Don’t imagine the sound is as big as it is powerful; this is a tightly controlled, dry and taut performer. Some will find the dryness of the sound too arid and light – those who live for rhythm often use amplifiers and speakers that can sound lean, and the addition of this player could pitch that over the edge. Also, those who have engineered their sound for a mellifluous, sumptuous performance might find this player somewhat lacking when it comes to mile-wide soundstage. These are the extremes of audiophile use, though… and those in the middle ground will find much to like in the BCD-1.
If you selected your system on the grounds of absolute accuracy then you will love the precision of the Bryston player, but for once this precision is allied to a sense of musical enjoyment and insight both into the music and the performance that’s very alluring. It’s an earthy precision; you get the feeling of peering round the door of the recording studio control room, but you also get the feeling of musical entertainment rather than musical analysis.
The acid test of any CD player with the Bryston’s character is the brass section of an orchestra. Too stark and the player turns French Horns into powerful oboes; too brash and the brass dominates the orchestral sound entire. Here it trod carefully between the two, giving a sense of insight into the music, even if this is not the sort of CD player that readily lets you listen into the soundstage. And neither did the mid-band let the side down. It might not have the transparency of topnotch players, but neither is it veiled or sat upon in the midrange.
There is a (probably unsurprising) commonality between the sound of this CD player and Bryston’s amplification. That powerful, highly rhythmic and slightly toppy sound found on Bryston amps appears here. Strangely though, I don’t think this will undermine the overall Bryston sound. It will not sound more toppy or bright when CD and amp are partnered together… instead it will just sound bright and bold and energetic. It’s also little wonder that Bryston and PMC have a close connection; judging by the BCD-1, the sound is very studio-like in its directness and accuracy. It’s a player that ticks all the right boxes, which is more than many rivals do. Much of what you are enjoying on other, similarly priced players is deviation from the Red Book standard. Personally, I prefer this more precise approach, even if it’s perhaps not the most immediately gratifying.
Ultimately, if this player doesn’t stir the blood, you should get checked over for anaemia. The Bryston BCD-1 is never going to appeal to those who like their music slightly softened and beautifully presented, but if you love music for the experience and use the words ‘soul’, ‘feel’ or ‘passion’ when talking about your music… oh boy!