Turntable designers have responded to these issues by applying inertia: ever-heavier platters or auxiliary fly-wheels. They’ve also built better and more accurate motor control systems. The problem is that the heavier the platter the more powerful (and thus noisier) the motor has to be and the less capable it is of controlling the system’s speed accurately. In fact, if you are not careful the platter starts to drive the motor, a highly undesirable situation! Of course, designers have worked long, hard and with varying levels of success to deal with these problems, but every solution applied has one thing in common; it is trying to ameliorate the effects rather than eliminate the cause – which is the belt itself.
It was against this background of turntable development that Grand Prix Audio set out to apply their proven engineering and materials expertise to the creation of a clean sheet design. Eschewing conventional wisdom and design approaches, they embarked on a fundamental re-examination of the problems of record replay and arrived at a simple (but staggering) conclusion. The single most important aspect of turntable performance should be speed stability, as this defines the accuracy of the pitch information embedded in the record. Yet existing standards of measurement were wholly inadequate when it came to defining both absolute accuracy and stability. With a background in the high tech world of car racing, where each design project is very much a team effort and results are measured against an empirical standard, their response was entirely predictable: they assembled a team of engineering partners with the necessary skills, and set out to devise a measurement protocol capable of revealing the effects of the various engineering solutions applied. Having done that they could finally set to work on product development – and what a product they produced.
GPA’s Monaco turntable breaks all the analogue rules: it’s small where the competition is big, it’s direct rather than belt driven and in a world where mass and quality are seemingly indivisible, it’s positively svelte. It’s also superbly finished, beautifully executed and reassuringly expensive (should you need the price of your equipment to reassure you as to its quality). To dyed in the wool vinyl addicts of the sort who might consider dropping £12K on a turntable, that presents quite a challenge. After all, real men don’t listen to record players they might actually be able to lift up! But look at the engineering that’s gone into the Monaco and it’s awfully hard not to be impressed, both by the attention to detail and the thinking behind it.