Bryston Mini T Speaker System Page 2

Overall, the Mini T’s sound was remarkably neutral. Rich high-frequency content like brushed cymbals was persuasively present without the “ting” or “tizz” that high-frequency peaks can impart, and the vocal octaves, to which our ears are most attuned, were virtually perfect. The Brystons passed the James Taylor/Jackson Browne/Joan Baez test by declining to make the first sound any bassier, the second any honkier, and the third any flutier than each should. (It’s a rare speaker that doesn’t add a touch to one or another.) The soundstage on natural-acoustic recordings was quite good: The Mini Ts conjured at least an extra speaker’s width beyond their physical placement and a modest but quite audible sense of depth, while left-to-right localization and stability were superb.

Stereo listening whetted my appetite for multichannel, sharply. The Mini T Subwoofer turned out to be an easy setup. It’s a vertical dual-8-inch, 600-watt (since it’s from Bryston, presumably honestly rated watts!) design that looks like the Mini T’s well-fed big brother (though the sub is the only sealed-enclosure member of the suite). It’s not particularly compact in cubic-volume terms, but its comparatively tall and slim layout might just raise its livability quotient in many cases. The sub provides the usual crossover and control complement, with both balanced-line and high-level inputs (the latter somewhat unusual in a high-end subwoofer), along with conventional RCA line inputs and a defeatable subsonic filter. As always, though, I used my pre/pro’s crossover, settling on 50 Hz (even though the Mini Ts go considerably lower.) This frequency was chosen in an attempt to tame the last bit of midbass buildup in the room. I really couldn’t pull the speakers any further out from the wall! (The Mini T Sub has no auto-on/off feature but does include a 12-volt trigger facility. It also proffers a USB port that isn’t mentioned in any of Bryston’s literature and didn’t seem to be live, so is likely to only be useful in the event of future software updates.)

The result was outstanding subwoofer-satellite integration with very little fuss, so with the 5.1 layout fully balanced up, I played a favored SACD of Mahler’s Third Symphony, and the hackles of my neck rose immediately. These Brystons are immensely transparent speakers: I could hear the full depth and breadth of the huge orchestra, and the powerful brass statements and restatements of the opening theme were chillingly lifelike. I had no difficulty reproducing this ultra-large-scale recording at an actual concert level, but doing so demanded a volume setting on my preamp just 1 decibel below THX reference level—no shock there, as none of these are rated a particularly high-sensitivity loudspeaker. (The Mini T is specified at 86 dB SPL at 1 watt/meter, about 2 to 3 dB less sensitive than many a similar-size speaker.) So in a substantially larger room, even more amplifier power would by no means be out of order. [Ed. Note: Indeed, our lab tests came up with 82 dB sensitivity, even louder than the stated spec, and confirmed the rated 4-ohm impedance. A tough load, are these.—RS]

Nor were the Mini T and its mates impressive only on the big stuff. A Channel Classics SACD of Franck’s Sonata in A (the cello version) was truly mesmerizing: Violoncello tonality and expression, from the lowest C to the highest harmonics, were as convincing as I’ve ever heard from reproduced sound. A couple of favorite Tower of Power tracks streamed from my library also enthralled: The Mini T delivered sharply lifelike edges to brass transients, and the “puff” of a Hammond B3 stabbed with mighty realism.


High-Impact Movies
Given the Brystons’ music performance, I had little fear that movie sound would reproduce just as effectively. When I dipped into my Blu-ray stash more or less at random—the ’copter scenes from Black Hawk Down, the storm sequence from Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, pretty much any random chapter from Avatar—my impression was confirmed.

The AC1 Mini center makes an almost perfect tonal match to the Mini Ts, so the front stage was seamless and lateral pans buttery smooth. (Though the AC1 Mini sounded just marginally brighter than the Mini Ts, which may or may not have been a deliberate, dialogue-sharpening design choice.) At the surround positions, the Mini As suffer the liability, in my book, of not being a dipole or surround-dedicated bipole design, but they are very fine speakers nevertheless. (They’re a very close tonal match to the Mini Ts above 50 Hz or so.) With judicial placement, washing along my side walls, they worked fine, providing quite decent envelopment and more than enough dynamic ability for this service.

Put all of that together, and the system’s performance on material like the opening attack sequence from Pearl Harbor (the film’s only 20 minutes worth mentioning) was as high-impact as I’ve ever experienced. Here, as elsewhere, the Mini T Subwoofer shone as a highly capable deep-bass provider. It proved fully able to keep up, dynamically, with the Mini Ts on the most challenging deep-bass episodes, even to well beyond my normal overall volume tolerance. But I felt that surround music was what really showed the Brystons to fullest advantage. The restrained credits music of Saving Private Ryan may not be Maestro John Williams’ most stirring opus, but the Blu-ray’s sonic presentation was a knockout: broad, deep, superbly detailed, totally spatially integrated, and tonally perfect.

These are, in short, very, very well-executed loudspeakers, crafted and finished to Bryston’s long-established high standards, speakers that will fully reveal what is on a recording for better or for worse. They are also big, heavy, and expensive, and (especially with the Mini T’s two-piece magnetic-stick grilles in place) they look more 1974 than 2014. But I’d wager that the potential owners Bryston has in mind—serious serious audiophiles—won’t give a hamster’s hindquarters either.