Bryston 28B³ Monoblock Power Amplifiers

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According to its website, Bryston has been in business for 35 years, has 150 dealers in North America and is in 60 countries worldwide. That is very impressive for an audio company. Bryston headquarters is located in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada, which is approximately a 2 hour drive from my hometown, Toronto.

Even though I have known about Bryston for decades, I have not reviewed any of their products nor have I heard any of their products for an extended period of time. I have heard their products, however, several times at local audio shows and the sound was always excellent. I decided it was time to review a Bryston product, their flagship power amplifier, the Bryston 28B³ Monoblock Power Amplifiers, in particular ($11,995/each).

Description

The Bryston 28B³ mono power amplifier is a monster. It puts out 1,000 W into 8 ohms and 1,800 W into 4 ohms, more than enough power to drive just about any speaker on the planet. No rating is given at 2 ohms. They weigh in at almost 100 pounds each.

The 28B³ has both RCA and XLR inputs and has two sets of binding posts for bi-wiring, if necessary. It is very well-built, very substantial and very heavy. One of the nice features about this amplifier is there are no wires visible when you remove the top cover. The layout is very neat and clean. Bryston amplifiers, historically, have been known to be very durable and very reliable. They also have a 20 year warranty, which inspires confidence. I have also noticed that Bryston amplifiers retain a higher value on the used audio market than many other brands. During the review period, I had absolutely no problems with the amplifiers. There were no turn-on or turn-off thumps—no odd noises whatsoever (units include ‘SoftStart’ circuitry for managing inrush current upon initial power up).

Bryston 28B³ Monoblock Power Amplifier rear panel.

Specifications

  • No fans or other moving parts

  • Regulated power supplies to all voltage gain stages

  • Convection cooled and housed in a fully aluminum chassis

  • Energy storage power transformers maximize dynamic range

  • Harmonic Distortion: ≤.005% from 20Hz to 20kHz at 1000W

  • Noise below full output: <-116dB single ended, <-117dB balanced

  • Slew Rate: >65V/µS

  • Power Bandwidth: <1Hz to >100kHz

  • Damping Factor: >300 at 20Hz (8Ω)

  • Available with silver or black faceplate (4U + .55”)

  • 17” (without handles) or 19” (with handles) faceplate available (non-rack mountable)

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Sound

The 28B³ is an excellent sounding amplifier. As the wattage specification may indicate, there was more than enough power to drive my inefficient MartinLogan Summit X electrostatic-hybrid Loudspeakers, which are also a very difficult load—their impedance drops to 0.5 ohms at 20 kHz. It is a pleasure to have large amounts of power which enables the amplifiers to grab firm control of the loudspeaker and present no signs of strain at louder volumes. There was always plenty of power on reserve.

The tonal balance of the 28B³ is very neutral. The low frequencies, the midrange and the high frequencies are evenly balanced in volume level. The bass is powerful, very deep, and very well articulated. The midrange is clear and very sweet at the same time. The high frequencies are also sweet and easy to listen to. You can listen to these amplifiers for long periods of time with absolutely no listening fatigue.

Although these amplifiers produce very beautiful sounds, they are not the final word in transparency. If you are looking for the ultimate in transparency you may be disappointed.  They have a “bottom-up” type of sound. They are voiced toward the bass frequencies, to have great density in the midrange along with sweet high frequencies.

The great strength of the 28B³ is their sense of drive. The drive, weight and density were easy to hear when playing the song I Won't Dance from Jane Monheit’s Taking A Chance On Love (Sony Classical SK 92495). When her full backup band plays, the amps handled it without breaking a sweat. Likewise, playing a full-on pop/rock song like Thriller by Michael Jackson, the amps had the energy, the power, to really rock and move you. The music has a solidity, a weight, a great density and a mass as heard in live events.

Many amplifiers in my experience are very transparent and very open, but the music sounds a little ‘ethereal’, lacking weight, power and solidity. You will not find this deficiency with the Brystons. They add a weight and density to the music, heard easily when listening to a male singer with a powerful voice. Hearing the great Frank Sinatra singing the peppy jazz songs I've Got You Under My Skin and Don't Worry 'Bout Me, on his Sinatra At The Sands (Reprise CDW46947) makes one fully understand why he has been called ‘The Voice’ and ‘The Best Singer Of The 20th Century’. The weight, the colour and the nuances of his singing were simply fabulous. Baritone voices, such as Frank, had a wonderful ‘growl’ and body to them, which is very enjoyable and sounds closer to real music through my ears.

Another great aspect of these amplifiers is music continues to sound full-bodied even at low volume levels. Highly likely, you will not need a ‘loudness’ compensation switch on your preamp.

The monoblocks also have good imaging and soundstaging. They are especially good at the ‘centre-fill’ area between the loudspeakers where the music is very solid and with lifelike dynamics and energy. This is their great strength. Although they have very good sound staging and imaging they do not have extreme width especially beyond the edges of the loudspeakers. The depth of the soundstage, while also very good, could also be a little deeper as I’ve heard from, admittedly, much more expensive amplifiers. Other amplifiers from manufacturers such as Ayre Acoustics or Spectral do a better job at producing a larger soundstage.

Conclusion

Through long listening sessions, the amplifiers were very easy to listen to. The music they reproduce is full-sounding, very powerful with a lot of drive, and the music has a weight and a density, with real substance to it. The sound is very warm, musical and natural sounding. It is never harsh, clinical, nor aggressive or irritating. These amplifiers can play any type of music, from classical, jazz, folk, to rock; they can play it all and they don’t exaggerate the harshness or deficiencies in a poor recording. They would be a great asset to just about any sound system with the added benefit that they can drive any speaker.

At $11,995 (each), I believe the Brystons are competitive. Audiophile products are expensive, let’s face it. However, considering their build quality, their durability, reliability, excellent sound quality, and the fact that they are built in Canada/North America, I think they provide excellent value for the money.

Further information: Bryston