The two box Bryston BP26 pre amp.

The Bryston BP-26 pre amp is a two box design, and comes with a remote, that only controls volume and mute. This approach is laudable as the move to take away the A/C transformers and power supply board in to another chassis does have theoretical sonic benefits, such as less interference from the A/C transformer's RFI/EMI leakages, and humming amongst others. The main audio only circuit is built in to another chassis, connecting to the power supply chassis via a DIN like terminated umbilical cord. James of AV Designs advices to pay as much placement attention to the power supply box as to the audio circuit box, to yield the best sonic results. I'll come back to that latter.

The Bryston BP-26, is a thoroughly modern pre amp designed front panel layout neatly with fairly conventional 3 large knobs face plate. The three large knobs controls the following. One on the left for source input, another for balance left/right and the last one on the right is for volume. There are also toggle switches for tape/monitor(if you're still in to cassettes), stereo/mono(good for testing imaging when setting up speakers), a mute switch, and lastly my friend, KM's favorite switch, the signal phase invert.

The back panel, with 2 pairs XLR imput(left), and many RCA inputs, and outputs plus 1 pair XLR output.

The pre amp is sounds pretty quiet when no music is played and volume turned up to normal listening levels, exhibiting none of that back ground hash or white noise, or just plain tweeter hiss, which is good. A quiet back ground normally means a more transparent pre amp. The sonic presentation of the BP-26 is slightly on the warm side of neutral. The highs are very tidily extended(i.e. non splashy), if a little dry. The mids have a degree of body to it, perhaps there's a slight high lighting of the presence range and bass lines are well defined, extends very low subjectively and always tuneful. This pre amp presents sound stage in a little more laid back fashion if compared to my resident Pass Labs X2.5. I initially found the Bryston BP-26 pre amp's transparency to lose out a little on the minute details in the music, compared to the Pass unit. But then I was placing the audio box on FE Ceraballs, whilst the power supply units rested on spikes. I later bought another set of FE Ceraballs to try out, based on the advise by James. And true enough, placing the power supply box on to FE Ceraballs instead of spikes, worked wonders to the pre amps's level of sonic transparency, can now rival the Pass Labs unit.

With the level of transparency improved, the Bryston pre amp pretty much functions like a straight wire with gain, and gain there's plenty. I find that I rarely venture past the 10 o'clock position of the volume knob.

The Bryston BP-26 on my FE Spider like rack. Note the FE Ceraballs Spider for both audio and power supply box.

The BP-26 pre amp also seemed to have better synergy with the Bryston 4BSST2(as it should be, coming from the same factory) compared to the Pass Aleph power amp(the sound became overripe, too warm and dynamics suffered as a result). The BP-26 also seemed out of it's depth when matched to the Bladelius Ymer power amp(but that's just not fair to the Bryston either, because the Pass X2.5 also behaved the similarly). What I am trying to point out is, unlike the Bryston 4BSST2 which did not short change a more expensive component like the Audio Research Reference 3 pre when partnered, the BP-26 is probably best matched with Bryston power amps, although I do not discount that there are other more suitable candidates available out there.

If you have an existing Bryston power amp already and wanna update your pre amp, then the BP-26 is certainly a no-brainer, and fitting choice, however if you have a non- Bryston power amp and unsure of sonic compatibility, yet some how love the Bryston BP-26's classical looks and modern full functionality, then my advise is to try before you buy, as always.

Bryston is sold by AV Designs, contact James, tel: 016-3280237

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