Bryston Mini A
Bryston is a Canadian company based in Peterborough, Ontario. It dedicated the last 35 years to the design and production of modern electronic equipment intended for both individual customers and professional studios. The common denominator of all the projects is high quality and legendary reliability. Bryston ensures that its engineers are not constrained in their work by costs of particular components. The company enables them to create devices which are almost perfect and to maximize their reliability. That is why every component is tested and installed separately, each wire is cut and bent manually, each connection is soldered by hand. Every product is tested before delivery, it must work at least 100 hours in the factory. If any errors are captured, the device returns to the assembly station and is checked and tested again. No wonder Bryston gives a 20-year warranty for analogue equipment and 5-year for digital devices.
For the professional market Bryston offers everything - from banana plugs, all kinds of cables and power amplifiers, to the sound system for stadiums. I personally associate the logo of this brand with pro audio equipment. I remember the power amplifier working in the recording studio of my friend. This model has the 4B and is constantly in use for 10 years. It turned out that the Bryston 4B is still produced, but its new designation is 4BSST2. So the issue of reliability is explained. Maybe Bryston electronics is not cheap, but let's imagine how many power amps would brake down during that time, how much devices would require replacing and what could be the final cost with all maintenance and resale. With Bryston we pay only at the beginning and we enjoy listening to music without problems for many years. This is confirmed by online auctions, where you can rarely buy their stuff. Descriptions like "Bryston for sale, guarantee for another 15 years, great condition" are not uncommon.
Design and functionality
The subject of our test is not electronics, but monitors called Mini A. It is a three-way construction with 16.5-cm woofer, 8-cm midrange and a 25mm dome. On the back we find a bass-reflex tunnel, which has a number of ribbings at the edge. Probably they reduce the turbulence of the air, passing through the port. Moreover, later experiments showed the effectiveness of this solution - at high volumes and low frequencies the port remains silent. The tweeter has a titanium membrane, secured by a mesh integrated with an external flange. Woofer and midrange were made by Axiom - a Canadian company providing loudspeakers with supposedly outstanding dynamic qualities. I will check it in practice.
Because of the vertical arrangement of three drivers, Mini A are quite high, and bass-reflex blowing back, tells us to keep a minimum distance of a few feet from the back wall of the room. They are not monitor speakers that you can successfully install on the shelf with books and stuff. The ideal solution would be to provide them a stable and heavy base with a height of about 60 cm. Pay attention to the dimensions of the speakers' base, because the enclosures have a shape of a rhombus in horizontal cross-section. However, the selection of appropriate stands should not be difficult, but if you have any problems, you can always order custom-made stands. That would be really cool.
As for the color options, the manufacturer offers standard vinyl veneers in three versions - black and two cherry ones - the darker looks more like some kind of rosewood or mahogany, and the lighter looks like beech. I really don't know who came up the idea of two colours called 'cherry', because really none of them looks like a typical cherry. For a dessert we get grilles mounted on magnets. If you had ever broken off the plastic pegs in normal grilles, you will appreciate this solution.
I started the listening session in configuration with a computer connected to HRT Music Streamer Pro D/A converter. After a few days of burning-in, Bryston speakers sounded very evenly, consistently and with lots of space. At times I had the impression that the sound extends beyond the walls of the room. However, I think that recordings I used were the source of this showiness. For example, Madonna's tracks produced by William Orbit, who likes to carry out psychoacoustic experiments on listeners. Canadian monitors only enabled the realization of this intention, allowing sounds to appear in various, even a bit strange places. With the recordings realized properly, we get healthy, well-organized soundstage without artificial three-dimensional scene. After listening to the computer it was time to connect a CD player - NAD C565BEE. The sound was more dynamic and the clarity of depth was improved. I was practically surrounded by sound and sometimes I even turned back to see if something else didn't play in my room. Brystons produced a really cool soundstage that absorbed me for the next few hours. Let me add that this is not the sound typical for budget speakers, which create the sound around them very chaotically. Even more it has nothing in common with soundbars' or cinema processors' performance, creating strange effects in counterphase. Here everything works in a healthy and natural way. The Mini A seem to use the main advantage over floorstanding sets - they quickly disappear from the room, leaving us alone with the music. Let us add - the music, portrayed in respect of the rules of good taste.
Before the end of the burn-in process, I was surprised by unusual analyticity. After a few days I realized how this analyticity is passed on through the bandwidth. All parts of the band are involved in creating a music, but they don't interfere with one another. We could say that clarity of treble is transmitted to the midrange, which hands it over to low frequencies. Nothing smears both in terms of bandwidth and physical location of the different areas in space. Bass is usually set to the base line, and the higher frequencies create a proper soundstage, with a very nice gradation of depth and a good separation between the instruments. The passage between midrange and treble is very soft and smooth, virtually undetectable. Indeed it's amazing how the speakers with such a great tonal balance are able to separate different layers of music. In fact, the only element that slightly bothered me at this stage of listening was a very delicate brightening of the treble.
A few days later I received the Encore Seven Egg-Shell Prestige 12WKT amplifier, provided to the review. I was hoping that this tube amp could change something in soundstage and aforesaid treble. I guess that a tube producing 12 watts per channel isn't the first choice for such speakers, but the result surpassed my expectations. Brystons sounded like they were made for vacuum tube amplifiers. All exaggerations described earlier disappeared, leaving only full openness. The midrange has become juicy and delicate at the same time, as befits a good tube sound. All the details were clear, and the soundstage turned into a beautiful palette of various sounds. Low frequencies were more resilient and got a bigger kick, which resulted in better dynamics. Bass had an ideal weight and remained fast and lively. At this point, I already knew that the tube amp with such bass is a rare thing, but - more importantly in this review - these modest speakers provided experience I would expect from large floorstanders. Initially, the combination of Mini A and tubes seemed to be a bad idea. This system didn't have the right to sound well. But it did.
When I have already had to pack Bryston's speakers, a friend lent me his Cardas Clear Sky speaker cables. Due to this change, all previous understatements disappeared, with emphasis on highs, and the sound coming out of the Mini A gathered full synergy in a very elegant way. No highlights of the treble, tight bass, and nice, velvety mids. This effect appeared in both T+A PA 1260 R and Egg-Shell Prestige 12WKT amplifiers. This situation clearly shows how much attention should be paid to the selection of each element of the gear, including cables and the power supply. Cardas cables I received accidentally, turned out to be the missing link, the final piece of the puzzle. If anyone still thinks that cables don't affect the sound, I would recommend to carry out several experiments with a system as sensitive as this one.
Build quality and technical parameters
Bryston Mini A is a three-way monitor speaker with an impedance of 8 ohms and frequency response stretching between 60 Hz and 20 000 Hz. On the front we have three drivers - 16.5-cm bass unit, 8-cm midrange unit with aluminium membranes and a 25-mm titanium dome. On the back we find a bass-reflex port shaped in interesting way, and double gold-plated speaker terminals. Indeed bi-amping has its indisputable advantages, but I don't see the point of such solution in such small speakers. Enclosures are made of thick MDF panels. Inside there are two reinforcing crossbars and a large amount of mineral wool as the damping material. The crossover looks simple, but it has been built with high quality components.
The beauty of Bryston speakers lies in the details. When they arrived for a photo session, it became clear that the level of attention to detail here is truly hi-end. The only thing necessary to disassemble drivers was loosening the screws - after one rotation, you could loosen them with your fingers. This means one thing - every screw doesn't 'get into the wood', but into a threaded nut. There is no garbage, and you can unscrew the speakers even twenty times, if you need so. The precision of manufacturing the enclosure is another nice detail. Cutters under the drivers were made to the nearest millimeter. Each transducer must be removed almost at a right angle, because the holes are just slightly larger than magnets. Nothing is accidental here. Apparently Bryston is interested only in one standard - quality. In the end, if you give your customers such a long warranty for the equipment, you better make sure that it's able to work for so many years.
T+A PA 1260 R, Tara Labs TL-201, Acoustic ZEN Hologram II, Cardas Clear Sky, Furutech TP60E, Furutech FP-314Ag, Tellurium Q Black Diamond USB, NAD C 565BEE, HRT Music Streamer Pro, Norstone Stylum 3.
The Mini A show a very detailed sound and they have a excellent extension on the edges of the band. They also build a sensational soundstage - beating them in this matter and at this price is a major challenge. Additionally, the lows and mids present the quality level which I would expect from high-end speakers. Small doubts associated with high frequencies were dispelled by cabling. It turns out that if you give minimal attention to the selection of the rest of the equipment, you can prepare for long evenings with the music.
Speaker type: monitor, three-way, ported
Sensitivity: 87 dB
Impedance: 8 Ω
Maximum SPL: 100 dB
Recommended amplifier power: 10 - 175 W
Frequency response: 60 Hz - 20 kHz
Dimensions (H/W/D): 39,4/21,5/21 cm