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Reviewer: Paul Candy
Financial Interests: click here
Digital Source: Rotel RCD-971 CDP as transport, PS Audio DL III DAC w/ Cullen Circuits Stage Three Mod
Analog Source: Pro-Ject RPM 5 turntable, Pro-Ject Speed Box, Pro-Ject Tube Box phono stage, Ortofon Rondo Blue cartridge
Amplification: Audiomat Opéra Référence integrated
Speakers: Green Mountain Audio Callisto on sand-filled Skylan stands, 2 x REL Q108 Mk II subwoofers, Hyperion HPS-738 [in for review]
Cables: JPS Labs, SilverFi interconnects, Auditorium 23 speaker cables
Power Cords: Audience, GutWire, Harmonic Technology
Stands: Grand Prix Audio Monaco four-tier rack
Powerline conditioning: BPT Pure Power Center with Wattgate, Bybee Quantum Purifier and ERS cloth options, Audience aR1p AC conditioner (digital only), GutWire MaxCon (digital only)
Sundry accessories: Grand Prix Audio APEX footers, Acoustic Revive RR-77, Isoclean fuses, Caig Pro Gold, Auric Illuminator, 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, suspended hardwood floors with large area rug, walls are standard drywall over Fiberglas insulation
Review Component Retail: CDN$2,295

Living in an age where just about everything is mass-produced by machine in a factory somewhere, it's always refreshing to find that some things are still built by hand. One company in our little audio world that has a decidedly hands-on approach is Blue Circle. When you buy a Blue Circle component, you buy something designed, built and tested by one man, Gilbert Yeung. Okay, perhaps he has a couple of helpers but I guarantee you, his hands are on it at some point. And, he builds it just for you. Want an extra pair of inputs? No problem. Or maybe a lime green chassis to match your Rega? Done. I like that. Sure, I want the best audio components I can afford but I am also partial to those who take a more personal or artisan approach. It's not that I think such components are necessarily better. Maybe it's that they seem more human which attracts me. It just feels good. Maybe it makes you feel good too.

Apart from the soft blue glow of the logo, the BC707 phonostage is essentially a featureless black-textured steel box with nary a switch or knob on the front panel. All the action is on the back. By the way, there’s no power switch. Phono stages like most electronics -- especially digital -- sound best when left powered up. With a draw of less than that of an LED flashlight (1.8 watts), there’s little need to get knickers in a twist over electrical consumption. Around back are an IEC inlet, ground lift switch, ground post and three pairs of single ended RCA connections for input, output and cartridge loading. Special Blue Circle supplied RCA plugs with varying resistance and/or capacitance values handle the latter. The BC707 ships stock with a pair of 1K plugs, however, other values and combinations are available upon request. Gilbert sent along a half dozen plugs of varying values. I thought my Ortofon Rondo Blue performed optimally at 100 ohms.

As with all Blue Circle components, many options are available such as balanced connections, additional inputs and various faceplates. Gain is switchable between 39 and 60 B via a pair of internally mounted toggles. The high setting should be sufficient for most low output MC cartridges.
Gilbert is a big believer in power supplies and it's a consistent theme throughout his product range. The Blue Circle pieces I previously reviewed all sported robust power supplies. The BC707 is no exception. Most of the real estate under the hood is dedicated to the power supply with a filtering capacitance approaching 700,000uF. One may wonder about providing such hefty capacitance for such a small signal output but in an email exchange with Gilbert, he indicated that large power supply capacitance reduces the typical line noise riding on the average household AC grid. The bigger the power supply; the better your audio equipment should sound.

Incidentally, Gilbert hasn't discovered a limit to the inherent sonic goodness mondo capacitance offers. In fact, he has a prototype preamp (the 'Pinkie') with so much capacitance (2800 Farads), he claims it would run for over 65 hours with the plug pulled. That beast has now morphed into an actual product, the BC109 preamp. As for battery power solving AC line noise issues, Gilbert doesn't like it. Transient response suffers and there's the cost of replacement. Gilbert also cites the same transient response issues with rechargeable battery supplies. They also gradually lose their ability to hold a charge. So there, no batteries from Gilbert. Don't ask, don't get, don't worry.

The small circuit board is nothing overly complex, just two active op-amp stages plus RIAA equalization. As you can see, there's liberal use of silicone caulking. While this may offend the aesthetic sensibilities of some, Gilbert claims more effective resonance control and improved sonics with silicone instead of traditional standoffs. I've been known to drool over a beautifully laid out interior just as any audio nut would but I also realize that appearance does not necessarily translate into great sound. Besides, who looks at the guts of their audio gear while listening to tunes?
Rest assured this piece is assembled with great care. Every Blue Circle component I reviewed operated flawlessly and the build quality is actually quite good. There's nothing chintzy with anything Gilbert builds.

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What should one look for in a phono stage? For starters, it should be quiet and not accentuate LP surface noise. It should also provide sufficient gain for your cartridge and have you rediscover your LP collection all over again. The BC707 excelled in all those areas. Upon firing it up, I could not detect the slightest trace of hum, buzz or any spurious noise. When spinning vinyl, I did not hear any exaggeration of surface noise or tape hiss. If anything, surface noise was greatly below my Pro-Ject phono stage. Furthermore, 60 dB of gain was more than sufficient for my Rondo Blue and I certainly spent many evenings re-exploring my record collection as all sorts of previously obscured nuances emerged.