Blue Circle BC-27Pi Phono

Discussion in 'Equipment Reviews & Opinions' started by reyneman, May 19, 2005.

  1. reyneman

    reyneman Requiescat in pace

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    Sorry for the quick end to this review- I want to get in the last listening session before shipping the demo unit back :)
    __________________________________________________________________


    I cannot remember enjoying music as much as I have over the past week or so. The Blue
    Circle BC-27Pi Phono Preamp has raised the level of my entire system, so much so that I
    am having trouble believing it myself, let alone trying to convince you to believe! Let me
    start at the beginning of my journey…

    I attended AKFest to meet my fellow AKers and to listen to some of the fine systems
    there. Prior to the fest I had asked Brian of Venus HiFi if he could bring a demo Almarro
    A318 integrated amp for me to try. Brian came through for me once again! I was also
    interested in the Kuzma Stabi turntable, which just so happened to belong to my
    roommate Grumpy. True Audio Karma at work here.

    Right across the hall from me was the room being jointly used by Venus HiFi and Blue
    Circle audio. After finding Gilbert Yeung crawling around the floor of my room
    connecting my equipment (and hey, what’s wrong with driving cheap JBL speakers with
    a one of a kind Final Labs tube amp?), he offered to let me try a demo BC-27Pi phono
    pre during the Fest. Karma, I tell ya!!! After a weekend of fine friends and fine music, I
    coordinated with Gilbert to let me demo his BC-27Pi in the comfort of my own home.
    Brian made me a show deal on the demo Almarro, so it was already in place. Ah, the road
    to audio bliss must go through audio karma.

    ‘My’ room addition is not yet finished so I merely took over one end of the family room
    (“Oh no, honey. It’s only for a day or so and I’ll put everything back as it was. You’ll
    see”. Uh huh…). I set up a Billy Bags rack with a Rega P-25/RB-600/Benz H2 on the
    top, the Almarro A318 in the middle and a universal player on the bottom. The BC-27Pi
    is a two part unit, with the power supply separated from the phono section and connected
    with an umbilical (the BC-27, the identical unit with an internal power supply, can be
    upgraded to the -27Pi at a future date through Blue Circle). I placed the -27Pi on the floor
    (don’t worry Gilbert, I used a small carpet under it) with the phono section on one side of
    the rack and the power supply on the other. I was driving a pair of Audio Note AN/Js
    placed on stands three feet from the front and side walls.

    Now, I must admit that I do not own a phono pre at the BC’s level. My judgments are
    based on my experience with my Yamaha C-70 pre, Hafler DH-110, Musical Fidelity
    A300 and Lehmann Black Cube. None prepared me for what followed.

    I established a baseline for the sounds of the system in its new position using a few
    SACDs, selected a record and dropped the needle.

    Three days later I stared at myself in the mirror, noticed the patchy stubble on my face
    and the bloodshot eyes, and decided I needed some help. I just couldn’t stop playing
    records. No matter what record I played the sound just kept me listening, forcing me to
    try more and more slabs of vinyl. To this point I couldn’t give a breakdown on what I
    heard- I just listened to the music, screw this BS about soundstage, imaging and
    frequency response. Figuring I better change something quickly, I decided to replace the
    Audio Note AN/Js with a pair of Living Voice Avatars, thought perhaps their more
    audiophile qualities, rather than the tonal qualities of the Js, would help wean me from
    just listening and enjoying and move me towards evaluating and reviewing. I was wrong.

    The BC-27Pi provides all the earmarks you look for in a phono section- soundstage width
    and depth, location within the stage, air and ambience. But what it really does is integrate
    these separate elements into an organic whole, presenting the recording in the most
    musical way the pressing and production allows. No, it doesn’t hide the faults of the
    recording, but it also does not accentuate the faults and has such an encompassing
    presentation that you just don’t notice how poorly recorded the disk was or how badly
    you treated that disk in an earlier time. This is the point I can’t get myself to believe- just
    how good some of my crappy records can sound through the BC-27Pi, yet nothing is
    removed or hidden.

    OK, OK, I’ll try to break down some of the various parts.

    SOUNDSTAGE DEPTH- through the AN/Js, the soundstage forms a distinct U shape
    with the center behind the front of the speakers, the sides up to the speakers, and the
    depth extending to beyond the front wall. The Avatars bring the center even with the
    plane of the speakers, again with a depth beyond the front wall.

    SOUNDSTAGE WIDTH- this is another area I find hard to believe. I don’t know if it is
    an artifact of my setup or what, but the best way I know how to describe the width is to
    think of the sound as a liquid. As it spreads out across the stage it hits the side walls and
    flows forward, ACTUALLY REACHING A POINT ON THE WALL EVEN WITH ME! I don’t know if my
    mind just can’t accept a soundstage well beyond the confines of my room and therefore
    places it to my side at the wall, but let me assure you that this does NOT sound unnatural,
    but instead feels like an enveloping musical blanket that pulls you right into the
    performance. This does not happen on many recordings- in fact, most of my pop records
    are constrained within the speakers. But when a recording contains a wide soundstage the
    27Pi lets it through.

    VENUE CLUES- great localization of instruments and plenty of air around them. Allows
    the ambience of the recording venue (or the engineer’s desire for such) to come through
    in a most natural manner. Belafonte IS in Carnegie Hall.

    OVERALL SOUND- completely natural. The BC-27Pi neither adds nor detracts to what
    is on your recording.

    The Blue Circle BC-27Pi has changed my expectations of what a record should sound
    like. It took my system to a higher level than I have previously experienced or expected.
    It has made me reevaluate all my records, and most of all has allowed me to enjoy my
    music more than I have in a long while. I cannot give a higher recommendation than that.

    Somehow, someway I will acquire one of my own. Now, I need to end, although there is
    more that I can say. I have some vinyl calling out to me.
     
  2. styler

    styler Super Member

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    damn you ray

    now i have to get one!!!! you are feeding my addicition and its all your fault of course. i just set up my BC CS integrated and it sounds fabulous! Gilbert does indeed make fine products. everything i've heard about that phono stage has been fantastic, i plan to get one in the near future..... thanks for the excellent review. now go shave.
    :D
     
  3. Punker X

    Punker X AK Subscriber Subscriber

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    Bravo Ray... Also got to try the BC27pi at AK fest. Reason I took my entire system down there was just try some different phono sections. Got to play about 5 LPs and it left such an indelible impression that I ordered one. Can't wait for delivery.

    X
     
  4. Thatch_Ear

    Thatch_Ear Addicted Member

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    Nice write up Ray. I will be expecting one on the Almarro too. You know it was what impressed me most in Las Vegas? Well you were standing right there with me the 1st time I heard it.

    Now for those of us who are just ignorant about phono stages can you give us a rundown on the other ones you have used, if they were stand alone, tube or SS and everything else we need to know but aren't smart enough to ask?
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2005
  5. reyneman

    reyneman Requiescat in pace

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    All the phono pres I've owned have been solid state. I demo'd several tube phono pres, but at the price I was willing to pay they all seemed to have some defects.

    A bit of background may help here. I had to overcome early 'education' and experience with tube equipment (radar sets, radios and navaids) to even consider trying tube amps. I was firmly rooted in the spec based theory of musical bliss.

    I still feel that solid state is the best way to achieve fairly large signal gain with minimal noise without going complex and expensive (yeah, yeah- I'm sure I will get my comeuppance for this). And I have another problem, especially with expensive phono sections- the RIAA specs are well established and should be easily achieved by any competent designer, especially using solid state circuits.

    OK, the BC-27Pi did show me that I was VERY wrong to assume that a decent, very affordable phono section (with good specs, of course. I haven't gotten over ALL my technical training :) ) would be every bit as good as a more expensive one. So, until the BC, I was more than happy with affordable units.

    The Yamaha C-70 contains a quite nice and very adjustable phono section, and still IMHO represents a very viable option. The Hafler's phono section is adequate, but will only handle MM carts. The phono section of the MF A300 is quite good, handles both MM and MC carts. As for the Black Cube... I don't get all the glowing reports. It may just be in my system, but I find it not much if any better than the one in the A300.

    I always seek out and listen to phono sections at any audio salon I may visit. Of course, different systems, etc etc. I have heard some really nice sounding units, but none that did it for me like the BC-27Pi did at AKFest.

    After using it at home it did not disappoint. I cannot stress enough that if a phono section in this price range is on your list of items you may consider, you need to demo it. In MY experience, it is well above any that I've heard.

    And the Almarro is an integral part of this system, will write a review of it. But without that amp, the -27Pi would not have been able to demonstrate its capabilities. The synergy of this system continues to impress me. A review is work, listening to the best music I've had in my home is intoxicating.

    Bring your Operatic music up here Thatch. Guarantee the goosebumps for ya :thmbsp:
     
  6. styler

    styler Super Member

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    demo

    i'd like to demo this as well, who do i need to contact? BrianB, or Blue Circle?
    thanks ray
    tyler
    :thmbsp:
     
  7. Thatch_Ear

    Thatch_Ear Addicted Member

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    I guess I need to get that on vinyl, and the goosebump test is a good one. The piece is the Flower Duet from the opera Lakme" by Delibes and is the only tune from French opera that I really like.

    I have been having a lot of fun spinning vinyl. Still looking for some good Sinatra that isn't beat all to hell for 50 cents.

    Thanks again for the review and thanks for taking the time to write up the info on the other phono sections and preamps.
     
  8. tentoze

    tentoze Twangophile

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    Even in the less-than-ideal listening environment at AKFest, the BC was an immediately noticeable improvement over the Black Cube. It's always a happy thing when you can still get blindsided by a great piece of gear, eh Ray............thanks for the review.
     
  9. reyneman

    reyneman Requiescat in pace

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    styler- I believe you need to go through BrianB. I was lucky to have this opportunity as Blue Circle does not normally have any demo units floating around, and BrianB was the driving force at the Fest.

    If I find a way to purchase one of my own, mayhaps we can work something out- I'd be happy to let you demo it. I must admit that Gilbert is a factor in these dealings- a high end manufacturer who realizes that this is a hobby and should be fun. However, don't try dealing with Marylou. I tried for a dinner date with her but all she did was ignore me and continue to play her tunes. What a stiff little woman she is.
     
  10. Billfort

    Billfort Addicted Member

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    Thanks Ray, very nice review. I spent a bunch of time listening to this phono stage with the Almarro at AKfest and this combination with Grump's Sota and AN speakers was definitely my favorite in that room.

    Not sure that I could ever get to hear the BC at home but it would sure be interesting. I've eliminated as many of the evil silicone chips as possible from my system including the phono-stage and every piece that went valve or passive (MC step-up transformer instead of an active stage) brought me closer to the music and I love where I'm at now but...if I ever want to lay out big dollars on a phono-stage, I'd want to hear the BC.
     
  11. BrianB

    BrianB AK Vendor Emeritus Moderator

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    Hi Ray,

    What a great review of the Blue Circle BC27pi phono stage! Thanks so much for taking the time to compose such a detailed write-up.

    Truth be told, I had no idea that Gilbert Yeung would be bringing this phono stage to AK-Fest 2005 - but I'm sure glad that he did! There are now two show attendees who've ordered the BC27pi, along with a couple of other AKers who've told me that they're saving up their pennies after hearing this unit at the show. :)

    Cheers,
    Brian
     
  12. BrianB

    BrianB AK Vendor Emeritus Moderator

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    Again, many thanks, Punker X!
     
  13. BrianB

    BrianB AK Vendor Emeritus Moderator

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    Hmmm, perhaps I could convice Mr. Muramatsu (the owner and chief designer of Almarro) to come to AK-Fest 2006. Yes, Michigan is a LONG way from Japan, but Mr. Muramatsu does seem to enjoy travelling...
     
  14. WhiteSE

    WhiteSE Is Lute Gluten Free?? Subscriber

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    Ya'all suckers....BrianB is moving into the upscale neighborhood of Okemos probably, were surgeons live and people play tennis....he is reeling you guys in with vicious calculatedness (my own word i think)....

    I hope Brian spends some bucks going to the MSU football games, or better yet, Hockey!!!
     
  15. BrianB

    BrianB AK Vendor Emeritus Moderator

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    Okemos? Nope! Granted, this area may have a fair amount of snob appeal, but there's nothing to DO in Okemos - it's boring, boring, boring...

    No, we'll be living in East Lansing proper, not far from the MSU campus.
     
  16. Thatch_Ear

    Thatch_Ear Addicted Member

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    Please send me a ticket. I did take Ray in there and had Mr Takahashi Muramatsu take the 6550 amp out and play the SE 6BQ5 and 6C33 for us. He is a very nice guy and had some great music to listen too. I of course had my own and he was nice enough to play it. He wasn't real happy with the room but his gear sounded good enough in there and it really impressed me. Not only did it sound great but it had a realistic price tag on it. I am guessing he ate the R&D as a hobbyist and is selling based on price of materials and building.
     
  17. BrianB

    BrianB AK Vendor Emeritus Moderator

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    Exactly! :yes:
     

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