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REVIEW: Blue Circle Audio mr 1200 mr 800 Power Conditioner/Surge Protector

Model: mr 1200 mr 800
Category: Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Suggested Retail Price: $799 & $ 699
Description: balanced powerline and distribution center
Manufacturer URL: Blue Circle Audio
Model Picture: View

Review by zaphodb (A) on October 07, 2002 at 20:37:38
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for the mr 1200 mr 800

Before this, I had never written a review of anything, but I am inspired to write about the Blue Circle MR 1200 Music Ring, after my experiences with it for 3 weeks. When you work your way through this review, you’ll have a better understanding why I wanted to share my impressions. I should explain at the outset that I went back and forth a number of times (4) from straight out of the wall power, to juice from the MR 1200 to write down what I was hearing in both instances, in case there was some wishful thinking going on. The drawbacks to doing it that way, was that it was not single or double blinded, and there was always a time gap in moving from one listening mode to another.
When I hooked up my equipment to the MR 1200 and played a disc, my immediate impression was, I was hearing things I had not heard before. I decided to go back and make some notes as I listened, either about what I had heard, or not heard, in case I was only trying to rationalize the purchase.
Because the MR 1200 Music Ring has cleaned up my power source, the first thing I noticed was a big increase in enjoyment from pieces of music I had listened to many, many times. I was alternately relaxed or energized. I never wanted to jump up and flee as I have with some discs in the past. But I haven’t listened to everything yet. I have too many still to listen to, and too little time to know if it makes everything sound better. After my listening sessions, spread over three weeks, I know I am hearing more of the music on the software. For me I view “more” as a good thing. I chose to listen critically to music I already know very well. (I am reporting only on CD playback for this review)
I listen mainly to classical music. For a couple of decades, I have tried to promote the works of Sibelius to other listeners who don’t know his work. I think he is unappreciated in this era. I hope you heed this plug and start listening.
The first listening notes I made were on a two disc set of Mahler’s Second Symphony, (MCA Classics, no.’s 20111, 20112, with the London Symphony Orchestra, Gilbert Kaplan, conductor) I have another version of the Symphony, but this one is my reference. The work calls for a huge orchestra, a soprano, a contralto, and a chorus. When you see it live, which I have twice now, you have a better understanding of how loud an orchestra can play. I digress again.
I made notes on various tracks on the CD. On disc 2, the opening of the third movement, titled “In ruhig fliessender Bewegung” is on track 6. It opens with sharply struck tympani. Switching back and forth from power straight from the wall, to through the MR 1200, these are my notes on listening with the MR 1200. “The tympani now sounds more natural. I can hear how the skin deflects when struck, and the decay and hall echoes are more alive. It seems there is more on this disc than I knew.”
Notes on tracks 7 and 8 which flow together, “I notice my head is swinging now in time with the music. This orchestra is really playing together! In track 8 there is almost a syncopated effect on the strings that is really outstanding now. Great sounds and great playing from oboe and trumpets also!”
Track 21, from the fifth and final movement, “...listening to the opening notes on this track, I can hear the low, fat, ‘raspberry’ quality of the tuba in the right channel very clearly now. I ask my wife if she has ever noticed that before, and she says, ‘never like this before’. How much did that thing cost?” I avoid the question.
I’ll say here the music had more "pacing". I remember reading that word in a review somewhere, and thinking about what it means. What I mean by "pacing" might be different from what others imagine it to be. I mean that music that has a dance-like quality such as on track 8 above, sounds more like a dance, and the music then gets my head nodding and swinging unconsciously in time with it. When I notice I am doing that, or perhaps playing "air baton" in front of me at the same time as I am swinging my head around, I realize I am doing those things because I am enjoying the music more than I usually do. My body can’t sit still. Feet tapping, and with a big grin. Thinking all this could be my imagination, I asked my son, who is a drummer, and has a very good ear for micro-differences in music, and particularly in drum sounds, if he would sit for a while and listen, without telling him what I noticed. I had been playing the start of the First of the Rachmaninov Symphonic dances, Op. 45, on a disc which also includes the third symphony (EMI Classics, D101716, St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra, Mariss Jansons conducting) This track has good brass sounds and about 25 seconds into the track there is a series of strikes on the tympani, that go pum, pum, pum pum, WHACK! then repeats. The big WHACK at the end is the bass drum hitting the last note in the series, all five struck in little more than a second or two. Then the repeat. Notes:"I can now really hear the decay better as the big WHACK dies off, just before the repeat" Then I played it for my son.
After listening to the opening couple of minutes of this track, he leaned forward with a puzzled look on his face and said, "There is a quiet little extra tap on the bass drum further along than the repeat section. I had no idea that was in there."
We also played some music of his choice, and when listening to track 11, called BLEED, on “Collective Soul” (Atlantic Records, CD 82745) he said, “Wow that’s really good. I can actually pick out the drummer’s definition of individual strokes in snare drum rolls now.” I asked what he meant. “I can hear the difference between the placement of his hands on the rim shots. If you strike the drum-head in the centre, you get the deepest possible tone out of the drum. So when the tips strike closer to the rim, it makes a higher note, and this is the definition I can hear, because each tip is a slightly different distance from the rim, and has a slightly different tone. That means I could hear the relative placement of his sticks. Also, the cymbal ring/decay is more apparent, and can be heard better than ever. He must be using an excellent, excellent drum kit, and I have heard that the mikeing for that CD was phenomenal. It’s really the most natural rock drum kit sound I’ve ever heard on a CD. In the 90’s they were moving back to more natural sounds, limiting the muffling they did before, and taking out the ‘gate’ in the mike cable for the snare, which used to make it sound like you were hitting cardboard.” The kid has a better ear than I do, but I can say that having listened to him play for years, I have a good idea what a drum kit sounds like.
I also listened to the opening couple of minutes of the Sibelius Symphony No. 4 in A minor, and made notes. It starts with Double basses and eventually transitions to a solo cello.
I began with a version from The Philharmonia Orchestra, Vladimir Ashkenazy, conducting, LONDON 400-056-2, which was my reference recording for years.
I compared that with the version from Grammofon AB BIS, Gothenburg S. O., Neeme Jarvi conducting. Note:"more guttiness and resin sound from the cello now, but Basses not as ‘deep/heavy’ sounding as with P.O./ Ashkenazy"
Next up was the version by the Lahti Synphony Orch., Osmo Vanska conducting, also from BIS records. Notes"This version is less forward, the basses are more ‘growly’, this is different from the others, but not a better version."
And finally, from the Halle Orchestra version with Barbirolli. Notes: "the tape hiss at the start is more noticeable, so I don’t know if that is really a plus, ...he draws out the notes into more glissando-like transitions from note to note in places than the others do. ...there is not a clean start to this recording ...two players start it about a quarter second apart! The basses sound more ‘massive’ now with the MR 1200.”

But why should my family have been hearing this new stuff in discs? Why should I be enjoying my music more, and what made it different enough to notice in that first minute after plugging everything into it? And what is it going to sound like when I get that used Cary CDP I hope to find/afford some day?
Here are some thoughts. I am convinced it is because the tempo now seems to be better defined, and the micro detail is more spectacular for me. Nothing else has been changed in my system, so I have to attribute this new enjoyment to the Music Ring. Just a guess, but my impression is of a quieter background in the spaces between the notes that define the rhythm. Sounds trite, but when I read “a veil was lifted”, it’s the right image here. I think this Music Ring will allow lots of us to get back to why we have invested so much time and money in equipment AND software. It took a long time to realize, but I know I don't want to spend my time listening to “equipment” and always looking for faults in it.
Even if I could spend, let’s say, $250,000 for everything rated "Class A" with an insanely high price tag, AND could buy all the tweaks in the world as well, that imaginary world class system could never sound like the real thing. Just go straight home after a live concert and do your best to replicate the experience with whatever set-up you have, no matter how good, and it will be obvious. Having said that, most of you reading this are trying to get closer to live sound, and in doing so, enhance your enjoyment of the music. I think I have pursued tweaks and upgrades too much at times, at the expense of just immersing myself in the music, with what I already own. Since you are reading this, you probably understand what I mean, and may have done the same.
Some of the equipment I listened to over the years, made changes that were of the "...hmmm, yeah, I think it sounds ....well, I guess ....different” not necessarily better, variety.
I decided to write this because the difference a Music Ring 1200 made in my system right away was a nice surprise indeed. For the price of a Music Ring, I just got a new music collection. I hope I haven’t opened up a big problem for myself by being so bold as doing this, throwing in all this philosophy on top of a review. I don’t have a lot of time to log in and spend time responding to a lot of questions, or flames. Just take this in the spirit in which it was written, please, as a first timer. Now I’m going to take time to find more enjoyment in the music I have loved for decades. Until I find that Cary CD player.

Product Weakness: very heavy, (35lbs) has audibly hummed a few times, perhaps when really "dirty" power coming is in?
Product Strengths: Works for my system, to let more detail come through

Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: pair of YBA 3a monoblocks
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Blue Circle BC3 Despina
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Micromega Leader CDP/ Linn LP 12, Alphason Opal arm, Supex 901 Super, high output MC, Audio Research SP 7 phono section out to BC3
Speakers: Vandersteen 2 Ci, lead shot filled Sound Anchor stands
Cables/Interconnects: Cardas twinlink 5C IC, Cardas Speaker wires
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Classical, Jazz, Female vocalists,
Room Size (LxWxH): 20 x 12 x 7 1/2
Room Comments/Treatments: wall to wall carpets, wife vetos anything else
Time Period/Length of Audition: 3 weeks
Type of Audition/Review: Friend's System

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Topic - REVIEW: Blue Circle Audio mr 1200 mr 800 Power Conditioner/Surge Protector - zaphodb 20:37:38 10/07/02 (6)

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