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Bryston’s BDP-π is a rich, Roon Ready slice of Raspberry Pi

  • How much is your time worth? That’s the question we might ask ourselves when first glancing at Bryston Limited’s latest digital audio streamer, the BDP-π, which for US$1295 gives us a Raspberry Pi and Hifiberry Digi+ snapped into a custom case and boxed up with switch mode power supply – a combination that might otherwise be purchased for well under three hundred hundred dollars.

    What gives?

    Direct from the press release: “The BDP-π will playback digital music ranging from MP3 to lossless 24/192 high-resolution files and can be connected to virtually any DAC using the provided S/PDIF, Toslink, USB and HDMI connectors.”

    Now our plot thickens a little.

    Said HDMI connector will pipe digital audio into the likes of Arcam’s SR250 integrated, OPPO Digital’s more ubiquitous BDP-105 or a NAD M51 DAC. The catch? HDMI supply is hamstrung to 16bit/48kHz. Elsewhere, with USB, with TOSLINK and with coaxial, PCM file handling stretches out to 24bit/192kHz. No DSD, no worries.

    Still reckon you could build your own for less? Again – how much is your time actually worth? Raspberry Pi-based streamers don’t build themselves.

    For AURALiC Aries LE owners on the cusp of pointing out that their preferred streamer is less costly and (perhaps) better looking, riddle me this: is AURALiC’s Lightning DS control app available for Android devices? No, it is not.

    Bryston’s BDP-π can be controlled via a web interface – hello Android, iOS, Windows, MacOS and Linux – or any dedicated MPD control app. Alternatively, one choose to drop additional cash on Bryston’s own infra-red wand.

    bryston BDP-Pi_1

    And then…

    Does your Aries or DIY solution’s front panel feature a colour TFT screen and associated control buttons? Would your operating system serve cover art [see footnote 1] to that same screen [see footnote 2]? Would that screen also display virtual digital VU meters? Bryston’s BDP-π offers all of these features.

    Music supply comes via any direct-connected USB storage device, across the LAN from a NAS device, from any Roon server – yes, BDP-π is Roon Ready – or from the Internet via Tidal and/or Internet radio stations.

    Of course, if you think you can build your own for less, there ain’t nuthin’ stopping ya. The BDP-π is for the cash rich / time poor among us or it’s for digital audiophiles who demand a Raspberry Pi-based streamer’s casework not look so generic that you want to hide it away. That display screen will likely see this piece o’ Pi demand pride of price in any hifi rack.

    Best served with coffee, black and strong.

    Further information: Bryston Limited

    Footnote 1: From the BDP-π’s user manual: “The art is read from a JPG file contained within the folder in which the currently playing track resides.” Bliss will automatically create these .jpg files should they not already exist in your library.

    Footnote 2: Presumably in the interests of lowering electrical noise, the screen is disabled when the BDP-π is connected to the downstream DAC over USB.

    John H. Darko

    Written by John H. Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has also contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

    Follow John on YouTube or Instagram


    1. The problem with the “How much is your time worth?” argument is that it assumes that work time and leisure time are the same thing. For most people, that’s not the case.

      • I would agree with this. The time I spend hacking with my Raspberry Pi is just plain fun and not so much about how much I save. I do not buy Ikea furniture because I do not enjoy assembling furniture. This simply is a “convenient” re-packaging of open source things. Possibly, I would rather invest in a sonic orbiter or the sonore micro-rendu, because those guys seem to have invested at least in creating better hardware, specifically geared for audio and have the sonic orbiter app, and roon, homeserver, upnp and everything else. Plus, both are less costly than this on top of that. So, what gives? — and yes, I know that the mrendu does not support TOSLINK, SPDIF and others, you can add an USB to Coax for that or you can chain a DAC if you want to the sonic orbiter.

        • Hi, I don’t really have an issue with the BDP-Pi pricing, although admittedly I did initially raise an eyebrow. It’s a *supported* product, which I suspect is a significant part of the real cost of many of these products. And you can buy it from dealers, so there’s another cost factor. Plus, it has a nice chassis, it matches your other Bryston components, and it has resale value. I assume it has Bryston’s 5-year warranty on digital products? And it’s (less than?) half the price of Bryston’s other streamer. It would seem to me that the BDP-Pi would be normally considered/judged in that light (as well as its audio performance).

          Yet, the interesting thing is that Bryston are openly promoting the “based on Raspberry Pi” element. They’ve modified the digital output, done their own power supply etc, but still, “Pi” is even in the name of it! I’m not sure but I rather doubt they will give you the root login credentials or allow you to whack in whatever SD card you like and expect it to work.

          The name inevitably invites comparison with setups based on the “$35 computer” that you and I know well (plus all the bits). But it’s not like other manufacturers don’t use single board computers “a la” Pi in their products. Why would you not – developing a processor board from scratch can’t be cheap, never mind porting all the needed software to it. But it’s not normally made so up front.

          It’s very interesting.

    2. Not sure I understand. If it requires an external DAC, what am I missing by just ignoring this altogether and plugging my laptop into a DAC1 via USB and streaming off Tidal?

        • Yes John, but your review (more like a well crafted commentary or product infomercial) is about functionality not sound quality

          • Oh man. THIS IS NOT A REVIEW. Look at the red markers at the top of the page – it’s clearly tagged as “news”. The reason some people might mistake DAR’s new items for reviews – which happens frequently – is because I don’t copy/paste from the press release and instead imbue each news announcement with my own flavour/interpretation.

            • Of course is not an audio quality review review, John…point is that your “news” commentary sounds as if you are are promoting this unit based on comparative functionality…so now we have two John Darkos, one a phenomenal audio reviewer (legendary, in my opinion) who recommends products based on his comparative appreciation of sound quality and a second John Darko that promotes products based on his comparative appreciations about functionality (infomercial style)…

            • “Infomerical” implies someone paid for the content when in fact no-one did. Upon spying the press release I felt this would be of interest to readers as a news item. It is clearly tagged as such above the headline. Without the box in hand and listening an impossibility, all one (I) can do is compare functionality – but it’s still a news piece. Or would you rather I just rework the press release without any additional digging, research? I wouldn’t.

    3. Why can’t it get the album art from a tag in the file? (I know technically why but am I the only one that thinks the file/folder thing is, well, obsolete?)

    4. Oh, and according to its manual, it turns the screen off for highest fidelity. So, I’m paying for something that in practice does not work the way it should.

    5. Here is how I think about the money-time trade off: If you have the money and want a really good Roon Ready streamer for about the same price (or less probably, depending on exchange rates) than the Bryston Raspberry Pi, look for something like the Clones Audio Host or the Nimitra Streamer from Windows X. If you’re a hobbyist, go the Raspberry Pi route and save a lot of money. Either way, I can’t see the virtue of the Bryston Raspberry Pi. Now, if you want a good strong cup of coffee and a slice of raspberry pie, go to a good restaurant or if you’ve got the time and cooking skills, bake your own pie and make yourself a nice cup of espresso. In the latter case, you can have your cake and your music at the same time. Cheers.

    6. I asked about price on the optional remote….. $375. Look, Bryston… WTF are you thinking? I can buy a $59 blu-ray player and Costco and get a remote.

      It’s a shame they did that… it puts this item into the ‘nutty’ category, value-wise.

    7. It took me (a non-tweaker) less than 20 minutes to build and have playing a Roon end point RPI/Digi+ which makes my time quite valuable 😉
      But really isn’t the point that your cash gets you a much prettier box than the acrylic one HiFiBerry supply and functionality that doesn’t depend on use of a mobile device? For many, these distinctions will be well worth the money.

    8. Probably makes sense on a living room floorstanders as the target, since most people with setups like those would probably prefer leaving a computer out of their rack. Less sensible in a desktop/headphone/near-field setup though.

      As a Linux and BSD guy, part of me finds this sort of markup revolting, but then another part of me also realizes that it’s probably the same kind of margin DAC makers earn by putting off the shelf sigma-delta chipsets/designs into fancy boxes and charging a couple of grand for it.

    9. All droning about price, specs, etc aside, all leisure is (unpaid) labour. More importantly does it deepen my experience of my music which can only be answered through listening rather than reading technical specs.

    10. I think you will find that Bryston is not using a “stock” HIFIBerry Digi+ board. They have added additional power management which is important for the sound. When I first heard about this product I had already ordered the PI3 and HIFIBerry Digi+ combo. They worked ok out of the box, but was not satisfied with switching power supply. I re-wired the power input onto the Digi+ and added a TeddyPardo linear power supply. This produced a much smoother and more detailed sound.

    11. Good on them if they can get people to pay for this! Great concept/idea in packaging the RPi hardware in a nice looking case but it is a ridiculous price.

      Connecting RPi + DigiPlus + 7inch RPi touch screen is dead simple. Done in minutes and a far cheaper and sexier system in my opinion. Bryston would have to have superior software experience than what is offered in the open source world to be considered as a good value with this hardware setup. Someone inclined to fork out $1.3K for a streamer is most likely educated on what exists in the marketplace. I could be wrong but I can’t imagine most would consider this a good value.

      • Agreed. But isn’t this what almost all manufacturers do without the clarity of what is inside the box?
        The Bryston box looks so much better than a Pi enclosure and so would better fit the many music lovers who need, for whatever reason, a rack that looks ‘acceptable’.
        What is much more important is how does it sound and it’s a shame that John isn’t planning to review as I think the RPi sound terrific in the right context.
        Sure this box is a lot of money but far less than we were accustomed to paying for high quality CD players or turntables and the alternatives listed here are not so different price wise.
        PS. Has anyone heard this unit yet?

    12. I seem to always comment on streamers because I think the market had some predatory tactics in play for a while and the market still abounds with disingenuity. But I have to admire Bryston’s approach. Meridian slapped a motherboard, a pico power board and an RME audio card in a fancy chassis and called it Sooloos, albeit with an early derivative of Roon(ish) software and charged $5k…. A dozen other ‘audiophile’ brands have done likewise, selling poorly (sometimes decently) spec’d PC’s in fancy aluminum boxes with free Linux distros and calling them media streamers and charging north of $10k depending on how fancy the casework was and how prestigious the brand.

      Early on, I think the ‘audiophiles’ of the time were none the wiser but I think these days the market is more informed on what a media streamer is.

      Bryston’s approach is more honest and there are some issues that they’ve tackled that I’d pay money for…. Volume and transport control buttons (mechanical type) are not an easy thing to program into OSMC, or Rune or what have you, unless you are very fluent with shell scripts in the terminal. I’ve been trying to program 5 buttons for basic transport controls for a month and it still eludes me. Getting your touch screen calibrated, getting VU meters, album art… Those things take skill and/ or time to solve.

      Getting it all taken care of and getting a nice chassis to boot with a long standing brand warranty behind it…. I would’ve loved to have seen a Toroid/ linear PSU but still…. They’ve put in some work solving some sticky problems and brought a finished product to market without and snakeoil salesmanship nonsense…. You gotta respect that.

    13. John, great news item as usual. Thanks for keeping us, your readers, abreast of these developments–and thanks for not just parroting press releases. I would not have heard of this unit beforehand without you spotlighting it.

      Given that most hi-fi manufacturers set their MSRP at a markup of 5x-10x of their BOM to cover labor, overhead, profit, support, warranty, R&D, advertising, legal, insurance, accounting, currency fluctuations, and to give distributors and dealers sales margin, I think the BDP-Pi is fairly priced. In fact, it probably IS 5x the BOM and is certainly not 10x the BOM like some manufacturers charge.

      Anyway, I was set to buy one until I read there is no automatic discovery of album art and that the OLED screen is disabled when connected to a USB DAC. Frankly, those limitations are deal breakers for me and I will go for something like the Auralic Aries to hook up to my Ayre QB-9.

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