Blue Circle Audio BC3 Galatea
Mk II Preamplifier
I reviewed the original version of the BC3 Galatea
preamplifier in May 2002, and concluded that it sounded liquid and intensely musical, with
resolving power galore. My cavils were relatively minor -- it lacked a remote, and I found
its 2dB increments of volume adjustment less precise than I would have preferred. Also,
compared with my reference Ayre K-1 preamp ($6750 USD), the BC3 ($4560) lacked some degree
of bass impact.
Still, I found the BC3 Galatea extremely impressive,
especially because I had the impression that Blue Circle Audio wasnt so much a
manufacturing superpower as designer Gilbert Yeungs extra bedroom (or den or
garage). I dont mean that as a put-down -- I couldnt design or build a preamp
from scratch, much less a full line of audio products with logical gradations of cost and
quality. Rather, I meant that Blue Circle was a direct link to audios hobbyist
roots, when lone-wolf geniuses created an entire industry based on offering something
So I wasnt all that surprised when Yeung e-mailed me
that the BC3 Galatea had continued to evolve and that he had unleashed on the world a Mk
II version. Would I like to audition it?
I did it for you. Really!
This was the appearance and structure of the wheels
The BC3 Galatea Mk II costs $4995 -- or $5595, if you need
it balanced. Like the original, it uses dual-triode, single-ended class-A topology and is
almost aggressively dual-mono in its signal path, down to dual volume controls and input
selectors and mirror-imaged inputs. Yeung still hand-assembles them, relying exclusively
on point-to-point hardwiring with no printed circuit boards carrying the signal. Only 1%
metal-film resistors are used -- and only five of those per channel.
the Mk II version uses a different kind of internal wiring typically used in the aerospace
industry -- and the wiring layout has been changed to reduce noise. It also features twice
the capacitance of the original for the onboard power supply, as well as dual HexFred
rectifiers and ultra-high-speed power-supply capacitors. Theres also twice as much
capacitance on the BC3s output coupling caps, which, Yeung claims, improves the bass
In the Mk II Yeung has taken a different approach to
vibration control, employing rubber feet rather than the Mk Is wooden ones, and
silicone-bubble tube-mount sockets, which he first used in his top-of-the-line AG3000
preamp. Best of all, Yeung has marked the faceplate so you dont have to count
volume-control clicks any more, and has included a High/Low internal level switch, which
gives you a lot more control over volume gradation.
The umbilical cable that carries the DC from the power
supply to the audio circuit is now made in-house by Blue Circle. And, if you must match
existing equipment, Blue Circle offers a range of colors for the BC3's cover (the power
supply remains stainless steel).
They sparkled like chrysolite
So does any of that make a difference? I think so. I
havent heard the Mk I for two years, so Id be full of it if I told you I
remembered its sound precisely enough to make a meaningful comparison. But I continue to
use many of the same reference components daily, and I used a lot of the same audition
material for this review. My impressions of the Mk II are surprisingly similar to
my conclusions about the Mk I, with a few significant differences.
First and foremost, if I had any misgivings about
the Mk Is bottom-end impact, the Mk II made them gone, gone, gone. I pulled
out my copy of The Wailers Catch a Fire [CD, Tuff Gong/Island 314 548 635-2]
and was almost physically assaulted by Aston "Family Man" Barretts deep,
throbbing bass lines. If you think that tubes must blunt the impact of deep bass,
you need to do a reality check with the BC3 Mk II -- you have another think coming. I
mean, you have another thunk coming.
That impact doesnt come at the expense of traditional
tube delicacy or detail, however. Antony Michaelsons recording of the Mozart and
Brahms clarinet quintets [CD, Stereophile STPH015-2] are rendered with a delicacy and
holographic imaging that peppered my arms and neck with goose bumps. Michaelsons
warm, woody tone was magical -- and he and his fellow musicians inhabited the rear quarter
of my listening room with remarkable solidity.
This was due, in no small part, to another improvement in
the Mk II over the Mk I -- its volume control. My hatred of dual volume controls was the
big reason I surrendered my much-beloved Audible Illusions Modulus II 20 years ago to
embark on the upgrade path that eventually led me to professional reviewing (thats
it -- blame Art Ferris). However, despite the inconvenience of having two volume knobs,
the Mk II was a lot easier to use than the Mk I, for two reasons: First, the simple act of
marking the front panel has made adjusting the two channels to the same volume much
easier. Second, being able to adjust gain to match the gain of your speaker-amp
combination makes a huge difference.
How did those two changes make the Michaelson quintets disc
sound more real? Simple -- in my experience, every recording of acoustic music has one
volume setting (and generally only one) at which it sounds truly natural. Miss that
setting by as little as 1dB and the sound never locks in. The Mk IIs greater
sensitivity went a long way toward helping me hit that magic volume point -- and its
front-panel stencil went a long way toward helping me hit that mark time and time again.
Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a
Without having a BC3 Galatea Mk I on hand to directly
compare with a Mk II, I cant swear that the differences I heard are a huge
improvement, but Im certain that they do represent improvements -- certainly in ease
of use, if not in sound.
But I think the Mk II is a big improvement
sonically, because when Gilbert Yeung needed mine back, I had second thoughts. In fact,
once it left the house, I requested it back at his earliest convenience for another round
of auditions. He graciously acquiesced, and I went through many of my favorite recordings
again -- and again. I liked the BC3 Mk I, too, but when it came time to say goodbye, I
moved on to my next audio victim without groveling for a second chance
Of course, you might not have the same reaction to the BC3
Galatea Mk II, but if its been a long time since an audio product has given you
goose bumps, you might want to find out if the Blue Circle preamp can remind you of what
the magic of music is all about.
Cause thats what it did for me -- and
thats one thing Im sure of.
Blue Circle Audio BC3 Galatea
Mk II Preamplifier
Price: $4995 USD ($5595 for balanced version).
Warranty: Three years parts and labor (90 days on tubes).
Blue Circle Audio
Innerkip, Ontario, Canada
Phone: (519) 469-3215
Fax: (519) 469-3782