Bryston BP-26, Stereo Preamp With Remote, $5740
Bryston’s BP-26 preamp has been on the short list of the finest preamps money can buy for many years. Just because it’s been out a while, I don’t want you to look past how special it is. In a recent conversation with Bryston president Brian Russell, he confirmed there are no plans to change it. It remains in the top echelon of the finest preamps on the market!
Let’s analyze the construction of fine preamps these days. In the process we’ll see how Bryston was among the leaders of the pack.
BP-26 has an outboard power supply chassis, chock full of componentry that Bryston prefers not to have on the same chassis as the audio board. While this has become common place today for top level preamps, BP-26 was among the first to employ this. The MPS-2 power supply was smartly designed to support not just BP-26, but also the BP 1.5 phono preamp, and several older Bryston preamp designs from yesteryear. MPS-2 provides those customers (BP-20, BP-25 and 10B crossover) with the ability to upgrade performance without trading in. Think about that for a minute. If you bought a BP-20 that came out in 1992, you can STILL upgrade it today by adding MPS-2. By the way, that BP-20 JUST went out of warranty. Bryston’s warranty remains 20 years! Nobody else is close.
BP-26 has two sets of Balanced Inputs and one set of Balanced Outputs. This has also become the norm for high end preamps today. Again, BP-26 was among the first to offer true balanced operation, IN AND OUT! BP-26 also has two sets of RCA preamp outs, and RCA ins for CD, Tuner, Video, Disc and a tape loop. The XLR option has become a must today.
BP-26 is very flexible in that you can choose to have Bryston build in options. Bryston’s DAC runs $6400. Bryston MC phono is $1500, Bryston MM phono is $750. BP-26 has a fine on board headphone amp to support the 1/4” jack. You also get a mono/stereo switch which is useful for us old codgers who enjoy some monaural source material. Even today, most competitors make you buy their DAC & phono off shore- which doubles the price.
Not only was Bryston ahead of its time with design layout and options, it was also far ahead of the pack in sound quality. The low noise floor of BP-26 is legendary, 103dB. THD is absurdly low at
.0015% at 3v (approximately triple what it takes to drive most power amps!). What this means is that Bryston’s noise floor and distortion are vanishingly low- and will never intrude upon your music.
In 2000 we carried the Avantgarde horn speakers from Germany. By 2007 the pricing had doubled and knocked ’em out of the USA market. But that’s another story. The efficiency of the Duo was 104dB. They were absolutely unforgiving of electronics that had anything less than a dead silent noise floor. Consequently, there were many “fine sounding” brands of electronics that simply were not enjoyable with the Avantgardes. Between an unacceptable noise floor at idle, or even more so as music was played, we had to choose our electronic interface carefully. Since we sold Bryston, it was easy! Anything Bryston would run the horns without intrusion. BP-26 was a slam dunk as the preamp that delivered the music but stayed out of the road- for these tremendously revealing loudspeakers.
BP-26 has the most solid, accurate bass going. There is no tinge of FAT or softness in the lower registers. For those of us in love with the grand piano and stand up bass fiddle, there is no end to the appreciation for this control. The midrange performance of BP-26 is as clear and uncolored as any preamp on the market. Most preamps cast a soft glow in the midrange. BP-26 remains faithful to the source and doesn’t put rose colored glasses on. Likewise in the top end, BP-26 has air and space that doesn’t quit- with a perfectly black background to let you appreciate your quiet music. The best terms for BP-26 are, quiet, detailed, solid and accurate- imparting no discernible color of its own.
Unless you’re looking for a preamp to sprinkle steak sauce on your steak, BP-26 is as good as it gets. You’ll taste the steak with no embellishment!