aM.jpg (10462 bytes)

POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE
hardware.jpg (10798 bytes)

 

blue circle

BC6 amplifier

as reviewed by Sherman Hong, Larry Cox, Francisco Duran, and Carol Clark

[BC6 Amplifier]

 

 

 

 

SHERMAN HONG'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
ProAc Response 3.5.

ELECTRONICS
Accuphase DP-55 CD player direct to an Accuphase DP-550 amplifier.

CABLES
Acrotec 6N-2030 and 6N-2050 interconnects, 8N-1080 speaker cables, LAT power cords.

 

one.jpg (6551 bytes)The Blue Circle BC6 resides in a simple but elegant aluminum chassis with "Star Wars"-like black heat fins and a blue glistening orb reminiscent of Cyclops. At 25 watts per channel, the BC6 is by no means beastly. With a pair of Sovtek 6922s in the circuitry, this hybrid amp is reminiscent of some Audio Research and Counterpoint designs of yore. The BC6 is generally lacking in the idiosyncrasies of low-powered tube amplifiers. No notable difficulties arose in partnering it with my ProAc speakers (8 ohms, 88 dB). Nevertheless, discretion was imperative. Glass-shattering listening volume does not elicit the best performance out of the BC6. With temperate volume levels, however, this amp exemplifies the potency of a hybrid amplifier, especially with regard to speed and neutrality.

At present, I'm still in process of working on my house. My current "temporary" setup is an Accuphase DP-75 CD player, with an Electrocompaniet ECI-2 integrated amplifier (50 watts), connected with Acrotec 6N-2050 interconnects and 8N-1080 speaker cable to ProAc Response 3.5 speakers. Each source component sits on a Black Diamond Racing ‘Shelf" and cones, with Bright Star Little Rocks on top, and is connected with LAT power cables into Power Wedge 116, 112 and PE-1 line conditioners. The preamp output on the ECI 2 served as connection to the Blue Circle.

I initiated my listening with Cowboy Junkies' Trinity Session, which came to titillating life. Singer Margo Timmins, the band, and the Church of Holy Trinity were set several feet behind the speaker's front plane, with a sense of three dimensionality that was previously absent, although the soundstage was now smaller in height. Her voice had a rich and full texture, and space surrounded all instruments. The shading around each instrument was discernible, lending the sound an effortless authenticity. Drums and cymbals were sparklingly precise, while the sound of the electric guitar had a mellifluous body that only tubes can capture. On the plus side, the recording's sibilance was less evident, but this seemed related to the fact that overall transparency was diminished. The sense of the hall in this recording was restricted by a lingering veiled-ness, an unfortunate outcome that could perhaps be due to the Sovtek 6922s rather than the circuit implementation. Tube experimentation is probably a necessity to accommodate personal preference. (Isn't that why tube equipment is such fun?!).

I then took Sting's Dream of the Blue Turtles for a spin. The BC6 rocked on without falter. When I cranked the volume knob past the 12 o'clock position (blasting!), however, the amplifier crackled and compressed. After retreating to a more civilized level, the Blue Circle continued to impress. The sound was intimate, embracing, and essentially easygoing. Omar Hakim's drums hit firmly and tauntly, though with less authority and solidity than customary. Branford Marsalis' saxophone and Kenny Kirkland's keyboards strutted gracefully without sounding slow or congested. However, the veiling and the absence of the lowest octaves did prevent my full enjoyment of the album. This could be caused by Blue Circle's low power, or rather the ProAcs’ need for increased amplifier motivation, than anything else.

The BC6 should be a splendid performer if properly complemented. With only 25 watts available, choice of a medium size or exceptionally efficient speaker would be preferable. Nevertheless, the amplifier’s richness, soothing, coherent treble, and precise imaging, united to an expansive soundstage, makes this amplifier worthy of audition. The availability of alternative tubes enables the user to personalize the BC6's mannerisms. As with most tube electronics, the musicality overwhelms its drawbacks. When it comes down to it, aren’t we in this for music, not equipment? 
Sherman Hong

 

 

 

CAROL CLARK'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
Apogee Caliper Signatures or Chario Hyper 2000.

ELECTRONICS
Muse 150 monoblock amplifiers. Blue Circle BC3/BC3.5 preamplifier. E.A.R. 834P phono stage.

SOURCES
EAD 1000 transport and 1000 Series II DAC connected using Theta’s TLC (custom DC power supply) and Audient Technologies’ Tactic and Audit. Digital cable is a 1-meter length of Nordost Moonglo between the Tactic and Audit and a 6" length between the transport and TLC. Linn Axiss turntable, K9 cartridge and Basik Plus arm, Cardas Quadlink 5C tonearm cable.

CABLES
Nordost SPM interconnects and bi-wired speaker cables.

ACCESSPORIES
API 116 Power Wedge and Coherent System’s Electraclear EAU-1.

 

two.jpg (6646 bytes)The Blue Circle BC6 power amplifier is a beautiful sight to behold, and guess what? It sounds pretty good, too. If you've ever seen a Blue Circle product, you know it has a blue LED circle right on the front of the unit. In a darkened room, where most serious audiophile listening seems to be done, the blue circle seems almost mystical. I wouldn't go so far as to say it sounds mystical too, but I had a good experience with it.

The BC6 is a 25-watt hybrid tube amplifier. It is not powerful enough to drive our Apogee Caliper speakers, but we recently purchased a new pair of speakers to cover just such occasions. The Chario Reference 2000 speakers sound every bit as good to me as our Apogees, though I must mention that I'm still not totally used to them. They sound awesome, but at times I wasn't sure if what I was hearing was the amplifier or the speakers. In fairness to the amplifier, I did listen extensively to the Charios with our Muse monoblocks after listening to them with the Blue Circle, and did note the difference. The first thing I noticed with the Blue Circle was that it did a lot in the way of taming the bass. I love lots of bass, but it was a bit overpowering on the Charios with the Muse amps. The Blue Circle reproduced the bass in a way that sounded natural, and not thumpy. I noticed this particularly on my favorite test song, "Other Voices" (Faith) by the Cure. At the beginning of this song, all you hear is bass and drums. The BC6 gave you the illusion of being in the studio with the musicians. This redeemed the recording for me, which makes me eternally grateful. (You might recall—from the review in Issue 3— that this song was reproduced so poorly on the Kora Titans that I dove for the remote to shut it off before it was ruined forever!).

The treble also sounded just about right. It wasn't too bright. The higher ranges of vocals I listened to sounded very natural. The recording I used to test this was Lorena McKennitt, "The Mummer's Dance" (The Book of Secrets). Her voice has a bit of a breathy quality, and sounded just about right with this amplifier. I noticed lots of air around her voice.

I really liked this amp. It's appealing to look at, and it reproduces all aspects of the music well. Most importantly, it gave me my Cure back. As a postscript, I'd like to add that reviewing equipment is still new too me. It's different listening to equipment critically, and having to publish your findings, than listening for the fun of it. A lot of times I like a component just because it has a certain "je ne se quoi." I struggled with this component for that very reason. I liked it, but had a hard time putting my finger on exactly why.
Carol Clark

 

 

 

FRANCISCO DURAN'S SYSTEM:

LOUDSPEAKERS
ProAc Response 2s.

ELECTRONICS
Classe CP60 preamplifier. Classe CA200 amplifier.

SOURCE
EAD DSP 1000 III DAC. Pioneer DP 54 as a transport.

CABLES
Kimber Hero interconnects, Acrotec 1050 speaker cables, and LAT digital cable.

ACCESSORIES
Panamax PLC.

 

three.jpg (8484 bytes)Before I hooked it up, I thought that the Blue Circle BC6 amp wasn't gonna have enough power. After all, Alternate Audio's 35 watt CA35 amp, ran out of steam at times with my 87 dB sensitivity ProAcs, and the Blue Circle puts out only 25 watts. Surprisingly, the BC6 drove my speakers quite well.

My first reaction to this amp was that music had such a silent background. I've grown accustomed to a low noise floor with my Classe separates, but the Blue Circle didn't disappoint. This allowed a clearer window into the discs I threw at it. For instance, on Black Uhuru's Mystical Truth CD, dynamic shadings were brought out very well. On "Slippin' into Darkness," in which the bass guitar fades in and out of the song, it could be followed easily. The natural decay of instruments sounded unforced and effortless. On my well-worn copy of Brasileiro, all the congas, timbales, noise-making objects, and voices were distinct and separate from each other, yet have a cohesiveness that sounds real. On my naturally-balanced, two microphone Claudia Gomez disc (Clarity Records), which should showcase the soundstage and imaging qualities of any component, the BC6 placed images precisely in space. The soundstage, if not quite as wide as with my reference, had good 3D quality. On track eight of the Deep Forest soundtrack, the pygmies could be followed more easily than with my reference, as they sang and danced in a figure-eight pattern around my speakers.

I don't know if it was the tubes or the high quality solid state devices designer Gilbert Yeung uses in the BC6, but the top end of this amp lacks graininess or edge. Cymbal crashes and vocal sibilances were smooth, and natural sounding. To me that says a lot. I sometimes felt that the top end wasn't as extended as my Classe amp’s. The upper octaves were rounder, softer, and somewhat laid back in the upper mids, but this was made up for by instruments having more body that what I'm used to. The BC6 sounded more neutral and cooler in the mids than the Classe CA 200, which surprised me. The BC6 was also less colored in the critical midrange. During this comparison, I noticed a warm, golden coloration coming from my CA 200 amp on vocals for the first time. What a shock. I now know that my preamp is the more neutral and transparent of the two units from Classe Audio in my system.

What was no surprise to me was the bass. The Classe has a tighter, deeper, and more impactful sound in the lower registers, and the pitch and definition of bass notes ain't bad either. Still, the Blue Circle is fast and dynamic enough to satisfy me. While I could never really warm up to the look of the Blue Circle BC6 (I can't help but think "garage"), I did warm up to its clean build quality, innovative design, and sound. 
Francisco Duran

Blue Circle BC6 amplifier
Retail $3700

Blue Circle Audio
519 - 469 - 3215
www.bluecircle.com

 

POSITIVE FEEDBACK ONLINE 2002 - HOME

BACK TO TOP