extended. Its not bass shy with the double bass sounding warm and deep. Its not a bass power house like the PMCs, but its enough to really sound refine.

With a really heavy music like the one by Silent Death, the Pensato can really cook up an overall solid metal sound with high degree of separation. However, the double pedal percussion sounded a little bit thin in which a hard hitting bass kick is required in this kind if music. Partially it may also be the B135 integrated amp was not the best match for Pensato. At times, it sounded a bit restricted as oppose to a sound from a full floorstander.

The beautiful voice of Willie Nelson can be relived with high level of excitement via the Pensato. The clarity of vocals can be clearly heard through these speaker. The mellowness of his vocal was reproduced by the Pensato that it sounded very fluid and unrestricted. A character that I find very important in any speaker. It can allow music just to flow freely, creating that ambient of a big sound stage.

Now for the final track, the intro of Money for Nothing was again where the Pensato showed some muscle. The drums and guitar intro really gave  long lasting impact on me. It delivers sufficient hit on the drums tom toms and at the same time, a adequately high shredding guitar sound.PLus, the sound stage sounded really huge on this track.

Do you have the space? Are you looking for an honest sounding, high clarity and tight and defined bass? The Pensato might just be the one for you. Vocals sound clean, the mids are sweet and harmonious and the bass is just sufficiently reproduced. Bear in mind that we are dealing with a bookshelf design here. Even though the sound stage is big, at times it can sound a bit restricted especially on metal music. It needs a big air space for it to really shine. Overall, at RM22K RRP, it is a pair that has that finesse touch by Mr. Victor.With proper kit matching, these Pensato can be a great contender to ATC. If interested in a demo, please contact Victor Pheh of HiFi Creations.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Piring Hitam Artis Tempatan - Berakhirnya Penantian Berkat Usaha Dream Studio dan Mamat Rec

Beberapa minggu yang lalu, dua kugiran tempatan yang telah banyak mempengaruhi minat muzik saya telah mengeluarkan album mereka di dalam bentuk piring hitam. Walaupun bukan album baru tetapi ia adalah album-album yang memperkenalkan saya kepada muzik rock dan juga death metal. Tak lain dan tak bukan, Lefthanded dan Silent Death.

Tanggal 4 Oktober 2016, sekali lagi Dream Studio, di bawah naungan Dato Zaharul Anuar, mengejutkan peminat2 rock tanahair dengan pelancaran album kumpulan lagenda, Lefthanded berjudul Keadilan buat pertama kalinya di dalam medium piring hitam. Album ini merupakan album Lefthanded yang diterbitkan 30 tahun yang lalu. Satu sesi pelancaran khas telah diadakan di Dream Studio di mana Dato Nash, Man Kidal, Yantzen (Rusty Blade) dan lain-lain telah bersama-sama meraikan pelancaran ini. Sayang sekali buat diri saya kerana tidak dapat menghadiri sesi tersebut disebabkan tugas utama saya di KLCC. Sesi itu juga dihadiri oleh pengumpul tegar piring hitam tanahair seperti Sezali Zakaria, Rusli Hashim dan ramai lagi. Malahan, ada juga peminat dari Singapura yang datang untuk meraikan sesi pelancaran ini. 

Memang tak dapat dinafikan bahawa revolusi piring hitam telah kembali secara global dan Malaysia tidak terkecuali. Walaubagaimanapun, kadar pengeluaran piring hitam untuk artis tempatan masih belum mencapai tahap komersial seperti atis luar negara. Dengan adanya usaha gigih syarikat-syarikat seperti Dream Studio, impian peminat muzik tanahair sudah mula tercapai. Apa yang unik tentang Dream Studio ialah penekanan terhadap kualiti bunyi dalam pengeluaran piring hitam. Bermula dengan Rusty Blade beberapa bulan dahulu, sekali lagi Dream Studio telah berjaya mengeluarkan 'first pressing' album ini pada tahap yang amat memuaskan. Piring hitam ini telah diterbitkan di Australia di mana mutu bunyi yang dikeluarkan dapat melahirkan emosi rock nostalgia buat sesiapa sahaja yang memang membesar dengan alunan muzik rock Lefthanded, termasuk penulis nukilan ini. Buat saya, Lefthanded adalah kugiran yang memperkenalkan muzik rock kepada saya pada tahun 1987. Kenyaringan vokal Dato Nash begitu menyerlah di mana tiada kesan kenyaringan terlampau atau kebingitan seperti yang banyak berlaku ke atas pengeluaran piring hitam yang tidak melalui proses penyaringan yang betul. Gorengan gitar Man Kidal jugak amat terserlah bunyinya, melahirkan emosi 'head banging' buat pendengar seperti saya. Dari fizikal, ada juga pembeli yang mengatakan lubang di tengah piring hitam itu agak kecil dan sukar untuk memposisikan ke atas pemain piring hitam. Walabagaimanapun, ini dapat diselesaikan dengan menggunaka 'file' kecil.

Tahniah sekali lagi buat Dream Studio dan Dato Zaharul. Diharapkan, lebih banyak piring hitam rock tempatan dikeluarkan lagi.

Dengarkanlah klip bunyi contoh di bawah ini.

Di masa yang sama, Dream Studio juga telah mengeluarkan semula piring hitam Rusty Blade Ikrar Perwira dalam bentuk boxset yang mengandungi piring hitam, CD, kaset, T Shirt dan key chain. Pakej terbaik.


Now, this is the album that really open up the dark side of me. I first heard about this band in 1992 if I am not mistaken. It was only on a cassette at that time but it was enough to really make me fall in love in the aggressive music genre. I cannot deny that at one stage, my late parents were worried about the musical taste I was into but nevertheless, they did not went into banning me from from listening to this. From Silent Death, I went into Nebiras, Sil Khannaz, Brain Dead etc. It is also personal to me as I had to borrow Ollie's drum pedal (when he was in Carburetor Dung) during a gig in Piccadilly Discotheque in 1996.

Back to the launch of this LP, Mamat Rec have again managed to produce a magnificent piece of local musical heritage. The speed of the double pedal by Ollie was tremendously hard hitting. The growling vocals of Stone and shredding guitars of Pink were in fact another big highlight of how high quality this LP is. For this musical genre, it is important that the mixing is done so that it does not come out as mashed up music with no sense of separation between various musical instrument. I found that this LP has managed to recreate that separation but in a manner that it is coherent and in tune as a whole. Excellent experience listening to this.

The packaging of this LP is also very much high quality. The inlay, photos, post cards is asa good as it gets when it comes to a reissue of the past. I love it.

I do hope both Dream Studio and Mamat Rec will continue appreciating the past as they are still a tremendous amount of fans of these legendary local bands that will forever support the industry.

Lefhanded (RM155) and Rusty Blade (RM155 for LP only and RM330 for boxset) LPs can be purchased from Dream Studio, Teenage Head Records, Crossroads Records and a few other music store.

Silent Death LP can be purchased by contacting Mamat Rec on Facebook for RM90.