In and of itself this may not be a big deal, but this and one other operational quirk (which I’ll get to shortly) made my wife—who has plenty of experience using the gear in our house—shy away from playing records on the Giro.
Based on AMG’s 12J2 (as in 12") arm found in the Viella, the Giro’s 9W2 is a 9" unit (scaled to the Giro’s smaller footprint) that employs the same dual-pivot bearing design of the 12J2. AMG describes this unusual bearing as being akin to helicopter rotors, which use large spring-steel wires to keep their rotors precisely aligned. When scaled way down to Barbie doll size for use in a tonearm, the pair of steel wires used here allows for fine azimuth adjustment “while eliminating bearing play. The horizontal axle is a hardened tool-steel needle roller bearing.” As with the ’table itself, the sleek black ’arm tube is machined from aircraft-grade aluminum that’s been anodized to reduce resonance, and the 9W2 is internally wired with the same multi-stranded high-purity copper found in the 12J2. Magnetic anti-skating, and the ability to adjust VTA during play, round out the design—the latter is made easier via a built-in bubble level, a touch I’d happily see employed in more tonearm designs.
Finally, before we get to the way the thing actually sounds, the $2750 Teatro moving-coil cartridge ($2200 if bought with the turntable/’arm) “represents the cumulative work of the AMG design team and an international group of manufacturers.” A two-piece titanium body is said to provide outstanding rigidity with scant weight, and the shape was conceived to “minimize resonance and reflected energy.” The Teatro’s coils are wound with Ohno cast mono-crystal high-purity oxygen-free copper wire; neodymium magnets are employed, and the solid boron cantilever is fitted with a line-contact stylus.
Here is another example where the notion of spouse-friendliness is unlikely to apply to the Giro, at least as configured for this review. The reason being that I found the Teatro to be unusually sensitive to dust accumulation on the stylus’ tip. Now, it is possible that my environment was a cause here, though I’ve never experienced this before, but on a few occasions if even the tiniest dust bunny formed around the stylus the cartridge would rather alarmingly scoot across the grooves to the run-out vinyl. Yikes! The first time this occurred I double-checked all ’arm settings to be sure they were correct (they were, and the ’table was set up by a Musical Surroundings employee), and thereafter became even more hyper-diligent about stylus hygiene. But unfortunately, this incident made my wife even less inclined to play LPs on the Giro.
I mentioned above Jonathan Valin’s impression that the Viella sounds “real.” And of course, by that I take him—and his sonic descriptions—as meaning that that design sounds less artificial, less hi-fi-ish, and more like the absolute sound, than do most other ’tables.
It’s also the case, I would suggest, that what sounds “real” is not a fixed notion—like those ridiculous 100-point wine score cards—but something more variable, on a sliding scale. And I would hope that most of the gear selected as worthy of being written about in these pages offers some glimmer of what authentic live music sounds like, even if it’s but a fleeting illusion. The trick is how frequently and for how long can a component pull off this illusionist’s feat?
One thing that helps tremendously with this magic trick, and I would say the one area in which today’s finest components continue to excel, is a low noise floor. And the Giro does indeed have a very low noise floor, attributable to the stability and precision of the design.
Not only does the lack of groove noise allow the Giro to reveal with remarkable ease the nuanced tones, textures, and subtle dynamic shading of the guitar strums, violin trills and pizzicato plucks, and various percussive blips and bops that emerge at the start of Gerhard’s Libra, Gemini, Leo [Decca], but it does so with a notable sense of precision placement in which the instruments emerge from the stage with a natural sense of layered depth, air, and bloom that brings them a thrilling sense of life.