My intention is to provide a proper write-up of my new BC22mk2 monoblocks that Gilbert recently made custom for me, coupled with an upgraded BC21.1. But, between work and personal life, I haven't had time to do it yet... I'm sure you can empathize with me So, let me provide a snippet of some initial impressions I sent to Gilbert in a private email last week. I plan to expand on them as I further settle in and get to know my new babies. Comments and questions welcome!
The equipment arrived Wed evening - 3 large boxes. My neighbor happened to be at the door when the UPS guy arrived, and my energy must have been infectious because both of them were as excited about what was in the boxes as I was. All I could quickly gasp to them was "new audio stuff" and hurry inside to unpack and install.
Very briefly, the transformation from previous incarnation to now is quite dramatic. Some of the most immediately apparent changes are that bass notes are more burnished, or brassy, than previously - more full of life. Their quality really stands out to me. Another is that the soundstage has changed dramatically. While I don't sense that the width of the soundstage has significantly widened (maybe a smidgen), but the depth has dramatically changed. The soundstage extends back a little farther than I remember, but the main change has been its extension forward. The music is leaping from the speakers much more than before. It's almost an overwhelming experience! After only two days with them, I am still getting used to it. The main vocals tend to be very front-and-center, with the band more specifically placed around and behind. Another change has been the absolutely deadening of background noise... I am hearing so much more detail, in that really good way of being able to decipher lyrics more clearly, and follow notes as they decay away. Very exciting!
I realize that their character will probably change somewhat over a break-in period. Already just after a couple of days the sound has become more integrated with itself, if that makes sense, but probably it has further to go. Bass notes have tightened a little bit, probably due to equipment being on and warm.
In summary, I am already smitten. Thank you! Already I am very pleased and excited! My feet and head is bobbing in time with the music again, and I love it. I plan to put a write-up on the forum, perhaps over the weekend, to share my experience with others.
Arcam FMJ DVD player (digital output)
Tact RCS2.0 AAA (digital input -> analog output)
BC21.1, modded with Level 1 outboard power supply and double the original in-chassis cap
BC22mk2 POT/LOC monoblocks, upgraded with 30,000uF additional cap each
Salk HT1-TL ribbon speakers
Cabling is primarily BC for interconnect and speaker cable, a mix of PS Audio and stock power cords, and Cardas digital interconnect. _________________ http://theaudiogardensf.blogspot.com/
Good stuff, I expect that with some tweaking of speaker position, perhaps speakers closer to room boundary at back to take an edge of the forwardness, that you'll be thrilled. Sounds like your preamp has been upped in capability quite a bit as well.
So here I am, on a sunny warm San Francisco morning, sitting inside listening to Portishead’s Dummy. I have collected notes on the sound of my new exciting new BC21.1 and BC22mk2 monoblocks, but it’s more natural for me to write as I listen to music because I’m reminded of what I hear and can more easily put it down on paper.
This journey started something like half a year ago – I could go back and look but don’t feel like it - when I started asking around on the BC forum about what part of my system I should upgrade next. At one point Gilbert chimed in to say he could make BC22mk2 monoblocks, and that there might be a member with one for sale. After negotiations and waiting (story of life), a second 22 was purchased. My 21.1 preamp (previously modded with an outboard power supply) and 22 amp soon joined it, and after an upgrade party, the trio was back in my dirty paws for a complete system make-over. The preamp was in for a check-up, but G offered to double its internal cap… what the heck – yes. The amps were in for POT/LOC upgrades and their transformation to mono. G offered to add 30,000uF more cap to each amp…. what the heck – yes. “By the way, G, can you upgrade to pretty LED’s all around and repaint the covers to matching black?” “Sure.” I’m greatly simplifying the story and every day felt like eternity while I waited, but now that the new gear is here, all of that seems so long ago. The preamp is being fed from the analog output of a TacT RCS2.0AAA DSP unit, which is fed a digital signal from an Arcam FMJ DV29. I enjoy the punchy, rhythmic house sound of Arcam DACs, but find the TacT to be an indispensable component in my system, where the shape of the room restricts setup options and domestic considerations must be, well, considered. Next step is an outboard DAC, but I digress. Enough about the TacT for now, but I will revisit its role later on.
The new gear seems to have undergone a short break-in period since I received them a week or so ago. The bass has firmed up a little, and music is presented in a more integrated manner now. I define not-integrated as meaning that the music was almost literally being thrown at me by the speakers. It was a wonderful but overwhelming experience that I had not previously had listening to any system – either mine or others. Now, the sound pours from the speakers in the most natural, captivating, integrated manner.
The beefed-up power supplies in the 22’s, and maybe also the 21.1, must be responsible for the absolute black hole that almost sucks you in before the music starts and also exists between notes. The extended trail of decaying notes is evidence of the quiet background. Subtle rhythmic changes are immediately apparent now, taking no effort to decipher. Each song’s unique mood is clearly presented; if a song has a more laid-back mood, or a faster more exciting pace, then either is equally obvious to the listener. Contrast this against the previous BC incarnation which, in retrospect, didn’t allow these subtleties to present themselves nearly as clearly. The beautiful part is that these changes are detectable even without specifically listening for them. Overall the notes are presented in a fresher, crisper, even cleaner manner. I mean cleaner almost in a literal sense, as if the notes have been carefully scrubbed to reveal their beauty and shininess, without robbing them of their soul or musical intent. Every instrument or voice is more distinctly placed in the soundstage and has a more obvious physical presence, seeming to hover in its own space within the whole. Each has its own life breathed into it. The soundstage has not necessarily increased in width – maybe a little - but its depth is very obviously redefined. The stage doesn’t extend too much further back (due, I am sure, to the fact that I have a TV about a foot behind my speakers, and a wall a couple of feet behind the TV), however it definitely extends more forward, resulting in an overall deeper stage.
The bass portion of the audio spectrum has been the most interesting and difficult to get a handle on. Several simultaneous changes have happened, and truthfully I’m still getting my mind around them. Here’s my current attempt to describe it. While waiting for the 21.1/22s to arrive, I was using another manufacturer’s integrated amp. Bass was fairly tight and authoritative but lacked qualitative substance and was harmonically lean. Today, the bass is harmonically richer (as I like it) and notes are clearly delineated and have good physical impact. “Is there more bass than before?” Yes and no, and there are a couple of ways I can attempt to explain this bipolar state of mind. Yes #1: Bass-heavy tracks (e.g., Massive Attack’s Angel, from Mezzanine) now push the speakers to their limit of bass extension and output of sound – literally windows can rattle. Those notes are tuneful, controlled, deep, powerful, coherent. Yes #2: Previously I had used the TacT to reduce room resonances with careful editing of the correction curves, even going so far as to “notch down” certain frequencies while “bumping up” others. The Tact curve I am now using passes more bass through than before and does not need any specific editing as before. This means that the bass being produced by the amps is more powerful and well controlled than before; room resonances are naturally attenuated by the amp’s seemingly more powerful grip on the woofers. I am a little bit of a bass junky, so overall this is a truly amazing, wonderful, and invigorating experience. No #1: On some songs, I find myself wanting to turn up the bass – “Where’d the bass go?”. I now believe this is because of better bass control as I mentioned above, resulting in a more accurate portrayal of the recording content.
In sum, I am enjoying the hell out of my new gear. My understanding of Gilbert’s audio vision is to reveal the soul of the music. True to that vision, every technical change I hear and enjoy – clearer bass, cleaner notes, deeper soundstage, distinct placement of voices and instruments, subtle rhythmic shifts, etc – seem to be steps in the direction of revealing the musical soul. I actually asked Gilbert in one email, what would be next for me – a new preamp, for instance? He replied that we can talk about it when I get there, and that as long as he’s alive, the sky’s the limit. I believe it. _________________ http://theaudiogardensf.blogspot.com/
Great review Stew.Just goes to show you the best reviews come from actual BC owners.
Just curious if you ever tried/thought of bi-amping the BC 22's? I bi-amped a pair of Pass Aleph 5's with great results.
Initially I was driving the Mani-2's with the Bryston 7B's and fast forward to several system changes,when I bi-amped with the Alephs the sound was more open and dynamic.I could really push the Totems much like I can now with the BC204.Now,with the BC 204 and my current set-up,the sound is pure with lots of detail,making for a more realistic soundstage and musical experience.I wish there was a way we could hear different BC gear in one gathering.......
Joined: 07 Mar 2007 Posts: 154 Location: Kitchener, Ontario
Posted: Thu Oct 07, 2010 8:20 am Post subject: Listening Group
While I am far from the magical city of San Francisco I would love to start a listening group here in south western Ontario, and the GTA. Perhaps we could make a pilgrimage to San Francisco and listen. I have only been there once and it is one of my favourite world cities.
Just in the last couple of weeks, my amps have suddenly just opened up! Dynamics have improved somewhat, but most pronounced is that the soundstage has grown substantially wider and deeper. They are making some serious magic now. At first I thought I was going crazy, hearing things. But now I realize something amazing has truly happened. Maybe all that extra cap that G added, is finally breaking in?
Any other of owners have a similar experience around the 3 month mark? Or, if you have any "break-in" stories, please share them. _________________ http://theaudiogardensf.blogspot.com/
I pretty much had the same experiences with break-in period that you had with your BC-22. From what Gilbert has said, the more caps there is, the longer the wait .
I would say that the most drastic changes occurred within the first month. Both my 109 (preamp) and 208 (amp) were left on 24x7 for the first month. Gilbert suggested that I cycle the caps so that they could drain and recharge to help accelerate the formation of the plates. I would power down the 208 for about an hour each day. With the 109, since it can run on a charge for over 24 hours, I would let them drain while I was listening to music during the day, then let them charge overnight.
I still can't believe how many audiophiles insist that there is no such thing as burn-in. Just as you have experienced, the improvements in sound is night and day.
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