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Bryston, Tag and a rant !

Discussion in 'AV Pre-Amp/Processors & Power Amps' started by TT9, Feb 10, 2003.

  1. TT9

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    (of course this is all in my own tastes and humble opinion)

    Greetings All,

    The question of which power amp has been frequently debated on this forum and having made a costly purchase error myself I thought I would share my recent experiences. Fortunately it all has a happy ending.

    Last year I decided to invest in home cinema for indoors entertainment for myself and my (now exiled :( ) fiancee. After auditioning some different gear I settled on a full Tag system. I am as much an audiophile and a movie buff and over the weeks I started to get more and more disatisfied with the stereo performance of the system. Movies were fine but music just wasn't cutting it. I suspected, through reading this forum, that my trusty 100x5R might be to blame. The sound was very cold and seemed to be lacking in weight and body. Treble, midrange and stereo imaging were excellent but I prefer my music a little more heavier and it just wasn't happening. I decided to audition couple of price similar alternatives with a few of my favourite cd's.

    So I first organised a test between the 100x5R and the Acram P7. The differences between the two were there - if only very slight. The 100x5R sounded near identical to my own, assuring me that my room acoustics were not causing probs for me. The P7 was not quite as bright and seemed to have a little bit more scale but it was an extremely subtle difference. If I had blind tested a dozen or do tracks across the two amps I cannot confidently say I would have named each amp correctly all twelve times. I convinced myself that the P7 was a better bet than the Tag but not so much that it would be worth making the swap between the two.

    I then set upon Cornflake at Tottenham Ct rd in London. (side note: if you are looking to buy some higher market equipment pay them a visit - what a treasure cave of Lexicon, Mark Levinson, Byrston, Barco, etc.Superb). I'd arranged a demo of a couple of Brystons. They did not have a DVD32R but were able to match the other components for the test.

    First up was a used 9B ST. Now straight away the difference was obvious. There was bass. The low end was a lot more obvious and it was also clean and tight. Straight away I was relaxing and enjoying the music rather than analysing the sound and wondering if what I was hearing was to my tastes. I can definitely say the music had a lot more life and was warmer than my cold sounding Tag, and by a margain.

    Next was the 9B SST. Is there any difference betweent this and its older brother ? To my ears there is definitely an audible difference between the two. Again, only subtle, but it was there. The SST seemed to do everything just that slight bit better, but enough to persuade me that I would have to get this instead of the cheaper ST if I bought. The bass was a little tighter, midrange very slightly less grainy, and the instruments making up the music scores easier to seperate. I liked what I heard, again.

    Lastly, was a 4B SST. Now I might have read somewhere on this forum that the 4B sound and the 9B sound would not be disimilar (i'm not into the technical side of it all). This was not my experience on Thursday evening. In my relatively short time with mid-high end audi equipment this is the best sounding amplifier I have heard to date (I haven't heard things like Krell, Mark Levinson, Theta etc). It was absolutely magnificent. The difference between this and the 9BSST was greater than that between the 9BSST and 9BST. I was so impressed I sat there overstaying my welcome listening to everything from Oasis, to David Gray, to Fleetwood Mac, to Vivaldi's Four Seasons. The two lasting memories I have are the amazing instrument and vocal seperation which made even the 9B's seemed mashed and blended, and also the bass control - there was not even the slightest roll on or off at all. It was like a switch - straight in and then an instant stop, superb.

    Finally, just for the completion, a 100x5R was placed into the mix and well, the poor boy just couldn't cut it in this company at all. I had it on for 30seconds satisfied that I hadn't imagened all this and turned off. The failings which concerned me were even more apparant in this company and it confirmed to me that my system needed surgery.

    So to conclude, I placed, for my tastes, my trusty 100x5R at the bottom of the list. Next up was the Arcam which while superior to the Tag, did not warrant traded to. I think though that if buying new, the 7 channel Arcam represents superb value for money and worthy of anyone's short list. The fabulous Bryston boys in their 9B guise impressed me no end and a huge, huge step up from the Tag and Arcam offerings, the SST being a genuine audible improvement to its older brother, albeit small. Cornflake were selling a little used ST at nearly a £1500 discount on the SST, and contradicting a thought I had while auditioning and a statement I made earlier it was too big a discount to ignore. I would have bought the cheaper ST because no way was the SST improvement a £1500 step above its brother. However I didn't buy either of these, and only God knows why I have signed *yet another av cheque* (this home cinema lark is expensive) and bought the two channel 4B. I had to have it and it was one of those experiences where you know if you don't do something it will grind away at you for the next few months until you eventually give in and buy it anyway !! So i've traded in a five channel for a two channel and now have three redundant speakers ! Although thats not quite true because I am using this as an excuse to finally go 7.1 and going to get the used 9B ST to drive the centre and 4 side/back surrounds.

    Cheers Dominic at Cornflake for all your help.

    That's it, I am never going to buy another piece of AV equipment ever again (he says). I started out with a final drafted short list that was centred around a Denon 3802, Toshiba 32" tv, Tosh900E, rel quake and B&W 602 series speakers. 'Not going to cost too much' I said to my then fiancee. 'Its an investment' was the sales talk to her. Well eight months later I have ended up with the DVD32R, AV32Rbp192, Bryston 4BSST, Bryston 9BST (still to buy!), Sony HS10, ProAc studio fronts/centre, KEF TDM34DS surrounds, Velodyne HGS15 sub. I have sold my motorcycle, blown half a house deposit, and lost my fiancee through all of this but I tell you what . . . .

    I've got a beast of a home entertainment system now. . . . . :D and I'm keeping it . . . . :devil:

    Cheers All,
    TT9.
     
  2. martintyler

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    Interesting comments TT9.

    There's been a lot of talk about different power amps recently on here.. a lot of opinions on different amps, coming from different demos with different equipment, but apparently clear differences heard. Good to see you did tests all at one place and with similar equipment to your own.

    You must be aware there is a school of thought that power amps make no difference at all to sound (as long as they are playing within their limits of course). In fact some people have setup elaborate tests (and even bets for large sums of money) and the results of these are always 'there's no difference'. Now i am not saying i have searched about for all tests done, just ones caught my eye were as i said.

    I havent done any tests on amps myself (i have active M&Ks), but i am interested by any opinions on differences between so called high end gear. After testing some DVD players and not hearing a difference at all i am beginning to believe there is a lot of talk/opinions about that is very subjective :)

    Not trying to call you a liar, as i said, your findings at least sound like they were done under fairly controlled circumstances.

    Martin
     
  3. TT9

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    Hi Martin,

    I understand where you are coming from, and I share your sentiment up to point, with other parameters.

    Recently, I reorganised my viewing room such that my rather expensive Chord cabling did not reach my speakers any more. As an interim I bought some temporary cheap Cable talk talk stuff, was about £5 a metre, and also went from biwiring so single speaker runs. And you know what this did for the sound - yup, nothing !. Didn't change it one ounce. I was a bit surprised about this so moved my fronts into the middle of the room and did a comparison with the different cables, listening back to back. I wasn't imagining it, there was no difference what so ever.

    My Dad, bless him, is getting into home cinema, and he's 'lashed out' in his words on a load of stuff (it's all relative I suppose!). I went round to his house and was treated to When we were Soldiers on his new Tosh 220. Now I am going to get flamed for this but if I am really honest I sat there and, albeit on a 32CRT tv, there was not a noticable difference I could see between that and my DVD32R I had at home. Maybe if I had the two back to back or was looking with a projector then differences might be apparent but from memory, I can't remember thinking that's an extra £4k well spent !

    However, the amp test really was night and day. The Bryston has a completely different sound and a dozen blind tests would result in an easy picking every time. There is no self convincing or placebo effect at work. Anyone thinking about this amp, get along to cornflake, and listen to a few power amps back to back, they impact on the sound hugely, this is obvious from the opening chords or each and every track.

    Best Wishes.
     
  4. alexs2

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    An interesting topic,and of course one that's totally subjective,but a good trip to a proper high end dealer should confirm that ther are very significant differences in sound balance between amps.....as TT9 says,the Tags sound thin and gutless basically,although measuring quite well.

    Levinsons usually have a supremely smooth and controlled delivery,although can sound a little on the "dark" side(!!) compared to Krells,which have immense bass drive and very good mid/treble.

    When it comes to differentiating the individual sound of equipment,it depends on the ability of the ancillary equipment to resolve the details.

    Thankfully,when I was buying my B&Ws,I was already familiar with the sound of Tags amps,and knew the softness exhibited by the system wasn't due to the speakers.
     
  5. martintyler

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    Tag held an ABX test day a week or so ago, results probably going to be posted on their site this week.

    They were testing their bigger amp (250Rx2) against a Bryston (not sure which) - the comments from people that did the test seem to indicate they couldnt reliably hear a difference, but they are waiting for the results too.
     
  6. alexs2

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    Interesting,martin.....can hardly believe that half the folks couldn't hear the difference.....I found the change between my Krells and the Tags was instantly obvious...even the dealer had to agree that the Tags are a bit lacking in some respects!

    I do think they're beautifully made and have amazing back-up....but just feel that the amps dont do the rest of the range justice.
     
  7. AV Geeza

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    Interesting comments TT9!! Please tell me that you didn't really lose your fiancee though? :(

    I came to very similar conclusions as you except that I did think there was a reasonable margin of difference between the TAG & Arcam amps.

    I have a Bryston SP1.7 & 9B SST on order and am considering the 14B SST to make it a 7.1 set up! :D

    If you think the 4B SST is good, you should hear the 14B SST!! :eek:
    Its simply the best power amp Ive ever heard!!! That includes Krell & Levinson!!

    The 14B SST does everything you say about the 4B and more! Its hard to put in words but its depth of bass with absolute control is quite remarkable. Mids are clear and open with highs that sparkle without a hint of edginess.
    It sounds like an amp you could listen to for days without fatigue setting in! :zonked:
    I think that even at £5k its a bargain. :smashin:

    Cornflakes have only have only had their SST amps for a few months and these amps tend to sound even better after 9-12 months or so!!! :clap:
     
  8. TT9

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    I am afraid tis true, all of the story.

    However, it was not really over AV, sure we had disagreements why we should replace her Matsui and Alba system with something a bit more . . . er. . . better, but it was just one of those things women don't understand (apologies if I have stereotyped here !! :D ).

    In fact she liked our new system so much, at the end I think she was more sorry to see it go than me . . . . . . :rolleyes:

    Best Wishes.
    TT9.
     
  9. Brad_Porter

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    Women - they wont ever get AV............ :D
     
  10. sounddog

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    Some do ...

    Victoria and Steff
     
  11. CounterWhine

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    Ooh, fighting talk. I have my wife to thank for virtually my entire home cinema. She bought the DVD7 and PSX-R, it was her idea to buy the plasma, then she bought me the Rotel, and she didn't bat an eyelid when I bought the Tag. She's now offering to buy me a SPL meter and some S-Video leads as a top up.

    Admittedly she has ideas about a new fireplace and bannister before we make any more purchases but I can't really argue with that.

    On balance I think I'm lucky. From previous experience, the Bristol Show is going to be pretty thin on women and most of those will be bored. Last time my wife and I went, she bought more than I did!

    D.
     
  12. Brad_Porter

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  13. Jeremy Hill

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    Hi TT9,

    I get severe Deja vu (sp?) reading your post. It's strange how attitudes change; the TAG amp is getting hammered here these days yet it wasn't always so. My experiences have been very similar to yours, let's see if this link works:

    http://www.avforums.com/forums/showthread.php?threadid=21864

    There is no doubt at all in my mind that there is a huge difference between amps. Real quality amplification costs a great deal of money and good amps are IMHO second only to speakers in their influence on sound quality. The TAG is simply underpriced (and underbuilt/designed) relative to the TAG digital gear and, at it's price, it isn't a class leader. It's a real shame; as a DVD32R/AV32R owner I was gutted to discover this. At least I managed to trade mine in for a proper amp without losing too much.

    If you want a brutal assessment of the 100x5R check out airwise' (aka poda / Michael P.) review on audioreview.com. Cutting stuff, but sadly all too true. Let's hope TAG revamp the range.

    http://www.audioreview.com/PRD_128609_1583crx.aspx

    I also think it's sad that more people on this forum haven't investigated Chord's amps. The 1200C/603 combination makes a fantastic HT and stereo combination. I've never hear Bryston, but it wouldn't surprise me to find that Chord are at least as good at the same price point. And they are British. And they are sexy (which Brystons most certainly aren't). Might be too late for you but at least I can try to spread the word!

    Sad to hear about the fiancee. Hard to offer condolances without risking offense but the HT system will probably last longer than she would have anyway! :eek:

    All the best,

    Jeremy.
     
  14. Lowrider

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    I fully agree with your findings, I have 4B ST + 3 Powerpac 120, but the ABX test at TAG was the new 250x3 against 6B SST...

    I think, never tested, they fixed things with their new power, lets wait and see...

    As for wifes, mine doesn´t care about specs or brands, but she is my golden ears, she will quickly say that whatever I am testing sucks, or sounds great, while I am still trying to analyse treble, stage, bass, etc...

    But she is too sensitive to how it all looks... :rolleyes:
     
  15. alexs2

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    In reply to Jeremy's comments re:Chord amps,these really are very good amps throughout their price range(none of which are cheap btw!),but they still generally don't approach the older pure Class A Krells for bass power and control,but do sound clearer in the mid and treble.

    As for the comments on the 100X5 Tag...absolutely correct....looks nice,well made,no grunt.
     
  16. Jeremy Hill

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    So the consensus continues! I'm surprised that noone has come in to TAGs defense. Times do change...

    Nice that someone has at least heard the Chord amps Alex. Reading the posts on this forum I get the feeling that this fine British make is being largely ignored. They aren't that expensive relative to the Brystons etc. of this world are they? I'd still like to hear from someone who's had both at home, maybe I'm missing out here!

    Hmmm, yes, class A monoblocks. That would help with the heating bill in a Norwegian winter! I always fancied a pair of the Pass monoblocks but just don't have the space.

    I'm wondering if having B&Ws makes the failings of the TAG amp more obvious. Perhaps it performs better with less revealing speakers. Having said that there are a good few TAG/B&W systems out there with happy owners, maybe in the end it's more down to taste. Hard to believe though. And maybe the new 250 is better, hope so.

    Martin made a comment:

    > You must be aware there is a school of thought that power amps make no difference at all to sound (as long as they are playing within their limits of course).

    Personally I think anyone who maintains this position has to have some hidden agenda, it's just so manifestly false. The fact that Dr. Z of TAG seems to agree with this might help explain the performance of their amps! I honestly think it calls into question the credibility of anyone who supports it...

    Jeremy
     
  17. Lowrider

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    Jeremy,

    We have to be fair, Dr. Udo Zucker doesn´t say that all powers sound the same, it would be a shot on his foot, as he sells several with quite different prices... :rolleyes:

    Some enlightened B&W/TAG owners are upgrading to the 250, or other brands, but many people doesn´t know, or need better...
     
  18. alexs2

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    Jeremy,dont get me wrong,I do like Tag(I do have anAV32R)but I also feel that the quality of the power amps is not up to the level of their other gear.

    The Chords I have only heard at dealers rooms,and I've certainly found them to be very well engineered and beautifully made,with very good sound quality.
    The comment about price I made not in relation to the likes of Krell etc,but just a pity that there isnt something from their range thats a bit more affordable for people to gain an entry to this range through....still,high end is just that!

    You made a comment about maybe brands like B&W emphasizing the shortcomings of the Tag amps....I do agree with this in that the B&W's,like Linn and some others,can be a pretty demanding load,with low impedance values at low frequencies making heavy current delivery a necessity....something Krell have always excelled at.

    What you said about heat output is absolutely correct!
     
  19. Jeremy Hill

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    Hi Antonio!

    I beg to differ, as far as I know he has said exactly that. TAG sell different powered amps at different prices, hence the price difference.

    He may, however, have worded it diplomatically. To the effect that *theoretically* there is no difference. All I recall is a number of dubious discussions between him and Glenn where they ended up agreeing. Ugh. Ooops you and Glenn are mates I believe! But I suspect you agree to differ more than agree.:p

    Jeremy.
     
  20. Lowrider

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    Well, lets put it this way, when someone asks if he should "upgrade" a Rotel for the TAG, he says they sound different... :rolleyes:

    Really, he also says the 250 sounds better than the 100x5, and the new F1 even better...

    I do enjoy Glenn´s discussions, and am usually his fiercest opponent, particularly when cables are the issue, but also powers... :devil:
     
  21. Jeremy Hill

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    Alex, I didn't get you wrong at all, we're in agreement. I love my TAG digital stuff, and the T32R tuner is really beyond belief. It's just an odd paradox that TAG can produce such nice digital gear and then fall at the analogue hurdle. I guess their real expertise lies in DSP, not so surprising given their background.

    Antonio, yes, Dr. Z does admit that the 250 sounds better than the 100. I should hope so at the price! It's firmly in Chord/Bryston money. I kind of get the impression that sometimes his scientific self is in conflict with what he experiences... And yes, I enjoy Glenn's contributions too, he is beyond doubt a clever guy and has been very helpful to me in the past. I just always get this feeling that there is some hidden agenda at play that is clouding his 'objective' judgement. Oh well, none of us are perfect!

    All the best.
     
  22. Lowrider

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    Glenn kind off defends his boss´sposition , at Audio Purist, that all cables and powers sound the same...

    But I think he is switching sides, have you noticed he is buying electrostatic speakers and new audiophile powers to go with them... :rotfl:
     
  23. Plump

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    It is not ignored Jeremy, it is only damn expensive and you can get lot of other power amps that sound great for just a fraction of that cost. I heard SPM4000 and those new huge monoblocks and they are gorgeous, but at that price . . . and there is almost no chance to get a good discount on them. Someone (I think guy called Pedro) wrote he got something, 20% if I remember correctly, otherwise no chance. And no one is selling them second hand because if you buy them you keep them forever!



    Well, TAG people are very smart, the biggest money is in the digital section. That's the reason why they left out stereo part. And they do not have so much people to develop on both fronts.
    And yes, T32R is probably second best tuner I ever heard (Accuphase T109 is the best one)

    Dr.Zucker is extreamly smart guy. He sometimes only plays emotional, friendly and honest unlimited in their own forum, but there is lot of strategy behind. He knows what he's doing. Otherwise he would not be where he is. That, product quality of their AV section and great customer support are helping them to survive.
    And for us owners, at least, there is nothing else then to hope they will make it !
    And to buy someone others power amps too :)
     
  24. alexs2

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    Bit off topic,I know,but seeing what Plump and Jeremy wrote about tuners,I couldn't help adding my own bit to that....the best one I've ever heard,and never found anything close,is the Day-Sequerra FM Reference....still stunning after all these years,if you can find one!

    As for the digital/analogue side of the Tags,I think thats true....the greatest expertise currently lies in the digital side,but you can only imagine the analogue will improve...Tag certainly seem to listen to comments about their gear.
     
  25. Nic Rhodes

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    I wrote a sort of review on Tuner on the Tag website if anyone is interested. Even followed that up with a Yammy 7000 but it was totally outclassed by the Tag T32, surprized me a bit.
     
  26. Jeremy Hill

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    Hi Plump,

    > It <Chord> is not ignored Jeremy, it is only damn expensive and you can get lot of other power amps that sound great for just a fraction of that cost

    I was ready to take you up on this, but just checked what the Brystons cost. A 4B-ST is actually half the price of the equivalent Chord so fair enough, you probably do get 'best bang for your buck' from the Bryston. Now I begin to understand why they are so popular...

    I also have to confess that the only reason I managed to afford my Chords was that the 1200C was second hand. I would have had trouble paying full price for it. There was a bunch of second hand Chord amps on the TAG for sale pages recently, but yes, you don't see them often.

    > And for us owners, at least, there is nothing else then to hope they <TAG> will make it !

    This is an interesting point. I really wonder if TAG are making enough money to survive at the moment. I suspect not, but as Udo has occasionally commented they (and their investors) are in it for the long haul so can take early losses. And some bad pricing estimates haven't helped, Udo even claims they currently sell the DVD32R at a loss!

    I suspect (and actually hope) that they are going to recoup by making a better profit on upgrades. After all this is a well established business model; be competitive and sell cheap in the first place them recoup later through, e.g., spare parts. Don't some car manufacturers practically sell at a loss in some countries? I don't mind this aproach as it allows us to spread the cost of ownership. You may pay more for a given product in the end, but do so over some years. Plus you stay up to date technology-wise. But the recent TAG upgrade price announcements have really caused some howls! Poor Udo, he does get some undeserved stick sometimes.

    It's a bit of a paradox for us owners; on the one hand we need the company to survive so it's in our interest that they sell. For exmple sell lots of power amps, which probably make a profit. On the other hand forums like this are for helping each other out, a conflict of interest. In the end I guess the companies that survive are the ones that deserve to, so hopefully TAG will.

    End of off-topic ramble...
     
  27. Plump

    Plump
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    No, they still haven't earned a penny in total, but TAG is a big corporation, it might have been calculated, maybe, who knows!

    That's why they did calculation as they did, reg. upgrades. That's why they also gave up the idea of giving full price payed back (if upgrading from AV32R to AV192R) and made it as it is, more expensive then most expected. And for the other upgrades they do directly, there are fixed prices, no chance for couple of percents like when dealing with dealers. It is also the reason why it is not always better to buy basic and do upgrades over the time, unles funds are limited.
    Btw, reg. DVD32R calculation, It is sold to distributor for between 2,5 and 3 k€. Now you can make yourself the picture of mhow the prices are made. And Dr.Zuckers nonsense about giving it away cheap is real nonsense. 5,5-7k€ (as in Europe) is and will never be cheap. Maybe they do not get what they would like to get, but that's something else. TAG is same as Chord - overpriced. Only difference to Chord is there is enough of TAG gear second hand !

    I give you here 100% right, and hope they will make it over the bridge!

    End of my off-topic
     

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