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October 1999
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Bryston 7B ST Monoblock Amplifiers
Review by Dwayne Carter

 

  I love my car.

Bryston 7B ST No, not more than I love my wife. Just differently (although if my wife could corner like my car, then all bets are off!). The recipient of such affection is my Audi A4 1.8 liter Turbo with Tiptronic transmission and Quattro Sports suspension (WHHHOOA Baby!!!…Grunt grunt).

HEY!!!! It's my first new car and I work seven days a week. Never sleep and therefore I deserve it so ptfptfptf :-> Whew, sorry. A little defensive about material possessions these days.

Anyway, I do not love my car for the reason all of you non-German engineered car drivers are thinkin. My Audi is not overtly flashy like the yuppie inspired BMW's which scream "Look at me!!" or the "I'm making up for a shortcoming in my um, manhood" Corvette muscle car (humor... didn't you know all Corvette onwers lack true manhood -- ed). Nope! I love my Audi because it is what it is. Subtle like me! If you look at it at just the right angle It looks downright aggressive. Otherwise, it looks like a nice little sports sedan. Nice and quiet. Not making any trouble unless trouble is asked for (once again like me). It's a very subtle car. The car has the remarkable ability to shift up to 65% of the engine's power to the axle with the best traction. This requires no driver intervention as it's constantly monitoring traction and reapportioning power automatically. It's called Quattro... (GGRRUUNNT)... Subtle.

In last years worse Chicago blizzard my A4 was one of the few cars to even make it out of our little community without getting stuck. I quietly motored past many a' SUV on the way to rescue my big-lipped sister-in-law's stuck Honda. She hates it when I call her that, but the lips natural and works for her (but I'll pay for the comment none the less).

Anyway, as I passed my neighbors stuck Super SUV, I was asked by his disgusted wife "Why aren't you getting stuck". I simply replied "Quattro". Subtle response I thought. And subtle is the word that comes to my mind the most, as I reviewed a pair of excellent Bryston 7B ST monoblock amplifiers! For all the power these amps are capable of (800w into a 4 Ohm loads like my Martin Logans, or 500w into 2 or 8 Ohms) the perception I have of the sonic improvements of these amps over my systems reference amps, the Carver A500x, was, well (sorry)... subtle.

One would expect that just by the shear build quality (which was 1st rate), back breaking weight (thanks again Lou, for helping me wrestle these babies down to the Home Theatre) or appearance (just short of a work of art) the Bryston 7B ST mono amps should fry every speaker in it's path. But it doesn't?

The Brystons arrived in two very solid shipping containers with very simple markings. "Bryston" was stamped on the long sides while "7B" was stamped on the other. Nothing else, hardly. Nowhere on the box does it mention the unbelievable warranty (20 YEARS!!) or any hint of what is inside. Nice. I like that. You wouldn't believe how some manufacturers announce to the world exactly what is being delivered to your doorstep?!

The reason I'm telling you this, is that the customers perception of a product (especially one with this kind of price tag) usually extends all the way to the box it came out of. Really. The amps were packed safely and efficiently. After trying to prove how manly I was by trying to haul them to the Home Theatre myself, my brother-in-law assisted me and we had them plugged in and warming up for the night in short order.

The Brystons come with a unique Ground Lift switch which allows you to decouple the outlet ground from the amp. I took great care when I built our Home Theatre. Hospital spec outlets and everything carefully grounded and wired directly to the circuit breaker. I've never had a Ground Loop problem. But despite my precautions, I detected a faint "hummmm" coming from my 'Logans, as I first powered the amps. So I powered them down, decoupled the ground, and the "hummmm" disappeared. Who'd a thunk it?! The Brystons are sensitive to ground loops folks. Use the Ground Lift switch if necessary.

After warming up for 24 hours with pink noise from the good ol' Stereophile disc (I had to leave town or else I wouldn't have been able to leave them alone for that long), I recalibrated my preamp (Lexicon DC-2) and dropped in my first CD. As is my tradition, the first song coming through any new piece of audio equipment in my household must be a Pat Benatar song. I've been doing this since high school (love is a battlefield huh? --ed). I don't know why, so let it go, don't mess with Patty (because hell, hell is for children --ed).

[Note: All critical listening was done in two-channel mode on the DC-2.]

I began rapidly selecting many different CDs covering a broad spectrum of music. From rap to classical, country to instrumental jazz. I was trying in vain to hear what I had convinced myself (based upon the visual assessment of the amps, alone) would be a sonic SLAM to my senses. I didn't happen. Now don't get me wrong! No matter what CD I ran into the Brystons, and at any volume setting I could handle, the Brystons handled it with aplomb. Not a whimper was ever heard. Never once could I drive the amps into clipped or protected mode (my speakers and/or my ears would have blown first). But I didn't get my slam?

Then, I plopped in last years Dixie Chicks album (track 5, "You Were Mine"). I have listened to this CD many times and I was gearing-up to review their latest CD (Fly reviewed in this months, October 1999 Music section...Check it out!) so I thought what the heck...

Then I heard it!!!

The Brystons finally showed what they were made of. Within track five there is a line in the song which I've never been able to make out. It never really bothered me, I just assumed the artist's wanted to slur the line. But the Brystons cleared the fog and that particular lyric just came through. The Bryston 7B ST mono amps acted like a noise filter remover and there it was!! I excitedly plugged in the Carver, recalibrated the system, and replayed the song. The lyric was masked. NOW I GET IT!!

So I reconnected the Brystons, recalibrated the pre-amp and began listening for subtle differences in the music. On most of the CDs I had just listened to, now that I knew what to listen for, I heard it! Obviously on Classical, Jazz and vocal oriented music it's much easier to hear the details that may be masked on Rock, Rap or other heavily layered forms of music. While this is probably true with most amps, the Brystons (on less-layered music) allow you to hear such wonderful detail. Details such as the musician fingers brushing the strings, gasping a quick breath, or adjusting his/her chair. I find this exciting! It heightens the sense of "being there" with the music and musicians.

Now let me get on my soapbox for a minute. I believe that audio equipment is designed with a certain sonic target audience in mind. For instance, an amp just can not be all things to all people. The designer's soul (if you will) clearly designed the Bryston 7B ST mono amps to effortlessly reproduce all forms of music; BUT that reproduction is handled with stealth, efficiency and (say it with me, folks) subtly.

If you listen to Megadeath twenty-four hours a day would your audio experience be elevated to a higher level by listening through the Brystons? Mmm…. I don't think so. But if your taste run the gambit from classical to rock, then yes, I think you would benefit from owning a pair of the Brystons. While the 7B's were connected to my Home Theatre array, I did not audition them for Home Theatre use. While I fantasize about a shelf of seven of these beauties for my HT surround sound (the Lexicon uses Logic 7, so seven amps are needed) it is my understanding that Bryston has a 5 channel amp called the Bryston 9B ST. Hmmmmmm... I wonder how that would sound in comparison to the 7B mono's (HINT, HINT, HINT Bryston). I think I should review that amp... Don't you? (noted reviewer's desperate attempt to get Bryston 5-channel amp (must send only 8-track players for review to Dwayne  ---ed).

Despite my best effort, I could never heat them up. Try as I might, they were never hot to the touch. No, I wouldn't let the little crumb snatcher touch them (seriously though, if you have a crumb snatcher you really wouldn't let them near your Brystons would you? The heat sinks are huge and they work very well yet I would not stack them in a unvented rack. The 7B's are beautiful enough to be placed front and center. In my temporary setup, I have them placed on the ground on the side of the Martin Logans (a few feet away).

Alas, the time has come to send them back to their maker. If I could, yes, I would buy a pair. If you have the means and your choice of music warrants it, get a pair. The Bryston 7B ST mono amps are a must for anyone with challenging speakers (such as my 4 ohm Martin Logans) or a desire for pure accurate sound reproduction. They will drive virtually any speaker you throw at them. Your bass will be extended, your mid-range clear and accurate and your high's with float with the angels effortlessly.

O.K. now the price? The Bryston 7B ST mono amp (remember, you need two of 'em for stereo folks) go for about $ 2400 ea. ($ 4800 a pair). I will be saving my pennies for a pair of these amps, count on it. Now where the hell are my car keys? The weather channel says we're in for some heavy rain, and I feel the need to humble a Humvee... subtly of course.

Tonality 91
Sub-bass (10 Hz - 60 Hz) 90
Mid-bass (60 Hz - 200 Hz) 90
Midrange (200 Hz - 3,000 Hz) 90
High-frequencies (3,000 Hz on up) 89
Attack 92
Decay 87
Inner Resolution 88
Soundscape width front n/a
Soundscape width rear n/a
Soundscape depth behind speakers n/a
Soundscape extension into the room n/a
Imaging 94
Fit and Finish 95
Self Noise 99
Value for the Money 91

 

Wattage: 500 watts mono( 2 or 8 ohms), 800 watts mono(1 or 4 ohms)

Distortion: Less than 0.007% from 20 Hz to 20 kHz at 500 watts

Slewing rate: Greater than 60 volts per microsecond, parallel,
Greater than 120 volts per microsecond, bridged

Features: Series/parallel switch
Massive heat sink
Regulated power supplies to all voltage gain stages
Gold plated input and output connectors
Switchable balanced XLR and RCA unbalanced inputs

Warranty: 20 years parts, labor

Dimensions: 19 x 5.25 x 15.5 inches 48.25 x 13.33 x 39.4 cm

Weight: 42 lbs. each

 

Bryston Ltd.,
P. O. Box 2170, 677 Neal Drive,
Peterborough, Ontario K9J 7Y4
Canada

Phone: (705) 742-5325
Fax: (705) 742-0882
Website:
www.Bryston.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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