Blue Circle BC3 Galatea line-level preamplifier Page 3

The Galatea's tonal warmth made listening to vintage jazz remasterings engrossing experiences, where normally they might have been tests of endurance: Sonny Rollins' epic early-'60s avant-garde forays (On the Outside, RCA 2496-2-RB), and Charles Mingus' equally remarkable 1957 band with pianist Bill Evans (East Coasting, Bethlehem Archives/Avenue Jazz/Rhino R2 79807). The digital glare that infects even the best analog transfers was air-brushed away, leaving me to glory in the rhythm and pacing of the performance. The single-ended glow of the midrange deciphered the complex inner character of piano chords and rendered the vocal nuances of tenor saxes in a clear, open manner, without veiling or megaphoning.

Likewise, the ethereal soprano voice of young Charlotte Church (Sony Classical SK 64356), on "Just Wave Hello," was rendered as lace instead of glass, its fundamentals and delicate overtones intact amid the cast-of-thousands glop of chorale, orchestra, and rhythm section. And while in the context of my system the Galatea was a bit too polite to be a rocker's dream in terms of bite, speed, and elemental ooga-booga, there was nothing shrouded, lethargic, or wimpy about its portrayal of Peter Buck's crunching, heavy-tremolo, cross-channel Les Paul chords on "Crush With Eyeliner," from R.E.M.'s Monster (Warner Bros. 45740-2).

While the Galatea proved essentially neutral, I wouldn't characterize it as "objective." Its midrange signature was warm and glowing, yet it never shortchanged me in terms of resolution or rhythm and pacing.

Nevertheless, those looking for a supremely analytical, crystalline preamp should search elsewhere. Compared to the Galatea, the Musical Fidelity Nu-Vista preamp—a hybrid design with a separate power supply that employs the legendary but tiny 6CW4 Nuvistor metal-encased triode tubes—offers a more vividly detailed, see-through presentation, with more crispness on top, sparkle in the mids, and speed on the bottom.

Not that the Galatea was in any way sloppy, sluggish, diffuse, or overly bloomy. It had a sweet, airy, euphonic character that was beautifully extended on top, but with a laid-back presentation that never called undue attention to itself. Rather than bringing the experience to me as the Nu-Vista does, the Galatea beckoned me to immerse myself in the experience.

Going back and forth between them, I initially felt as if the Nu-Vista's presentation had more immediacy, the Galatea's more intimacy; as if the Nu-Vista was brighter, the Galatea more warm; as if the Nu-Vista evinced more soundstage transparency, the Galatea greater soundstage depth; as if the Nu-Vista offered more low-end rhythm and pacing, the Galatea more low-end weight and focus; as if the Nu-Vista's midrange was more cool and neutral, the Galatea's more euphonic. I enjoyed them both immensely; which style you might prefer will be largely a matter of personal taste, room acoustics, speaker characteristics, and system synergy.

But when I ran the Nu-Vista and Galatea continuously and they thus warmed up over many hours, the Nu-Vista no longer seemed particularly bright or the Galatea overly euphonic; in fact, the Nu-Vista seemed to get warmer and smoother, the Galatea more open and defined. Overall, the Galatea's bass was robustly resolved, with good speed, focus, and rhythmic immediacy: a real toe-tapper. The midrange was sweet, spacious, open, and richly detailed. The highs weren't really rolled-off, but smooth, airy, and softly delineated.

The Blue Circle Galatea BC3.1 preamplifier with BCG3.1 power supply is supremely musical and utterly non-fatiguing. For those of you willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars for the rich midrange character of hi-rez single-ended triode amps but are unable to reconcile sonic predilections with a desire to accommodate a wide range of real-world speaker loads, the Galatea should be a revelation.

By configuring your system so that the single-ended artifact is in the front-end of your signal chain, in the line stage of an active preamp—particularly one so compatible with solid-state and tube amps, and so comfortable driving long interconnect runs—you now have the potential to employ voluminous reserves of power, yet still enjoy the mellifluous, browned-in-butter sonic characteristics of single-ended triodes. All without sacrificing balls, resolution, or soundstage depth.

The Blue Circle Galatea's quality of build, simplicity of execution, and purity of expression place it securely in the hierarchy of the very finest high-end preamps—though at a comparatively modest price, given its level of performance. The Galatea demands a thoughtful audition; this is a preamp you can build a musically rewarding system around. Then you might discover, as I did, how transporting the sublime musicality of the Blue Circle Galatea can be.

Blue Circle
Innerkip, Ontario N0J 1M0
(519) 469-3215