Review: Blue Circle Audio BC-21 Tube preamp

Category: Preamps

I've been using this preamp, with matching BC-23 phono stage for a year and a half, listening to mainly acoustic music - bluegrass, folk, folk rock, as well as some jazz, classical and pop/rock.

It's a great, fun-sounding, affordable pre-amp. I heard much more seperation between instruments...a larger and better defined soundstage...than I had experienced with similarly-priced (and higher-priced) units that I auditioned. Strings were much better resolved - an important quality for my tastes. Solo acoustic guitar recordings shined!

There's a bit of mid-bass emphasis that some may not like, but is fun with certain types of music. Adjusting speaker placement helped reduce this though, and I do not consider it much of a problem.

For the price I would definitely go with the BC-21 again...I'd love to try the BC-3 sometime, when finances permit.

Associated gear
Kuzma Stabi S Turntable
Classe CAV-150 Amp
B&W CDM-7 Speakers
AudioQuest Diamondback Interconnects
AudioQuest Slate Speaker Cables

Similar products
Audible Illusuions Modulus 3A
Rougue Audio Model 66
Try some vintage 1940s 6SN7-GT tubes with your BC-21, like the military VT-231 types. They will take the BC-21 to the next level.

In order from the best IMHO (they are all great), I would rank the VT231 tubes (and one other).....
Tung-Sol VT-231
RCA VT-231
Sylvania 6SN7W (about tied with the RCA above)
Ratheon VT-231
Ken-Rad VT-231
Sylvania VT-231
National Union VT-231
Many of these types are for sale on Audiogon alot.

Add a Blue Circle BC61 power cord as well. And put some #2 Vibrapods under the three wooden feet.

I will add that the mid-bass issue could also be in part the CDM-7 speakers.

Also the AQ Slate are very nice speaker cables for the price, but tend to lose a little in the deep bass department, so that may make the mid-bass stick out also. The Slate also have a small hint of dryness. The slight dryness may take a little away from the tube richness. (Disclaimer...I am being picky.) If you like Gilbert Yeung's stuff, you may want to try the BC-92 speakers cables next.

Disclosure....I have no commerical connection to Blue Circle; just a fan.
Thanks for the tips!!

I am currently using Sylvania VT-231's...a terrific upgrade. It really just made all the things I originally liked about the pre-amp even better. I'll keep my eyes out for the other types you listed.

Interesting that you mentioned the power cord. I will be moving soon from an apartment to a house. I had always considered the power to be a problem in my apartment. Upgrading the power cords while on a noisy circuit didn't seem like it'd be a great improvement. But in the new house (not brand new...just new for me!?!)I am looking forward to having more control over the power to the system. I'm planning to first install dedicated circuits. But new power cords were in the back of my mind, too. I'll certainly look into the Blue Circle ones - I've been impressed with their stuff so far (although I have to scratch my head when I see those amps built into women's shoes - Gilbert must have a pretty good sense of humor!?!)

How do you like the BC23 phono stage? I recently auditioned one, but found that all DIP switch settings (except 47k ohm) had no effect on the sound.

I have a Goldring Excel VX cartridge (moving coil with load resistance of 100 ohm) and 47k, as would be expected, was inadequate. With the toggle switches "on" (i.e., providing 61 db of gain), things were better. However, it didn't matter if the DIP switches were at 60, 69, 100, 250 ohm. They had no effect whatsoever.

The sound is fine; it's just curious that different settings had no effect.