User Comments: Blue Circle BC27 Phono Preamp
(Also available for reading on Audiogon)
On my visit to CES2004 in January in Las Vegas, I found my way as usual into the Blue Circle room to chat with Gilbert Yeung. Among the new products for 2004 were two new phono stages; the BC27 and the two chassis BC27pi. When I mentioned at one point that I would be around all weekend this year, Gilbert asked if I would like to take the show demo BC27 home with me on Sunday to try out. Of course I said yes. In the end I decided to ship it home, even though it is not very large, or very heavy. I did not want to have to explain to the heightened airport security why I had a black metal box full of wires in my luggage. My mind pictured them taking it apart. Luckily there was a post office branch right behind my hotel.
The BC27 is a solid-state phono stage in a small slim-line chassis. MSRP is US$595.00
Features include Blue Circle output capacitors; high-low gain adjustment; Hex Fred rectifiers; Compact audio signal path for low noise; all hand wired; low output impedance for driving long cables; phono overload is: high gain >9mv, low gain....>60mv.
From the factory, the default gain is set to the high 58dB setting. So my initial setup involved removing the cover to access the internal gain settings for my particular phono cartridges, which were all moving magnet or high output moving coil. There are DIP switches inside to choose between high and low gain (40dB). The low position should work well for most Moving Magnet and high-output Moving Coil cartridges, while the high setting should be better for low-output Moving Coil cartridges. If you buy one ordered new directly from Blue Circle, you may wish to indicate if your preference is the 40dB setting, so you will received it set to the proper gain from the factory.
The BC27 also has a rather nifty stereo/mono toggle switch on one end. A nice touch.
When I first setup the BC27, I also noticed a faint low-frequency hum through the speakers. This usually means a ground loop. I used a cheater plug to float the ground pin on the AC cord and the hum disappeared. This does NOT indicate a problem with the BC27. It says more about my system as a whole, and how the various power supplies interact.
I have a few other phono stages in the price range of the BC27. Most of those have a "wall-wart" power supply transformer. The BC27 has a built-in power supply with an IEC power cord socket. The ability to use up market power cords is something not usually found at this price.
My conclusion after extensive listening over many weeks is that the BC27 presents a tight, controlled, and nicely extended bass. In the mid and upper bass, the BC27 was maybe slightly lighter than some other phono stages I own, but so is most Blue Circle gear I've tried. This is also because it is clearer sounding than the others. The treble reproduction was clean, quiet, and fast; with very good transparency; which compared favorably against the other phono stages I used. The other phono stages exhibited various degrees of a slightly grainy character in comparison to the BC27. The midrange was pleasingly sweet. The other portable phono stages at my disposal were slightly dryer in comparison. The BC27 also presented a more focused soundstage and image than the other phono stages I compared it to. The one that came the closest to the BC27 was the Lehman Black Cube, which is a very fine preamp in its own right.
Later on I swapped in a Blue Circle BC61 power cord in place of the stock black cord. I first took apart the IEC connector on the BC61 to disconnect the ground, so I would not be limited in quality by a 50 cent cheater plug. The sound from the BC27 became even cleaner, quieter, and more transparent. There was still a slight hint of grain in the sound that I did not notice before, that disappeared with the better power cord put in place. The extra money for a BC61 (or any other up market power cord) is well worth the additional cost in my opinion. The improvement in performance of the BC27 was very noticeable in my systems.
While the other phono preamps in my arsenal are all lower priced than the BC27, I feel the BC27 is a nice step up from those, for not a lot more money.
The BC27 phono stage is a very solidly built component with quality parts inside. It appears that Gilbert Yeung has strived for a very high level of performance at a very reasonable price. Mission accomplished.
Other various components used:
Vintage Dual 1219 Turntable (Wood base and 7 lb platter);
Music Hall MMF-5 Turntable
Rotel RP-855 Turntable
Shure V15 Type III-MR Cartridge
Shure V15VxMR Cartridge
Ortofon OM-20 Super Cartridge
Goldring 1012GX Cartridge
Sumiko Blue Point MC Cartridge
Blue Circle ?Sugarbrie? Tube Preamp (see earlier reviews);
Blue Circle BC10X Prototype Solid State Power Amplifier (More on this someday);
Blue Circle BC21 Tube Preamp;
Blue Circle CS Solid State Power Amplifier;
Creek OBH-8SE Phono Preamp;
Lehman Black Cube Phono Preamp;
Realistic ?Little Rat? Battery Powered Phono Preamp.
Various Blue Circle, Siltech, and Miller Sound Labs cables.
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