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.