Review: Bryston 14BSST² Power Amplifier
I remember chatting to a representative from Bryston some years ago. It was at one of the numerous HiFi shows that were held in Melbourne Australia. We chatted about the Bryston brand and their products, and while I don’t recall his name, I do remember his bright and outgoing personality.
At the time Bryston was a brand I’d had limited exposure to, yet what was obvious to me was the fact that the team at Bryston are passionate about the products that they produce. They have a genuine desire to create extremely good sounding and high quality products.
I remember thinking that Canadians and Australians have a kind of kindred spirit, many commonalities and a similar sense of humour. We both seem to be kind of laid back, yet have a sense of boundless love of open spaces and for life itself. Perhaps this also extends to a love of music, to hearing it reproduced accurately and at times loudly.
Some years later, I was quite excited and intrigued to review the most powerful of Bryston’s two channel power amplifiers, the 14BSST² Dual-Channel (Stereo) Power Amplifier.
BusiSoft is the Australian importer responsible for distributing Bryston throughout Australia. Selling locally for $11,699 puts the amplifier into a price category that some may feel is over the top, but of course those individuals have never picked one up. It weighs over 41Kg and that sort of mass is not exactly cheap to manufacture. Nor have they ever heard it in a really transparent system. But more on how it sounds shortly.
Bryston is Canada’s largest independent manufacturer of high-end audio electronics. They were founded in 1962 and cater for both the consumer and professional markets. Bryston products are extensively tested and monitored before they are shipped and all products are guaranteed perfect before shipment. They back this with an unparalleled 20 year parts and labour warranty! It really takes a lot of confidence in a product to put 20 years on it.
The Bryston 14BSST² is a dual channel or stereo power amplifier, which is essentially two Bryston 7B mono amplifiers that have been combined into a dual mono modular design. Each channel has 600W into 8 ohms or 900W into 4 ohms. With that sort of fire-breathing power, it has the ability to drive loudspeakers which have been considered “impossible” or even “difficult” loads in the past, very easily.
The unit has a lovely, chunky aluminium front face that has been perfectly machined. It is smooth to the touch, understated and features just a on/off switch and two led indicators. I have seen photos of units with optional front handles attached, but to me, my sample unit looks cleaner without them. There are two carry handles at the rear of the unit and they are absolutely necessary to be able to safely handle this bulky and heavy amplifier. Trust me when I say that once it is in place, you won’t want to move it around too often. There is a PRO version available that has a standard 19” black rack mountable faceplate fitted. The standard version is available in either silver or black finishes.
At the rear are high quality multi-way speaker binding posts to connect up the speaker cables, and a choice of either balanced (XLR or 1/4” Phone jack) or unbalanced (RCA) inputs. A small selector switch must be set to the appropriate input type prior to use. There is a selectable amplifier gain switch which changes the input sensitivity of the amplifier with a choice of either 23dB or 29dB of gain. I found that for the preamplifiers that I had at hand, that the 29dB setting was the most suitable, but the setting is also there for high output sources. Finally, there is also a 12V trigger switch with either an external or local selector.
Setup and Use
Setup is typical for a power amplifier. Simply plug in the inputs; I used a combination of Kubala Sosna Elation! XLR cables as well as Synergistic Research Atmosphere level 4 XLR interconnects (review coming). Selecting “Balanced” on the input selector, I started off with 23dB of gain, but then changed and left it at 29dB for the remainder of the time. The 12V trigger should be set to “Local” otherwise it won’t switch on. I connected Synergistic Research Atmosphere level 4 speaker cables and lastly, an Audio Unique Carme power cable.
The label that indicates the Bryston model number on the front panel, is cleverly also the on/off button. After a few seconds the power supplies stabilise and the LED indicators turn from red to green, letting you know that it is now ready to play music.
During use the amplifier warmed up from the outside edges where the heatsinks are, until the entire amplifier is a comfortable warm all over. I would recommend allowing plenty of natural ventilation right around the amplifier at all times. Even after listening at substantial sound pressure levels, I never got the feeling that it was overly hot or uncomfortable. The clipping led, which changes from green to flashing red, was never seen, nor did a thermal shutdown occur in the time I used the amplifier. It was absolutely rock steady and reliable the entire time.
I listened to the Bryston with a variety of front end sources, including turntable, a variety of DAC’s and streamers as well a number of quality loudspeakers. I wouldn’t say that any of the loudspeakers were “impossible” loads, in the same vein like Quad or Apogee loudspeakers, yet some may have been quite fussy as to amplification. The following listening impressions are an amalgam of all the equipment that has been connected to amplifier.
Starting his first audio consultancy business in the early ’80s whilst also working professionally in the electronics industry, Mark now splits his time between professional reviewing and AV consultancy.