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REVIEW: Blue Circle Audio BC-23 Phono Preamp

Model: BC-23
Category: Phono Preamp
Suggested Retail Price: $1200?
Description: solid state phono stage
Manufacturer URL: Blue Circle Audio
Manufacturer URL: Blue Circle Audio

Review by cpdunn99 (A) on November 16, 2002 at 11:13:34
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for the BC-23

I have been using this BC-23 for several weeks and think it is an excellent product! Quality phono stages can be incredibly expensive, although "expensive" can be subjective. For me, $1200 or so is steep, but finding used units is pretty easy.

The BC-23 is a solid state unit, in contrast to most Blue Circle products, which are either tube or hybrid. BC makes some good points (see their web site) as to why ss rather than tubes for their one and only phono stage. This unit really has some snap to it, and paired with my Linn LP12, sounds incredible. The treble, midrange, and bass are particularly strong, which might also be a characteristic of my speakers (Cabasse).

Inside the unit are two sets of DIP switches (for right and left output) which can be set for almost any loading from 60 to 47k ohm. In addition, there are two toggle switches which, when in the "on" position add 61db of gain, which is necessary for most MC cartridges. As I have a medium-output MC cartridge (Goldring Excel VX), I initially set the toggle switches "on" and the DIPs to 100 ohm. Great, incredible, untouched sound. Given the nature, I guess, of my cartridge, the DIP switch settings didn't really affect the sound, even when essentially unloaded (47k ohm). When using a MM cartridge, I found much more sensitivity to DIP switch settings.

I highly recommend this unit. To be fair, it should be compared to other units, preferably in the same price range and/or with same features.

So, I also own an EAR 834P. This is a tube phono stage. I have the model with the volume pot, but had it disabled at the factory. I don't see the point (I'm not using it as a preamp) and don't want the signal path to be any longer than necessary. I also rolled the stock tubes for Telefunkens. Now, without these mods, this is another outstanding phono stage, costs about the same as the BC-23, and sounds as good. WITH the mods, the sound is cleaner, the bass better defined, and the treble (esp. operatic singers, violins, etc.) is much sweeter. There was just a hint of stridency with the stock tubes, but now it is noticeably improved.

The midrange with the BC seems to be a little better with rock, but better with the EAR for classical and solo instrumentals. The bass with the EAR is actually comparable to the BC, but might be a tad deeper and more defined.

I really can't say which I prefer! In fact, I switch from one to the other, depending on what kind of music I'm listening to. There is no earthly reason to have both. Let's say this: either one is a great choice and it is only in side-by-side comparisons that subtle differences can be detected (and they are not negative in any way).

Product Weakness: Poor user's manual, esp. for novice.
Product Strengths: Snappy sound,either with digital or analogue playback. Great sounding, versatile (DIP switch settings). Great customer service! They will answer any e-mail query, usually within a couple of hours

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: NAD (40W)
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): None
Sources (CDP/Turntable): NAD 521i (CD); Linn LP12 (vinyl)
Speakers: Cabasse; Tannoy
Cables/Interconnects: Nordost
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Classical, blues, jazz, Dylan, Richard Thompson
Time Period/Length of Audition: several months
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner

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Topic - REVIEW: Blue Circle Audio BC-23 Phono Preamp - cpdunn99 11:13:34 11/16/02 (2)

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