Listening #22 Page 2
Although the Quattro and Quattro Supreme platters are machined from solid PVC, my review sample's optional platter was a composite of 2½" of anodized aluminum damped with lead shot and oil, and a 1" layer of Teflon. The Teflon, which takes the place of a record mat, is actually inlaid into the top of the aluminum platter and held in place with 60 cap-head machine bolts—tuneable, no less. The platter bearing is appropriately robust, with a machined brass well, a replaceable Delrin thrust pad, a hardened steel ball, and a steel bearing spindle that's more than ¾" in diameter. The lubricant of choice is Marvel Mystery Oil (supplied), from a company with a charming logo that time has apparently forgotten.
And then there's Galibier's aluminum-alloy record weight, the Anvil—all 6½ lbs of it. On its bottom is a rubber O-ring that contacts the record label, and up top there's a screw-off lid that exposes a chamber for the damping material of one's choice, lead shot and oil being standard. (But the Anvil is so ridiculously well-machined you could be forgiven for assuming it's all one piece.) Galibier encourages people who purchase the Anvil to experiment with damping materials to their hearts' content, although their website suggests that LPs and oil can be a troublesome combination under the worst circumstances—an understatement if ever I heard one.
Installing the Galibier Quattro Supreme
If you stop and think about it—which I didn't—a turntable this large and heavy requires an appropriate mounting surface: Neither my Mana nor Rega wall shelf would have been up to the task. (In all fairness, they may well have been, but the screws with which they're lagged into the wall studs lack the requisite shear strength.) Not only must the support be sturdy, it must also provide sufficient real estate on which the plinth and the outboard motor pod can both nestle comfortably, 18" by 25" being the minimum. Sensing my inadequacy, Thom Mackris loaned me a rugged MDF platform of the sort he makes for just such occasions. I supported it with a pair of old Linn Isobarik stands that I happened to have lying about.
The various components that make up a Galibier Quattro Supreme are shipped in three separate cartons, and the heaviest part—the plinth—arrives bolted firmly to a piece of plywood. Thanks to sensible packing and generous amounts of Styrofoam, my review sample arrived alive. There's no instruction manual—I'm told it's in the works—but the Galibier website has enough details and good, clear photographs to get virtually any hobbyist up and running within about an hour. In my experience, the most difficult thing was lifting that plinth into place.
The arm mount I received was pre-drilled for a Graham Robin tonearm, the review sample of which Bob Graham has asked me to hold on to, so that's what I used. (See the April and May 2003 issues of Stereophile for my and Mikey's takes on the Robin.) Thanks as much to the "spindle locator" built into the Graham Robin's headshell as to the arm mount's ability to pivot around a single set point, setting the precisely correct spindle-to-pivot distance took less than half a minute.
Another nice consequence of the articulated armboard was that I could begin my cartridge-setup chores by dialing in the precisely correct offset angle—always the toughest part, anyway—then locking the cartridge in place by tightening its mounting bolts and setting overhang using only the armboard pivot to move it in or out. I will never have to move that cartridge in that headshell again, unless I want to. (And again: Why would I want to?)
Almost every installation and setup task went smoothly, the only wrinkle being a literal one: Galibier recommends and supplies Mylar recording tape for the Quattro Supreme's drive belt, but if it slips off the motor pulley or platter as a consequence of incorrect belt tension, it gets chewed all to hell. I imagine that's why Galibier supplied three belts with mine.
Once installed, the complete Quattro Supreme is a remarkable-looking thing. The precisely spaced holes on the white Teflon platter mat, the differently sized holes on the arm mount, and the facets on the plinth and on the motor pod all work together to create a strikingly modern, purposeful look, but without the downright childish overkill that characterizes other contemporary players. The only element that stuck out like a sore thumb was the battery case and charger, a plastic portable unit that Galibier buys from an automotive supplier. (Thom Mackris acknowledges the tackiness while maintaining an aversion to "reinventing the wheel"—and thus adding to the expense of his products.)
I began with a Supex 900 Super moving-coil cartridge I've been using lately in my own record player, and was impressed at once by what I still, a month later, consider the Galibier turntable's most conspicuous strength: its downright explosive dynamics. The Galibier was without question more dynamically capable than the [Naim Armaggedon-powered] Linn LP12 or Rega. Sam Bush's mandolin breaks on "Ginseng Sullivan," from Tony Rice's Manzanita (LP, Rounder 0092), sounded even more startlingly alive than usual, with especially sharp note attacks. And on my perennial fave, Procol Harum's Live in Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (LP, Chrysalis CHR 1004), B.J. Wilson's drums jump out of the mix with unusual force and drama—even in the lead-in groove, where he plays a couple of tentative rolls as the ork finishes tuning up.
On the other hand, my Linn LP12 presents a better sense of momentum and timing—or at least a presentation that I'm more used to. (At the time of this writing I've lived with the Galibier for about a month.) The Galibier, while not uninvolving, didn't suck me into the music quite as readily as the Linn.
During its first few days of use, I also formed an impression that the Galibier was just a bit colorless. That changed when Thom Mackris dropped by for a visit and brought along a newly acquired Schröder Reference tonearm, imported by Audio Advancements. Handmade in Berlin by a master watchmaker named Frank Schröder, the $6000 Reference is a pivoting arm with a single-thread bearing, adjustable magnetic damping, and an armtube made from jacaranda, a dense, colorful hardwood (yes, it could have been an Orvis reel seat). Together, we installed the Schröder and a well-loved Denon 103 MC cartridge alongside the Graham, and spent the next hour utterly amazed at how good the combination sounded. Not only was the Galibier-Schröder-Denon combination richly colored and textured, but some measure of temporal realism seemed to have been restored. It was superb analog—and as sorry as I was to see Thom leave the next day, I was almost equally sorry that he had to take his Schröder tonearm with him.
My loyalty to the low-mass school of record replay remains unfazed in a general sense—but the high-mass approach has impressed me now more than ever. (I was wildly unimpressed the last time I worked with a very-high-mass turntable: a Micro Seiki, owned by the late Edison Price, that was musically dull and uninvolving.) Perhaps that's because the Galibier is a better design than most, or because machine tools and techniques have improved so much in recent years. On that count, despite being priced a few thousand dollars more than a Linn LP12 or a Rega P9, the fully loaded Galibier Quattro Supreme strikes me as a decent value: The individual parts are obviously made to very fine tolerances, and the cosmetics are superb. This is true audio sculpture at its best.
My only real quibbles: I still haven't warmed to the Mylar belts (in a string of bizarre mishaps, I managed to pulverize two of the three), and I can't help but wonder if a good ol'-fashioned rubber belt might sound even better, in addition to being less fussy in use. And I still don't really like the Anvil, impressive though it is by dint of sheer heft and commanding appearance. To this day, putting an irreplaceable slab of vinyl onto a relatively hard surface and pressing it down with a heavy weight just doesn't seem right to me. I wish Galibier made a lighter version for worrywarts like me. (If dumped out, the amount of lead shot inside the Anvil isn't enough to lighten it appreciably.) Finally, I tend to think that a turntable with uncalibrated speed controls should be packaged with at least a strobe disc of some sort, to get the user up and running.
To a large extent, these misgivings are overruled by the fact that I simply like the Galibier approach to owning and assembling a record player. It's no coincidence that Thom Mackris and his cohorts, past and present, all seem to be SET-and-horn enthusiasts: an audio subculture that rewards rather than punishes a person's very natural tendency to spend his money on the sound that he wants and not the sound that somebody else says he ought to want. Most SET devotees I know own more than one amp, or at least more than one brand of tube for their daily-use amp: One day you might be in the mood to listen with Sovtek 2A3s—a perfectly nice triode at a bargain price—and the next day you might want to use a pair of VV45s. In the same sense, the Galibier rewards both a person's tendency to experiment and his right to alter his system to suit his mood on any single day of this too-short life. That's all perfectly acceptable. Come what may, I will never cease to applaud that refreshing, anti-elitist, and undusty point of view.
And the people at Galibier (Redpoint, too, for that matter) are good people. Many's the time I've had to suck it up and give a negative review to a product made by someone I admire—or a positive review to something made by a creep. (Watch for the book When Good Amps Come from Bad People, which I hope will be my follow-up to Chicken Soup for the Audiophile's Soul.) I have to do those things because I'm a professional, but I also reserve the right to smile more brightly when I find the best of both worlds, as now I have.
And the quarrelsome brothers...?
For a long time, each was mistrustful of the other, and wasted much time in suspicion and spite. Finally, almost 10 years after their big fight, John Dopyera returned to the shop, and he and Rudolf Dopyera went back to working together. And they named their new company Dobro, which stood for Dopyera Brothers, and from that day forward all resonator guitars were called Dobros, whether or not they were.