Phil gold: Brian, tell me how
you got into this business.
Brian Russell: Oh my goodness. It's a long long story. Suffice it to say there's a level of interest and passion in music that just transcends everything else. It just drew me in.
Phil: What type of music did you start with?
Brian. I started with really old blues, the early Rolling Stones then evolved into more pop music, rock'n'roll and now I've evolved a rather eclectic taste for all genres.
Phil: Even classical?
Brian: Yes, even classical, absolutely.
Phil: When did you join the company, Bryston, of which you are
Brian: It was back in the late 70's. It was when my father was alive. I joined my brother Chris and we started building amplifiers. The first amplifier sale we made was to a professional studio but the home market very quickly outgrew the professional market because the home market is so much larger. So we really started in the home market and then evolved later on down the road because the pros wanted gain controls on their amplifiers, they wanted rack mounting and they wanted some other features like balancing that weren't on the original amplifiers. And then we evolved more heavily into the professional market.
Phil: They also want something that's unbreakable.
Brian: Well so do the home people. Everybody wants something that's unbreakable. The evolution of Bryston just transcended our warranty policies and the amps just never broke so we just kept increasing the warranty policy to effectively a lifetime or 20 years.
Phil: You can't do that on digital equipment.
Brian: No we can't because we are limited by the suppliers being able to supply products that won't be obsolete in X number of years. What we've done is we've made an estimate of a kind of what we think we might need and we try to buy what we need to cover the warranty issues. The best we can do right now for some of the digital components we have to buy is 5 years. It's not limited by our engineering. It's still the very best engineering money can buy.
Phil: Everything is done in Peterborough, Ontario?
Phil: You have a relationship with the manufacturer of the
transformers you use in your products, Plitron. How did that develop?
Brian: I'm probably the wrong person to ask. I really don't know the very beginning of that relationship but they were a supplier when we went out into the marketplace to look for local suppliers of transformers and somehow they came under our radar. We started talking and very slowly we started to build a relationship.
Phil: And now you have this Range of Power Conditioners under
the Torus label.
Brian: Well it's not a true conditioner. We call it an isolation transformer. What it does is protect everything behind the transformer, so if there's a lightning strike, a major surge or whatever, these actually absorb, they don't fail. Some power conditioners would fail in order to protect the equipment. These just absorb it and then slowly dissipate out over time.
Phil: And you haven't had any reliability issues with them?
Brian: No none at all.
Phil: And now you are introducing Bryston branded versions?
Brian: It's the same product. We're just putting our faceplate on it to give it a continuity effect in someone's home.
Phil: Is that available now. I see models on display in the
Brian: Yes. It's called the BIT series for Bryston Isolation Transformer. They come in 3 different sizes – 5, 15 and 20 amps. They are going to start at $1500 or $1600, and the most expensive is about $3300.
Phil: Anything else new at the show?
Brian: We're introducing SP3's out into the market. They started shipping today. We've been trying to get it out for almost three years if not more. We're letting people know we're actually shipping and we're also introducing the new headphone amplifier the BHA-1 – Bryston Headphone Amp. It's on display and we're talking about it as well.
Phil: Yes, James Tanner is going to send me one to review I
Brian. Oh, good.
Phil: What's special about the SP3?
Brian: Well it has all the currents codex's. It has a surround processor and a stand alone stereo preamplifier. In this case it's more or less the entire guts of a BP26 so it's two products in one. We've spent many may many months making it as perfect as we can and it's a big big deal.
Phil: What were the most difficult problems in getting it into
Brian: I want to swear right now. The biggest issue was that during the course of the engineering time manufacturers stopped producing parts that we counted on for the product. They went obsolete before we got our product out so we had to literally start over from the beginning.
Phil: And then buy all the stock you might ever need?
Brian: In theory. Yes.
Phil: Well this is not an unusual story.
Brian: No it's not but for us it's extremely frustrating. You count on something to be there and then when you get to design it you can't. It started right at the beginning of the design stage. Within hours of making our design decision we suddenly heard that Blu-ray was available now – a new software issue. We hadn't even heard of it at the time, so we had to go back to the drawing board and incorporate that. So that delayed the start of the design as well. It's not us that's necessarily the issue. It's suppliers and the rest of the world, and it's very difficult for a small independent manufacturer to react quickly to changes, because everything is changing so quickly.
Phil: The giants have very short model runs.
Brian: Exactly. And we think 10 years, we think 5 years, we think 20 years.
Phil: So what do you do about changes that come along once the
product is in production? Do you design in a modular way so you can replace one
module with another and upgrade over time if necessary?
Brian: Speaking specifically of the SP3, yes. We can make changes on the run. If we have 100 of something, pick a part, and it suddenly becomes obsolete, we will keep a percentage of that for warranty service reasons and then phase it out once we've used up what we believe to be stock and then incorporate the new component.
Phil: Because there's always a replacement?
Phil: So what does the future hold for Bryston? What direction
are you going?
Brian: I don't know if I can give you an answer right at this moment, but the evolution of Bryston has to do with what the market wants. The market will come to us and ask us for something. We might get an idea from somebody about a new product and we would start incorporating ideas into a discussion phase. This would then go into a working phase and then we would choose a product direction and we would go on to that. Right now our focus is on the BHA-1, the SP3. We've been asked for brochures but we haven't done them yet because it hasn't been finalized. The next product that's in our future is a new accompanying amplifier to the D-Series amplifiers. We currently have 60, 130 and 250 and we'll be coming out with a 400 watt 8-channel amplifier.
Phil: You've had this relationship with PMC over the years.
They're using your amplifier modules in their active speaker systems. How's that
line going for you?
Brian: PMC has been very good for us. They've done a phenomenal job of marketing their products. We have a great relationship. They are our distributor in England as well, and wherever they put in a large recording studio active system or a home system that might be all active it's all Bryston powered, Bryston crossovers, everything. We're very very happy with the relationship. It's been excellent for Bryston.
Phil: Does that mean there will never be a Bryston speaker?
Brian: I'd like to use the phrase never
say never, but I can't honestly say we're thinking of coming out with
a Bryston speaker. It's certainly something that there's a number of people in
the company that have an interest in whether we do it or not. I don't know.
Phil. Thanks, Brian.