Bryston has been designing and manufacturing high-end audio electronics for consumers and professionals for over 35 years. The company is based in Peterborough, Ontario, and its products are sold through 150 dealers in North America and 60 countries worldwide. When I heard Bryston was going to start making speakers I wasn't all that sure what to expect. Why now -- what's changed?
Turns out Bryston Vice President James Tanner didn't set out to get into the speaker business, he just wanted to build an in-house factory reference speaker system. Just one pair of speakers, for himself. Then everyone who heard the speakers encouraged Tanner to put them in production, resulting in what's now sold as the T series speakers. The A3 I'm reviewing here is from Bryston's more affordably priced A series line.
Bryston brought out a complete line of in-wall, on-wall, bookshelf, center, and tower speakers, and subwoofers. For this review I selected the A3, a small tower -- 37.5x9.25x15 inches, with a 1-inch dome tweeter, a 5.25-inch midrange, and two 6.5-inch woofers. The front baffle's midrange driver is mounted on a separate sub enclosure, internally isolated from the woofers. The A3 is unusual in that it has front- and rear-mounted ports to help smooth the bass response in the room. The vinyl wood finish looks great, and real wood veneers are available at extra cost.
The A3 cabinet is built in Canada by Axiom Audio (which builds all of Bryston's speakers), and the drivers are assembled in Canada, from parts sourced from China. The A3 is a near-twin of Axiom's M60 V4 tower, but the A3's cabinet sports extra internal bracing. Since I didn't have a M60 V4 on hand I can't say how the two speakers would compare. There are two other noteworthy differences between the A3 and M60 V4: the A3 has a 20-year warranty, the M60 V4's is just five years; and Axiom Audio sells its speakers over the Internet, while Bryston sells only through its dealer network.
The A's midrange and treble balance is pretty neutral, but the midbass response is boosted. That surprised me; I had the A3s 40 inches from the back wall and placed out from the room's corners. The big, fat bassline rumbling through the Black Keys' "Sinister Kid" was too thick and muddy. I like a "generous" bass balance, but the A3's low end was a bit much. Then again, for buyers hungering for a big, room-filling sound the A3s will positively sing!
I wish I still had the Tekton Enzo towers here -- they're close to the same size and price as the A3, and as I recall they're more dynamic performers, with more tuneful, tighter bass. The Enzos reached out and touched my soul; the A3s are a lot of fun, just less dynamically alive. The Enzos are more immediate and vivid-sounding.
The A3 speaker sounds best played nice and loud -- turned down for late-night volume I never really engaged with the sound. I can't explain why that's so, but when I pushed the A3s a bit they got my mojo workin'. The louder I played them, the better they sounded. That was true regardless of music genre,; I had my big Pass Labs XA100.5 amps hooked up to the A3s, so power was never an issue.
The A3 sells for $2,390 a pair (US and Canadian dollars). The price in Australia is 1.4 times higher.
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Correction, 10 a.m. PT:The original version of this story misrepresented the length of the A3's warranty. It's 20 years.