Hands On: Bryston BDP-1 Digital Player
A bold musical statement for the digital age.
December 21, 2012 by Arlen Schweiger

I’m a big vinyl enthusiast, but even I can admit that there’s more mainstream interest in digital audio. The problem with traditional playback of such files, whether compressed MP3s or higher-res FLAC and AIFF formats, is a system usually revolves around a computer. Macs and PCs can certainly offer serviceable interfaces for cataloging and selecting music, with programs such as iTunes or MediaMonkey, but they can also introduce adverse factors, like clocking, soundcard and physical computer noise issues. Plus, depending on your setup you could be juggling the equalization of the PC’s soundcard, the music aggregator software and whatever A/V receiver you may have connected with a digital-to-analog converter (DAC).

Canadian manufacturer Bryston has seen the future of music playback, and it’s basically a CD player without the disc. The company simply calls it a digital player, which it boldly introduced as the BDP-1 (Bryston recently rolled out the second-gen BDP-2), and it removes the computer from the equation of an audiophile-grade digital system.

What’s great about the BDP-1 is that it strips down the potentially daunting world of a computer-based audio system and rebuilds it as the more familiar component-based system. The silver chassis (also available in black) fits right in with other pieces from the company. It’s sleek and slim, but at 12 pounds you know there’s also plenty under the hood. However, the company notes that the BDP-1 does not have moving parts or a hard drive, which also makes it a nice, silent option over a computer’s fan noise.

Bryston says the inside features “a fanless motherboard with an integrated processor and flash drive memory,” running essentially a Linux lite operating system. The Bryston-modified soundcard can play native resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz, and the company adds that the BDP-1 boots in read-only mode to avoid system crashes.

How do you play files? Two USB ports on the left side of the front panel let you connect thumb drives or larger USB hard drives, presumably brimming with content (that you’ve loaded via a computer). There’s a small onscreen display, and the right side of the front includes conventional navigation buttons (previous, next, stop, play, pause) to complement up/down/right/left arrows.

The rear panel includes S/PDIF and dedicated AES/EBU XLR balanced outputs, plus Ethernet and RS-232 control ports, and two more USB 2.0 ports. Bryston’s BR-2 can be used, as well as iOS and Android devices (with proper apps), for remote controls.

The BDP-1 was easy to integrate into my system. Although it can be connected directly to some Bryston integrated amplifiers and preamps via their optional DAC modules, the BDP-1 otherwise requires an external DAC so Bryston shipped it to me with its excellent BDA-1 (which also got a recent next-gen release, BDA-2).

I connected the BDP-1 to the BDA-1 via the AES/EBU using the included cable, and kept the balanced XLR chain going by using a pair of balanced Clarus Aqua cables to hook into the 2-channel inputs of my Anthem D2v preamplifier. The rest of my setup includes balanced connection to Anthem’s P5 amplifier and Clarus Aqua speaker cables running bi-wired to Paradigm Studio 20 bookshelf speakers.

How the BDP-1 and BDA-1 look stacked>

I also ran an Ethernet cable from the BDP-1 to my home network router, and used the Bryston “Mini” browser interface of my iPod touch to select tracks. All I had to do was plug the BDP-1’s IP address into the Safari browser to get the Mini interface working, and its basic functions were simple to command.

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Arlen Schweiger - Contributor, Electronic House Magazine
Arlen writes about home technology installations and product news and reviews for electronichouse.com and Electronic House magazine.

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