Bryston vs Bryston

The Bryston 3B SST2 is on top.

There is no visible difference between the Bryston 3B SST and the new 3B SST2 power amp; the differences are inside the box.

The 3B SST2 has a push on/off power switch, new output devices, increased power supply capacitance (30,000 MFD per channel), two new ultra-low-noise power transformers (I have been corrected by Bryston's James Tanner - the transformers have not been changed), and lower noise and distortion levels.

Power output is the same as the 3B SST at 150 watts per channel 8 ohms, 250 watts 4 ohms, and 400 watts bridged 8 ohms.

Though the two power amps look alike, they surely don't sound alike.

For the past month or so, I have been using a Bryston BP-6 preamp (retailing at RM10,100) feeding either the resident 3B SST or the 3B SST2 (retailing at RM16,000) connected to a pair of Rega RS7 floorstanders (I spent some hours listening to the SST2 with the resident ATC SCM40s too). The resident CEC 3300 CD player, sometimes connected to a Musical Fidelity A3-24 DAC, spun the discs.

Soon after I had finished reviewing the preamp (see I started to compare the Bryston 3B SST power amplifier with its successor.

The differences in sound quality are quite apparent - the mid is so much richer with the 3B SST2. Vocals are smoother and creamier.

This is evident more so with female vocalists than males. I listened to Barbra Streisand, K.D. Lang, Eva Cassidy, Cleo Lane, Susan Boyle, Charlotte Church, Joni Mitchell and they all sounded richer and fuller. I played Il Divo and the quartet's voices sounded creamier too, but the effect was not as great as it was with female voices.

The "smoothening" was not restricted to vocals only - the entire mid band had this creamy texture. In comparison the 3B SST sounded leaner, more analytical and detailed.

There was no difference in the treble between the two power amps. Both played high notes without grain and with great extension.

It was in the bass region that the two power amps again sounded different. The old 3B SST's bass had more slam and sounded fuller and deeper. The 3B SST2's bass was more polite, and lacked grunt and pace.

This difference in bass presentation could easily be heard just by playing two songs on the Wilson Audio Ultimate Reference CD - Fanfare For The Common Man and Mating Dance - which feature drums and percussion.

So it would appear to be a trade-off. With the 3B SST2, you get a richer mid with a less dynamic bass. With the older 3B SST you get a leaner and more analytical mid with a bass that has grunt.

Should you buy the new model or stick with the old one? Let's put it this way - if I were to play Susan Boyle or Barbra Streisand, I would use the 3B SST2. If I were to play Adam Lambert or Chris Daughtry, I would use the older 3B SST.

It boils down to the type of songs you listen to.

Bryston components are distributed in Malaysia by AV Designs Sdn Bhd which has its showroom in Rohas Perkasa building, Jalan P. Ramlee, Kuala Lumpur. Tel: 03-21712828 or 03-21712825.

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