(Reprinted from the Summer 1996 Audio Ideas Guide)
The first integrated amplifier from Bryston, the B-60 has been almost two years in development, the long process of getting ST performance with preamp and amp on the same chassis delaying its introduction. Apparently, the signal layouts for lowest noise and distortion were harder to achieve in such close quarters. The goal was to combine a simpler version of the BP-25 preamp with an ST-spec update of the 2B amplifier.
As it has finally arrived, the B-60 is very simple, its look spartan, with three rotary controls flanked by a pair of toggle switches. That at left is for Tape, with a headphone jack directly right of it on the panel, with the Selector switch next right, Balance at centre, and Volume to its right; the remote sensor and Power switch are at extreme right.
There are four line inputs, marked Tuner, Aux, CD, and Video, with the additional single tape monitor circuit. The rear panel provides gold-plated RCA input jacks (no balanced ins or outs), and a pair of plastic-nut gold-plated 5-way speaker binding posts. Gold-plated U-conductors serve as a bridge between the preamp-out and amp-in RCA pairs, which make the B-60 able to be configured in a variety of ways. For example, a surround decoder can be inserted in the signal path, and the internal amplifier could be used as a rear-channel power source in the process of upgrading a system.
A remote control is optional, this a 3-button affair in a metal case that has volume up/down buttons and a third small one for Mute. It’s probably all you need, since if you want to change inputs, you’ll probably have to get up and put on a record or CD. Speaking of LPs, an outboard phono stage, the latest interation of the BP-1 is available for mating with the B-60.
I was able to hang on to the YBA Integre long enough to make direct comparisons. This French-made integrated amplifier offers separately switched Record facilities, but lacks the B-60’s Balance control, and does not provide an interrupt path between amplifier and preamplifier. It is, however, as I’ve stated before, just about the best integrated amplifier I’ve heard, though it does not offer quite the transparency and bass power of the 3B ST power amplifier, in my view. A comparison of Integre and B-60 promised to be quite interesting.
The B-60 has a sound that is direct and engaging, clean, open, and dynamic, with typical Bryston bass power, reach, and clarity. Its sound seems a little more forward than that of the 3B ST, though that difference may be more in the preamp stage than amp itself. My listening notes describe “a very precisely delineated sound”, meaning that the upper octaves have a notable freedom from distortion that allows exceptional clarity.
Next to this, the YBA Integre seemed more laid back and refined, but with a more restrained and less open sound, having by comparison a slightly grey quality, with less sparkle in the top octave, and a more homogenized bass with a bit less pitch definition. Its midrange, however, had that refinement that could sway many listeners in its direction, a civilized quality that tended to give sense to music.
Which is better? Well, talking to a friend in high end retail, the answer I got was, “the Exposure Model 15,” another integrated amplifier we’ll probably look at in future. All I can say about the Bryston B-60 is that it provides a level of performance that equals models half again as expensive, with remote control making it ergonomically more attractive than most integrateds. I lived with it and listened to it for a couple of months and never felt I was missing anything except the greater power of my regular system. It would be hard to spend $2000 on true high end electronics more wisely any other way.