Bryston SP-1 A/V Preamplifier

4.74/5 (23 Reviews)


Product Description

DTS/Dolby Digital Preamp/processor


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Reviews 1 - 5 (23 Reviews Total) | Next 15

User Reviews

Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:4
Submitted by a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: October 8, 2003

Bottom Line:   
I just wanted to update the site with my continued experience with the Bryston SP 1 and the 1.7. I purchased an SP -1 some time ago and recently purchased a 1.7 from the previous reviewer in Texas. I have been auditioning both units for a little over 7 weeks and thought I would share some of my thoughts on the two. Like most I got the "bug" to upgrade once Bryston came out with the 1.7 always wanting to be on the cutting edge of technology and first looked into upgrading my current SP-1. I had some conversation with James Tanner at Bryston to get a better understanding of the upgrade and a level of comfort as to the performance gains I might expect. Unfortunately I don't have a retailer close by so I decided to instead purchase a 1.7 and really have a chance to listen to it.

My intent was to compare the two from the "digital" perspective, but for those who may be wondering, I didn't hear any discernible difference between the 2 units in the analogue mode. If a measurable difference existed I couldn't hear it - but others certainly might. To say the least, it is one of the best analogue pre-amps I have heard or not heard depending on your perspective. Open and detailed to say the least.

Out went the SP-1 and in went the 1.7. My first impression was that is was slightly different sounding in the DSP modes. The sound presentation was a little more to the back of my speakers and dynamics seemed just slightly compressed compared the SP-1 I was accustomed to. Since I was expecting some type of "change" I though that perhaps the "psycho acoustic effect" was to blame and put the SP-1 back in. Again I listened some time to various CD's and DVD's and then put the 1.7 back in and listened to the same tracks. Again I had the same impression. It was slightly different even with my gold plated brass ears.

I listened to a number of "test" disks alternating between the 1 and the 1.7, again with similar results. After a week of this I felt that in my system and my room - and to my ears the 1.7's sound presentation was slightly to the rear with dynamics just slightly compressed compared to the SP-1. I decided to leave the 1.7 in my dedicated HT system for a longer time to evaluate the other surround capabilities.

Initially I listened in 5.1 mode only for a more fair comparison. After some time I didn't seem to notice the difference between the SP-1 and 1.7 that I had felt confident I had justified. I just enjoyed the movies and music. I played with the surround options and really only found two to my liking - Neo 6 (without the center rear) and Prologic II. Both, on certain material, added to the overall effect of the movie and music experience. If you have a large collection of non surround encoded material the Prologic II in particular was a definite notch above the "old" prologic.
I tried the various speaker systems that I had at my disposal in both 5.1 and 6.1 and ended up preferring a 5.1 surround in my room for the more diffuse surround effect. After a month of listening to the 1.7 only I decided to put the 1 back in to the system and have a listen. Again the same results. I preferred the sound of the SP-1. While I was thinking that perhaps I was missing something my very non audiophile wife came down and sat beside me for a little quality time I presume (she thinks this whole audio pursuit is a little nuts but if it keeps me from buying a motorcycle or getting a girlfriend it's worth it), she said "what did you do? It sounds better - more real." Well there you have it. Double blind testing logistics aside and taking out any psycho acoustic anomalies, she heard the same thing I heard after spending a great deal of time and money.
However, not wanting to give up quite yet I started thinking that perhaps there was a synergy between the SP-1 and the 9B-ST that may exist between the SP 1.7 and the 9B-SST. So I bought one. Now I could test the "system." To make a long story keep from getting any longer, suffice it to say the 1.7 and SST make for a world class duo. If you can afford it and have to have the latest then I can make the recommendation without reservation to buy the pair together and work out a deal. You won't be disappointed in the least.
If funds are a little more limited or you aren't looking to do 6.1+ or SACD multi channel audio, I would look for an SP-1/9B-ST combo.
As for me, I decided to put both the SP-1 and 1.7 up for sale together and keep the one that didn't sale. Given my preference for the sound of the Sp-1 and my desire to have the latest, it really didn't matter. Last night I delivered the 1.7 to its new owner who I have no doubt will enjoy it for a long time to come. His preference was for multichannel SACD audio and the SP-1 just won't do it. The 9B-SST was shipped to it's new owner today.Either way you really can't go wrong and Bryston offers a legitimate upgrade path that won't leave you stranded if the new formats really take off

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2002

Price Paid:    $3000.00

Purchased At:   Used



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by tarichar a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: August 4, 2003

Bottom Line:   
The Bryston SP 1.7 is the best AV preamp processor I have yet owned. I previously owned the Krell HTS, Proceed AVP-S, Meridian 568, and had personal experience with the Linn 5103 and Theta Casablanca. This Bryston unit when used in bypass 2 channel betters these other units by a large margin in terms of transparency, detail, and naturalness. I believe this level of performance of the Bryston unit is due to its lack of video switching, and its analog volume control and discrete output stages.

I have owned many of the best stereo preamps and am able to subsitute the SP 1.7 into my 2 channel rig with no loss of muscality or naturalness. This is a big deal because no other AV preamp I've owned has been able to do this. Unlike their amplifiers, the SP1.7 can not be mistaken for bright or thin sounding in the high frequencies. In fact, the highs are natural and transparent, the midrange is warm and detailed, and the bass is phenomenal. It doesn't quite reach the spaciousness in the soundstage that I get with my Hovland but most stereo solid state preamps don't either.

I particularly like its balanced outputs for long runs to the surround channel amplifier.

Overall, this preamp has the best 2 channel performance of any AV processor I've yet heard. Its performance on surround sound is on par with the Theta and Krell units. It is more detailed and natural sounding than the Proceed AVP and Meridian units. This is the first processor that has had me seriously considering changing to one system for both audio and video.

It doesn't have video switching but I use a Lumagen Vision Pro to scale all my material to 1080i anyway so I don't miss it. The companion switcher is $1500 or so I think, and must be purchased separately.

Again, in 2 channel bypass, the preamp betters every other AV processor I've heard and is comparable to 5-6K stereo preamps. The SP1.7 definitely betters Bryston's own BP20. I do prefer my Hovland but I think it betters my VTL 5.5.

This amazing preamp's performance can be summed up in 3 words: Transparent and Natural.

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Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2003

Price Paid:    $4400.00

Purchased At:   Local Dealer



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:5
Submitted by Troy Richards a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: August 4, 2003

Bottom Line:   
I have the Bryston SP 1.7. This is the best surround sound processor I have had in my system in terms of transparency and muscality.

Before this I had a Meridian 568, a Proceed AVP, and a Krell HTS. I can tell you that as a stereo preamp, it betters all these units and approaches my tubed Hovland preamp. This of course is only in bypass mode in which the surround is bypassed and the signal passes thru the analog volume control. Other preamps that have passed thru my system include a VTL 5.5 and a Rowland Concentra and I can say without hesitation that this bryston when used as an analog preamp can hold its own. Unlike bryston amplifiers that have great bass and lower midrange but often a thinner sounding high frequencies, this preamp has detailed and transparent high frequencies which are entirely natural. The midrange is entirely fleshed out with a surprising fullness.

I believe that by not performing any video switching in the unit, the Bryston SP-1.7 is able to come closer than any other AV preamp to an analog setup. In addition, discrete analog output stages without opamps and an analog volume control also contribute to its lifelike reproduction of music.

Soundstaging is first rate and on par with traditional stereo analog preamps.

Most people will probably buy this unit strictly for movies, and its performance in this area is similar to the Krell HTS and Proceed AVP. Surround is well implemented and detailed with selectable crossovers, an extra bass mode, DTS EX, switchable THX,, balanced outputs for front, subs, center and surrounds, etc. But again, in bypass the Bryston is in a whole other league.

I am a hardcore audiophile and had 2 systems one for music and the other for home theater. This unit is the first that has made me consider downsizing to one system.

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Used product for:   3 Months to 1 year

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2003

Price Paid:    $4300.00

Purchased At:   Local Dealer



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:4
Submitted by Robert Allen a Audio Enthusiast

Date Reviewed: June 24, 2003

Bottom Line:   
I just found my original review of the SP-1, #209, here and wanted to add to it, as well as to solicit comments on the upgrade Bryston offers to the 1.7. Please send me your comments on the 1.7 vs 1.0, or comments on the upgrade, to ottomatik@sbcglobal.net!

So I've had the SP1.0 since Dec. 2000. I now use it primarily for home theater, but I still listen to music DVDs frequently. LD's have now become a deprecated inteface (the new 1.7 no longer has an "LD" button, it's just labled something like "AUX"). In the intervening year and a half I've discovered there were some issues with certain Laser Disks related to sampling, but I've never had a problem with DVD SPDIF decoding, and since LDs are deprecated, this is No Biggie.

I've since added a Bryston 9b (?) 2 channel amp to my system so I have a Bryston 8b-ST, SP-1, and the 9 THX amp with 2 channels installed. What can I say, Bryston really delivers in the basic job of delivering top quality sound. Why can't all of life be this straightforward?

I've put away my Cobalt DAC since the one in the SP-1 is better. I do wish I had the SP-1 Pro (were any ever made) so I had unbalanced inputs to hook up my CAL transport.

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Used product for:   More than 1 year

Duration Product Used:   Audio Enthusiast

Product model year:   2000

Price Paid:    $3800.00

Purchased At:   don't ask.



Overall Rating:5
Value Rating:4
Submitted by levir a AudioPhile

Date Reviewed: June 19, 2003

Bottom Line:   
I really like the Bryston SP1.7 pre/pro. This processor is transparent. The clarity, the sense of space, involving music, the bass. You will love listening to music and watching movies over again. It will decode and process "all" the hometheater technology out there. Matrix, James Bond "die another day", Lord of the Rings, Star Wars. Diana Krall "live in paris" are all but exciting. Listening to SACDs is awesome. SACDs like rolling stones, Dark side of the moon, the police are my favorites.

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Used product for:   Less than 1 month

Duration Product Used:   AudioPhile

Product model year:   2002

Purchased At:   Harvey




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