Grand Prix Audio Monza equipment supports


That's the question that many will ask about the new Grand Prix Monza equipment rack, prices for which start at $19,000 for a four-tier, 42"-tall rack and can even stretch to $29,500 for my review sample, which comprises a double-width, fourtier, 42"-tall rack (two side-by-side stacks of four shelves each) with two matching Monza amp stands. Why spend all that money when a solid oak table, built-in shelving, or Great Aunt Tillie's antique cabinet might do the trick?

Alvin Lloyd, owner/designer of Grand Prix Audio, has an answer for you. "Much like room acoustics, you need to have the fundamentals, and a good stand is a fundamental," he said during an in-person interview after he had set up, in my dedicated music room, the support system described above.

"If you bought your rack early, as you assemble your system, you might save yourself a lot of money because you could better hear what each piece of equipment and your cables are doing. But people tend to buy it last because it doesn't directly make sound.

"Our products are based on Newton's law of equal and opposite that no one has gotten around. Energy will go where it's going to go, in both directions. Whatever energy is not completely absorbed, ie, attenuated, is going to turn around and come back in again. If you're trying to construct something that efficiently moves energy through something that has very little mechanical impedance—something that's very stiff and strong—it will be very inefficient. Although a little bit of energy will get wasted as it moves through, the rest will just zip through it, turn around, and come right back again. That's why we use materials to dampen vibration, the primary one being Sorbothane viscoelastic. They are essential."

Lloyd disputed the notion that stands and supports "drain" energy out of a component. "Energy always comes out of a component," he said. "You can't stop the bell from ringing. Loudspeakers, which are giant transducers, pound the room and send energy through the floor, even if it's a suspended wood floor or a concrete slab. They produce the biggest assault. You also have airborne energy that is assaulting the components. All that, plus the little drummer boy that's inside the component (eg, a CD mechanism), is going to affect it.


"When we use different couplers, we're fiddling around with mechanical impedance—how energy moves from the component into everything else, and how it moves back. I want to attenuate as much energy as possible in both of those paths, so that nothing I do will detrimentally affect the signal or sound that's going into or coming from a component. I'm trying to address the ringing bell by putting a finger on that bell and stopping it from ringing.

"Every element of my designs is chosen to attenuate energy. That's why I put polymer in the Monza's stainless steel legs—it challenges the floor-borne energy that can enter the component. The Sorbothane viscoelastic dampers, which convert energy to heat, sit under each shelf. They are like an all-in-one shock and spring on your car and have the most effect. You just need to ensure that the damping and spring rate is sympathetic, which you can do by choosing dampers appropriate to the supported component's weight."


>And wherefore?
The demo that convinced me that a well-designed equipment rack makes a significant difference transpired at Munich High End 2019, where Lloyd moved a CH Precision P1 phono stage, supported by Grand Prix Apex footers, from a basic Quadraspire rack to a prototype of the Grand Prix Monza rack. To quote from my report, "Even with the Quadraspire, the timbres were lovely, the sound quite mellow. Following the switch, however, I immediately sensed more air and crispness to the sound. Layering and image size improved noticeably, the piano's low notes grew more profound, there was spaciousness for days, and I was able to hear new detail in the horn. The difference was major."

That demo left me wanting to conduct my own experiment. Hence this review, which compares the sound of Grand Prix's original three-column Monaco Classic isolation system, which has served as my reference for over three and a half years, with the very different, newly engineered four-column Monza system.

The big overview
Many audio engineers are self-taught, but Alvin Lloyd may be the only one who left college to race cars. "I've run against lots of the famous guys and beat 'em," he said about a career that led to becoming VP for Swift Engineering, "the only American company that successfully designed and manufactured Indy race cars."

Lloyd's solace was listening to music, especially the blues, on his high-end system. After no component isolation system worked to his satisfaction, he designed the first Monaco equipment isolation rack in Swift's Indy-car composite shop.

In 1999, after he conducted a comparative rack demo at an audio store and left a Monaco there, audiophiles began requesting it. Then, in 2006, he developed the Monaco direct-drive turntable because, once again, he wanted something better than the turntables he could find. Other products followed, including Grand Prix's flagship Silverstone isolation system; all were named for famous auto racetracks. Lloyd developed the Monza isolation system in response to demand for a reconfigurable, four-legged double or triple-wide modular stand with smaller shelves and easily adjustable spacing. While he feels, from an engineering standpoint, that separate side-by-side racks work a bit better than two or three conjoined racks, and that a three-leg design is most efficient because three points define a plane, he acknowledges that a conjoined, four-column design takes up less space and offers easier access to rear-panel inputs and outputs. (In my 16' by 20' room, space and access are essential considerations.)


Over time, Lloyd says he's learned more about the best ways to design and utilize the Sorbothane viscoelastic vibration dampers that support each shelf. His new viscoelastic supports differ from those in earlier Grand Prix products in two ways: They are larger, which creates more surface area, and doughnut-shaped rather than solid, to provide more room for the damper to move and change shape. Using four dampers per shelf has enabled development of new weight categories for the dampers, with a narrow range of optimization for heavier equipment. Note, however, that viscoelastic dampers eventually wear out and, much like tubes and some body parts, require replacement.

Lloyd replaced the Monaco's standard acrylic shelves with the Monza's bamboo because he likes the aesthetic. "Bamboo is nature's composite," he said. "It's a grass, not a wood, and it's filled with cells. Consequently, as with the polymer in the Monza's legs, energy has a hard time moving through it."

The standard Monza rack includes extra-large versions of Grand Prix's Apex support footers beneath its four columns; for its part, the Monaco came with spikes, with smaller Apex footers an extra-cost option. Apex footers are claimed to convert energy to heat when it enters from either direction, above or below. They're made of polymer rather than viscoelastic and never need replacement. Apex footers are also offered as an optional upgrade to the stock bamboo-block equipment couplers included with the Monza isolation system.

Each Apex foot is topped by a rigid ball that supports the item above it while allowing for a minute amount of movement, suggested by Grand Prix Audio as further helping attenuate low-frequency energy. Standard balls are shiny chrome, and upgrade balls are gray silicon nitride. "All materials have mechanical impedance which, in the case of the different balls, affects how much energy is moving through the Apex foot itself," Lloyd said. I have no way to validate that claim, but listening confirms that the chrome and silicon nitride balls have markedly different sonic effects.

Carbon fiber is a key element of the Apex footers and the Monza's adjustable frame. It's also used in two options: the Monza's Formula carbon shelf upgrade for the stock bamboo shelves, and the inner core of the new Formula platforms that are offered to supply additional isolation between shelves and equipment. (Note: Specs are not yet available for the new platforms.) All carbon is cured and laminated in a pressurized vacuum environment; Lloyd believes that the process changes the quality of the carbon structure.

"I don't have test results to prove it, but technical information says that carbon is an EM field absorber," Lloyd says. "My empirical testing confirms that it's a fairly significant contributor to our product's performance, but I don't make any claims that I can't substantiate technically." For almost two years, I've used an early version 18" by 19" by 1.5" Formula platform ($2670) under my dCS Rossini Clock, because my experience tells me that clocks are especially sensitive to vibration and EMF/RFI. I had hoped to make a comparison between the sound of my system using the Monza rack's upgraded Formula carbon shelves and its stock bamboo shelves, as well as between the new Grand Prix Audio Formula platform and the original model—the new one has a carbon-fiber inner core rather than Kevlar and an updated internal passive damper—but neither was available by press time.

Lloyd says the Monza's carbon-fiber support frame has been redesigned to include a cellular polymer core material that he believes "gobbles up energy by converting energy to heat." In addition, its polymer-filled steel poles are considerably heavier than the standard Monaco's hollow poles and do not require additional lead filler (which I never messed with) to improve efficiency. Altering, in 1.5" increments, the distances between shelves is as simple as removing eight bolts and moving the four aluminum brackets that anchor the carbon frame that supports the bamboo shelving.

Whatcha gonna do?
An ideal review protocol would have entailed auditioning test tracks with the entire Monaco system in place and then, with minimal disruption, switching to the Monza system. A lovely fantasy.

In reality, there was no room to assemble the double-width, eight-shelf Monza rack beside the single-width, five-shelf Monaco. Nor could we move front-end equipment from one rack to the other without unplugging everything and reorganizing enough cabling to support the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. No easy back and forth was possible.

Grand Prix Audio
PO Box 1948
Durango, CO 81302
(970) 247-3872

Ortofan's picture

... profound difference to the performance of JVS's system, spending $40K+ on equipment racks and supports or upgrading the Wilson Alexia Series 2 speakers to the Alexx model?

Bogolu Haranath's picture

JVS should take the plunge and buy the Alexx, like his fellow reviewer MF :-) .......

tonykaz's picture

All the Gear Stereophile has reviewed might have made "wrong" impressions to the Reviewers because this Rack was not in use.

Is this Rack now part of Every Reviewers infrastructure ?

Is this a standard piece of reviewer's Kit ?

It sure seems like it should!,

or should it ?

This rack technology might be effective/affective only on Full Range Systems or maybe have it's major benefit in helping poorly designed gear. ( which I suspect )

Or maybe this rack is helpful in reducing the impact of ambient environmental mechanical energies.

Mass loading is a common DIY fix for all manner of gear. Didn't we just see a Steve G Video about a Scientist improving the performance of a Player by adding sticky sheetings to the inside of a sheet metal cabinet with the standard test being the resting of a large Book on the top of the gear to realize a noticeable improvement. ( or not )

The VPI Turntable Company used to sell Magic Bricks ( which I sold Tons of, literally )

We also had Sorbothane

The Peachtree Guys used Blue sticky stuff, at Shows, that had a significant impact in Show Sound Quality ( D.Soloman does Streaming now-a-days and is at every Show, so he's accessible to ask )

From an Engineering Standpoint it's a matter of lowering resonance by either adding Mass or adding Dampening.

There is no Black Magic Mystry about any of this.

$20K to $30K for a equipment rack, hmm, that wood shelving must be something fit for a Purdy Shotgun owner.

The Powder coated Steel looks kinda like SteelCase Offce Furnature type Quality, I wonder if it's as robust?

Tony in Venice

ps. I suspect that these racks cost far more that many people's entire system.

jeffhenning's picture

Using what this review is saying, in the 90's and early 2000's when I had my entire system on a 4" thick concrete mantle attached to a huge stone fireplace, I must have had the best sounding audio system in the world! Nothing vibrated that thing.

Currently, my entire listening room is on a giant slab of concrete with nicely padded carpet so it must be even better!

OK, let's get real.

Of the small number of "it sounds great to me" endorsements for dubious equipment that come through this publication, this one stands out as one of the most outrageous.

$1K USB cables & $5K power cords seem to pale in comparison to this.

Will putting my TV on this rack improve the image? I'm waiting to see that in any scrupulous A/V publication.

Hear's a thought: take any great piece of equipment or a whole system, put it on this rack on any solid floor and have JA see if he can measure any discernible improvement at all.

I'm thinking that he'll see it as a waste of his time since I imagine he'll feel that he'll find no difference compared to placing the same unit(s) on the floor sitting on a couple Auralex GRAMMA's that cost a little over a hundred bucks.

To this type of BS, my thought is, "Prove it." If you aren't going to do that, please, just stop doing reviews like this. It degrades the serious reviews you publish where you actually do comprehensive measurements.

tonykaz's picture

I bought a roller cart for a largish Laboratory Tektronix Oscilloscope, it came equipped as a complete equipment stand including the most beautiful roller casters I'd ever seen w/locks., it tilted so that any height tech. sitting on any height chair experienced easy view, access and control, it stored and organized Scope accessories. All that and much more, Cost nearly $5,000 which seemed pretty high at the time or far more than we ever spent. ( I ended up buying many more of the Carts because they worked to well ).

Funny how Audio Gear isn't on roller carts. ( or maybe even crazy )

Tony in Venice

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Wayfair and Amazon sell audio, video racks with roller feet (rolling caster) :-) ..........

tonykaz's picture

Oh well, it doesn't quite matter to me all that much because my audio gear rides with me on my bicycle which has beautiful wheels and costs far less than $20,000.

Today, I was at ALDI's buying Chicken listening to Berlioz, nobody noticed that I was thousands of miles away at Orchestra Hall, I wasn't on roller foots.

Tony in Venice about to BBQ on my Weber Spirit.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Rolling caster ....... See above :-) ........

Ortofan's picture

... high-end versus mid-fi, I would have had you pegged as a charcoal grill kind of guy.

tonykaz's picture


Of course I could add wood flavors but don't.

Gas is so dam convenient that I can ignite, heat to 600 F takes 5 minutes, Marinated Chicken Thighs turned 3 times in 15 Minutes. Done to perfection! 20 minute lead time, consistent, predictable, neighborhood favorite.

Now that we're down here in the Tropics I'm seeking-out Sea Food tutelage, I'll be buying up Shrimp from the Amish at Detwiler's, $10 lb. Ocean Catch 8-12 per pound.

Charcoal is, well, neanderthal , especially now-a-days with me being a "Green New Deal" AOC & "Feel the Bern" campaign transportation organizer.

Tony in Venice

ps. I haven't yet got a Roof Array of Solar or a 36,000 BTU electric BBQ.

ps.2) Temp this moan'n was a Balmy 71F, reaching a lovely 79F on my Legacy Trail Bike Ride. ( WTF, is this what NOVEMBER is gonna be like, from now on ??? )

Ortofan's picture

... you have to go over to the Dark-o side:

tonykaz's picture

I'm gonna do exactly that, so that my wife can push the dam things behind the curtains or into a closet.

I've been a closet Klipsch lover since I took a pair in trade, some time back. & I've talked to the Factory ( about two months ago ) in Arkansas about all things Klipsch. Cornwall, Forte or Heresy?

And that new little Schiit Amp that HR seemed to admire. ( the DarTzeel does Klipsch well but, hmm, seems overkill, a bit )

Tony in Venice

Ortofan's picture

... the Cornwall with the 15" woofer.
Drive them with the Schiit Aegir amp.

tonykaz's picture

Thanks, of course I'll have to comprimise with "She who must be obeyed", probably Forte will be the result.

Cornwall seems a bit large unless I can get just the right Decorator to do the arranging. I only have 600 sq.ft. which is pretty much decorated with the exception of the Drapes that are ( just now ) getting sorted out.

Cornwalls on rollers could give me a Frank Sinatra's Corner "sort-of" look. ( which, of course, I'd love )

All electronics concealed. ( a little gear closet like a broom closet )

The music will fill the room like an apparition . It's the best compromise I'll get in view of Florida Home designs having no basements or second floors.

I refuse to be banished to an Out-Building or Man-Cave like an "Accused Audiophile Deviant" . g-dam-it !

Thanks for the advice.

I wonder how much I'll have to put on the table to get the Cornwalls vs. Forte ? Maybe Wood Finish availability will end up being the decider & what Art will be displayed on the top of the Loudspeakers. So, Art Size might be the final decider. ( talk about audiophile decision making based on neurotic, psychotic tendencies ) I may have a Music System decided on by the Art being displayed. ( like a bronze Ballerina )

Tony in Venice

ps. A true, dedicated Audiophile can't be Married, it's too limiting & confining.

Ortofan's picture

... Crutchfield, a pair of the Forte III would set you back about $4K.
The latest and greatest Cornwall IV goes for $6K/pr.
However, the outgoing Cornwall III can be had (in walnut finish) for only $4,400/pr.

The Audiophiliac mentioned that his review of the Cornwall will be posted sometime in the next month, so maybe you'd want to hold off until you hear his opinion of them.

Try checking and in your area. Maybe a local Klipsch owner will have expired and you'll be able to get a bargain on a pre-owned set.

Also, if the electronics are going to be kept in an enclosed space, perhaps you'd be better off with a cooler running class D amp, rather than a toasty class A design.
In JA1's test, the temperature of the Aegir's heatsinks rose to 114°F when the amp was run at about 7W output for an hour.

tonykaz's picture

I'm in for a nice Buying adventure.


I have plenty of stuff to do as we settle-in here in the Tropics.


I'm on the Bernie Sander's Transportation Group, so I'll be on & off the road for the next year. Phew.

We live in exciting times.

Tony in Venice

ps. I can accept Cornwall 111 or Forte but they will probably be Factory Fresh. ( with Darko approved roller foots )

Bogolu Haranath's picture

You could probably go for one of the new category 'Stylish-Fi' audio systems ....... They have a lot of WAF ....... All have built--in Class-D amps ....... Some examples ..... The new B&W Formation Duo, $5,000, including stands (reviewed by TAS) ...... Naim Mu-so2 (reviewed by S&V, EISA award winner) about $1,600 ....... Several others including Cabasse, Linn, Devialet Phantom Reactor etc. etc. ........ All can access Wi-Fi streaming :-) .......

tonykaz's picture

you somehow managed to leave-out the;

Outer Space designs by Chord,

the Gorgeous Luxman tube Gear,


the Meridian designs ( who actually have a Dealer Network here in Florida ).

I hope that my hearing holds steady enough to enjoy whatever I manage to end up with. It'll be the Last System I ever build, probably.

Tony in Venice

JHL's picture

...that the righteous skeptic's default setting finds anything that doesn't cotton to his absolutism an automatic fraud, I'm not surprised to find your remarks rough and uneven. You make no distinction between real performance and subjective cost, for example, or between physics and assumptions about it.

Not so incidentally, unsupported, undamped stone sheet rings like a bell and large masses coupled to the ground rumble. Your mantle rack was average at best. Many of us avoid both as much out of experience as we do out of knowledge.

Whether a thing is worth what we say it's worth is largely irrelevant to others. So too whether we know how it actually works.

jeffhenning's picture

...OK, I'll make an exception.

A few thoughts that I have no care whether you read or reply to:

• My first two points were humorous and I think most people, save you, got that

• Given that any structure holding equipment is still attached to the ground, they all will still have some type of resonance problems in a firmly built structure, but I doubt that traffic on a road 200 yards away will be one of them

• If you are seriously talking about the inertness of 5 tons (or more) of rock, brick and concrete sunk into the ground being inferior to an equipment rack weighing a 100 lbs or less, well, sorry, you seem to have lost grip on reality

• Since nowhere in this review is this rack's imperviousness to seismic disturbances mentioned, I won't even go into that, but, to say that I doubt this rack will perform better in areas prone to earthquakes than a huge concrete mantle or a giant slab of concrete under a house... in my area, where we very rarely have any seismic problems, I'll go with the giant slab

• As I already stated in another post, isolating your equipment from the vibrations generated by your speakers and subs is way more important than whatever is coming from an inert floor... if your house's floor and structure are that prone to vibration, you may want to move before your house collapses rather than spend $30-40K on a rack

• Hanging your equipment from the ceiling with bungees or sitting them on huge blocks of memory foam will still not keep their internals from vibrating if they are close to your speakers & subs. Neither will this rack.

• For the cost of this rack, you could have all of your equipment in a purpose-built isolation room and, most likely, have $10-20K left over

• This product is a bad joke, but, hey, if you like it maybe it comes with a free bowl of soup

JHL's picture

Speculation and conjecture are fairly common for objectivist absolutists, including when making generalizations about speakers and electronics they haven't heard, and especially concerning tweaks and tuning they don't work with. (They especially occur too when the topic is relative cost, where the OA apparently knows all there is about value and somebody else's intent.)

It is a common finding and strategy among real tuners to avoid undamped materials, rigid cantilevered shelving - yes, definitely including stone - and structural elements tied to physical ground. The reason is that all are inferior to extreme inertness expressly decoupled *from* ground and no massier than it needs to be.

In fact for years, as I recall, among others Linn even instructed dealers to avoid suspended, relatively lightweight turntables on massy, cantilevered furniture, the thinking being that *any* capacity to store pernicious, uncontrollable low frequency inputs contaminated suspensions beyond their ability to reject such inputs. Sure enough, in that case isolation was clearly, audibly preferred, an experiment I verified a number of times myself.

Value is another thing. While from time to time you seem intent on making absolute pronouncements as to what constitutes and what does not constitute acceptable degrees of engineering and cost, those are purely subjective opinions and simply do not address a third party's assessment of worth any more than they do subjective quality. This product appears to be built to a very high level and presumably, it works there too.

There's a *lot* to internal and external mechanical acoustical control. Unexperienced generalizations involving hard, opinionated, and subjective distinctions come off as premature and incomplete. The world is no less plagued by such damnations than it is by some presumed epidemic of automatic frauds, charlatans, and opportunists forever descending on audio. If you don't like it, just leave it.

jeffhenning's picture

You don't understand physics, acoustics or material science so you now go into the land of Plato and Socrates.

I have no bandwidth left to spend on this conversation.

Do, though, feel free to flame me. I won't be listening.

John Atkinson's picture
JHL wrote:
In fact for years, as I recall, among others Linn even instructed dealers to avoid suspended, relatively lightweight turntables on massy, cantilevered furniture, the thinking being that *any* capacity to store pernicious, uncontrollable low frequency inputs contaminated suspensions beyond their ability to reject such inputs. Sure enough, in that case isolation was clearly, audibly preferred, an experiment I verified a number of times myself.

The reasoning behind Linn's concept is that as the electrical analogy of mass is reactance, ie, mass alone acts as a capacitor or inductor, storing rather than dissipating vibrational energy. Without adding a resistive component to the mass, ie, damping, that energy will be re-released after the event. And by reducing the Q of any resonances, adding damping might make the delayed energy more audible. Hence, using a lightweight, undamped support for the turntable should result in improved sound quality.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

JHL's picture

Exactly. Fundamentally acoustical = electrical = mechanical.

The turntable suspension's resonant frequency and damping form a highpass filter above which the system enjoys good isolation but below which the system can be upset. Coupling it to relatively heavy masses without total inertness is problematic. The list to avoid include weighty furniture, record bins, the floor, even masonry structures. Also avoid cantilevered affairs - a *tall* stereo stand, for example, due to sway.

My LP12 did best on a skeletal frame of thinwall aluminum tubing with a relatively light top plate. The only gremlins left to bother were airborne. Or earthquakes. The stand floated well enough for the rest.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be JVS could have tried the isoAcoustics products ........ They are lot less expensive ....... isoAcoustics products were favorably reviewed by Stereophile and many other audio magazines/websites :-) ........

jeffhenning's picture

First, I realize that sensitive measurement equipment can have their results slightly skewed by vibrations, so, in the case you mentioned, that seems appropriate even though quite expensive.

As to casters, all of the stuff I get from Boltz has very robust casters as an option. And their stuff is made from rather beefy solid steel that's around an 1/8" thick. It's about 1% the cost of the reviewed rack.

While their stuff isn't cheap, it's worth every penny and more.

My last thought is that, no matter what you do to give your equipment a thoroughly inert base and damp its casing, that is not necessary going to guarantee that that internals are not going to vibrate when you have your system cranking.

The only guarantee that you can avoid that is to not have your electronics near your speakers and, more importantly, your subs. You can build an isolation booth for your equipment for way less than $30-40K.

Do that and you can have your stuff in knock-down racks from IKEA. It will, though, look pretty lame.

egronenthal's picture

I'm confused about one of the claims made by the manufacturer. He states that all carbon is cured and laminated in a "pressurized vacuum" environment. "Pressurized" and "vacuum" are completely opposite. A pressurized environment packs more mass into a given volume (high density). A vacuum removes mass from a volume (low density). The two can't occur at the same time.

Knowing a bit about carbon composite construction, I'd surmise that the manufacturer actually packs carbon fiber and resin in a plastic bag and removes the air (vacuum) to allow the resin to flow and impregnate the carbon fiber layers, then puts the bag with the carbon fiber and resin into an autoclave where heat and pressure cure the piece to solid.

JHL's picture

Vacuum bagging pressurizes the construction from without by subjecting it to an internal vacuum.

Ali's picture

Hello Jason, I wonder if you have added a pre amp to your system? Thanks.