The latest addition to my sound system is a Bryston BDP-2 media player. It’s a rather unique device who’s only purpose is reading music files of virtually any format and outputting them to D/A devices. I’m replacing my trusty Mac Mini with a dedicated music player because iTunes is rapidly becoming the Microsoft Word of music players - a bloated pig of functionality that I don’t want. As I said to the Bryston engineer, I just want to play my music. That’s all. No Genius lists, no cloud crap, no preferred formats, no automatic tagging, nothing. Just take my music and push it out to a D/A.
For reference, I’ve changed virtually nothing else in my playback chain - Benchmark DAC1 D/A, Audio Research LS26 preamp, Parasound A21 amp, Snell C/5 speakers. I didn’t do this for sonics, but simply for playback capabilities. Given my propensity to avoid any kind of bullshit speaker cables and shiny lights for CD preparation, I suspect everyone guessed that.
I’ll start with my general assessment. I’m very happy with the BDP-2. I don’t think it’s for everyone, but for me it’s just about perfect. It is not cheap and if you have just a few thousand songs I don’t think the cost is at all justified, but if you have 40,000 songs dating back to the early 2000s this is a killer device.
At its heart, the BDP-2 is a Linux box jazzed up to be a dedicated
music player. You don’t need to know a think about Linux to use it,
but given that I do the device is more interesting to me. I can
into the box and use command line Linux stuff like
old friends to manipulate the file system.1
The BDP uses the
mpd system to manage playback. I have found it
more than capable of managing my music.
mpd is a standard and
provides an api that any application can use. Thus, I’m not tied to
anything that Bryston provides for controlling playback. I could, if
I got really inspired, write my own front end. That’s not happening
anytime soon, but a guy can dream.
Bryston’s interface to
mpd is a simple input screen on the device
and two web interfaces. I rarely use the device input simply because
I’m usually sitting on the couch. I do use the web interfaces all the
time and find them quite useful, if a bit on the dated side. I also
use the mpod and mpad applications on my iPhone and iPad respectively
and use theramin on my Mac. I’d say I end up using mpod and mpad the
most simply out of convenience.2 Your mileage may vary based on
the interface that you like.
The BDP-2 provides no storage by default. There is a slot for an internal drive if you want to send it back to Bryston and have them add something. I chose not to do that. Instead, I bought to Samsung SSDs (256G and 512G) to store my music. I use one for new stuff and the other as my permanent storage device. One uses a USB 2.0 interface and the other ESATA. Both seem to work just fine and are plenty fast for what I do.
The BDP-2 provides a SAMBA interface that allows you to mount drives you attach to it as well as mount remote devices. It works like a charm after setting it up. It seems a bit slow mounting on my Mac, but not so much that I have a problem with it. I do use that interface from time-to-time when I’m moving small amounts of music from my Mac Mini to one of the hard drives. There’s also plenty of USB ports for use with USB sticks if you prefer that mechanism.
For all my music across two drives it takes only about 200 seconds to update local caches on my playback devices. At least that’s what they say. I perceive it to be faster than that. Rebuilding the internal database on the BDP takes quite a bit longer, but that doesn’t happen very often and adding new music works far faster.
Some cautions are in order. The BDP is not iTunes - you will have to do some work to use it. You are responsible for arranging your music and making sure it ends up where you want it. The BDP will do a fine job of organizing the interface after that. The main interface on the device can be quite uninformative when updates are occurring. It shows a small U as far as I can tell, but I’m not 100% certain of that. The biggest issue however was my device was delivered with outdated firmware. Almost a year outdated. I tried updating from the device menu several times with no luck. After pestering Bryston for a bit they provided me an alternative update mechanism using Dropbox that worked like a charm.3
mpod, mpad, or any of the third party front-ends that I use.