How My Bryston BDP-3 Digital Player Sounds To Me - A Review

DarqueKnight Posts: 6,741
edited January 2019 in Going Digital

Figure 1. I appreciate Bryston providing an upgrade path for BDP-2 owners.

My BDP-2 digital player was sent back to Bryston's factory to be upgraded to the current model BDP-3. The upgrade consisted of a new main processor board and a new rear panel. The cost of the upgrade was $1500 + shipping costs for a total of $1591.62. I asked Bryston if could buy the upgrade parts and install them myself, but I was told no, because the upgrade consists of processes, procedures, and tests to make sure the new processor board works properly with the various subsystems of the player. The player was gone a total of 56 days.

The BDP-3 offers the following performance advantages over the BDP-2:

1. A faster processor and twice the memory ( 8 GB vs 4 GB).

2. Faster indexing time for digital libraries. The BDP-1 indexed my 3 TB music library in 15 minutes 30 seconds. The BDP-2 indexed it in 6 minutes 55 seconds. The BDP-3 indexed it in 4 minutes 25 seconds.

3. The addition of faster USB 3.0 ports.

4. The ability to play DSD files natively rather than in DoP (DSD over PCM) format.

5. Two separate USB buses.

While the BDP-2 was at Bryston undergoing its transformation, I moved the BDP-1 from the home theater system to the 2 channel system. When the BDP-3 returned, it was compared to the BDP-1 and to the BDP-2 used in my system at work.

Figure 2. Top to bottom: BDP-1, BDP-2, BDP-3, front view.

Figure 3. Top to bottom: BDP-1, BDP-2, BDP-3, rear view.

Figure 4. Front to rear: BDP-1, BDP-2, BDP-3.

Figure 5. BDP-1 inside.

Figure 6. BDP-2 inside.

Figure 7. BDP-3 inside.

Evaluation Methodology

My stereo equipment evaluation methodology is consists of mapping the locations and characteristics of sound images and describing the qualities and characteristics of those sound images. This method has its roots in the evaluation methodology suggested by two Bell Telephone Laboratories scientists, F. K. Harvey and M. R. Schroeder, in a paper presented at the 12th Annual Convention of the the Audio Engineering Society on October 11, 1960:

"Critical listeners were sought in these tests because of a desire to set permanent standards. At the moment, only a small percentage of people fully appreciate high fidelity. Even less appreciate or understand stereo. However, there is a growing sophistication evidenced among users of stereo equipment. Anticipating the future, it seemed wise to avoid naive or unconcerned personnel in these tests to prevent establishing loose standards which eventually might have to be abandoned.

The listeners chosen were sophisticated in the art of sound localization either by working in this field or by education before testing. They were felt to be the equal of any serious listener who is accustomed to playing the same records many times and thus becomes familiar with the more subtle artistic and technical effects."

Reference: Harvey, F. K. and Schroeder, M. R., "Subjective Evaluation of Factors Affecting Two-Channel Stereophony", Journal of The Audio Engineering Society, Vol. 9, No. 1, January 1961, pp. 19-28.

Figures 8 and 9 show the sound localization charts used to characterize and map sound images in the sound stage of my 2 channel stereo system.

Figure 8. Lateral sound stage evaluation chart.

Figure 9. Aerial sound stage evaluation chart.

Figure 10. A single track, "Saxy", from Jeanette Harris' "Saxified" CD was used to evaluate
the BDP-1, BDP-2, and BDP-3. The CD was ripped to lossless FLAC format, then the FLAC files were converted to single rate DSD files (.dsf format)

Jeanette Harris' "Saxy" is of above average recording quality and consists of vocals, soprano saxophone, and synthesized bass, drums, percussion, strings, and other sound effects. One of the sound effects is an overlay of the "snap, crackle, and pop" surface noise of a vinyl record at the beginning of the song. Multiple plays were required to document all the sound images in the song. After 15 plays, the sound stage charts shown in figure 11 were derived for the BDP-1.

Figure 11. Sound stage charts for "Saxy" through the BDP-1.

When it was time to listen to the BDP-2, I did not concentrate on trying to discern a difference between it and the BDP-1. My focus was on localizing sound images in the sound stage and characterizing the sound of those images. After 8 plays, the sound stage charts for "Saxy" through the BDP-2 were derived and are shown in figure 12. I did not use the BDP-1's charts as a reference for the BDP-2 session, although I did retain some memory of where the major sound images were. Documenting the sound stage of the BDP-2 took substantially fewer plays because familiarity with the song, and more importantly, the BDP-2's higher resolution, facilitated easier perception of fine details. The following differences in sound localization and sound character were noted:

1. The artificial vinyl surface noise was louder, clearer and different in character. The transients were sharper with the BDP-2. The "snap, crackle, and pop" with the BDP-1 was similar to the sound of wadding a soft sheet of paper. The "snap, crackle, and pop" with the BDP-2 was similar to the sound heard when holding your ear close to a bowl of Rice Krispies cereal.

2. The piano image was larger and about 1 foot further to the right. The image of the piano note's echo was larger and about 6 inches further to the left. Piano notes had more sustain and natural decay.

3. The left and right images of the bell trees moved closer to the edges of the speakers.

4. Similar to the vinyl surface noise, the images of the finger snaps were louder, clearer and more articulate.

5. The overall sound was apparently louder, although it didn't measure any louder on the sound level meter.

6. Images in the center (front to back: vocal, soprano saxophone, electric bass, kick drum) had more front to back distance between them.

7. The tactile sensation of vibrations coming through the floor, through the seat, through the arm rests, and through the air against my body were increased. The difference in tactile sensation was like the difference between lightly brushing your fingers against your arm and lightly pressing your fingers against your arm.

8. Sound images sounded heavier.

9. The reverb around the vocals and soprano saxophone were more sharply defined.

Figure 12. Sound stage charts for "Saxy" through the BDP-2.

Proud and loyal citizen of the Digital Domain and Solid State Country!


  • DarqueKnight
    DarqueKnight Posts: 6,741
    edited January 2019
    The sound stage charts for the BDP-3 were derived after 8 plays and are shown in figure 13. There were no perceived differences in sound localization. Image sizes and locations were the same as with the BDP-2. There were no perceived differences in tactile sensation. There were a few differences in sound character:

    1. Bass was more articulate and defined.

    2. The sound was apparently louder than the BDP-2 - to the point that I wanted to turn the volume down a couple of steps. The volume control of my preamp works in increments of 1 dB.

    3. There was more ambient sound of the recording space.

    4. There was more clearly defined space between music notes.

    5. There was more image weight.

    6. Background percussion instruments had more clarity and detail.

    Figure 13. Sound stage charts for "Saxy" through the BDP-13.

    After all three listening sessions were completed, notes from the three sessions were compared. There were some repeated back and forth trials between the players based on the differences noted. For example, I noted a substantial difference in the sound character of the vinyl surface noise sound effect and finger snap sound effect between the BDP-1 and the BDP-2 and BDP-3. There was also a substantial difference in the piano image size and placement between the BDP-1 and the BDP-2 and BDP-3.

    Equipment Setup

    The sound level of the preamp was set at 60, which provided an average sound level of 85 dB c-weighted. Music was played through BDP-3 for 100 hours prior to critical listening sessions. After the 90 hour mark, the character of the bass noticeably improved with more articulation and definition. I did not perceive any differences or improvements after the 90 hour mark.

    The Bryston digital players were connected to a dCS Puccini word clock and a dCS Debussy DAC. The terms "word clock" and "master clock" are sometimes used interchangeably. However, the difference is that a word clock replaces the internal clock of the devices connected to it. A master clock synchronizes (controls) the clocks of the devices connected to it. Therefore, with a word clock, a higher degree of jitter reduction is available because there is only one clock for all the digital devices in a system. The Bryston digital players do not have a word clock input, but the Puccini word clock was able to send word clock signals via their USB ports. The Debussy DAC indicates receipt of a word clocked input signal via a "Word Clock" indicator light on the front panel. There was a difference in clarity, detail, and spatial rendering when the USB connection between the Puccini word clock and the Bryston players was connected and disconnected.

    Figure 14. Revelation Audio Labs split leg USB 2.0 cable ($649 - don't be mad). After the USB connection between source and the DAC has been set up, the power signal is typically not required any longer. Separating the audio signal wires and power signal wires allows the power leg, and its associated electrical noise, to be disconnected.

    With the BDP-1 and BDP-2, there was a small, but not subtle, improvement in clarity, detail, and spatial rendering when the power leg of the RAL USB cable was disconnected. With the BDP-3, I did not hear a difference whether the power leg was connected or not. This may be due to the BDP-3's lower noise floor. Contributing to the BDP-3's lower noise floor is the fact that there are two separate USB buses. The external hard drive was connected to the USB 3 port on USB bus 1. The dual leg USB cable was connected to the two USB 3 ports on USB bus 2.

    Figure 15. BDP-1 connection block diagram.

    Figure 16. BDP-2 connection block diagram.

    Figure 17. BDP-3 connection block diagram.

    Figure 18. The listening room is 21 feet x 17 feet. The speakers are along the long wall. The listening position is 12 feet from the front plane of the speakers.

    Figure 19. Two channel stereo system from listening position. Such Good Sound!

    Figure 20. Digital source components, left to right: dCs Debussy DAC, dCS Puccini word clock, Bryston BDP-3 digital player.

    Figure 21. Amplification suite: Pass Laboratories X600.5 monoblock power amplifiers and Pass Laboratories XP-30 three-chassis preamplifier.

    Figure 22. The BDP-3 is controlled via its Internet interface with a Dell VenuePro 7140 docked tablet computer.

    Figure 23. Music files are stored on a 6TB Western Digital Black hard drive. The hard drive enclosure is a Rosewill Armer RX304-APU3-35B aluminum enclosure with variable speed fan and USB 3 and eSATA connections. The Rosewill enclosure spins down the hard drive after 20 minutes of inactivity.

    Figure 24. The Rosewill enclosure's front panel display. The enclosure sits on a 5" x 5" x 1" block of Sorbothane.

    Figure 25. Rosewill enclosure on left, Sabrent EC-UEIS7 enclosure on right. This time the Rosewill won.

    The Sabrent enclosure was used with the BDP-2. The BDP-2 has eSATA and USB 2.0 inputs. In a comparison of external hard drive enclosures in March of 2017, the Sabrent's eSATA connection sounded better than its USB connection and better than the other two enclosures regardless of connection method. The Rosewill came in last place. The BDP-3 does not have an eSATA port. It has HDMI, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 ports.

    The Rosewill's feature set made it my personal preference going into the March 2017 tests. It offered a quieter fan, lower vibration, display of temperature and fan speed, and the ability to spin down a hard drive. I wanted it to win. Unfortunately, it didn't sound the best of the three with the BDP-2. This time, the Rosewill's USB 3.0 interface connected to the BDP-3 via its USB 3 port, sounded better than the Sabrent's USB 2.0 interface connected to one of the BDP-3's USB 3.0 or 2.0 ports.

    Proud and loyal citizen of the Digital Domain and Solid State Country!
  • DarqueKnight
    DarqueKnight Posts: 6,741
    edited January 2019

    The top cover and chassis were damped with Dynamat Xtreme. The rubber pads above and below the power supply transformer were replaced with pads of Dynamat Xtreme. A strip of Dynamat Xtreme was applied to the perimeter of the transformer. The transformer bolt was loosened a little because it sounds better when it is not tightly coupled to the Dynamat pads. The transformer also sounds better when it is not tightly coupled to the stock rubber pads. Over tightening the transformer bolt compromises the elasticity of both the stock rubber pads and the Dynamat.

    The stock fuses were replaced with HiFi Tuning Supreme fuses.

    For external vibration damping, the BDP-3's feet rest on a combination of Black Diamond Racing Mark 4 cones and Mini Pits. All of that rests on a PS Audio PowerBase isolation platform. For proper coupling to the PowerBase, a component needs to weigh at least 15 pounds. The BDP-3 weighs 12 pounds. A 22 pound granite slab was placed on the BDP-3 to properly couple it to the PowerBase.

    Figure 26. Dynamat sheets on top covers of BDP-1, BDP-2, and BDP-3.

    Figure 27. Dynamat pad for transformer.

    USB Cable Trials

    Figure 28. USB cables auditioned with the BDP-3. Bottom: Belkin Gold Series USB 2.0 computer grade cable ($8). Middle row: Pangea USB-PC USB 2.0 audio cable ($35), Revelation Audio Labs Dual Conduit USB 2.0 audio cable ($549). Top row: Revelation Audio Labs Dual Leg USB 2.0 audio cable ($549), Revelation Audio Labs Dual Leg USB 2.0 audio cable with Conductive Carbon Infused Composite outer jacket ($649)

    I thought it would be instructive to try a variety of USB cables with the BDP-3. In contrast to the computer grade Belkin cable, the audio grade USB cables from Pangea and Revelation Audio Labs offered progressively better electrical noise abatement technologies, and progressively better spatial performance and stereophonic detail. The interested reader can find technical details on each manufacturer's website.

    Further Study

    I am looking into replacing the hard drive enclosure's AC adapter with a low noise DC power supply made by ifi Audio.

    General Observations And Comments

    I did not find the BDP-3 to be as great of an improvement over the BDP-2 as the BDP-2 was over the BDP-1, but the performance and functionality improvements were worth the investment.

    In the future, when I am more dedicated to audio than I am now, I will form a posse committee and repeat this evaluation in a quadruple blind test format.


    BDP-1 Review:

    BDP-2 Review:

    The Sound Of Hard Drive Enclosures:

    Associated Equipment

    PS Audio PowerBase isolation platforms for DAC, BDP-3, and U-Clock
    22 pound granite slabs to couple source components to isolation platforms
    Black Diamond Racing Isolation Mini Pits and Mk IV Cones
    dCS Puccini U-Clock word clock
    dCS Debussy DAC
    Rosewill Armer RX304-APU3-35B hard drive enclosure with 6 TB WD Black hard drive
    Pass Labs XP-30 line level preamplifier
    Pass Labs X600.5 monoblock power amplifiers
    AudioQuest Sky XLR interconnects
    AudioQuest Everest speaker cables
    Revelation Audio Labs Prophecy CryoSilver digital coaxial cable - RCA connectors
    Revelation Audio Labs Prophecy CryoSilver digital coaxial cable - BNC connectors
    Revelation Audio Labs Prophecy CryoSilver USB 2.0 dual leg cable
    PS Audio PerfectWave AC-12 power cords
    PS Audio PerfectWave P-10 AC regenerator
    Polk Audio SDA SRS 1.2TL loudspeakers (heavily modified)
    Salamander Synergy Triple 30 audio credenza
    Post edited by DarqueKnight on
    Proud and loyal citizen of the Digital Domain and Solid State Country!
  • Joey_V
    Joey_V Posts: 8,349
    How do you find time to write such detailed and lengthy reviews?
    Magico, JL, Emm, ARC Ref 10 line, ARC Ref 10 phono, VPI, Lyra, Boulder, AQ Wel, SRA Scuttle Rack, Bluesound
  • DarqueKnight
    DarqueKnight Posts: 6,741
    edited January 2019
    The writing is really done during my listening evaluations over weeks and days. What I post here is just a better organized summary of my listening notes.

    Writing is the easy part. Listening is the hard (but fun) part.
    Proud and loyal citizen of the Digital Domain and Solid State Country!
  • vcwatkins
    vcwatkins Posts: 1,993
    Excellent, DK. Rigorous, interesting, useful. Thanks for taking the time to share.
    Beach Audio: Rega RP6 - AT33PTG/II - Parks Budgie - Lounge LCRIII * Eversolo DMP-A6 * Schiit Yggy * Joule-Electra LA-100 mkIII * Pass Aleph 30 * MIT S3 * Polk SRS 2.3tl (updated)
    Beach Study: Pro-Ject Stream Box S2 Ultra & Pre Box S2 * Dayens Menuetto * Dynaudio Audience 50
    Beach Den: Bluesound Powernode 2i * DH Labs SS Q10 * Zu Omen DWII
    Town Study: WiiM Pro * PS Audio DSJr. * Elekit TU-8600 * MIT S3 * Brines Folded ML-TQWT RS 40-1354
    Town Den: Music Hall mm5 - Denon DL-103r - Schiit Mani * Belles 20a * Schiit Aegir * MIT S3 * Polk SRS 1.2tl (updated)
  • monepolk
    monepolk Posts: 1,139
    I noticed that between the BDP-2 and 3 that the solid state drive is missing.
  • pitdogg2
    pitdogg2 Posts: 23,809
    Way over my head but always such an enjoyable read.
    Thanks DK
  • DarqueKnight
    DarqueKnight Posts: 6,741
    monepolk wrote: »
    I noticed that between the BDP-2 and 3 that the solid state drive is missing.

    Good eye!!

    The 1 TB solid state drive is one I installed in the BDP-2. It is used at work, where a smaller music collection suffices.

    The BDP-3 is used in my 2 channel stereo at home, where my music collection spans over 3 TB and is stored on a 6 TB external hard drive.

    Bryston used to offer the option of a 500 GB SSD preinstalled, but I don't know if they offer that any more.

    Proud and loyal citizen of the Digital Domain and Solid State Country!
  • monepolk
    monepolk Posts: 1,139
    Got it. As usual nice review.
  • beautiful, as always!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    "if it's not fun, it's not worth it & remember folks, "It's All About The Music"!!
  • heiney9
    heiney9 Posts: 24,948
    Excellent, very thorough methodology, concise and extremely good read. Just facts and no fluff.

    Thanks DK

    "Appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience. Measurements can provide a measure of insight, but are no substitute for human judgment. Why are we looking to reduce a subjective experience to objective criteria anyway? The subtleties of music and audio reproduction are for those who appreciate it. Differentiation by numbers is for those who do not".--Nelson Pass Pass Labs XA25 | EE Avant Pre | EE Mini Max Plus DAC | MIT Shotgun S1 | Pangea AC14SE MKII | Legend L600 | BlueSound Node 3 - Tubes add soul!
  • Jonmk
    Jonmk Posts: 1
    To me it is dismaying that the BDP-3 should improve sonically on the BDP-1, in this late stage of digital technology but it may be true (just visit Audiogon where BDP-1 sellers are asking only $700, one third price of retail).
    I have a system nowhere near as pricey as yours, yet I suspect as much with my newly purchased BDP-1, mainly because when I put an Audio Alchemy Dti in the path before my Dac, incredibly there are still audible gains versus just a digital cable to the Dac. That should not be. But it is what it is.
  • DarqueKnight
    DarqueKnight Posts: 6,741
    Digital signals are just a highly specialized type of analog signal. Digital signals are not susceptible to many of the audible noise and distortion issues of pure analog signals, but they have their own signal integrity issues, particularly when it comes to isolation from noise in both digital players and in digital to analog converters. It's not just about producing a stream of "ones and zeroes" that should be identical from one digital player to the next.

    From the BDP-1 to the BDP-2 to the BDP-3, there were audible improvements in computational ability, noise reduction, and digital output stages.

    Proud and loyal citizen of the Digital Domain and Solid State Country!
  • K_M
    K_M Posts: 1,627
    heiney9 wrote: »
    Excellent, very thorough methodology, concise and extremely good read. Just facts and no fluff.

    Thanks DK


    It was a nice write up for sure!