Bricasti M20/M25 Pre/Power Amplifier Page 2

As with all Bricasti products, the casework is 'milled from solid' aluminium, while within the balanced design extends to a healthy array of output devices fixed straight to chunky heatsinks on either side of the unit. One slightly hidden feature is the amplifier's trim control, on a tiny screwhead down with the trigger sockets. This allows four steps of 6dB attenuation should the M25 be used with a preamp having higher gain than that of the M20.

sqnote Sounds Unique
Bricasti says it uses 'Vishay foil resistors in key locations in the circuit. We find them to have a unique sound, so we employed them to impart a tonal character to the M20'. Was this the reason behind the oh-so smooth – but arguably too polished – sound we experienced with our default Melco/Vivaldi/B&W system mentioned at the beginning of this review?

1220bricasti.remThings got very interesting when we took the M20 out of the loop and fed the M25 power amp from the competitively-priced T+A P 3100 HV preamp [HFN Oct '20]. Suddenly the presence and treble sprang into life… It also became clear that the M25 itself made a much better pairing with speakers other than our B&W 800 D3s.

Switching to the Klipsch Heresy IVs and these amplifiers were up, up and away with more zip and zing than we might possibly have wished for. Better still, with the tall yet slender multi-driver Scansonic MB6 B flagships [full review in HFN Dec '20] the M20/M25 showed an agility and poise that had completely eluded them with the big B&Ws, the somewhat soft and uninvolving sound replaced with one of much greater vitality and interest.

If there's character to this pre/power amplifier, it's one of relaxed, confident music-making, some way from the sonic fireworks other amplification can deploy – and as the earlier testing revealed, much of this comes from the M20 preamplifier. The bass here is big and rich, and with some recordings can seem in some danger of overwhelming the whole presentation, but there's no denying that with a big orchestral work, or even just a well-recorded grand piano, it offers both a weight and scale that's addictive.


Performance Art
Yes, beside more analytical-sounding components, the M20/M25 can appear to get a little confused when the material becomes really busy, but then as anyone who attends live concerts will attest, the kind of layering and spotlighting one encounters in hi-fi is often a long way from the more holistic concert hall sound.

Thus with the Boulez/New York Philharmonic recording of Ravel's La Valse [Sony Classical SS 89121; DSD64], the richness of the M20/M25's sound increases the ominous feel of the muted opening, before developing into a powerful wash of sound as the orchestral forces swell. It's not one of those 'point at the woodwinds' presentations, but it's indubitably moving and musically satisfying.

The same goes for the scale and weight of Paul Lewis's piano on his reading of Mussorgsky's Pictures At An Exhibition [Harmonia Mundi HMC 902096]. The Bricasti duo, driving the fast and agile Scansonic speakers, sounds detailed and dynamic, but above all focuses on the performance, not on picking out the finest sonic details. To draw a distinction between musicality and hi-fi may seem an artificial construct, but there's no shortage of equipment out there appearing to work so hard on detail-retrieval that we end up listening to the system, not to the music. That's emphatically not the case with this Bricasti pair. Yes, they do the hi-fi stuff, and do it rather well, but they're much more about a musically fulfilling sound, whether with 'demo music' – chamber ensembles, close-recorded jazz or (please no more) girl and guitar – or more general fare that people listen to for pleasure, not analysis.


Thus with Sam Cooke's 'You Send Me', from the Portrait Of A Legend compilation [ABKCO 92642], there are few if any new insights into the recording, but instead a wonderfully warm, generous and organic sound encouraging further listening. And that's also true with the glorious cover of 'Be My Baby' on Kate & Anna McGarrigle's Dancer With Bruised Knees [Warner Bros 7599-25958-2], which is treated with characteristic lushness in the simple arrangement while bringing out the sisters' voices and their harmonies.

Lavish Harmonies
Indeed, the more I listened to the Bricasti M20/M25, the more I found myself enjoying the sound – not through acclimatisation, but rather as a result of relaxing out of audio trainspotting mode and allowing myself to be immersed in the music. Playing the theme from 'Frozen' on the Spes album by the Cantus choir [2L 2L110SABD] I was immersed in the lavish harmonies, and rather taking the quality of the recording for granted. Moreover, a romp through the Level 42 back-catalogue, courtesy of 'The Hit Combination', the closing track on the Remixes compilation [Polydor 513 085-2] is just that via the Bricasti combo – a romp, and all the more fun for it, with gutsy, punchy bass held well in control, and the rest of the mix stinging rather well.

There was a time in the early stages of this long review process when I had the M20/M25 combination neatly pigeonholed in that 'good with well-recorded small-ensemble music, but…' slot, but it's not quite as simple as that. The more editor PM and I mixed up the system, the more I enjoyed the pairing, and its focus on performances rather than hi-fi minutiae. After I came to realise what it was doing, and the intentions of the designers, so the more my appreciation grew. Yes, the Bricasti pairing sounds different, there's no doubt about that – but it's a very appealing kind of different.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
This isn't 'grab you by the lapels' amplification, but its subtler charms are likely to win you over. Immaculately built and finished – though swerve the blingy 'Platinum' preamp option – this is a combination that puts the music first, and the hi-fi second. Approach it with that in mind, rather than hoping to hear every superfluous nuance, and you'll find it has a very satisfying and entirely effortless presentation.

Bricasti Design Ltd
Supplied by: SCV Distribution, Hertfordshire
03301 222500