The Bryston 4B SST is something of a legend among audio amplifiers. As our most popular it has attained international status as an amplifier suitable for the finest and most sophisticated sound systems. Whatever the venue, be it a recording studio stage, a broadcast facility, a home theater installation, or a state-of-the-art stereo system, Bryston has continued to be the number one choice. The 4B SST is a pure dual mono design and offers 300 watts per channel into 8 ohms and 500 watts into 4 with over 1000 watts available in bridged mode.
I purchased 4 year old 4B SST2 used at Audiogon to replace my 35 yr. old 4B. I paid $3199. The purchase price new is now $4999. The amplifier is in pristine condition, with no blemishes and looks brand new. The only downside is that it didn't come with a bill-of-sale from a authorized Bryston dealer rendering Bryston's 20 yr. warranty invalid. In 2006 Bryston changed it's warranty policy no longer covering all amplifiers sold. But, so what! Bryston will do a complete rebuild for about $800. So if the amplifier dies, which I doubt, giving Bryston's renowned reliability, I'll still save $1000. Wow, what a difference! The Soundstage is deeper and wider giving a more convincing 3 dimensional affect with live recordings. My 35 year old Theil 03 speakers performance improved in every respect. The Thiels are power hungry and hard to drive. They have a 1st order cross over and they dip down to below 4 ohms. They also have a bass enhancing active equalizer that produces bass almost down to the infrasonic level using only a10" ported woofer. They sucks up a lot of power and with over 350 tested watts per channel at 8 ohms the SST2 delivers and took them to a new level of performance. The overall delineation of detail is greatly enhanced. Bass slam is much tighter, stronger and deeper. The midrange is clearer and more refined. Vocals are much more live sounding. The treble now produces detail that I never heard before. Instruments that were muddy background now shimmer and snap. I'm using the stock power cord that I will soon be replacing. I use a Chang Lightspeed 30 amp power line conditioner. Mr. Chang does not use power robbing transformers that limit musical transients speed with a totally unique proprietary design. Bryston amplifiers have built in power line conditioning and are degraded, according to Bryston, by a lot of power line conditioners. Chang Lightspeed being a notable professionally reviewed exception. The lightspeed does an amazing job of cleaning up the dirty AC power without limiting speed. It's like tasting steam distilled water after drinking municipal tap water. I got great deal on a used SST2, but this amplifier is well worth the asking price new. I also have a Bryston 3B ST in a second system, that I have, driving a pair of Paradigm monitor 7 speakers with aplomb, again using a Chang 20 amp conditioner. I also use a 30 amp Lightspeed in my home theater set-up that I'm considering upgrading with Bryston amplification.
This is actually a 2011 review, but that was not an available selection. So this is a review of the latest build 4B SST2 as of 12/11.
This amp replaces my recently deceased, 24 year old 4B. I hadn't thought there'd be much room for improvement, but this was only because that old 4B was the best amp I'd ever heard up until yesterday, when I hooked up the SST2, and played 3 or 4 hours worth of my old favorite recordings of Bach pipe organ, Stravinsky (Firebird - one of the better Telarc recordings, IMHO) and several others that I knew were good recordings. But some had a little high frequency edginess (most notable in recorded brass and strings) that I had thought was just something I had to live with on my existing CD collection at the old but still ubiquitous 44.1 KHZ sampling rate. But the player is a reasonably recent CAL (as recent as it can get anyway, with California Audio Labs gone for a couple of years, now, I think) with a really good DAC, and with the new amp, brass and strings sound more natural - more like the warm sound of a really high end tube amp. And the acoustic detail of the recorded instruments in orchestral pieces - or I guess the `air' as I hear it referred to - is even more present than the old 4B - and I thought that one was incredible.
This amp seems to just love my old Thiel Cs 3.5's. These are 3-way speakers that have a built in active e.q. system that works in tandem with a special crossover and long excursion 10" `woofer’ drivers to enable the floor standing speaker systems to reproduce audible low frequencies with very little distortion down to near infrasonic frequencies (of course, with only 10" drivers, this can't be TOO loud at, say 20 Hz, but you can still shake the room pretty good. This was to make it possible to get away without a sub-woofer, as long as you don’t need to be able to make the furniture actually dance) . All this is to say that with the new 4B SST, the very lowest frequencies come through a bit stronger now, as well. These old Thiels are now showing me just what incredible speakers they really are; they seem to have a new life. The strong commitment to phase coherence used in the speaker system’s design, along with the amp’s dual mono style of keeping the left and right channel signals from ever influencing each other is what I myself think gives an ability, to many of the better recordings, to make the walls seem to disappear, and it sounds like you’re in a large concert hall, because a lot of very subtle acoustical information from the recording scene, that’s in the recording but normally gets lost or muddied in playback, comes through pretty clearly with this amp. It should be noted that this amp is not even broken in yet, either – it looks like that process is going to be fun (good thing, because the 4B SST2 cost more than my whole system – including the Thiels- did 25 years ago. I’ll get over it).
In mid 2010, I purchased a new Bryston 4B SST2. My speakers are PSB Stratus Gold-i.
For the first time in a long time I am enjoying music at low levels. It seems all frequencies are clear, present, and distinct regardless of the volume. All instruments and vocals are articulated well. Bass has excellent pitch definition and extension. If I want to crank the volume, the amplifier remains dynamic with excellent bass slam.
Although this amplifier is a bit outside my planned budget, the proof is on the listening and the 4B SST2 delivered in full measure for my taste. Now finally, I have stopped the long search for a musically satisfying amplifier.
A very powerful addition to my family. Amazing build and extremely powerful 300w /channel.
Extremely silent, as in; no noise, very black background.
Musically very accurate. Some may not like that at first but that can be changed with speaker placement.
What can't be changed is getting an inacurate amp to be accurate. Instuments are very defined.
Compared to NAD: Nad is warmer but not as 'current-powerful' as Bryston
Compared to Rotel: Rotel is in between being less warm than NAD but a tad smeared at high volume.
Bryston really delivers an audio lover's investment with this 4Bsst2 amplifier. Extremely solid build with 20 year warranty. Extremely powerful delivery system. Very fast attack and decay. Damping is excellent.
I stared in horror at a blown channel from my old Adcom GFA-555 amplifier. This legendary amp for audiophiles who feel that price matters had served me well for two decades with its big soundstage and 200 watts output. I dreaded the expense of replacing it because what blew the channel out were my beastly speakers--the Martin Logan Ascent electrostats. Their ability to pummel any amplifier that dared to raise volume against its 2 Ohms or less resistance has been my great frustration when the amp's circuit breaker cuts off the music from overheating.
Since price does matter to me, finding an amp that can handle 2-4 Ohms at high volume within a reasonable price range was a tall order, especially when my component cabinet limited an amplifier's depth to 16 inches. Amplifiers that I had tested in my system, but punished by the Ascents, were Anthem Statement A2 225 watts and Musical Fidelity A5.5 250 watts. Neither presented a satisfying soundstage compared to the Adcom at moderate volume levels. So a leap of faith and price range was required by me to purchase the 300 watts Bryston 4B SST. The Canadian built Bryston has been the reference amp of choice for several top audio reviewers with electrostat speakers and versions of the 4B has been time tested for two decades. Its 20-year warranty is unparalleled within the audio industry.
The amplifier was delivered with free shipping from Audio Advisors in a mere two days. Lifting its 50 lb weight was barely manageable and I was grateful that I didn't buy some other brand where the weight exceeded the Bryston. Its 15.75 inch depth, 17" width and 5" height fully fitted its cabinet position. Its brushed silver front plate and thick heat sinks were simplistic, yet, when observed from a few feet, it reminded me of a gorilla raising his shoulders and projecting forward his chest to intimidate territorial intruders by appearing even more massive than he actually was. Trust me, the 4B looks impressive and once planted on its spot, I had no desire to move it again.
The Bryston included a thick 14 gauge, 3 prong power chord, in which the manufacturer recommended to plug directly into a dedicated 20 amp wall outlet. When I checked its power consumption specs, the 4B has the ability to draw 2100 watts of power at its maximum 500 watts output and 4 Ohms rating. I estimated that to be 18 amps and it defines the Bryston's ability to deliver high current power on demand.
The 4B's back panel has speaker wire outputs, balance and unbalanced inputs for each of its dual mono channels, along with 1 or 2 volt gain switches. Also, a bridged mode switch for 900 watts of single channel output. There is a main circuit breaker switch and when it's on, it allows the user to turn the amp on or off with a front panel soft switch. One LCD light for each channel is also on the front. It glows green for ready to play, orange for thermal shut-down, flashing red for clipping and steady red for muting.
THE SOUND OF MUSIC
The Bryston 4B SST was placed into my system which included the highly acclaimed Cambridge Audio Azur 840c CD player, Anthem TLP-1 pre-amplifier and the amazing Synergistic Research Discrete Alpha Sterling interconnects, which allows one to hear deep into the music with richness added to the sounds. They warm the cool characteristics of any solid state amplifier.
For starters, I went to one of my favorite acoustic CDs, Bleeker Street, which contains the great folk songs from the sixties performed by modern day artists. The acoustic guitars sounded fantastic with full bodied mid-range sound. An accented pluck of a nylon string came through with superb dynamics. Strings had that magic sparkle that is heard live, but a lot of credit goes to the Alpha Sterlings. It was the most realistic acoustic sound I've ever heard recreated. I was very surprised on how full and up front the vocals were. They had a near perfect definition and holographic clarity within the soundstage. Speaking of soundstage, it was as wide and deep as I've ever experienced. Every instrument was detailed within its own space with plenty of ambience and air. Background percussions were astonishingly detailed and I discovered new instrumentation that I never knew existed in a recording.
In listening to an wonderfully produced album by T. Boone Burnett, Raising Sand with Robert Plant and Alison Kraus, the track, Killing the Blues, the vocal harmonies are deliciously distinct with Plant on the right channel and Kraus on the left. Their voices were ceiling to floor huge, yet, perfectly full bodied heard clearly from the background instruments. The Bryston's bass detail was the best I've ever heard. I was shocked by its dynamics and fullness. But there was a big difference compared to the tube amps that I've heard and are also noted for their lush bass. The Bryston develops its full bass below the 250 Hz area which keeps it out of the lower mid-range to avoid having that annoying mid frequency bump experienced by tube amps. The 4B's mid-range is perfectly neutral and fully detailed which is my personal preference. The upper treble was clear, smooth with grain free detail, which delivered hours of listening pleasure. It impressed me on how liquid and dynamic the Bryston played.
After the easy listening session, it was time to push the Martin Logans with high powered rock. This was the area in which electrostats have challenged amplifiers. A sound quality that I hated about my Ascents was their reproduction of power guitars. Compressed and cheesy is the best way to describe it. The track that best represented this effect was Bruce Springsteen's Radio Nowhere. I love playing it loud on my car's Bose system, but I have despised hearing it on my home speakers. So in the player the CD went and before I sat down, this glorious wall-of-sound came out of the Logans that I thought they were incapable of producing. The power guitars were huge and deep as one would have heard live through the band's personal sound system. I listened in awe and repeated the track before I realized that my amp never shut down. After an hour of playing loud music, I was amazed that the Martin Logans had submitted themselves to this mighty powerful amp.
Another impressive design feature of the Bryston is how it dissipates heat quickly. After a long period at high volume, the 4B does get hot, but cools down to a touchable very warm in just a few minutes. So, for audiophiles with demanding speakers, I highly recommend the mighty Bryston 4B SST amplifier.
THD 110dB; Slew Rate > 60 volts per microseconds; Bandwidth 1 Hz to 100 Hz; Damping Factor > 500; Available with a black or silver front plate and 17" wide or 19" with rack handles.