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REVIEW: Blue Circle Audio BC 2.1 Amplifier (SS)

This is my promised review of the BC 2.1's which are upgraded versions of the standard Blue Circle BC 2 monoblocks. Doug Schneider of Soundstage, who
owns 2's and recently reviewed these very 2.1's, says the 2.1's are better in all areas, but not dramatically so; he considers them a refinement of the 2's. So this review can serve pretty well for both amps, I expect.

Keeping in mind my recent sermon on finding ones own sound, this is the best amplifier I have ever heard. My experience, as some have noted, is not
extraordinarily broad. There are a great many tube amps I've not heard, for
example. But among the amps I have heard -- in my home and on my system -- (Krell KSA50S, FPB 200 and 300; Conrad-Johnson Premier 11A, ARC VT 200, Plinius SA 50 III, 100 III, and 250 IV, a Threshold, and several Pass Labs), the Blue Circle BC 2.1 monoblocks are the first to "lift" the
music airily and bodily into my living room. They have a kind of ebullience, energy, sense of touch, palpability, and presence I have
only heard ABOUT before now. All of the above-mentioned amps can do a great deal that we want amplifiers to do, but all also leave something out, causing me to sense, when listening to them, that "something" is missing.

Since the 2.1's have been in my house, I have not had that feeling. On the contrary, I have been happier, danced more, smiled more, even wept a little. In addition to this uncanny sense of real "presence," these monoblocks have an extraordinary sense of "touch": where all of the other amps I've heard, even at their best, either glide smoothly and liquidly just above detail or present it in stark high contrast, these amps render
it naturally and clearly like incidental but ultimately critical detail in a fine-grained photograph. They "get" instruments I know well perfectly. They make even dull music that is well played worth listening to because the viola is just THERE in all its rich, husky,ribbon-like beauty. We like to say of a component that can do this actually very rare thing that it has "musicality." Perhaps that's what it is. I'm sure that was what designer Gilbert Yeung was waiting for as he developed this amp, listening to and choosing among various parts; and, more important, deciding whether single-endedness, monoblocks, Class A, tube/solid state hybrid typology and
zero feedback were all necessary to get IT. (Apparently they were.)

The standard 2's retail for $6300, which, given how they outperform everything I've heard (from $5000 to $9000) -- and this now includes amps I've auditioned in shops as well as in my home, -- is very good value. Having heard the 2.1's (retail, $9800, gulp), I'm not even going
to consider going backwards, but that's my problem. Both the 2's and 2.1's are "conservatively rated" at 75 watts. Being single-ended, their power will halve at 4 ohms, though no one I know of has found a speaker they can't satisfy. Gilbert himself and an audio web correspondent of mine, Jim Valpatti, drive 4 ohm Martin Logan CLS-IIZ's -- a notoriously difficult load. I've also heard they drive 4 ohm Aerial 10-T's happily. A Canadian friend of mine drove his 8 ohm/86 db ProAc 2.5's happily for years with 2's, and I'm expecting to drive 8 ohm/88 db ProAc 3.8's.

I would like to say that hyrid tube/solid state amps (Blue Circles, Lamms) are The Answer to everyone's amp problems. If you want a brilliant compromise of tube and solid state virtues -- palpability and bass accuracy -- they may be. If you need ultimate slam, they may not be. The BC's don't have ultimate slam or impact. But the kind of clarity and touch I hear in the bass regions of my system with the BC 2.1's in it have removed any need I thought I had for slam. When you've got real bass, when your wife can easily hum the notes the bass is playing and you can feel McBride's plucked string bass note fade slowly behind its successor (on B&W 805's, no less (!), hey, what the hell is slam?! I have fought my way to this amp through a lot of competitors, most recently the whole deservedly praised Plinius line from the 50 to the new 250 IV. If Your Sound is anything like My Sound, save yourself the trek and proceed directly to an audition of this babies. They are truly wonderful.

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Topic - REVIEW: Blue Circle Audio BC 2.1 Amplifier (SS) Review by Bob Neill at Audio Asylum - Bob Neill 07:40:21 11/04/99 (2)

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