I have one who runs with a Plinius SA 100 MK III and it is a fantastic match. You have nearly everthing of the single-ended tube sound a n d the solid state power if you need. Because of the simplicity of the design it is a very transparent sound, but a sound you'll never get tired of. Replace the tubes with NOS ones and it will be your preamp for a long long time.
I've only read a review, but from it I know that this preamp has the best volume control I've learned of, FAR better than the series stepped attenuator used in both CAT SL-1 and CAT Ultimate. When the rest of your system gets good, a stepped ladder attenuator with top resistors will make an easily audible difference. Nor would I worry about its "matching" a Classe too much. I don't think any negatives in that combo are likely to be attributable to the Blue Circle preamp. (I've owned Classe power amps.) I don't happen to believe in active preamps at all, but if I did, I haven't heard of one that sounds better than the Blue Circle BC3 Galatea. Are you able to get it on a trial basis?
I have the Despina hooked to the Plinus mk 3 and Merlin VSM/se's...relaxing.
I've had the BC3 in my system for several weeks. The unit I have is probably one of the most recent ones that BC built. (5/01 production) Shortly after I ordered it, I called BC to ask an amplifier related question. I was surprised when Gilbert himself answered, and told me he was almost finished building my preamp, and had to put down his tools so he could pick up the phone. Knowing his reputation as a perfectionist, it gave me a certain level of comfort to know that the designer/president actually worked on it.
Before the BC3, I was using the BC21 which is a wonderful sounding preamp, but the BC3 is in a whole other class. As soon as the BC3 went in, there was a dramatic improvement from top to bottom. I am using it in combonation with the BC22 power amp, which will soon be upgraded.
My BC3 was ordered with the standard power supply, but I decided to upgrade the unit to the Galatea. I'm told my new power supply shipped from BC last Thurs., so I should have it early next week. If you want to e-mail me in another week or so, I'll let you know what kind of difference the upgrade made in my system.
To my ears, the BC3/BC22 combo sounds incredible, but Gilbert has been urging me to upgrade the amp. (he stopped just short of calling the BC22 a weak link in my system)
I havn't had any other preamps in this class in my system, so unfortunately I can't offer any opinions on how it compairs to the compitition, but I can't imagine that you would be disappointed with the performance. My BC rep once told me he had a Canadian customer that was using this preamp with Classe amplification. An e-mail to Allan Bhagan of Simply Music might be helpful in assisting you with system matching. You can find Simply Music under "showcase dealers"
I demo'd the BC3 Despina, and although I liked it, I wasn't totally shocked by it's performance....I'm still keeping my BelCanto SEP1. The BC3 is more transparent and revealing, but in my system, I prefered the smoother midrange and slight bloominess in the bass of the SEP1. Both pre's use the same 6922 tubes, yet sound distinctly different. The BC3 sounds solid-state-ish in comparison to the SEP1, which sounds a little creamier. My system consists of vertically biamped Muse 100's (solid state) to SC-IV/a's thru bal. golden refs.
I auditioned the BC3 despina(and BC phono), along with BAT VK 3i, 5i, Audible Illusions M3A, Cary 98, YBA 2 Pre; all with Bc 2 mono's. The AI for me was an EASY choice. The AI had more of the Cary midrange magic, plus the widest stage, with huge dynamic's. The AI had the Bass of the YBA, with NOS Siemens or Mullards the depth of the BC 3, with more palpable images (the BC 3 also had the same NOS tubes), a quieter background than all but the BAT, where it was a toss up. The BAT was a little more neutral than the others, with the BC 3 and YBA having a similar take on it all (the tubes in the BC adding more body than the YBA). But for me, soundsatge, dynamics, PRAT (pace, rythym and timing), phono stage (no remote, not balanced) the AI M3a was the ticket. The Galatea power supply might add a wee bit more bass, and help in the dynamic's department; but if it were close between the 2 maybe it would make a difference for me, but between the Despina and the AI IMHO, it was a rather easy choice.
Although I can't comment directly on the sound of the BC3, I can comment on the sound of the BC3000 (which uses the same GALATEA power supply) in my opinion this is one of the finest sounding (overall) pre-amps that I've had the pleasure of using. I've listened to the BC21, and although it's good, the BC3 and 3000 are in another realm altogether.
I'm running the 3000 with a pair of BC8 mono's and continue to be impressed with the sheer listenability of this combo.
Yup.. my handle is "Bigpoppakrell" .. but guess what? the Krell is GONE..and the music is BACK !
So.. to help with the original question of this string, I would suggest that if you do decide to go for a BC3 make sure you can get the Galatea power supply, it really does make a BIG difference to the pre amp.
As for mating with a Classe amp, it should work pretty well. If you really want to enjoy the pre-amp though, have a listen to the BC26 power amp (or better still the BC8's), it was the amp that made me realize that the Krell had to go...
"The BC3 is more transparent and revealing, but in my system, I prefered the smoother midrange and slight bloominess in the bass of the SEP1. Both pre's use the same 6922 tubes, yet sound distinctly different. The BC3
sounds solid-state-ish in comparison to the SEP1, which sounds a little creamier."
As we all know, sound presentation exists along a spectrum and depending where you are on it, anything to one side will sound cooler and more objective and anything on the other side will sound creamier, smoother, and even warmer. I own a BC 3 and bought it to replace a Krell KRC 3: the Krell was warmer (!) and more opaque. It also had less life, but that's another matter. To my ears, the BC 3 comes closer to being perfect than any other preamp I've heard under $6000. It competes favorably with the CAT, which is all the praise it needs. If your preamp is creamier and smoother than a BC 3, it's holding back the music. Dammit, there's ice cream down under that whipped cream!
I have to disagree with Bob. My pre does anything BUT hold back the music, it gives me a more pleasing "musical" sound as opposed to the clear, "hifi" hear every little tick and twang kinda sound. I'm not bagging on the bc3, I think it is an excellent preamp, just not for my tastes. I couldn't overtly point out any colorations with it...Monk demo'd 5 pre's and he didn't prefer the bc either, so go figure.
Sometimes too much of a good thing isn't good. Hearing every last detail didn't make my system better, just different. Demo it and see what you think. Good luck.