December 2007Blue Circle Audio BC6000 Power Conditioner
by John Crossett
Id be willing to bet that there are quite a few audiophiles out there who have never really heard their systems. No, I dont mean that their systems dont play music. What Im referring to is hearing everything the system has to offer in the way of musical reproduction. You see, unless you use a good power conditioner in your system, youve never heard all that your system is capable of. And you don't need a multi-thousand-dollar system to hear the benefits of what a well-designed power conditioner can bring to the table either. Even the humblest system will sound its best when a good power conditioner is feeding its components good, clean power. The old adage "garbage in, garbage out" holds truer in the power department than I think many audiophiles realize.
How do I know this? Ive been listening with the Blue Circle BC6000 power conditioner as part of my system these past few months. From the very first moment music issued forth from my speakers, I could tell that the BC6000 was doing exactly what designer Gilbert Yeung wanted it to do. The BC6000 was designed to be a fundamental tool in Gilberts latest interest -- recording live music, where you are at the mercy of any sort of power variables that can cause wasted time and money, neither of which is generally in large supply during recording sessions. You only get one shot at getting the music on tape, so youd better have as many bases covered as you can. Thus, Gilbert designed the BC6000 "to withstand the highest degree of physical and electrical abuse so that it will provide clean AC power anytime, anywhere."
It does what exactly?
The BC6000 ($1795 USD) is 16 3/4" wide, 3 1/4" high and 8 1/2" deep and weighs a svelte 9 1/2 pounds. It generates no heat, so it can be placed anywhere you choose. Heck, you can place it upside down on its face (allowing room for its front-mounted switch) or behind curtains should you wish to keep it out of sight. Its maximum power handling is 2400 watts (20A at 120V), and it comes with surge protection standard. You can get the BC6000 with your choice of either black Plexiglas, stainless steel, or black rack-mount front panel. The BC6000 comes standard with its own specially designed Neutrik Powercon twist connector and BC62 power cord, or it can be ordered with a standard IEC receptacle so you can use whatever power cord strikes your fancy. Personally, I doubt that youll do much better sonically that the one Gilbert includes, and I know you wont find one with a more secure connection.
The BC6000 has a total of 157 individual filters strategically placed to cover the widest possible frequency range -- from 120Hz to over 50GHz. Each filter has triple parallel wiring to prevent, in Gilbert's words, even the tiniest bit of noise passing through. There are double-wire runs to all three of the duplex outlets and a triple buss bar is utilized to eliminate unwanted inductance and ensure optimum power transfer. The entire filter network is submerged in silicone to help eliminate any unwanted mechanical vibration. Gilbert uses only high-purity soft-copper wiring to connect the filter networks to again avoid any undue vibration transfer and further enhance the filters' effectiveness.
The BC6000 uses the best Hubbell hospital-grade duplex outlets available, so that each power cord plugged into it is gripped as tightly as possible. Blue Circle also claims that there is no need to worry about the kind of products plugged into each outlet, because in the pro-audio arena analog and digital components are mixed. Gilbert designed the BC6000 to act as something of a black hole for any unwanted noise to be sucked into and then filtered out.
The BC6000 comes standard with six outlets. You can add either another six or eight at your discretion, but be aware that the initial six are rated at 20 amps and any additional ones will be rated at 15 amps only. Connection of additional outlets is via Neutrik-connector umbilicals.
The BC6000 took the place of my trusty Monster Cable HTS1000. Into it I plugged my VPI HW-19 Mk IV turntable -- with Butternut Audio-modified Rega RB300 tonearm and either a Clearaudio Maestro or Audio-Technica AT-OC9ML/II cartridge -- my Audio Research PH5 phono stage, my Audio Research LS17 preamp, my Bryston 4B-SST power amp, my Esoteric SA-10 CD/SACD player, and my Stello CD320 CD player. All but the turntable, which uses a captive cord, and the power amp, which uses an Analysis Plus Oval 10, were juiced via Harmonic Technology Pro AC-11 power cords.
Sound (or lack thereof)
What can I say about a product that does not directly affect the musical signal and therefore should have no sound of its own? Well, I can say quite a bit, actually. Ill begin with the fact that once the BC6000 was installed in my system the background that the music emerged from was extremely black. How black is that? Think deep, dark, forest-at-midnight-on-a-moonless-night black. Not only that, but all the detail that I would hear should I find myself in such a woodland vies attention -- every leaf rustling, every twig snap, every small furry animal scurrying across the ground. Musically, the BC6000 will allow every detail in the music to present itself as fully as your equipment can reproduce it. And when you think about it, thats probably all anyone could (or should) ask of a power conditioner. The BC6000 offers it in abundance.
With the BC6000 in my system I was able to hear (steady now, audio reviewer cliché coming up) more deeply into the music. By that I mean that I could not only hear the notes themselves, but I could also get a better sense of how those notes were formed by the instrument or voice making them. I was able to hear each note blossom, from initial attack to full tone on through the trail-off. Plus, I was better able to hear how each note combined with its fellows to create the music itself.
The BC6000 dropped the background noise level to a vanishingly low level. As I pointed out above, that allowed each piece in my system to reproduce everything it was capable of. Images seemed to hang better in space, fully fleshed out and standing in their own acoustic space -- provided this was encoded on the LP or digital disc to begin with. The BC6000 wont remake the sound of your system. All it can do is allow your system to shine to its utmost.
That low noise floor also allows each instrument's tone and timbre to be more authentically reproduced. Whether that instrument is part of a jazz combo like the Miles Davis Quintet (Bags Groove [Prestige 7109]) or a rock group like the Beatles (Love [Parlophone 0946 379 808 1 1] on LP, or soul/blues singer Bettye Lavettes voice (Scene of the Crime [Anti CD 86873-2]) on CD, or the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Pines of Rome [RCA 82876-71614-2]) on SACD, each sounded more real, more like it would, I suspect, had I been standing in their presence when the recording was made.
One thing that surprised me was that even with my watt-swallowing Bryston power amp connected to the BC6000 -- along with all my other gear -- I could detect no loss in dynamics. This meant that I only needed one power conditioner to handle my system, and didnt have to spend extra money on a separate one just for my amp. I like not having to spend more of my hard-earned cash than is truly necessary, so the BC6000 earns top grades for that alone.
In the end, the BC6000 allowed my system -- each and every electronic part of it -- to play music in a more realistic manner, and that was the most pleasant of surprises the BC6000 could have bestowed.
In comparison to my Monster Cable HTS1000 ($149 when still available) the BC6000 was far and away the better noise filter. The Monster Cable unit cant even set foot on the same field when it came to this one aspect. It simply wasnt designed to do more than a cursory job, whereas the BC6000s reason for being is to reduce noise as much as possible.
Sure, the BC6000 has two fewer outlets, but those it does have deliver better power to whatever is plugged into them, so I doubt youll miss those last two. Since that quietness is what you are paying for, its nice to know that youre getting your moneys worth. Every recording I played when the BC6000 was handling power-filtration duties sounded cleaner, crisper, more accurate, and far more detailed than I heard with the Monster Cable unit.
As far as surge protection goes, Im sure both units would do a more-than-adequate job of protecting the equipment plugged into them. But while Im guessing about the Monster HTS1000, I know the BC6000 can handle the job. How? As fate would have it, my good friends at the local power company decided to do a bit of work outside my house one day. I had turned everything off, including the BC6000, just to be safe, but that didnt stop the power boys from screwing up and sending 240 volts (instead of the standard 120) coursing though my home's wiring. It fried some electronics in my kids' bedroom that were attached to a less-than-worthy (as it turned out) power strip/surge suppressor. But my audio system suffered nary a hiccup. Needless to say, both my electric company's insurance carrier and I are glad the Blue Circle BC6000 was protecting my rig, as the insurance adjuster would have gulped twice when I told him what replacing all of my electronics and perhaps even my speakers would have cost. The BC6000's $1795 price would have been a pittance.
From my admittedly limited experience, power conditioning has been raised to a new, higher standard by the Blue Circle BC6000. Ive now heard what my system is really capable of -- and I like it. Realism is enhanced, making the music I play sound less like reproduction. For those of you still sitting on the power-conditioning fence, or who simply aren't convinced that power conditioners really matter, it's time to stand up, pull those splinters from your keister and audition a BC6000, which I can enthusiastically recommend. With it, my system has never sounded better.
It will be interesting to see if there are any other power conditioners out there capable of knocking the BC6000 off its perch. Or whether theyll simply change the sound of my system. One thing is certain, I wont be living long without a top-quality power conditioner like the BC6000, at least not unless Im prepared to sacrifice sound quality -- and possibly my system itself.
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