Despite having an economy mode Bret told me "I didn't want to compromise either. I think compromise needs to happen in any design of a product. I wanted to make sure that when you turn it up to 100% bias that this was an amplifier or a product that could compete with the best of them and there was no compromise in any way." His guiding principal was that he wanted to design a product that could live up to the D'Agostino last name.
When sourcing component parts Bret told me he is very selective. "I use all military grade or better components." His goal is to provide a product that will live for twenty or thirty years. His design criteria are to basically "overbuild and build things in a way that if it does fail it can be easily serviced." He therefore selects parts and designs circuits that operate at the lower end of the design threshold to allow for long life. All of his component parts are through-hole and rated to 105 Degrees Celsius to assure longevity. His design philosophy is rather simple: "You have to, a lot of times, use more parts in parallel to achieve the type of power ratings that you want for the circuit when you're designing with surface-mount parts. And I believe that more parts are not the harbinger of better sound. I do think that minimal designs, where applicable make the most amount of sense. And the least amount of parts you can have in the signal path from A to B, technically, is ideal. But when you come into real world conditions of handling signals, noise and distortion levels, you tend to have to add some gain stages or different circuitry to handle complex things. In my opinion you certainly don't need a really high part density to do that." Mostly this is a philosophical outlook. Bret readily admits this is easier to hear than it is to measure.
As for new products along with the S5 stereo and the M5 monaural amplifiers, Bret is introducing a new L5 preamp at the Consumer Electronics Show at the Venetian in 2014. He is currently gearing up to begin shipping preamplifiers in February. He also has an integrated amp in the design phase. Currently, he has "50% of a design for the integrated that is somewhere in my CAD programs and in my brain." His goal is to introduce the integrated amp at the Hong Kong show in 2014. It will also have a Class A architecture and will take design cues from the 5 Series amplifiers and also the L5 preamp.
Bret is also trying to keep the pricing on his products as low as possible. Despite predominately sourcing his components in the USA and doing all of his design, machining and assembly, domestically, his goal is to keep the cost at a reasonable level. He told me that he carefully looks at tooling and developmental costs and tries to absorb as much as, if not all of those costs so the consumer price will not be overtly prohibitive. He noted that not doing so "creates a price chasm that is too great." His goal is to make the cost to performance ratio as acceptable as possible yet still perform to his exceptionally high standards. His S5 Stereo amp retails for $15,000.00, which is a very reasonable price point for an amp of this quality and compared to competing equipment.
Being the son of Dan D'Agostino I was naturally curious what has happened to the family dynamic. I asked Bret a very simple question- how does being a competitor to your Dad work? He noted, "We are not competitors. It's very funny; in fact I'm showing with Dan this year at CES. It's one of those situations, why don't we show together this year?" He admitted that he has an unspoken Father and Son thing. He also believes that he and his Dad represent very different segments of the market. "My Father is a very brilliant designer," he told me. However, Bret wanted to build something that was different from his Father's and other designer's products.
I had the opportunity to hear in person the BSC Audio S5 Stereo Amplifier at a private showing at a local dealer. I can say that visually, the amp is quite stunning. With the graceful, machined front the design is quite contemporary. Bret has also paid attention to the details. While the "B" on the front of the amp is illuminated Blue, it can also be dimmed or turned off completely to fit in with differing ambient lighting situations.
Sound wise, it is a very muscular, powerful amp. With a lot of headroom, this is an amp that will have little problem with virtually any speaker one wishes to pair it with. The system in which I heard it consisted of a Mac Book Pro with J River software as a source, a Berkley Audio DAC and a pair of Magico S1 speakers. The S5 amp performed up to Bret's expectations in every way and sounded positively wonderful. Those who have not experienced the sonic attributes of a Class A amplifier should audition the S5. In my opinion it really sounded spectacular.
I would like to thank Bret D'Agostino for his time not only in hearing his amplifier but also for talking with me about his company and his products.