New Bryston DAC vs. Old

To Philip Beaudette,

I enjoyed reading your review of the Bryston BDA-3: concise, balanced, and insightful.

I wonder, though, how does the BDA-3 do sonically when compared to a BDA-1. I have the BDA-1, and love it. DSD is overhyped IMO, so I don’t really need/want DSD and HDMI capabilities.

Thanks for any insights on this.


I can’t answer your question directly, because I’ve never heard the BDA-1, let alone had the opportunity to compare it with the BDA-3. However, I have a fair amount of experience with Bryston DACs: I had one onboard the Bryston B100 SST integrated amplifier I used to own and I reviewed the BDA-2 and BDA-3. I also reviewed the BCD-1 CD player. As a result, I feel qualified to at least comment on your question.

When I reviewed and ultimately purchased the BDA-2 DAC, I was able to compare it directly alongside the DAC built into my B100 SST integrated amplifier. I found the two sounded far more similar than different. I don’t think it should come as a surprise that that these two DACs share a house sound. Both are highly transparent and resolving of musical detail, while remaining faithful (i.e., neutral) to the source material. Although I found the BDA-2 slightly more laidback sounding than the B100’s onboard DAC, the difference was small. In fact, my decision to purchase an outboard rather than onboard DAC when I bought the B135 SST2 integrated amplifier had more to do with the fact that, as a reviewer, I wasn’t happy I couldn’t use my DAC each time a new integrated amplifier came in for review.

While the BDA-3 may not sound identical to the BDA-1, I do not expect it would sound drastically different. Part of what distinguishes these two pieces is the fact that the BDA-3 has a number of HDMI inputs and can decode DSD, two features you have indicated that you don’t require. Furthermore, you said you’re happy with your BDA-1. Unless you can get your hands on a BDA-3 to audition and you completely disagree with what I’ve said here, I would stick with what you already have. I think there is a tendency to assume that as companies come out with new versions of their products, this somehow makes the earlier versions markedly inferior. While this may be true in some instances, I don’t think it applies here, especially in the case of a company such as Bryston, which has a long history of delivering well-designed, solidly engineered products.

In short, if I were in your position, I’d save the money you might spend on the BDA-3 and put it towards investing in some new music. My guess is that discovering new music will be more far more rewarding than hearing your existing collection through what I anticipate will be a fairly similar-sounding DAC to what you already own (and love). . . . Philip Beaudette