Link: reviewed by Gordon Brockhouse on SoundStage! Simplifi on June 15, 2021

General Information

All measurements taken using an Audio Precision APx555 B Series analyzer.

The BR-20 was conditioned for 30 minutes at 0dBFS (4Vrms out) into 200k ohms before any measurements were taken.

The BR-20 offers a multitude of digital and analog inputs, two balanced outputs (XLR) and one headphone output (1/4″ TRS). Comparisons were made between unbalanced and balanced line-level inputs, and aside from the 6dB extra voltage gain seen when using the unbalanced inputs, no difference was measured in terms of THD+N. Comparisons were made between optical, coaxial, and AES/EBU digital inputs; no differences were seen in terms of THD+N. For the measurements below, unless otherwise specified, the coaxial digital input (0dBFS), and the balanced analog input (2 or 4Vrms) were used, with the volume control set to unity gain (0dB). With the volume set to unity, a 0dBFS digital input yields 4Vrms at the output. Signal-to-noise and dynamic-range measurements were made with the volume at maximum (12dB gain).

The BR-20 analog volume control is digitally controlled and offers a range from -67dB to +12dB in 0.5dB steps (except below -30dB, where gain steps range from 4 to 1dB).

Volume-control accuracy (measured at speaker outputs): left-right channel tracking

Volume position Channel deviation
-67dB 0.016dB
-40dB 0.051dB
-20dB 0.007dB
-10dB 0.017dB
0dB 0.002dB
12dB 0.002dB

Published specifications vs. our primary measurements

The table below summarizes the measurements published by Bryston for the BR-20 compared directly against our own. The published specifications are sourced from Bryston’s website, either directly or from the manual available for download, or a combination thereof. With the exception of frequency response, where the Audio Precision bandwidth is set at its maximum (DC to 1MHz), assume a measurement input bandwidth of 10Hz to 90kHz, 200k ohms load, and the worst case measured result between the left and right analog balanced input.

Parameter Manufacturer SoundStage! Lab
Frequency response 20Hz-20kHz ±0.5dB 20Hz-20kHz ±0dB
Signal-to-noise ratio (A-weighted, ref. 4Vrms) 110dB 109dB
IMD ratio (18kHz and 19kHz stimulus tones, 2Vrms, 200k ohms) <0.0003% <0.0009%
THD+N (unweighted) 20Hz-20kHz <0.0006% 0.0005-0.002%

Our primary measurements revealed the following using the coaxial digital input, the balanced analog input and the balanced line-level outputs (unless specified, assume a 1kHz sinewave at 0dBFS or 4Vrms, 200k ohms loading, 10Hz to 90kHz bandwidth):

Parameter Left channel Right channel
Crosstalk, one channel driven (10kHz, analog) -125.9dB -126.1dB
Crosstalk, one channel driven (10kHz, 16/44.1) -123.2dB -125.2dB
Crosstalk, one channel driven (10kHz, 24/96) -133.2dB -139.2dB
DC offset <-0.15mV <-0.04mV
Dynamic range (A-weighted, 16/44.1) 84.3dB 84.0dB
Dynamic range (unweighted, 16/44.1) 81.6dB 81.5dB
Dynamic range (A-weighted, 24/96) 107.6dB 107.6dB
Dynamic range (unweighted, 24/96) 96.3dB 96.3dB
IMD ratio (18kHz and 19kHz stimulus tones, analog) <-101dB <-101dB
IMD ratio (18kHz and 19kHz stimulus tones, 16/44.1) <-84dB <-84dB
IMD ratio (18kHz and 19kHz stimulus tones, 24/96) <-84dB <-84dB
Input impedance 10.7k ohms 10.7k ohms
Maximum gain 11.98dB 11.98dB
Maximum output voltage 14.2Vrms 14.2Vrms
Output impedance 144 ohms 144 ohms
Noise level (A-weighted, analog) <7uVrms <7uVrms
Noise level (unweighted, analog) <19uVrms <19uVrms
Noise level (A-weighted, 16/44.1) <63uVrms <63uVrms
Noise level (unweighted, 16/44.1) <88uVrms <88uVrms
Noise level (A-weighted, 24/96) <9uVrms <9uVrms
Noise level (unweighted, 24/96) <25uVrms <25uVrms
Signal-to-noise ratio (A-weighted, analog) 108.7dB 108.6dB
Signal-to-noise ratio (unweighted, analog) 100.3dB 100.4dB
THD ratio (unweighted, analog) <0.0001% <0.0001%
THD ratio (unweighted, 16/44.1) <0.0009% <0.001%
THD ratio (unweighted, 24/96) <0.0008% <0.0009%
THD+N ratio (A-weighted, analog) <0.0002% <0.0002%
THD+N ratio (unweighted, analog) <0.0005% <0.0005%
THD+N ratio (A-weighted, 16/44.1) <0.0019% <0.0019%
THD+N ratio (unweighted, 16/44.1) <0.0024% <0.0024%
THD+N ratio (A-weighted, 24/96) <0.001% <0.001%
THD+N ratio (unweighted, 24/96) <0.001% <0.001%

Our primary measurements revealed the following using the balanced analog input and the headphone output (unless specified, assume a 1kHz sinewave at 2Vrms output, 300 ohms loading, 10Hz to 90kHz bandwidth):

Parameter Left channel Right channel
Maximum output power into 600 ohms (1% THD+N, unweighted) 248mW 248mW
Maximum output power into 300 ohms (1% THD+N, unweighted) 484mW 484mW
Maximum output power into 32 ohms (1% THD+N, unweighted) 945mW 1006mW
Output impedance 2.1 ohms 2.3 ohms
Noise level (A-weighted) <8uVrms <7uVrms
Noise level (unweighted) <21uVrms <20uVrms
Signal-to-noise ratio (A-weighted, ref. max output voltage) 117.9dB 118.1dB
Signal-to-noise ratio (unweighted, ref. max output voltage) 109.7dB 109.9dB
THD ratio (unweighted) <0.00009% <0.00009%
THD+N ratio (A-weighted) <0.0004% <0.0004%
THD+N ratio (unweighted) <0.001% <0.001%

Frequency response (analog)

frequency response

In our measured frequency response plot above, the BR-20 is perfectly flat within the audioband (20Hz to 20kHz), and only about -0.25dB at 100kHz. These data corroborate Bryston’s claim of 20Hz to 20kHz, +/-0.5dB. The BR-20 can be considered a high-bandwidth audio device. In the graph above and most of the graphs below, only a single trace may be visible. This is because the left channel (blue, purple or orange trace) is performing identically to the right channel (red, green or pink trace), and so they perfectly overlap, indicating that the two channels are ideally matched.

Frequency response vs. input type (16/44.1, 24/96, 24/192, analog)

frequency response vs sample rate 1644-1 2496 24192

The plot above shows the BR-20’s frequency response as a function of sample rate. The blue/red traces are for a 16bit/44.1kHz dithered digital input signal from 5Hz to 22kHz, the purple/green traces are for a 24/96 dithered digital input signal from 5Hz to 48kHz, and finally orange/pink represents 24/192 from 5Hz to 96kHz. In addition, for comparison, the analog frequency response is shown in green (up to 80kHz). The behavior at lower frequencies is the same for all plots; perfectly flat down to 5Hz. The behavior at high frequencies for all three digital sample rates is as expected, offering sharp filtering around 22k, 48k, and 96kHz (half the respective sample rates). The -3dB point for each sample rate is roughly 21, 45 and 58kHz, respectively. It is also obvious from the plots above that the 44.1kHz sampled input signal offers the most “brick-wall” type behavior, while the attenuation of the 96kHz and 192kHz sampled input signals approaching the corner frequencies (48kHz and 96kHz) is more gentle.

Phase response (analog)

frequency response phono mm

Above is the phase response plot from 20Hz to 20kHz for the analog balanced input. The BR-20 does not invert polarity, and the plot shows essentially no phase shift.

Phase response vs. sample rate  (16/44.1, 24/96, 24/192)

phase response vs sample rate 1644-1 2496 24192.png

Above are the phase response plots from 20Hz to 20kHz for the coaxial input, measured at balanced output. The blue/red traces are for a dithered 16/44.1 input at 0dBFS, the purple/green for 24/96, and the orange/pink for 24/192. We can see that the BR-20 introduces an inversion of polarity (+180 degrees) with digital signals. At 20kHz, the phase shift is at around -80 degrees (from the +180 degree baseline) for the 16/44.1 input data and +70 degrees for the 24/96 input data. The 24/192 input data shows just over +20 degrees at 20kHz.

Digital linearity (16/44.1 and 24/96 data)

digital linearity 1644 1 2496

The graph above shows the results of a linearity test for the coaxial digital input (the optical input performed identically) for both 16/44.1 (blue/red) and 24/96 (purple/green) input data, measured at the balanced line-level output of the BR-20. The digital input is swept with a dithered 1kHz input signal from -120dBFS to 0dBFS, and the output is analyzed by the APx555. The ideal response is a straight flat line at 0dB (i.e., the amplitude of the digital input perfectly matches the amplitude of the measured analog output). Both input data types exhibited exemplary linearity. The 16/44.1 data showed a worst-case deviation of only +2dB at -120dBFS, while the 24/96 was essentially perfect (i.e., flat) down to -120dBFS. The sweep was also performed down to -140dBFS to test the limits of the BR-20. Predictably, the 16/44.1 data showed significant deviations below -120dBFS; however, the 24/96 data tracked the input stimuli extremely well all the way down to -140dBFS, showing a worst-case deviation of only -3.5dB at -135dBFS.

Impulse response (16/44.1 and 24/96 data)

impulse response 1644 1 2496

The graph above shows the impulse responses for a -20dBFS 16/44.1 dithered input stimulus (blue), and -20dBFS 24/96 dithered input stimulus (purple), measured at the balanced line level output of the BR-20. The implemented filter appears to be designed for minimized pre-impulse ringing. This chart also shows that the BR-20 inverts the polarity of digital input signals.

J-Test (coaxial input)

jtest coaxial 2448

The plot above shows the results of the J-Test test for the coaxial digital input measured at the balanced line-level output of the BR-20. The J-Test was developed by Julian Dunn the 1990s. It is a test signal, specifically a -3dBFS, undithered, 12kHz, 24-bit square wave sampled (in this case) at 48kHz. Since even the first odd harmonic (i.e., 36kHz) of the 12kHz square wave is removed by the bandwidth limitation of the sampling rate, we are left with a 12kHz sinewave (the main peak). In addition, an undithered 250Hz square wave at -144dBFS is mixed with the signal. This test file causes the 22 least-significant bits to constantly toggle, which produces strong jitter spectral components at the 250Hz rate and its odd harmonics. The test file shows how susceptible the DAC and delivery interface are to jitter, which would manifest as peaks above the noise floor at 500Hz intervals (e.g., 250Hz, 750Hz, 1250Hz, etc). Note that the alternating peaks are in the test file itself, but at levels of -144dBrA (fundamental at 250Hz) down to -170dBrA for the odd harmonics.  The test file can also be used in conjunction with artificially injected sinewave jitter by the Audio Precision, to also show how well the DAC rejects jitter.

The coaxial input shows a virtually perfect J-test FFT. The -144dBrA 250Hz tone (which is in the file) can just be seen above the noise floor, and, with the exception of a small peak below 6kHz, there are virtually no other artifacts above the noise floor. This is an indication that the BR-20 should not be sensitive to jitter.

To test jitter immunity further, the APx555 was used to artificially inject 2kHz sinewave jitter. Without any jitter rejection by the DAC, this would manifest in the FFT as sideband peaks at 10kHz and 14kHz. However, even with the maximum allowable jitter magnitude of 1592ns, no peaks were seen. This is another indication that the BR-20 is essentially impervious to jitter.

J-Test (optical input)

jtest optical 2448

The optical input shows essentially the same J-test FFT result as the coaxial input. There is a visible peak just above 6kHz, higher in amplitude than for the coaxial input, but still vanishingly low at just below -140dBrA.

Wideband FFT spectrum of white noise and 19.1kHz sinewave tone (coaxial input)

wideband fft noise plus 19 1khz 1644 1kHz

The plot above shows a fast Fourier transform (FFT) of the BR-20’s balanced line-level output with white noise at -4dBFS (blue/red), and a 19.1kHz sinewave at 0dBFS fed to the coaxial digital input, sampled at 16/44.1 (purple/green). The sharp roll-off above 20kHz in the white noise spectrum shows the implementation of the brick-wall-type reconstruction filter. There are absolutely no imaged aliasing artifacts in the audioband above the -135dBrA noise floor. The primary aliasing signal at 25kHz is at -100dBrA, while the second and third distortion harmonics (38.2, 57.3kHz) of the 19.1kHz tone range from the same level up to -80dBrA.

THD ratio (unweighted) vs. frequency vs. load (analog)

thd ratio unweighted vs frequency vs load

The plot above shows THD ratios at the output of the BR-20 as a function of frequency (20Hz to 20kHz) for a sinewave input stimulus of 2Vrms at the analog balanced input. The blue and red plots are for the left and right channels into 200k ohms, while purple/green (left/right) are into 600 ohms. THD values are extremely low: about 0.00005-0.00008% into 200k ohms from 20Hz to 3kHz, climbing to 0.0004% at 20kHz. The 600-ohm data yielded slightly higher THD values, especially at the extremes (20Hz and 20kHz), where THD values were measured at 0.0006% and just above 0.001% (right channel). At 600 ohms, the left channel outperformed the right by about 5dB, starting above 50Hz. It’s important to point out that the BR-20’s analog input THD performance is not too far from the limits of the APx555 analyzer, which is about 0.000015% at this voltage level.

THD ratio (unweighted) vs. frequency vs. load (24/96)

thd ratio unweighted vs frequency vs load 2496

The chart above shows THD ratios at the balanced line-level output into 200k ohms (blue/red) and 600 ohms (purple/green) as a function of frequency for a 24/96, dithered, 1kHz 0dBFS signal at the coaxial digital input. The 200k and 600 ohms data are very close from 50Hz to 1kHz, hovering around a very low 0.0007%. At the frequency extremes, THD increased into 600 ohms vs 200k ohms, where we see 0.003% vs 0.0007% at 20Hz, and 0.015% vs 0.01% at 20kHz.

THD ratio (unweighted) vs. frequency vs. sample rate (16/44.1 and 24/96)

thd ratio unweighted vs frequency vs sample rate

The chart above shows THD ratios at the balanced line-level output into 200k ohms as a function of frequency for a 16/44.1 (blue/red) and a 24/96 (purple/green) dithered 1kHz 0dBFS signal at the coaxial digital input. Both data input types performed almost identically. We see THD values around 0.0007% from 20Hz to 1kHz, then a climb to 0.01% at 20kHz.

THD ratio (unweighted) vs. output (analog)

thd ratio unweighted vs output

The chart above shows THD ratios measured at the output the BR-20 as a function of output voltage into 200k ohms with a 1kHz input sinewave at the balanced analog input. For this sweep, the volume was set to maximum. At the 1mVrms level, THD values measured around 0.2%, dipping down to around 0.00006% at 4-5Vrms. The “knee” occurs at around 10Vrms, hitting the 1% THD just past 14Vrms.

THD ratio (unweighted) vs. output (16/44.1 and 24/96)

thd ratio unweighted vs output 1644-1 2496

The chart above shows THD ratios measured at the balanced output as a function of output voltage for the coaxial digital input into 200k ohms from -90dBFS to 0dBFS at 16/44.1 (blue/red) and 24/96 (purple/green). The 24/96 outperformed the 16/44.1 data, with a THD range from 0.3% at 1mVrms to 0.00015% at 3Vrms, while the 16/44.1 ranged from 4% at 1mVrms down to 0.0005% at 7-9Vrms.

THD+N ratio (unweighted) vs. output (analog)

thd n ratio unweighted vs output

The plot above shows THD+N ratios measured at the output the BR-20 as a function of output voltage into 200k ohms with a 1kHz input sinewave at the balanced analog input. At the 1mVrms level, THD+N values measured around 4%, dipping down to around 0.0005% at 10Vrms.

THD+N ratio (unweighted) vs. output (16/44.1 and 24/96)

thd n ratio unweighted vs output 1644-1 2496

The chart above shows THD+N ratios measured at the balanced output as a function of output voltage for the coaxial digital input into 200k ohms from -90dBFS to 0dBFS at 16/44.1 (blue/red) and 24/96 (purple/green). The 24/96 outperformed the 16/44.1 data, with a THD+N range from 6% at 1mVrms down to 0.0008% at 7-10Vrms, while the 16/44.1 data ranged from 35% at 1mVrms down to 0.003% at the 10Vrms “knee.”

FFT spectrum – 1kHz (analog at 2Vrms)

FFT spectrum 1khz

Shown above is the fast Fourier transform (FFT) for a 1kHz 2Vrms input sinewave stimulus at the balanced analog input, measured at the output into a 200k-ohm load. We see that the signal’s second harmonic, at 2kHz, is at a vanishingly low -140dBrA, or 0.00001%, while the third harmonic, at 3kHz, is just slightly above at -135dBrA, or 0.00002%. Below 1kHz, we don’t see any noise artifacts above the noise floor.

FFT spectrum – 1kHz (digital input, 16/44.1 data at 0dBFS)

fft spectrum 1khz 1644 1 0dbfs

Shown above is the fast Fourier transform (FFT) for a dithered 1kHz 0dBFS input sinewave stimulus, measured at the balanced output into 200k ohm for the coaxial digital input, sampled at 16/44.1. We see signal harmonics at -110dBrA, or 0.0003%, at 2kHz, and -100dBrA, or 0.001%, at 3kHz.

FFT spectrum – 1kHz (digital input, 24/96 data at 0dBFS)

fft spectrum 1khz 2496 0dbfs

Shown above is the fast Fourier transform (FFT) for a dithered 1kHz 0dBFS input sinewave stimulus, measured at the balanced output into 200k ohm for the coaxial digital input, sampled at 24/96. We see signal harmonics at -110dBrA, or 0.0003%, at 2kHz, and -100dBrA, or 0.001%, at 3kHz, as well as lower level signal harmonics at 4/5/6/7 kHz at -130dBrA, or 0.00003% and below.

FFT spectrum – 1kHz (digital input, 16/44.1 data at -90dBFS)

fft spectrum 1khz 1644 1 90dbfs

Shown above is the fast Fourier transform (FFT) for a dithered 1kHz input sinewave stimulus, measured at the balanced output into 200k ohms for the coaxial digital input, sampled at 16/44.1 at -90dBFS. We see no signal harmonics above the noise floor within the audioband.

FFT spectrum – 1kHz (digital input, 24/96 data at -90dBFS)

fft spectrum 1khz 2496 90dbfs

Shown above is the fast Fourier transform (FFT) for a dithered 1kHz input sinewave stimulus, measured at the balanced output into 200k ohm for the coaxial digital input, sampled at 24/96 at -90dBFS. We see no signal harmonics above the noise floor within the audioband.

FFT spectrum – 50Hz (analog at 2Vrms)

fft spectrum 50hz

Shown above is the FFT for a 50Hz 2Vrms input sinewave stimulus at the balanced analog input measured at the output into a 200k-ohm load. The X axis is zoomed in from 40Hz to 1kHz, so that peaks from noise artifacts can be directly compared against peaks from the harmonics of the signal. We find the second and third harmonic of the signal (100/150Hz) just peaking above the -140dBrA noise floor, and once again, no power-supply noise peaks are visible.

Intermodulation distortion FFT (18kHz + 19kHz summed stimulus, analog)

intermodulation distortion fft 18khz 19khz summed stimulus

Shown above is an FFT of the intermodulation distortion (IMD) products for an 18kHz + 19kHz summed sinewave stimulus tone for the balanced analog input measured at the output into a 200k-ohm load. The input RMS values are set at -6.02dBrA so that, if summed for a mean frequency of 18.5kHz, would yield 2Vrms (0dBrA) at the output. We find that the second-order modulation product (i.e., the difference signal of 1kHz) is at -125dBrA, or 0.00006%, while the third-order modulation products, at 17kHz and 20kHz are at around -120dBrA, or 0.0001%.

Intermodulation distortion FFT (18kHz + 19kHz summed stimulus, 16/44.1)

intermodulation distortion fft 18khz 19khz summed stimulus 1644-1

Shown above is an FFT of the intermodulation (IMD) products for an 18kHz + 19kHz summed sinewave stimulus tone measured at the balanced output into 200k ohms for the coaxial digital input at 16/44.1. The input dBFS values are set at -6.02dBFS so that, if summed for a mean frequency of 18.5kHz, would yield 4Vrms (0dBrA) at the output. We find that the second-order modulation product (i.e., the difference signal of 1kHz) is at -115dBRA, or 0.0002%, while the third-order modulation products, at 17kHz and 20kHz, are higher, at about -100dBrA, or 0.001%.

Intermodulation distortion FFT (18kHz + 19kHz summed stimulus, 24/96)

intermodulation distortion fft 18khz 19khz summed stimulus 2496

Shown above is an FFT of the intermodulation (IMD) products for an 18kHz + 19kHz summed sinewave stimulus tone measured at the balanced output into 200k ohms for the coaxial digital input at 24/96. The input dBFS values are set at -6.02dBFS so that, if summed for a mean frequency of 18.5kHz, would yield 4Vrms (0dBrA) at the output. We find that the second-order modulation product (i.e., the difference signal of 1kHz) is at -115dBRA, or 0.0002%, while the third-order modulation products, at 17kHz and 20kHz, are higher, at above -100dBrA, or 0.001%.

Square-wave response (10kHz)

square wave response 10kHz

Above is the 10kHz square-wave response for the balanced analog input at the output into 200k ohms. Due to limitations inherent to the Audio Precision APx555 B Series analyzer, this chart should not be used to infer or extrapolate the BR-20’s slew-rate performance. Rather, it should be seen as a qualitative representation of its very high bandwidth. An ideal square wave can be represented as the sum of a sinewave and an infinite series of its odd-order harmonics (e.g., 10kHz + 30kHz + 50kHz + 70kHz . . .). A limited bandwidth will show only the sum of the lower-order harmonics, which may result in noticeable undershoot and/or overshoot, and softening of the edges. The BR-20’s reproduction of the 10kHz square wave is squeaky clean, with very sharp edges devoid of undershoot and overshoot.

Diego Estan
Electronics Measurement Specialist