Switching to solo piano, one of the trickiest instruments to convincingly reproduce, I marveled at the gorgeous richness of percussive tone colors, combined with a creamy, lilting musical flow on the poet Moravec’s mono Connoisseur Society recording of Debussy’s Children’s Corner. Here, the Giro rig really conveys the weight, size, and body of his concert grand, as well, tellingly, as the ambience surrounding individual notes and chords and the way the sound lingers, ghost-like, in the air. Sometimes the music feels so present that we feel transported to a recording a session, and this was the case here.
Not long before my deadline for this review, my wife Sher and I were unexpectedly rocketed into another world by a performance given by our boys in the local band known as the San Francisco Symphony. Their Music Director of some 20-plus years now, Michael Tilson Thomas, is rather famously associated with the symphonies of Gustav Mahler, whose Symphony No. 1 as well as the Adagio movement from his unfinished Tenth Symphony, were to be performed that evening.
As it goes we’ve heard MTT and the gang play Mahler—and especially the First—many times before, yet on this night something truly special was in the air.
From the awakening forest murmurs and rather insistent “bird calls” that introduce the piece, to the brief, dance-like second movement, then the dark-toned “Frère Jacques”-themed funeral march that unexpectedly morphs into a kind of woozy, Chagall-painted klezmer waltz, until the mind-bendingly explosive finale, the orchestra played like gods—so in sync with each other and with MTT that the wildest ebbs and flows, lightning-strike dynamic and rhythmic contrasts, and perfect combination of poetry and precision made for a riveting experience from start to finish.
Man, that’s one unusually special gift to receive from a live performance, let alone from a stereo system. Yet what choice did I have than to subsequently play the same group’s recording of the Mahler No. 1 from the SFO’s own Mahler Project [SFS Media] on vinyl?
Now, their recorded performance is very fine, one of the best of the set—if not as riveting as the one we’d just attended—and the engineering is also quite fine, nicely conveying the sound of the orchestra in its home, Davies Hall. Yet if we double-back to Valin’s notion of “real,” I gotta say that the Giro setup did not disappoint. That is not, of course, to say that it was a replica of the real experience, but as the reproduction of a large symphony orchestra goes, it was nevertheless pretty damn impressive.
Again, the ability to reach down into the grooves and allow the music to emerge from a noise-free place played a critical role. I noted again a pretty convincing sense of space as the strings, winds, and brass “awaken.” (Another benefit of this clarity and lack of noise is that it allows us to play back orchestral music at concert-like levels without having to turn up our systems to volumes that are louder than natural.) Indeed, the way the first movement unfolded, and kept building, was a remarkably accurate rendition of at least the dynamic scale—if not the volume (as in sheer size and air movement)—of what we’d recently experienced at Davies Hall. Impressive.
Switching to a martini and cigarettes mood, MoFi’s mastering of Sinatra at the Sands jumped out of the gate as soon as the Count Basie band let rip with “Come Fly with Me.” The intensity and sheer fun of the music making was tangible, and Sinatra’s cocky, don’t-you-wish-you-were-me attitude pulsed with the appropriate sense of swagger and life.
When compared with my reference Rega RP10 the Giro is richer and warmer sounding, has a slightly quieter noise floor, a bit more weight and power at the bottom end, as well as a bit more dynamic oomph. The Rega is a bit more nimble, every bit as airy and detailed. Both ’tables are deeply satisfying musically and emotionally, and I’d suggest that one’s preference would be based more on a matter of personal taste than qualitative superiority.
Of course, at just over $12k for the entire Giro/9W2/Teatro package one should expect this level of design excellence and musicality. And like fine wine, high-end audio has never been an inexpensive indulgence. Yet it’s also true that prices for the very best of both worlds have never been higher.
At the end of the day, my quibbles with a few user details aside, whether I was playing Hendrix’s Band of Gypsies [Classic/Reprise], Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball [Nonesuch], Milstein’s solo Bach, you name it, really, the Giro setup provided deep levels of musical pleasure, and yes, enough illusionary “realness” to, every now and again, make me forget about the gear and immerse myself in the beauty of the music.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Belt drive, unsuspended turntable with integral ’arm
Tonearm: AMG 9W2, 9-inch
Dimensions: 12.5" x 17" x 6"
Weight: 24.5 lbs.
Teatro Phono Cartridge
Output voltage: 0.4mV (1kHz @ 5cm/sec.)
Stylus shape: Line contact
Internal impedance: 12 ohms
Loading range: 120Ω–47kΩ, (120–500Ω optimal range)
Weight: 10.95 grams
Compliance: Static: 35 x 10-6 cm/dyne; dynamic: 18 x 10-6 cm/dyne
Tracking force: 1.8–2.2 grams (2.0 optimal)
Price: $2200 (when bought with the Giro/9W2)
MUSICAL SURROUNDINGS (U.S. Distributor)
5662 Shattuck Avenue
Oakland, CA 94609
AMG (Analog Manufaktur Germany)
Gewerbepark A 7
92364 Deining, Germany