Bryston Mini T Loudspeaker

Bryston, the long-standing Canadian audio manufacturer, is highly respected on a number of fronts. Their gear is superbly built, rugged, and reliable. They also offer virtually unmatched support with multi-year warranties on most components. Their amplification is used worldwide in both professional and domestic audio environments. Their digital source components have been well received by the world press and remain in residence in my current reference system.

As comprehensive as Bryston’s product line is, with power amps, preamps, integrated amplifiers, digital file players, and power products, there was until recently one omission: loudspeakers. This gap in their product line has been filled with an extensive lineup of speakers ranging from the Mini A “bookshelf” model all the way up to big and bold room-filling floorstanders.

Why speakers?

The impetus behind Bryston’s drive to produce loudspeakers in an already crowded and competitive area is their VP of Product Marketing, James Tanner. Tanner, in his quest for a speaker that would satisfy him personally, came up short in his search, and thus decided to pursue an original design that would achieve certain goals. His efforts translated into results that were satisfying enough that Bryston decided to distribute these designs commercially.

Bryston put a lot of resources into R&D, doing extensive testing, listening, and measuring with the help of fellow Canadian manufacturer Axiom, whose facilities are state of the art.  The speaker lines are all manufactured in Canada – no outsourcing here – and there is an accompanying unheard of twenty-year warranty.

The Mini T monitor loudspeaker in this review sells for $3,200. The Mini T is flanked by the Mini A, its smaller brother, and at the top of the line, the mighty Model T Signature flagship multi-way tower. There is nothing actually “mini” about the Mini T, as it stands 22.5“ high and weighs in at 42 lbs. The speaker is a three-way, with a 1” dome tweeter, a 5.25“ midrange driver, and an 8“ woofer.  The frequency response is stated as 33Hz to 20kHz, impressive at this price point.  Efficiency is average, at 86 dB, 4 ohms, nominal.

The Mini T is available in Black Ash, Boston Cherry, Natural Cherry, and in custom veneers at an additional charge. There are custom stands available to which the Mini T can be bolted. Out of the box, the Mini T exudes quality. The finish, construction, and binding posts are first class – what many have come to expect from Bryston.

The Mini T takes residence in good company. The speakers are driven by an Audio Research VS55 tube amp, the Simaudio 760A solid-state powerhouse and a Coffman Labs G1-A tube preamp. Sources are Simaudio’s NEO 380D DAC, Bryston’s own BDA-1 DAC, and a Revox A77 tape deck. Cabling is Stager, Transparent, and DH Labs with the Mini Ts sitting comfortably on custom Sound Anchor stands.

Getting down to business

After a relatively short 25-hour break-in period, the listener is treated to a wonderfully coherent, integrated, and live sound. The Mini Ts are not slow, midrange heavy classic British style monitors of yesteryear. They are very much a modern product, with amazingly low distortion levels, deep, very satisfying bass, and an open, transparent midrange.

Listening reveals the Mini Ts’ opposing strengths. They are incredibly nimble and quick, yet buttery smooth and relaxed at the same time, projecting an unusually deep soundstage to boot. The reverb feels wetter, note decays are longer, and timing is better than any other speaker at this price point that I’ve experienced.

The Cars studio albums, remastered at 24/192, sound fresh, vibrant, and not the least bit dated via the Mini T. It is a real treat to hear such classics as “Good Times Roll,” “Got a Lot on My Head,” “Candy O,” and others with crunchy guitars, articulated bass lines, and the classic vocals of Ric Ocasek and Ben Orr floating holographically in the center of the mix.

The latest album from immensely gifted jazz singer Gregory Porter, Liquid Spirit, 96 kHz download, plays to many of the Mini T’s strengths: accurate tonality, correct instrumental timbres, and musical pacing. Porter sings like a human cello, with a bit of the finesse of Nina Simone, and the conversational style of Bill Withers, and the Brystons render his voice in a most astonishingly present way.

The Mini Ts do the versatility thing without breaking a sweat. Orchestral pieces, classic Blue Note jazz ensemble recordings, and classic rock are just different channels on the dial for the Bryston. No matter the source – analog or digital – the Mini Ts easily draw you in. Listening to Steppenwolf’s Gold: Their Greatest Hits on reel-to-reel is one of the highlights of the review period. The fuzzed-out guitars, psychedelic arrangements, and the ominous vocals of John Kay have the house rocking.

The Pentangle’s sublime Basket of Light, on SHM-CD, a longtime reference for evaluating speakers, is presented in a way suggesting electrostatic-like transparency and dynamics, especially on the track “The Cuckoo,” with the late, great, John Renbourn and Bert Jancsh’s acoustic guitars, the wonder that is Jacqui McShee’s voice, and Danny Thompson’s otherworldly acoustic bass. I’ve had very few true jaw-dropping moments in hifi, but this was one of them. The Mini Ts could have passed for floorstanders, given the earthy, deep-rooted foundation of the music.

The Mini Ts are also a breeze to set up. They are not super fussy about room placement, but of course a bit of experimentation is advised. Being relatively close to boundaries does not cramp their style, like so many high end speakers.  This is due to the controlled way the Mini Ts’ drivers disperse energy into the room. Despite the cabinet not being designed to to “tame” resonances into oblivion, which can cause other problems, there is no apparent transient smearing or non-mechanical distortion present.

A solid performer indeed

Bryston, with the Mini T stand-mounted monitors, eschews the “flavor of the month” design and concentrates on maximizing the potential of a three-way dynamic loudspeaker. The results are a smashing success. The Mini Ts will remain in my system as a reference in this price point. My only complaint is the stamped metal jumpers, but that is a small problem easily solved.

It must be noted the Bryston Mini T will rise to occasion with high-quality partnered equipment. Great cables, amplification, and sources will pay huge dividends due to the speaker’s low distortion. Focusing on amplifier quality rather than overall power rating will pay dividends, and the Bryston dedicated stands are definitely worth a look. The Bryston Mini T monitors are among the best deals going. An audition is highly recommended. Bring your favorite recordings and prepare to be impressed.

Additional Listening

I’ve heard the Bryston speakers a few times at various shows and have always come away impressed, but it’s always nice to set them up in a familiar environment and make a few brief comparisons. On the heels of the impressive $4,000 Eggleston Emmas that are my budget reference, the Bryston Mini T delivers excellent performance.

The size is a bit odd, as they are not really big enough to be floorstanders, but hardly small enough to be considered small monitors. For most this should not be an issue, but small kids and tail-happy dogs might be problematic.

I agree with Andre: the Mini Ts are incredibly easy to set up and get great sound with minimal fuss. After the photographs were taken, I took the liberty of trying them in three separate rooms: a small but modestly treated room (10 x 13 feet), my large listening room (16 x 25 feet) and the living room in my house, which has to be the worst sounding room I’ve ever heard, yet it makes for a great “real world” listening environment. The Mini Ts shined in all three.

Having heard Bryston amplification in a number of the world’s finest recording studios, matched with PMC loudspeakers, I’d make this comparison. The Mini T is very linear, with wide dispersion and sounds great whether you are sitting on the couch or hanging out, listening on the floor in the corner of the room – a plus for a speaker that you want to share with friends. It should come as no surprise that the Mini Ts sound fantastic with Bryston amplification, but their chameleon-like character makes them a good match for anything else on the shelf, from a vintage Marantz receiver to the Boulder 2160 I have here for review. But beware that these speakers reveal what they are fed, so if you aren’t happy with the end result, it’s probably due to something not quite right in your system. As I tend to prefer sound tipped a bit more to the warm romantic side, I preferred the Mini Ts with tube gear, to inject a little extra midrange magic into the presentation, and again, because these speakers are so natural, you can easily fine tune them to your taste.

Lastly, don’t let the 86db sensitivity rating fool you. The Mini-Ts are incredibly easy to drive and will provide more than satisfying sound pressure levels in a modest room with 20 watts of tube power. I found the Retro i-50 integrated we reviewed last issue to be more than enough in my 10 x 13 foot room. Of course, more power will provide more dynamics, especially in a larger room and on the opposite end of the spectrum, the Mini-Ts delivered an equally impressive performance in y large room with the Pass Labs Xs 300 monoblocks. These are definitely speakers you can grow with!

For just over three grand, this company, well known for their electronics, has produced a winning loudspeaker. We are very happy to give them one of our Exceptional Value Awards for 2015. If you’re speaker shopping, stop by your nearest Bryston dealer with a few of your favorite tracks. –Jeff Dorgay

The Bryston Mini T Loudspeaker

MSRP:  $3,200


Amplifier Simaudio 760A    Audio Research VS55
Preamplifier Coffman Labs G1-A
Digital Simaudio Neo 380D    Bryston BDA-1
Server Simaudio MiND    SOtM sMS-100
Tape Deck Revox A77
Cables Transparent Audio    DH Labs    Stager    Acoustic Zen
Accessories Symposium    Audience    Sound Anchor

REVIEW: Bryston BP 1.5 Phonostage

Listening to Serge Gainsbourg’s low drawl, mixed with groovy, early 70’s melodies and sparse instrumentation reminiscent of a beat movie, it dawns on me that even though I don’t speak a word of French, I don’t care because the Bryston BP 1.5 phono stage is really drawing me into this vintage recording.

Its low, low, noise floor adds to the splendor of this record, barely getting above a whisper.  Surface noise would be a bad thing right about now, but the BP 1.5 is CD dead quiet, combined with the AVID Volvere SP turntable, SME V tonearm and Ortofon Cadenza Bronze MC cartridge.

The BP1.5 isn’t an inexpensive phonostage.  MSRP is $3,195 without power supply.  Bryston loyalists already in possession of a BP series linestage, need just plug in – the MPS-2 has more than enough juice to cover both components.  If you fall into this category, the BP1.5 is an outright bargain.  Everyone else will need to add the MPS-2 for another $1,695. Thanks to Bryston’s 20-year warranty, this is a product that you can buy with confidence.  While this does sound impressive, they wouldn’t offer it if their stuff spent a lot of time in the shop with the hood up.  I don’t think I’ve ever met an unhappy Bryston owner.

Getting down to business

A matched pair of AVID turntables simplifies the task of comparing analog components, and it takes aural memory out of the equation.  Switching back to the Monk – Audio phonostage that I’ve been using in room two was a revelation. Even with a pair of modestly priced Dynavector 20X2L cartridges, the increase in weight and dynamics the Bryston offers is staggering – so much so, that I had to turn the REL G2 subwoofer down three clicks.  But then I’m a sucker for any phonostage that has a huge power supply.

A quick comparison between the BP1.5 and a few other phonostages, both more and less expensive establishes that the Bryston is properly priced. Returning to the AVID/SME/Ortofon combination for the remainder of the evaluation is an excellent combination.  The BP1.5 has a single RCA input and output.  The front panel has an on off switch with an LED that turns from red to green when the unit is fully powered. I suggest leaving it on all the time for the most musical results. (As I would with any solid state phonostage) While the BP1.5 only requires a few days to stabilize and does not change tonal character after about 50 hours, there is a definite fog in the presentation when first turned on, as with all solid-state gear.  It sounds much more lifelike after being powered up for a day or two.

A quick taste of Led Zeppelin II, reveals plenty of sock in John Bonham’s bass drums, and the level of texture present in his bongo playing during the drum solo in “Ramble On” is phenomenal.  The precise attack and decay goes a long way towards painting a highly realistic musical picture.  As the album slows down for “Bring it on Home,” the harmonica just fades gently, slowly into nothingness with a smoothness that’s tough to come by in the digital world without spending a lot more of your hard earned paycheck.

Aimee Mann’s Lost In Space has become somewhat of a workhorse around here because it has such a big soundfield, along with a myriad of small, electronic sounds and texture that make it easy to get a quick read on the spaciousness present in any analog component.  The BP1.5 does not disappoint, portraying things flying all over the room, yet Mann’s voice stays anchored just slightly left of center.

Stays locked in place

The BP 1.5 delivers rock solid musical pace. The more dense the recording, the more you will be impressed with it.  Tears For Fears recent MoFi remaster of Songs of Love again illustrates how well the BP 1.5 not only maintains clarity throughout the album, keeping the multiple layers of lead and backing vocals distinct, it stays  tonally neutral and does not embellish.  The BP1.5 will not help the records in your collection that sound awful, but it will take the well recorded ones into new territory.  It strikes a perfect balance in the tonality department, being neither thin nor overly forward.  Yet you will never mistake this one for having valves under the hood.

You might suspect that a phonostage with a larger power supply than the main chassis would have excellent dynamic range, lower bass slam and control.  The BP1.5 meets all these requirements, and if there is one strength standing out from a very balanced performance, it is the BP1.5’s LF weight and No matter what the program source, I was always impressed with how much energy was now coming through down deep.  The Dynaudio Confidence C1s used in my reference system gained more authority than I’m used to with the Bryston BP1.5 in the reproduction chain, and these speakers are no slouch to begin with.

Because the BP1.5 has such a low noise floor, it is a master of low-level detail. This is its other strength.  Those stepping up from a phonostage in the $1,000 – $2,000 range will experience a revelation with their vinyl collection that should make for many late night listening sessions.  The healthiest competitor for the BP1.5 I had on hand was the equally excellent, but different, Zesto Andros PS1 that we reviewed in issue 48.  Vacuum tube all the way, the Zesto has an extra bit of air and front to back depth that the Bryston does not, but it doesn’t have the rock solid LF performance either.  Your personal objectives and system synergy will determine if the BP1.5 is the perfect match for you.

One of the last listening sessions confirms the straight-ahead tonality of the BP1.5 is the latest release from the Portland Cello Project, Homage. This record is of only fair quality and comes across somewhat flat in comparison to something like the Jung Trio’s The Jung Trio Dvorak Piano Trio, Op.65, which is flawlessly recorded.

A variety of test-drives

The BP1.5 has modest adjustments, but you’ll have to pull the cover to get at them.  Fortunately the 35dB gain setting for MM (41db available) or 57.5dB setting for MC (51.5 or 63.5dB available) will handle most cartridges.  Because transformers are used for step up, the impedance of your cartridge will affect synergy.  Dynavector, Lyra and Ortofon cartridges proved a great mix, while my Sumiko Palo Santos was only ok, lacking a bit of dynamics with this setup.  The Grado Statement 1, a moving iron cartridge with a 47k impedance, yet only .5mv of output is not a perfect match with the BP 1.5, however the wood body Grados with 5mv output are an excellent combination for someone desiring a bit of tonal saturation, with a substantial shot of solid state punch.

Is it your cup of tea?

The Bryston BP 1.5 phono stage is a top performer and makes no missteps, but understand its honest presentation will not favor cartridges and/or systems that are already biased towards the forward and analytical.  Both the Sumiko Blackbird and Lyra Titan-i proved way too revealing for my taste.  I suspect a more neutral or even slightly warm cartridge is going to be your slice of analog heaven.

Build quality is superb and Bryston’s reputation is well deserved.  Perhaps the only question, with the BP1.5 tipping the scale at just over $5,000 is whether a single input is enough and having to open the case every time loading needs to be changed is a deal breaker. Those more firmly planted in the “set it, forget it, and spin records camp” will love the steadfast consistency of the BP1.5.  The more fiddly ones in the audience may end up preferring something easier to adjust.
All other considerations aside, judging the Bryston BP1.5 solely on it’s sonic performance, it delivers the goods and compared to other phonostages we’ve auditioned in the $4,000 – $6,000 range, is well worth the price asked.

The Bryston BP1.5 phonostage and MPS-2 power supply

MSRP:  $3,195 (BP1.5) $1,695 (MPS-2)


Analog Source                        AVID Volvere SP, SME V tonearm, variety of phono cartridges, mentioned in review

Preamplifier                          Burmester 011

Power Amplifier                    Burmester 911 mk. 3

Speakers                                Dynaudio Confidence C1 II, REL G-2 Subwoofer

Power                                     Audience aR6-TSS, PowerChord AU24

Cable                                      Cardas Clear

Accessories                             GIK room treatment, Furutech DeMag and DeStat, Audio Desk Systeme RCM