from plantehifi Mar/Apr 2001
And Then There Was… Something.
I started out my evaluation of the BC-86 by inserting a single BC-86 into an open outlet on my CLS-3200 line conditioner. 10 seconds was enough time for me to realize that the BC-86 was doing something to the sound. On "In A Sentimental Mood" from Ernie Watts’ Classic Moods (JVCXR-0054-2), I thought I heard slightly more information from a quieter background. After listening to this opening track for a second time, I heard more presence from the sound in general, but especially so from the brassy horns. This increase in mass and proportion provided a tasteful richness to the sound, imparting a warmer and more robust quality to the music. All of these benefits were delivered while maintaining the liveliness of the song’s rhythm and a constant pace.
Using Sarah Vaughan and the Count Basie Orchestra, Send in the Clowns (VICJ-60246), I listened for the BC-86’s effect on imaging and three-dimensionality. On "I Gotta Right to Sing The Blues", as well as "If You Could See Me Now", I could not ascertain any significant improvements to the spatial qualities of the performance. On occasion, I did feel that Vaughan’s voice had less glare and perhaps greater delineation around her notes, but this did not happen on a consistent basis. And on Earl Klugh’s Living Inside Your Love (CDP-548385), I concentrated on the bass and kick drum to pick out discernible changes to bass speed, quickness, tautness, and tonality. Again, in this instance, I did not feel that the addition of the BC-86 improved or detracted from the system’s existing sound quality.
Like a stick of gum, I pulled out a second BC-86 from its cardboard packaging sleeve and inserted its AC cord into another open outlet on my line conditioner. After plugging the line conditioner back into the wall socket, I cued up Classic Records ’ fantastic 24/96 DAD of Lou Donaldson Lou Takes Off (DAD 1026). From the moment the first note of "Sputnik" floated across my living room, I thought to myself, "Now we’re talking BIG improvements." Yep, that’s a quote from my notes – "... BIG improvements." The difference in the level of improvement brought about by two BC-86’s as compared to a single unit is impressive. Previously, I had heard slight improvements across several aspects of the sound. But now, I was witnessing the same improvements, but magnified 2-3 times over. It was if someone had been turning the ‘improvement’ dial ever so slightly at first, and then decided to crank it all the way around. I emailed Blue Circle about my initial impressions as well as my observations regarding the differences in sound quality when using one and two line filters. They explained to me that each BC-86 should lower the system’s noise flow by about 3db. Naturally, by adding a second unit to the mix, the noise floor should fall even further and allow the listener to hear more information; and more information usually equates to better sound, sometimes across the board. But why the dramatic increase in my perceived improvement to the sound? Shouldn’t this be a linear relationship? I’ve essentially doubled the amount of noise reduction, from 3db to 6db. I should get twice the increase in resolution, detail, etc., right? Well, the guys at Blue Circle explained to me that most people have difficulty hearing 3db changes in sound, but can easily discern differences of 6db or more. In my case, I was probably noticing the improvements that the BC-86 was imparting to the system’s sound, but because they were due to a 3db reduction in background noise, I only heard slight improvements if at all (and not across all evaluative categories.) Apparently, lowering the noise floor by 6db pushed the musical information so far above the noise floor that I found the improvement to be substantially greater than that afforded by just one BC-86. And in retrospect, perhaps I was just at the cusp of hearing major improvements with one unit and needed just one more db in noise reduction to really clarify things for me. But since a second unit provides another 3db of noise reduction, it pushed me way over and led me to believe that the improvement brought about by the second unit was exponentially greater than that afforded by just one unit.