Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2019: Primare and Bryston

Saturday at RMAF offered up a wide spread of manufacturer showrooms to visit. Even with the elongated trip between the two ends of the convention centre traffic appeared quite dense in the morning from people I polled, with only a slight decrease as the day wore on.

For the attendee, the several floors of demonstrations in the tower could provide a solid day or two of constant evaluation and/or pleasure listening. My first stop was a room that shared a unique duality in this regard, offering up a little of both these type of approaches.

On the pleasure side, a single listening chair and a set of the popular budget Wharfedale Linton Anniversary speakers ($1,200 USD/pair) greeted visitors, paired with new metal from Primare. The two component setup featured the I15MM ($1,800 USD) integrated amplifier with a moving magnet phono built-in (hence the “MM”) connected to the CD15 ($2,000 USD) with Primare’s Prizma digital streaming section. While the I15 also offers a Prizma digital edition for $1,999 USD as an alternative to the MM, the duo’s combination seen at the show makes for a tidy space and the maximum amount of source options.

In the end the 60W/eight-Ohm integrated managed to bump and thump its way into the medium-sized room with a powerful impact. The room wasn’t intended to be the “quiet” room so deeper impressions into transparency and such were much harder to discern, but what I heard during my time with the system did show ample promise for big options and big sound. The I15MM and CD15 are available starting this week through Primare’s dealer network.

Populating the critical listening room was the North American debut of the Wharfedale Evo 4.4 Towers ($2,200 USD/pair) powered by a Primare I35 integrated ($5,000 USD) and the CD35 Prisma ($3,500 USD) as a source for CDs and streaming. Again, authority was established in the sonic realm, but not without a caring touch to the micro details and acoustic structure. Prominent vocals arrived with an acute sense of realism and the always welcome surrounding “air.”

It wasn’t too long ago that a DAC as a source was all you needed to get things fired up for your personal collection of songs. Now with the slow infiltration of streaming services, manufacturers of high-end digital audio are required to adjust the way they present their value for the changing times. Such is the case for Bryston. Their initial BDA-3 ($3,800 USD) was the position if you wanted to reap the benefits of the best D-A conversions they had to offer. Eventually they created the BDP-π ($1,500 USD) to satiate streaming needs into a DAC, but at RMAF this year they introduced a single one-box solution with both options called the Bryston 3.14 (see what they did there?)

For a total of $4.2k the only thing that now stands between the two products is the internal I2S communication. Bryston added volume control to the 3.14 package for a full front-end option, and the resulting combination pulls in at just $400 more than the BDP-3 alone. Streaming sections for both Pi products run the gamut with Roon, TIDAL and Qobuz, but no final unfold for MQA. The rest of the rig in the large listening room consisted of a full Bryston Model T Active Loudspeaker system ($33,700 USD), including a pair of 21B³ amplifiers and a BAX-1 digital crossover. The new BDP 3.14 will be available from Bryston dealers in Q4 of this year.

Country tunes wafted through the air for most of my time in the well-equipped suite. There was a very intimate feel to female vocals along with a very comfortable treble presence that made it quite easy to listen to along with a fun, laid back tonal blanket to cover yourself with. Both the MoFi room that housed the Primare and The Sound Organisation room that presented Bryston get the award for most welcoming. Plenty of entertainment paired with a capable sales staff make for relaxed, appealing visits... even if your schedule doesn’t allow for any chillout time.

Rocky Mountain Audio Fest