Blue Circle Audio Goes Green

Blue Circle Audio, the Ontario-based company that has championed the use of "no frills" packaging and solar powered devices, recently issued the latest addition to its line of minimal cosmetics audiophile products. The BC301FY preamplifier, which looks nothing like other companies' products, dispenses with the standard aluminum or steel box, engraved logo, designer controls, and other cosmetic frills. Housed in nine ABS cans—a type of heavy-duty plastic commonly encountered in drainage and sewer piping—its packaging is said to reduce consumer cost by over 40%.

According to Gilbert Yeung, company founder and designer, the five products in the company's minimal cosmetics line—the USB thingee, 301FY preamp, headphone amp, powerline conditioner, and phono stage—exemplify Blue Circle Audio's "cheap—green" approach.

"Because of the lack of cosmetics," he explained by phone, "we have managed to pack a lot more performance in at an average savings of 35%. Seventy percent of customers who buy our ABS pipe models are value-oriented audiophiles who would rather pay more money for better performance than for better cosmetics. The cost of cases is usually the biggest cost of any component of any design. A lot of components have really fancy polish and gold plating. Those things also cost a lot, but do not in any way contribute to performance. While we have a few customers who request more traditional cosmetics, we are pretty sure from A/B comparisons that there's no difference in sound quality."

While Yeung would not dispute claims that aluminum is better than ABS plastic at shielding circuits from RFI, he insists that when components such as the BC301FY have separate power supplies, there is no difference in sound quality. He also suggests that, since ABS plastic is formed by melting down other existing plastics, it is greener than anodized aluminum, which requires preparation in a chemical baths.

Solar power: In his search for better sounding products that use clean power, Yeung has spent the past few years experimenting with solar power. In addition to his prototype Brownie phonostage, which has run on solar power for the past year and a half, he promises the BC705-200, BC705-800, and BC702-1400. All will be based on the Brownie's solar power-supply technology.

Blue Circle's Pinkie prototype line preamp has run on solar power for 4 years. Now in production are the BC109 and BC109 CP1, both of which run on solar power. Yeung claims that the BC109's capacitors "can easily take 100 times more charge cycles than a battery and still remain 100% charged every time...With ten years of normal use, a BC109 will use [in solar power] the equivalent of 21,900 AA alkaline batteries." He also claims elimination of all hum, buss, and powerline noise, thus obviating the need for a powerline conditioner.

Yeung promises a solar-power display at his Rocky Mountain Audio Fest exhibit in Denver October 2–4. To demonstrate how little sunlight is necessary to run his products for an extended length of time, he has intentionally booked a room with northern exposure.

The Yeung approach: Audiophiles familiar with Yeung's self-deprecating, out-in-left-field humor—he sported Mickey Mouse ears at one show, and displayed bottles of "Snake Oil" at another—have already made peace with his products' eccentric names and appearances. Thus, the presence of optional, brightly colored orange, yellow, and brown knobs on the BC301FY comes as no surprise. Nor are such model name take-offs on Chinese-Canadian "Chinglish" as the "Fon Lo" phono stage, "Yalo Balula" (Yellow Banana) surge protection device, "Hat Peed Thingee" headphone amp/preamp, and "Peed Al Sea Thingee" Power Line Conditioner.

While Yeung assures me that audiophiles can obtain his products in either basic black ABS plastic or, for an additional charge, more traditional housing, he offers no suggestions how to explain the "Hat Peed Thingee" to your significant other, in-laws, and friends. Just call it a headphone amp/preamp, and let the sound do the talking.