Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Why?

I'm sure there must be a reason for this product to exist, but I'm really struggling with the way Bryston have gone with the BDP-1 digital music transport.  It's reviewed in the March 2011 edition of HiFi Choice magazine, page 64.
There are 3 main ways in which digital file based music is being delivered into hifi systems at the moment - one is the PC / Laptop / Mac feeding through USB into a DAC, the second being streaming from a PC / Laptop / MAC over a network, be it Ethernet, Ethernet over mains or Wifi and finally we have music servers which contain an internal hard drive in addition to the control elements and DAC (and sometimes pre-amp / power amps).  The latter one has a further option of adding other "clients" to the system - examples being SooLoos and Sonos.
So the beautifully built Bryston chooses another route - to only play music directly from direct attached USB storage - be that solid state or a hard drive.  So you have to get your music off your computer, onto some kind of USB attached media and then plug it into the Bryston.  It then scans the storage and builds an index - every time you connect.  So you add one more ripped CD to your portable USB hard disk storage and when you re-connect to the Bryston, it re-scans your collection of 1000 CDs (or whatever your numbers are).  Bryston claim that streaming over a network is messy and hard.  Interesting - and see my next post about the Linn Akurate DS, also reviewed in the same magazine edition (coming soon).
All of that seems unusual, to say the least.  Personally I'm not convinced of the merits - putting a CD in a player seems somewhat easier to me.  So having got all the media onto the hard disk, you just plug the £2200 device into a system right?  Wrong.  All this device is doing is taking the digital file, providing some control over the content (selection, playlists etc.) and squirting it to a digital output.  You need to add an external DAC, which, of course, Bryston can supply, as can many other manufacturers.  The outputs use a choice of electrical connections (no optical, good) which use either a BNC connector or XLR.  And we used to think Naim were a little odd with their choice of connectors!  The Bryston DAC has an asychronous USB input, but this device has no equivalent output.  Hmmm.  With a decent DAC this device is competing with the Linn Akurate DS on price but is no comparison on capability.  Sound quality might be a factor of course, but I doubt I'll be lucky enough to have the chance to make that comparison.
HiFi Choice give the device a good review for sound quality but pronounce the device low on features.  That seems to be a bit of an understatement.  I just don't see a place for this, but perhaps you can correct me?  There may be a market out there for those who find Windows Explorer or Mac Finder enough from the computer side and don't want to have a computer close to their listening system, or don't want to mess about with networking I suppose.  And here is the final oddity - the device has an ethernet port on the back - to allow you to connect to your network which enables the use of an Apple device to provide control over wifi.  Bizarre.

A relevant thread at Computer Audiophile can be found here.

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