Bret D’Agostino is the President at BSC Audio that make a range of amplifiers, preamps and accessories…with an integrated amplifier on the way. He says the products he creates are “borne by a desire to produce a musical event that not only accurately represents the artist’s vision, but consistently offers a satisfying listening experience”.

Your History

How did you get into/what was your first job in the industry?

I was born into the Audio industry quite literally being the son of in those days Audio Salesmen and new speaker designer Dan D’Agostino. I used to build speaker crossover circuit boards and wind coils in my father’s shop when I was around 7-8. During my High School years I would build KRELL circuit boards in the basement and in the summer work on the KRELL production line.

Who or what was the biggest influence on your career?

Definitely my father, but also Industry people like Nelson Pass (Threshold/Pass), Mike Wright (Dayton Wright), Gayle Sanders (Martin Logan), Jason Bloom (Apogee Acoustics) all had effects on me at an early age.

Proudest moment/product you’re most proud of?

When my father and I developed his Momentum amplifier. It was a special time of which I will never forget. Most proud product is definitely the BSC-100m, my first amplifier. It honestly had no right to sound that good as a first solo effort.

What product do you wish you had never conceived/launched?

My latest preamplifier the L5, it is a tour de force of engineering challenges of which consumed much time and money. It turned out to be wonderful product of which I am very proud but do to its level of complication took a lot of blood from me in its realization.

Tell Hifi Pig readers about your next project and what they can expect in the future from you and your company.

I am working on a new lower cost series of components for what will be called the 3 series. The 3 Series will offer our first integrated amplifier and also a more cost conscious Stereo amplifier and preamplifier. Expect to see the i3 Integrated amplifier at CES 2016.BSC Audio M5 Amplifier in Custom Nickle FInish

You and your system

What was your very first system?

My first system was a Harmon Kardon HK330i receiver I believe, and a pair of Great White Whale (Dad’s first speaker) prototype loudspeakers and a Denon turntable.

Tell us about your system history and the way it has developed to the system you have today.

I have had so many systems it gets a bit fuzzy however, my first real performance system was a Krell KSA-100 prototype and the 2nd pair of Apogee Scintilla speakers  ever made given to me by Jason Bloom along with a Harmon Kardon Turntable I modified. The next major system I had was a Krell KSA-300S with Dual Krell KBL and KPA Preamps and a Goldmund Studio Turntable w/Kisiki Rosewood cartridge and a pair of B&W Silver Signatures given to me by the owner at that time of B&W Robert Trunz for helping them introduce the Nautilus speaker at CES when the original presenter couldn’t make it for the conference on time…. or something along those lines. It’s a million miles away these days J. My father was developing an active crossover for the Nautilus and I became quite well versed on the technology at the time. It was a cool system at the CES with 4 pairs of Krell Audio Standard twos driving the speakers. Looked like a Sci-Fi Set for a film.

Today I am using a SME20/2 with a Koetsu Onyx platinum cartridge and Dan D’Agostino Phono Preamp. DCS and Bricasti  Dac’s with custom Music Server PC

Complete Cable systems from Kimber, Kubala, and Transparent Audio

BSC L5 Preamp and M5 or S5 amplifiers

Custom Dan D’Agostino designed 4 tower reference loudspeaker system as well as products from Wilson, Klipsch, Kef, Martin Logan, Magico, TAD, Rockport, Vivid, and Totem.BSC Audio L5 Preamplifier

What component/product do you miss the most/wish you had never got rid of?

I wish I never let the last pair of Dayton Wright XG14 speakers owned by a dear friend get away from me. The Dayton Wright to this day is my reference for midrange performance period. It images like no other, but it had many other quirks that make it hard to live with.

How often do you listen to music?

If I am in a design cycle I tend to listen only when the prototypes are ready. Once I have established a baseline then I listen critically quite often. When I am not in a design phase, I try to listen for enjoyment at least once a week, breaking out the records and actually enjoying music.

Best system (or single component) you have ever heard (no brands you represent please…!)

Besides the Dayton Wright above as a component, the Dan D’Agostino Momentum Amp and Preamp are quite wonderful.  The best system of memory was definitely the Wilson Alexandria’s powered by Levinson gear at Transparent Audios sound room in Maine. It is a special place for sure and when I can I like to take prototypes over there to listen.

The state of the industry

What’s your view on the valve renaissance of the past 20 years or so?

Well I think it is a reaction to substandard sounding solid state gear brought about in the most part by the home theatre boom. Manufactures were more interested in fitting cool running products in racks playing explosions then they were listening to music. The reaction to all of these generic sounding products was a resurrection of tube sound and Vinyl.

Vinyl resurgence… what are your thoughts?

I am somewhat puzzled, I guess to me being immersed in the very best digital playback I didn’t long for playing records. I am not sure why a younger audience is drawn to the format, perhaps the cover art and the physicality of it all??? I have heard some of the systems the youngsters are spinning records on and it isn’t about the sound Ha Ha! As I stated above perhaps a more organic reaction to the edgy digital MP3 world they grew up in? I love vinyl and have several thousand records of which I do enjoy immensely, but it is work to play records.

Is CD a dying format?

Well spinning disk formats will be dying soon I suspect. I hope CD lives long enough for me to sell the remaining disks I have. I have been using a music server for the better part of 6 years at this point, and personally a USB based server with a great DAC is far superior to any CD player I have heard even when the same disk burned into the library at 44.1 x 16. I prefer Hi-Res files when I can get them in original form. I am not a huge fan of up-sampling etc… but a native 24/96 audio file is pretty special, and or some of the DSD stuff I have heard.

What are you views on the state of the industry/where is it going/what will it look like in 5 years/what will typical systems look like?/What will happen to prices?/What will happen to the high end – will it carry on regardless?

Wow these are some tough ones to answer here… I think the average age of the Hi-End audio component buyer is between 50-70 years of age. They have the means and the temperament to invest at the high end levels. However that has been the case for the last 20 years or so and the pool of prospective Hi-end customers is shrinking. As an industry we have to make it a point to educate and bring more people into our hobby impressing upon them the virtues of great audio playback. I think some gear will get much more expensive as to attract a specific buyer type, I think gear will continue to shrink in order to entice a wider audience and simplicity will be a common thread.

Digital downloads, what do you think their impact has been on the way people listen to music? Music is everywhere, the first time in history the access to music is limitless, this unto itself is a great thing however it has a consequence in that we are oversaturated. Music is playing everywhere in our lives, in the background like a constant humming that moves us along, but that is not what “listening” to music is all about. Instead of sitting and listening to a new record, today people go home turn on one of their million tv sets, and listen to the album through their cell phone speakers while making dinner. This hardly does justice to the artist or performance.

How do we engage young people, the audiophiles of the future?

No idea, they come to me when they are ready. You can’t force it, it’s like a cat, they will come when they think it is their idea not because you called them. But in all fairness making people aware there is more to music, and better than MP3 sound actually does attract new buyers. It will happen, just not at the pace we expect, young people do recognize quality but it is on their own terms.. Some dude in a suit isn’t going to be able to tell them how to listen to music, they just don’t relate, they want to be talked too not at…

Online shopping’s effect on the retail industry?

Worse thing to ever happen to retail sales of luxury items. Hi Fi systems have to be custom designed to fit the clients taste and budget. This cannot be accomplished in a vacuum, unsupervised. Dealers  are very important but many have lost their heart and just move boxes as opposed to building brands and selling the dream. A lot of that is due to internet sales and access to a global used equipment market.

What are the industry’s biggest con(s)?

Education and expense, it cost a lot of money for me to build a product, disproportional to other industries with much better profit margins. Many think we mark products up 10’s of times and roll in profit but it simply is not true. It is a labour of love and hopefully I will be able to continue to make a living at the business I love.BSC Audio S5 Stereo Amplifier

The way you work

Presuming the measurements are fine, what do you listen for when assessing products?

Soul… I want to be sucked into the presentation and changed emotionally. I want the gear to disappear and leave me in the space where the music was created.

Your sound preference -‘Smooth, listenable musicality’, ‘forward, driving, ‘foot-tapping’, involving sound’ or ‘detailed neutrality and transparency’?

All of the above, music is a dynamic art form, when you hear a kick drum or a trumpet it’s a visceral powerful thing and should be presented as such, vocals and strings, percussion floats in the air and should do so in a good playback system, all the while each instrument should be detailed and flushed out in a 3d type presentation drawing you into the event.

Turntable preferences…direct drive, belts, Idlers or what?

Turntables are voodoo, I love them and have many favourites, when you think the engineering is all there the table sounds bad, when the engineering is flawed from every place in your brain, it sounds good the somewhere in between lies the perfect turntable. Alchemy I say… !

Your preference – Full-range floor standers or freestanding mini monitors with a sub?

Different, I prefer a full range system with multiple floor standing towers to convey the size and scale of a musical performance. If that system can also convey a sense of intimacy then it is a home run… I love mini monitors by themselves with a really great system powering them, just an ethereal presentation. Adding a subwoofer is a plus for most listeners but for me personally it contaminates the simplicity.

It’s all about the music, man…

What is your favourite recording?  Scarborough Fair performed by Simon & Garfunkel, the lead track on the 1966 album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Just eerie how lifelike it is.

Tell us about your 3 most trusted test recordings.

“Dreams”, Fleetwood Mac, a great 70’s production that I have heard on pretty much every system I have ever played. I love the drum, bass and vocal energy. “Everybody plays the fool”, Aaron Neville. A recording I latched onto in the early 90s that helps me dial in a system to this day. His position in the recording image is very important. Boz Skaggs Thanks to you, A reference My father and I have used for about 12 years, the presence of voice and underlying synth vibrato being prominent fixtures to this complex recording. I will add one other which is the Zombies, “She’s not there” which on a dialled in system can be played at high volumes exposing the cool  energy transfer in the recording, if it falls short this song will rip your face off. There are quite a few more actually…

What are your most embarrassing recordings/guilty musical pleasures?

I have a new love for the Little River Band, great songs, singing and players…

Having safely ushered  your loved ones out of the house as it is burning down to the ground, you ignore all standard safety advice and dash back inside to grab just one recording – what is it?

Ha… great question, short answer I grab the hard drive bank of 75,000 songs plus.

If it were a vinyl scenario and to play fair I would have to burn with the house because I could never carry all the music that has changed my life.

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