A visit to Nickyp (Bryston vs Hypex, Cyrus/Croft vs Benchmark!)

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A visit to Nickyp (Bryston vs Hypex, Cyrus/Croft vs Benchmark!)

Postby MisterMat » Sun Jul 11, 2010 2:55 pm

I had the pleasure of trekking over to Nick's place in Essex yesterday, carrying most of my hifi with me (well, a Benchmark DAC1 and pair of Hypex 400 mono amps anyway!)

Nick's got a really nice setup, Focal 1007 BE speakers with matching stands, an enormous Bryston 4B SST-C monster amp, Cyrus CD8SE CD player plus PSX-R, and a Croft Micro 25 tube preamp. He was definitely right to keep the Focals because they sounded damn good on the end of the Bryston when I was there.

Goodbye Croft, hello Benchmark

However I did have an initial reaction was that something wasn't quite sounding right - the sound was a bit wooly and the midrange was quite coloured - so after listening to a couple of songs before I switched out the Croft tube preamp for the Benchmark DAC1, feeding it with the digital output of the CD8SE. This made a BIG improvement. Everything was more cleaner and more detailed, and no harsher or anything than before despite saying goodbye to the tubes. Tighter bass, cleaner midrange, more detailed treble, just win all round. We kept the DAC1 in place until just before I left. Unfortunately we didn't have the means to separate the DAC in the CD8SE and the Croft preamp (since my Benchmark doesn't have an analogue input) but from the character of the differences and from the good reputation of CD8SE I am convinced the biggest difference was replacing the Croft tube amp with the quality passive preamp in the Benchmark. I think Nick could get a good amount of that improvement by just moving to a quality passive preamp (uh like the one he sold to buy the Croft :D), but I think he's determined to get a quality DAC now! This was by far the biggest difference we came across, much bigger than switching between the Bryston and Hypex amps.

Bryston vs Hypex

We spent most of our listening time comparing the Bryston to my Hypex amps (made from the Hypex 400 modules and constructed by Ianmac). The Hypex amps look hilariously small next to the Bryston, and weight a fraction of the amount, but the finish is exemplary - as Nick observed all they need is a brand! I was doubtful of how they would stand up, simply because of the massive size difference, the much lower price (£720 for the modules plus cost of boxes and construction versus £3500+ for the Bryston) and the lower rated power. I think it's fair to say that the Hypex definitely held their own against the Bryston. Both have an iron grip over the speakers but the presentation is rather different and I think the perceived differences will largely come down to personal preferences, showing the importance of home demo at this price point.

My personal impressions (Nicks may be different) were that the Hypex were a bit more detailed and controlled and had a more precise sound stage. There was a sensation of every instrument and voice coming from a distinct point in space, whereas with the Bryston the origins were not quite so pin point precise and the sound was blended together, a wall of sound as Nick put it. However this is not necessarily a negative, the flip side is there more of a feeling of the music flowing towards you, whereas the Hypex captivate you with detail and soundstage. The bass is really tight and controlled with the Hypex, a bit looser with the Bryston but with a feeling of real class A grunt! The treble although more detailed to my ears with the Hypex is also smoother, and tracks that sounded a fraction harsh when played really loud on the Bryston (trumpets, violins) were more manageable on the Hypex. Once again, the character of each amp is more important than any objective differences in performance and will be perceived differently by different individuals. Having said that, I preferred the Hypex.

Different sources into the Benchmark

What else - we also compared the CD8SE + PSX-R as a digital source against Nick's old Marantz CD player (no idea of the model but looks like a relic from the 80s!) and here the anti-jitter goodness on the Benchmark worked it's magic. We think there was a difference between the two - very slightly softer and a bit less bite with the Marantz - but it's pretty subtle and you'd never spot it unless the two were played side by side (and even then you'd miss it unless you knew which was which before hand...) I was testing with tracks that I know from experience show up these differences most (solo acoustic guitar plus vocals)

Focals vs ATC SCM 40s?

With the Croft out of the way (bye bye!) and the Benchmark DAC1 in, Nick's setup was sounding really good. Hard to compare against my ATC SCM 40s at home since the room is very different, smaller and with inconveniently placed objects - get that cupboard out of there Nick! However my feeling is that the ATCs are more even and neutral throughout the frequency range and with more defined bass (bigger boxes duh), but the Focals are sweeter sounding, putting a bit of their own character into the sound. Despite their reputation on certain forums the Focals are NOT harsh which played with this gear, obviously when you play raw trumpets, badly mastered violins or shrieking opera singers at 100dB it has a bit of an edge, but I wouldn't say they are any more forward or hard on the ear than my ATCs at home. One benefit of the Focals is they add a bit of sweetness to music that really benefits from it, such as rock or electronic which sounded particularly good on Nick's setup. On the other hand, jazz, classical and acoustic seems to my ears to benefit from the extra space and neutrality of the ATC SCM 40s. Again, this is comparing two different rooms at different points in time and so really isn't objective at all :rolleyes:

It wasn't all nerding, we also listening to a lot of music, drank beer and ate curry! :)

How does that tally with your experience Nick?

Matthew.

nickyp

RE: A visit to Nickyp (Bryston vs Hypex, Cyrus/Croft vs Benchmark!)

Postby nickyp » Sun Jul 11, 2010 3:27 pm

Yo - pleasure to have you over mate. Hope the journey back wasn't too terrible- glad to see you made it through Barking alive.

I'm not going to read your review until I have written how I saw it pan out:

Firstly I think the Hypex amps are amazing both in terms of their weight and dimensions and VFM. I think we commented that you were pretty fortunate to have them made by someone in cu for more or less cost price, because no manufacturer in the world would sell tham at the price you paid. You can hear that they are £2,000+ amps, at least at what would be retail price. As you said they have excellent soundstaging and a very precise nature. They also hit hard. I think you found them to be superior to the Bryston. IMO, while I think you could certainly hear differences in the style and presentation, I don't think I could say one was better than the other from one track to the next.

In terms of the dac/pre, the benchmark reminds me of how my setup was with EVA - or at least all the good things. It's really clear and the instruments seperate well. The Croft, which I am sending back anyway due to a continuous fault (I suspect a loose connection somewhere which creates waves of static noises, although it behaved when matt was round) is a valve based pre. It's relatively laid back and smears sounds together a little. This was initially my answer to what I perceived to be treble issues with the 1007be's, although I think in hindsight I should have stayed solid state and just let the Bryston clean things up.

It's a shame we didn't get to listen to the DAC in the 8se running through a decent/fully working pre (EVA II for example) because I think it would have stood up to the Benchmark 100%. That said, I think if I can consolidate my cd8se, psx-r AND preamp into one tiny Benchmark shaped box then that is the way to go. I intend to hear a few others in the price range but last night was essentially a demo and I liked what I heard.

Interestingly for the 'transport' people on here Matt and I experimented with an old Marantz vs CD8SE into the Benchmark. Differences? Yes, but very very subtle indeed.

Right now I will read what you thought Matt. Thanks again for making the trip :)

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RE: A visit to Nickyp (Bryston vs Hypex, Cyrus/Croft vs Benchmark!)

Postby MisterMat » Sun Jul 11, 2010 3:42 pm

[quote="'nickyp' pid='175371' dateline='1278862029'"]Right now I will read what you thought Matt. Thanks again for making the trip :)[/quote]

It was a pleasure! Thoroughly worth the trip. Hopefully what I've written will roughly tally with your experience :)

You're right about me being incredibly lucky to have Ianmac to put together my Hypex modules for me, it's worth pointing out that Hypex sell complete amps which are about EU900 each so I guess we should be comparing the Hypex with amps in the £1700 range, but for those with a bit of engineering knowledge it remains a very cost effective solution. As I said, the character of the amps differs more than their performance which is about equal.

Also agree that at least 90% of the difference between the Croft/CD8SE and the Benchmark is down to your pre. Frankly, I'm wondering whether it's malfunctioning because it's introducing considerable smearing?

As I said, I recommend you look at the Lavry DA10/DA11 - others will recommend the Bel Canto DACs I am sure, but there is a serious cost differential involved (though maybe the new "budget" 1.5 model might be worthy of consideration)

Matthew.
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RE: A visit to Nickyp (Bryston vs Hypex, Cyrus/Croft vs Benchmark!)

Postby IanS1 » Sun Jul 11, 2010 4:20 pm

Great review guys. Would love to hear those hypex amps some day. Infact, I might have a go at building a pair at some point. When I had crimsondonkeys old Bryston in my system for a few weeks I very much enjoyed it but did find it slightly hard edged with some music but for grip and control is was really very good indeed.

Don't underestimate a good separate pre-amplifier Nicky. SimonJ was using the BC DAC3 with his BC REF's. The DAC3 has a digital volume control built in which Simon had always been very happy with. When we put the Sugden Masterclass pre into his system the difference was really quite something, you could tell by the way Simons chin hit the floor after the first few seconds.
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RE: A visit to Nickyp (Bryston vs Hypex, Cyrus/Croft vs Benchmark!)

Postby hifinutt » Sun Jul 11, 2010 6:44 pm

what a fascinating write up . having considered the bryston carefully recently its good to find the hypex class d were so impressive .
i keep on and on improving my pre amp but have only impoved on my class d power amps once in all that time, they have tremendous qualities . very sweet and control my focals well

glad also you made that point about the focals , i do love the 1007/1008 very natural and no harshness

after reading this i am considering whether adding a dac to my leema antila would be worth while
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RE: A visit to Nickyp (Bryston vs Hypex, Cyrus/Croft vs Benchmark!)

Postby nickyp » Sun Jul 11, 2010 8:00 pm

Yeah I agree with all that I think. I am just checking out dac prices while watching world cup final.... :) :D

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RE: A visit to Nickyp (Bryston vs Hypex, Cyrus/Croft vs Benchmark!)

Postby wyjsar » Sun Jul 11, 2010 8:04 pm

[quote="'hifinutt' pid='175387' dateline='1278873859'"]
after reading this i am considering whether adding a dac to my leema antila would be worth while
[/quote]
From what I read, the DAC implementation in the Antila (20 chips) is pretty sophisticated as it is so not sure if you would really get much benefit by adding a separate DAC; I think you get enough sound variation by changing cables as it is Phil - an off board DAC would only muddy the waters even further!

[quote="'nickyp' pid='175395' dateline='1278878452'"]
Yeah I agree with all that I think. I am just checking out dac prices while watching world cup final.... :) :D
[/quote]
Off thread - a pretty terrible game imo.
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RE: A visit to Nickyp (Bryston vs Hypex, Cyrus/Croft vs Benchmark!)

Postby crimsondonkey » Sun Jul 11, 2010 8:29 pm

[quote="'hifinutt' pid='175387' dateline='1278873859'"]

after reading this i am considering whether adding a dac to my leema antila would be worth while
[/quote]

I was really impressed with your CDP Phil, and at the time we plugged the QBD76 in and it wasn't substantially more revealing.

The Chord DAC is one of the very best out there so it might be worth another listen, and if you don't hear much improvement I can pretty much guarantee that you won't hear much from other DACs - and you can save yourself some money!

Let me know - happy to bring it over again - love to hear your 'new' system!
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RE: A visit to Nickyp (Bryston vs Hypex, Cyrus/Croft vs Benchmark!)

Postby nickyp » Sun Jul 11, 2010 9:45 pm

Image

Audio carnage.

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RE: A visit to Nickyp (Bryston vs Hypex, Cyrus/Croft vs Benchmark!)

Postby algorythm » Mon Jul 12, 2010 12:00 am

Great writeup, can't wait to hear those Hypex amps!

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RE: A visit to Nickyp (Bryston vs Hypex, Cyrus/Croft vs Benchmark!)

Postby Ianmac » Mon Jul 12, 2010 8:15 am

Thanks Mathew and Nick for a very interesting write up.
Ive not had the opportunity to stand the Hypex up against Bryston but reads like they held their ground very well. As an advocate of Hypex Class D and properly designed SMPS power supplies I'm very pleased.

One interesting point to me is the effect of the Benchmark DAC and how, when using it, an old CD transport was revitalised. It proves the jitter performance of the Benchmark is what they claim it to be. I use my Benchmark with a Littledot CDP (£230ish) and I would be prepared to stand it up against the latest Cyrus CD product.
With my Squeezebox it is superb.
( Im watching Mathews exercise in building a streamer very closely)

I think Form Factor is the modern term for box size.
Both the Hypex and Benchmark are a fraction of the volume of the Cyrus Boxes I had.
1 Benchmark at 1 3/4 " high = 1 Cyrus DACXP +1 Cyrus PSX and the Hypex is 60% of the volume of a Mono X.
I had a rack with 6 Cyrus boxes its now down to half its original volume with only 1 Cyrus box an FMX.

Anyone in the market for a DAC must look at the Benchmark DAC1 PRE- It knocks competitors at twice its price into a box.
Enough has been said about Hypex -you need a little DIY. From the info Ive sent out to CUers a few must be thinking of building.

Good "Sound for your Pound" is out there.

Thanks again for all your work Mathew,

Ianmac
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RE: A visit to Nickyp (Bryston vs Hypex, Cyrus/Croft vs Benchmark!)

Postby Mr.C » Mon Jul 12, 2010 9:27 am

Nice report there guys :-)

All you southern Jesse's seem to get all the fun!

My obseravtions based on these two are not two dissimular, the Bryston though can be a little dry sounding and matter of fact, though with plenty of power and openness to the sound.

The Hypex, would have greater detail, a 'cleaner' sound, tighter bass and I suspect be more 'alive'.

Though the focals will show any differenices easily, they do have a superb tweeter, incrediably sweet and hugely open, they also produce a big sound for their size, oh and they disappear well too!

Sound like you guys had a great time!
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RE: A visit to Nickyp (Bryston vs Hypex, Cyrus/Croft vs Benchmark!)

Postby nickyp » Mon Jul 12, 2010 10:14 am

Cheers guys, glad you enoyed our thoughts... any dealers want to sell me a Lavry DAC?

nickyp

RE: A visit to Nickyp (Bryston vs Hypex, Cyrus/Croft vs Benchmark!)

Postby nickyp » Mon Jul 12, 2010 1:36 pm

So far £950 on SOR for the da10 is best offer. Quite tempted to order one but ideally will sell Cyrus front end first...

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RE: A visit to Nickyp (Bryston vs Hypex, Cyrus/Croft vs Benchmark!)

Postby hifinutt » Tue Jul 13, 2010 9:29 pm

thanks folks , i`ll stay with the antila at the moment , just waiting now for some stonking new power amps so that should keep me happy for a while altho trying out the vermouth snow white was good, now got a siltech in and next week got a jps superconducctor to play with ...... ah what fun !!!
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