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Reviewer: Paul Candy
Source: Rotel RCD-971 as transport, Audio Zone DAC-1, Zero One Mercury CD/HD Player [in for review], Pro-Ject RPM 5 turntable, Pro-Ject Speed Box, Ortofon Rondo Blue cartridge.
Preamp/Integrated: Manley Labs Shrimp, Audio Zone AMP-1, Pro-Ject Tube Box phono stage.
Amp: Manley Labs Mahi monoblocks
Speakers: Green Mountain Audio Callisto (on sand filled Skylan stands), Hornshoppe Horns, (2) REL Q108 Mk II subwoofers, Green Mountain Audio Calypso [in for review]
Cables: Acoustic Zen, Audience Maestro, Auditorium 23, DH Labs, Audio Magic Clairvoyant 4D [on loan], SilverFi cable loom [in for review], Stereovox XV2 digital
Power Cables: Audience, GutWire, Harmonic Technology, DH Labs.
Stands: Grand Prix Audio Monaco four-tier rack.
Powerline conditioning: BPT Pure Power Center w/Wattgate 381 outlets, Bybee Quantum Purifiers and ERS cloth, GutWire MaxCon, Blue Circle BC86
Sundry accessories: Grand Prix Audio APEX footers, Herbie's Way Excellent II Turntable Mat, Herbie's Black Hole CD Mat, Isoclean fuses, Walker Audio SST contact enhancer, Nanotech Intron 8500 CD fluid, Audio Magic/Quantum Physics Noise Disruptors, dedicated AC line with Wattgate 381 outlet, Echo Busters acoustic room treatments.
Room size: 11' x 18' x 8', long wall setup, hardwood floors with large area rug.
Review Component Retail: BmPH starts at CDN$4,445; BC6000 starts at CDN$1,795; BC62 CDN$300.

I initially heard Blue Circle's BmPH integrated paired with Green Mountain Audio's Calypso loudspeakers last summer at the home of Toronto area retailer George Taylor of Entracte Audio. Since I was quite impressed to say the least with this particular matching, I requested review loaners of both brands. However, these things can take considerable time to arrange for one reason or another. It wasn't until this past summer that everyone's schedules reached a happy convergence. Since Blue Circle's Gilbert Yeung couldn't free up a new BmPH due to a backlog of orders, he loaned me his prototype version and later delivered a production model kindly donated by a local Blue Circle owner. As this was a customer model, I didn't remove the cover to shoot pix. Instead Gilbert sent me some interior shots from his production Blue Circle facility in Innerkip Ontario. George was also able to loan me his Calypso demo models. It further turned out that I already had Gilbert's new BC6000 power line conditioner and some of his power cables for review. Since this particular Blue Circle combo worked so well together, I thought I'd tackle them together. Fortuitous convergence indeed. Along with the Zero One Mercury CD/HD player, I was able to assemble a quite awesome, synergistic and lovely system. More on that in my upcoming Calypso review.

Let's get down to the nitty-gritty with each component first. According to Blue Circle's website, "the BC6000 is designed to be a high performance, high efficiency power line filter conditioner built specifically to handle the unpredictability of AC power quality in any room that you may encounter. No matter how poor the AC power is, this component will at least be able to provide you with a good clean power source to start with."

The base version of the BC6000 features 3 hospital-grade Hubbell duplex outlets housed in a black metal box with black Plexiglas front faceplate (other cosmetic options are available), measuring 16.75" wide by 3.25" high by 8.25" deep and weighing 9.5 lbs. Power connection is a standard 20A Neutrik Powercon twist connector and BC62 power cable. There is also a second Powercon on the rear to piggyback one of Blue Circle's BC606 or BC608 powerbars. Gilbert chose the Powercons not only for their safety features but also for their superior clamping pressure, conductivity and the internal true-wiping contacts that actually clean themselves each time the cable is plugged in. Gilbert says it's a far better electrical connection and hopes most people will realize this but IEC jacks are available upon request for those stubborn 'philes who insist on playing around with IEC equipped power cords

While my loaner was a pre-production version with a slightly different internal layout, filtering network and performance were said to be identical. The photos with the exposed wiring and buss bars reflect the pre-production model.

Essentially the BC6000 is one big passive parallel filter network with no less than 157 individual caps of
four different values to cover a frequency range from 120Hz to over 50GHz. Gilbert describes it as a "black hole for noise" where anything above 200 Hz is "sucked away". The Hubbell outlets are double-wired, filters are triple-wired and connected to a high purity copper buss bar to "eliminate unwanted inductance and ensure optimum power transference". The filter network sits in a "silicone bath to eliminate mechanical vibration". The front panel features a high-pressure contact power on/off toggle plus the ubiquitous Blue Circle emblem. MOV surge protection is standard.

Separate outlets marked for digital, analog or power amps are not required as all outlets receive the same level of filtering. Gilbert claims the BC6000 won't limit current and will remove noise from the incoming line and all connected equipment. The BC6000, "being an extremely low impedance source will suck all the noise into its filters and turn it into heat and dissipate it harmlessly leaving only a beautiful quiet background for recording and playing".

The BC600 did not adversely affect current flow to any of the amps I hooked up, be it the BmPH, Manley Labs Mahi or Audio Zone AMP-1. In fact, all of them performed to a higher level. Nor did I note any tonal bleaching, odd changes in spatial balance or unnatural artifacts which is exactly where most PLCs have failed for me in the past such as various models from Chang, Monster, API, PS Audio and Audio Prism to name a few. Some AC conditioners certainly reduce noise but then proceed to suck the life and tonal color out of music. It's as if you accidentally poured bleach into your laundry of colored fabrics. The clothes will be clean but the colors are ruined. Some conditioners add a thicker denser soundscape yet remove the air from recordings. It's as if the oxygen in the recording space has suddenly been sucked away. The effect is not unlike listening to music in a room with far too much damping. It's certainly quiet with lovely black backgrounds but the light and fire of music are extinguished. Other units add a subtle coloration or artifact that becomes all too audible and inevitably grating as time goes on. The BC6000 did not exhibit any of those characteristics in my system.

With all of my components including my Manley Labs gear plugged into the BC6000, I noted improved pace, attack, soundstage dimensionality and focus. I also thought the bottom end was clearer and more defined, with greater punch. My guess is some power factor enhancement due to the capacitive nature of the filter network.

Music playback was more transparent, with greater delineation of detail. A fine layer of grit and a slight haze that I initially didn't realize existed, simply vanished. With all this reduction in low-level noise and hash, music flowed more freely and with greater dynamic graduations and insight. I actually enjoyed music more with everything connected to the BC6000. Anytime I removed a component from it, the presentation suffered ever so slightly. Still, I don't believe PLCs are absolutely necessary for every system. I've had some pretty good ones in for evaluation and while I initially missed their effects upon return, time as they say heals all wounds. Personally I think the ever-expanding product category of PLCs and surge protection, as with audio cables, is starting to border on the ridiculous, especially in pricing. Most are tone controls as far as I'm concerned - and unpredictable ones at that. Having said that, the BC6000 had a subtle yet entirely positive effect on my system and I consider it decent value. But due to the plethora of complex interactions with component power supplies and the mains, an in-home audition is strongly recommended.

Gilbert also sent along a few of his BC62 power cables so I could maintain a consistent Blue Circle theme right through my entire AC delivery system. The BC62 is Blue Circle's premier power cable and sports four 10-gauge stranded ultra-pure copper conductors arranged in a special braid that Blue Circle calls a "double reverse twist" to attenuate "any RF that's in the line regardless of where it was introduced". The BC62 is unshielded as Blue Circle believes their braiding technique is superior to shielding. The soft nylon sleeving enclosing the braided conductors gave a nice luxurious feel compared to the polyester sleeving used by most cable firms. Connectors are all hospital grade. The BC62 was one of the most flexible power cables I've used. If you have limited real estate behind your equipment rack, rest assured the BC62 will not complicate matters further. With my digital front end and BmPH hooked up with BC62s, music sounded slightly fuller, more open and smoother than with the usual 18-gauge stock cords that ship with most gear. For $300, the BC62 along with the DH Labs Power Plus is one of the best power cable values I'm aware of. It handily blew away any stock cable I have in terms of noise reduction, bass response and detail retrieval if not to the same degree as other, unfortunately far more expensive cables. It's also one of the most neutral sounding power cables I have tried and should be compatible with many components. I find that as some power cables become more complex with multiple layers of shielding and other materials, performance can vary dramatically from component to component and not always in a positive manner. The BC62 worked well regardless of where I put one. If you want to try aftermarket power cables and aren't keen to empty the kids' college fund, try a BC62 or go DIY.

The BmPH is a solid-state integrated amp design outputting 160 watts into 8 ohms and 260 watts into 4 ohms. This behemoth measures 17.5" wide x 21.25" deep x 5" high and weighs in at a hefty 65 lbs, most of which is the massive power supply some 75% larger than in the NSCS I covered nearly two years ago. There are also two power output modules per channel while the NSCS has one per channel. The preamp section is also different in that it is a fully balanced design whereas the NSCS is single-ended.

Further specs are as follows:
• residue noise reference to full power output: >-91dB
• residue noise reference to full power output: >-100dB
• tracking error: < +/- 0.1dB
• frequency response (10W into 8 ohms): 10Hz to 50KHz +0.00dB, -0.1 dB; 0.7dB at >100kHz
• distortion at 10W into 8 ohms: < 0.04 % -Voltage gain: 32 B (BAL), 29dB (SE)
• input sensitivity: 0.9V
• input impedance: 200K (BAL), 100K (SE)

Stainless steel faceplate with blue chassis cover and wooden knobs are standard issue. As with all Blue Circle components, a wide variety of options are available including custom finishes. Want a pink chassis and purple knobs? No problemo. Just email Gilbert and he can fix you up. My loaner came in Henry Ford's favorite color and sported three large wooden controls on the front panel: source selection, stereo/mute/mono and volume. There were also two metal toggles for power on/off and tape loop. Dead center sat Blue Circle's trademark emblem which lights upon power-up. On the rear sat six pairs of gold-plated RCAs for three sources, tape loop and preamp output, a ground lift toggle, IEC input with integral main fuse holder, ground post and four rather unusual speaker binding posts which will only accept spades. Other post options are available of course. As in the NSCS I reviewed two years ago, my sample featured a Shallco attenuator.

The BmPH delivered a big, weighty sound with excellent spatial detail and focus, with decent if not terrific depth. Overall tonal balance was neutral with just enough hint of warmth and richness to prevent any sense of sterility or dryness.

The BmPH exhibited great clarity with the GMA Calypsos and Callistos. Voices and instruments sounded lifelike and uncolored. Words like 'neutral' and 'clean' kept coming to mind. There was also exceptional presence and incisiveness. There's nothing shy or reticent about this amp. The BmPH took the sound of Yuri Temirkanov's zesty reading of Prokofiev's 5th Symphony [RCA 62319] to another plane, with each note emerging into my room with terrific realism of leading edge attack, body and then the fade. The demonstration-class bass drum in the "Lieutenant Kijé Suite" blasted forth with impressive gusto. However, it wasn't all brawn without finesse as the softly played string entry in the 1st symphony's second movement was delicate and nuanced. Dynamic contrasts and drama are key attributes of this recording and here the BmPH shone.

With some systems, the gloriously complex street brawl scene in Wagner's Die Meistersinger [Arts Music 43020-2] can sound like one giant cacophony of noise. With the BmPH, I could peel back all the myriad layers and key in on individual voices, orchestral sections and instruments without strain or fatigue. Incidentally, this 1967 recording with Rafael Kubelik at the helm is my top recommendation. This one seems to capture more of the humor and humanity in this sunniest of Herr Wagner's operas than any of the dozen or so recordings I have heard. And the sound is excellent too.

The BmPH was musically satisfying and free of pitch distortion on solo piano recordings such as Alan Plainès' recent release of Debussy Piano Pieces [Harmonia Mundi HMC 901947.48] and one of my treasured desert islands discs in which Plainès positively dances through various Chabrier bon-bons [Harmonia Mundi HMA 1951465]. If an amp can't get the always difficult-to-reproduce piano right, I find my attention quickly fades. That didn't happen here at all and I noted a fine balance between the leading edges of notes as well as the decays.

St. Germain's Tourist [Blue Note 25114] and David Lindley's El Rayo-X [Asylum X5E-524] with some of the tastiest slide guitar licks on record showcased the BmPH's rhythmic strengths; a big propulsive and involving slam fest with plenty of weight and control minus all bloat or lethargy.

The BmPH never sounded harsh, grainy or mechanical. Granted, my wee EL84-powered monos were a little sweeter, with a more harmonically textured, more natural sense of flow but the Blue Circle amp offered a weightier, tauter and more incisive presentation with considerably more control down low. I could sense the power and scale of music more with the BmPH. This was clearly evident when I hooked the BmPH up to the Calypsos. The big bruiser from Innerkip took full control of the Calypso's drivers and delivered one heck of a ballsy presentation.

While my listening bias tends to pull me more towards more

palpable texture and natural flow as usually offered by tubes, I quite enjoyed the BmPH and thought it was as musically capable as my valve gear. After long listening sessions with the BmPH, I stopped thinking that I was missing anything as it always managed to engage me.

At the end of the day, the BmPH did not leave out anything that I consider essential to decent music playback. Perhaps I missed some of the texture and nuance of tubes but that's more a personal bias than any shortcoming in this black beastie.

I didn't think the BmPH, with its enormous power supply, would benefit greatly from powerline conditioning but adding the BC6000 surprisingly kicked up the BmPH's performance a tad. I wouldn't say it was a jaw-dropping difference but a worthwhile one nonetheless that made listening more enjoyable overall.

Gilbert's prototype with connectors redundant for testing stripped and plugged

It's been nearly two years since I've heard Gilbert's NSCS, therefore I'm relying on dodgy aural memory. I don't think the BmPH is simply a more powerful NSCS. Nor do I believe there is a consistent house sound for Blue Circle as is with many if not most brands. Gilbert marches to the beat of his own drum and designs whatever he fancies at the moment. Thus it's a little difficult to make any thematic connection between various BC components. My sense is that while the BmPH is similar to the NSCS in terms of dynamics, speed, clarity and power, the BmPH is considerably fuller and richer tonally, with greater control and thus a better match for more difficult speaker loads. I certainly felt that it was the superior amp. Considering the price difference, I guess it should be. While I briefly heard Gilbert's slightly more expensive tube hybrid FtTH at George's home driving the Calypso, I can tell you that it is a very different-sounding amp and not an ideal match for the big GMA. I know the scuttlebutt on the FtTH suggests that this is an excellent amp, possibly surpassing the BmPH in some respects but system matching especially with the amp/speaker interface remains crucial as always. One of Gilbert's US dealers, Bob Neill at Amherst Audio, absolutely loves the FtTH matched with JM Reynaud's Offrande Signature stand mounters.

Overall the BmPH was a fine integrated amp and a terrific match with Green Mountain Audio's Calypso and Callisto models. Up until my shipment of Audiomat, Actinote and CEC arrived for a future system review in fact, the BmPH along with either GMA speaker model, Zero One Audio Mercury CD/HD player and either SilverFi or Audio Magic Clairvoyant cabling offered the finest music reproduction I've heard yet in my room. I spent many blissed-out hours totally captivated with what this system could offer. With its nearly endless list of options and power reserves, the BmPH might be all the amp anyone would need. If you want a powerful, weighty and dynamic solid state amp with balls of steel plus plenty of optional features, put the Blue Circle BmPH on your list. And maybe the BC6000 and a couple of BC62s too.

Quality of packing: heavy duty cardboard box with extensive medium density open cell foam.
Reusability of packing: Excellent.
Ease of unpacking/repacking: Very easy.
Quality of owner's manual: Easy to read and comprehensive.
Condition of component received: Flawless.
Completeness of delivery: Perfect.
Website comments: Informative with good quality pictures, pricing info and customer discussion forum.
Warranty: 3 years parts & labor, non-transferable.
Human interactions: Quick, professional, helpful and always entertaining.
Pricing: Appears to be fine value considering performance and number of optional features.
Final comments & suggestions: None.

Manufacturer's website