Bricasti Design Model 5 Network Player

Device Type: Network Player
Full Specifications
Availability: Authorized Dealers
Price: $2,400.00
Website: www.bricasti.com

Inputs and outputs. In hi-fi, it's interesting to note that with a device like the Bricasti M5, people wonder which of its outputs is "best". That's like asking, "What's the best screwdriver—flathead or phillips?"

It depends on the screw.

The Bricasti M5 is a network player which means it takes in your network files via Ethernet and outputs this digital data via USB, AES/EBU, or S/PDIF (RCA standard/BNC optional). Which of these outputs is best depends on the DAC it's connected to. Sure, in a general sense we can say that AES is the best type of connection, but I don't think we can say with any degree of certainty that everyone will prefer using AES to connect their DAC to a player. Luckily, with a device like the M5, you can decide which output best mates with your input.

The M5 is Roon-Ready, which means it acts as a Roon endpoint so you can use the excellent Roon interface to control playback, which is what I did for the duration of this review.

Connecting up the M5 takes all of minutes—connect its output to your DAC's input, connect it to your network with a length of Ethernet, plug it in and power it on. Upon startup, the M5 enters stand by mode, which is indicated by a blinking red light on the front panel. Press the Stand By button, which is also located on the front panel, the red light stays on, and you're in business. If you're using Roon, just tell it to play through the Bricasti and play.

The M5 is a smallish and, to my eyes, handsome little devil in matte black aluminum front and sides, a silver top, and big feet. It feels solid and well made.

I mainly focused on my DAC, the totaldac D1-six, mated to the M5. I prefer the D1-six's AES input when using my dCS Network Bridge (see review) and this preference carried over to the Bricasti M5. I also compared AES to USB with the wonderful TAD Evolution Series D1000MK2 Disc Player (see review) and found, "I spent much of my time listening to the XLR input fed by my dCS Network Bridge for two reasons; it sounded better than my microRendu's USB output1, and I don't have any music I listen to whose sample rate exceeds 192kHz."

Inputs and outputs. Another thing to consider when considering inputs and outputs is your music, specifically your music's formats. Do you own and listen to a lot of DSD128? If so, then you'll probably want to use the Bricasti's USB output because AES maxes out at DSD64. I'm good to go with AES because I can count the number of DSD128 recordings I own on one hand while holding a pencil—in the same hand. While we're here, it's also worth noting that the Bricasti's PCM limit is 384kHz via USB and 192kHz for all other outputs. Again, no problemo for me. I'll also mention that listening to a DSD128 recording via AES, the lovely Ellington Indigos for example, using Roon to convert it to DSD64 on-the-fly sounded simply lovely—so lovely that I did not care, i.e. I had no concerns, that I was listening to a DSD128 file converted to DSD64.

I know what some of you are thinking—get on with it already! "It" in this case being the comparisons. And I don't blame you one bit seeing as without a direct comparison, what can we really say about a network player? "It sounds good." or "It doesn't sound good." pretty much sums it up.

The Bricasti M5 makes music sound comparatively flatter than the dCS Network Bridge. This is comparing AES to AES into the totaldac where spatial cues and dimensionality through the M5 are not as fully formed as they are with the dCS. This translates into a bit less drama, a bit less impact. Or to put it another way, the Bricasti sounds comparatively cleaner and leaner. This difference in presentation was something I easily earmarked within the opening moments of songs like "Springtime Again" from Sun Ra's Sleeping Beauty or Tzusing's "日出東方 唯我不敗" from 東方不敗 —the dCS reproduced a more spatially compelling sound image.

Please note that I used the word "comparatively" because that's exactly what I mean. Which is to say that if someone came over to the barn while I was listening to "日出東方 唯我不敗" or "Springtime Again" or anything else through the M5, they would not think "flatter" because that's a comparative observation. I also would say that the word "flat" would not even cross their mind. Truth be told, as I listened to the Bricasti M5 over weeks of time, over lots and lots of music, "flat" wasn't on my mind, either. I was mainly thinking about the music, which is a very good thing.

Devotional Songs (with Ernesto Tomasini) by Shackleton

Interestingly, on the inputs and outputs theme, the M5's USB output into the totaldac initially, momentarily, gave a greater sense of dimension to the sound image. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that was only seemingly so because I believe what I was hearing was USB noise, which can sound like greater body, less flatness. However, to my ears and with my DAC, I would describe the USB connection as being less accurate. I say this because music sounds somewhat confusing, somewhat vague, and overall a bit generic. I'm talking about a relatively subtle yet obvious difference. To clarify, the Bricasti's USB output into the totaldac was certainly enjoyable to listen to, especially over time where subtle comparative values tend to fall by the wayside.

As I mentioned in the TAD review, the Bricasti's USB output betters my $640+ power supply microRendu (review) but the more appropriate comparison is to the Sonore Signature Rendu SE (see review). Since the Sonore Sig. is USB-only, that's what we're talking about and I would say the Sonore sounds a bit more resolute than the Bricasti. Again, we have to keep in mind I'm also talking about the totaldac's USB input where I would say the Sonore's USB output betters the Bricasti—in my system. There is a clearer sense of the sound image, better focus, and overall clarity.

But how much? How much difference and how much is that difference worth (+$895/Sonore and +$1895 for dCS)? Only you and your hair dresser know for sure. My job is to listen and compare. While I greatly prefer the listening part and find comparisons a bit tedious (but that's why we get the big bucks), I understand that comparative outcomes are of value. But one danger we can run into in Comparative Listeningland, which is not nearly as much fun as Electric Ladyland, is over-emphasizing difference. While I spent real time comparing the Bricasti to the dCS and Sonore, and conveying my impressions, we have to step back into the real world to get at something of greater value.

Given its price and performance, the Bricasti M5 is a relative bargain. While I preferred its AES output into my AES input, the M5 offers a full suite of outputs and a very high level of performance. If you live in a world where things like cost and performance matter, and you've got a limit on the former and great expectations for the latter, the Bricasti M5 comes very highly recommended.


Also in-use during the M5 review: dCS Network Bridge, Sonore Signature Rendu SE

Associated Equipment

COMMENTS
DH's picture

A Dutch review said the USB out was preferred and the best one he had heard. Just goes to show - it depends on the system.
Thanks for the review. Thanks for the comparisons. I wish more reviewers made them.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
What DAC did the Dutch reviewer use?

My pleasure (sort of) on the comparisons ;-)

Cheers.

DH's picture

Maybe that both are Bricasti makes a difference?

BTW, I’m very close to ordering one of these. Am looking to upgrade my mRendu + LPS-1. Audio is more expensive where I live, so the price performance issue definitely comes into play.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...as does the listener's preference. Again, with the M5 you have a choice of outputs so you can use the one you like most.

It's worth bringing up again that Brian from Bricasti prefers the AES output.

flohmann's picture

No wifi option in the works for the Bricasti? I'm relatively surprised how few wifi-enabled streamers there are out there, so long after the Auralic Aries (that's what I'm using now). I believe the DCS is eventually going to get wifi, no?

Michael Lavorgna's picture
See the full specifications page which is linked to in the beginning of the article.
Topher's picture

Can I ask a beginner question? What's the advantage of having a network player in the first place? I.e. What is its unique function? Why go Computer > Network Player > DAC > Amp > Speakers when you can just go Computer > DAC > Amp > Speakers? Or is the answer just 'It sounds better, dumbass.'

WHATCOMFALLS's picture

Read Steve Plashkin's review of the microRendu (another network player, for example) for insight on benefit of using a network player.
https://www.audiostream.com/content/sonore-simple-design-microrendu-audi...

Topher's picture

This was very useful; thanks.

Michael Lavorgna's picture
There are also some practical reasons. With Computer > DAC, you are limited to USB's max cable length (a few meters) whereas with a Network Player and Ethernet, you can go 100+ meters. This allows you to move the noisy network bits away from your hi-fi and eliminate the computer.

In a very general sense, removing a multi-purpose computer from the hi-fi chain will yield an improvement in sound quality. Also, setting up a proper home network with network attached storage allows you to easily implement multi-room audio if that's of interest.

Topher's picture

Thanks, Michael.

Topher's picture

Out of curiosity, is there any difference in noise generation when you go from iMac or MacBook > DAC to an iPod or iPad > DAC? My (uninformed) intuition is that the mobile devices would be less noisy, although I'm not sure why I think this. (Because they're smaller?). And using Tidal, they also have the advantage of being able to work offline, which is a plus for me (I live in a rural area and don't have great internet).

(Re the Network Players, they sound great, but as a budget-conscious grad-student I think I'll have to hold off on one for a while.)

Michael Lavorgna's picture
...a system or any part thereof that matches your needs.

If you're interested, just tell what you want and your budget. email is best for this - mlavorgna@enthusiastnetwork.com

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