Grand Prix Audio Monaco Modular Component Isolation System Page 2

I set up the unloaded amplifier stands and plunked down first the Lamm ML1 power amplifier, and later the Manley Labs Neo-Classic 250. (Lloyd recommended that I first listen to the stands unloaded, and then load the lead shot. I auditioned them in that sequence.) Per Lloyd's instructions, I used no footers between amps and stands. I hadn't expected that there would be much of a change, and, in a sense, there wasn't. Neither amp changed in its basic character, but the subtle improvements were unmistakable. More than anything else, the Monaco brought a sense of focus and a difficult-to-explain sense of calm to the sound of both of these excellent amplifiers.

Intrigued, I set up the main shelf and transferred my digital gear to the Monaco from my aged but trusty Target TT5 stand (with granite slab and a small forest of footers). While assembling the main Monaco rack, I was taken slightly aback—when nudged, it swayed a bit. My doubts were quickly eliminated. As with the amplifiers, there was a notable reduction in the already low amounts of smear and blur. A fine curtain of mist was lifted from in front of the soundstage of my digital sources, allowing music to emerge with a greater sense of clarity. Again, the sound of the components didn't change their sonic stripes, but there was an increased sense of ease and centeredness that was clearly audible.

The effect of setting electronic components on the unloaded Monacos was clear and worthwhile. Loading them gave me a substantially larger increment of improvement. Backgrounds became quieter, low-level detail retrieval improved markedly, and dynamic contrasts took on greater subtlety and sharper contrasts. Adding the F1 shelves under the Ayre D-1x and Classé Omega digital players brought a further level of stability, image definition, and overall refinement to their presentations, even greater than the effect of loading the stands.

After enjoying the GPA effect on digital gear for a good long while, I moved the Clearaudio Champion Level 2 turntable (review to come) onto the Monaco, and again was pleasantly surprised. For years, I'd consistently obtained the best turntable isolation from heavy, bulky stands. Perched atop the Monaco, the Champion's depth of field and downstage resolution improved to a truly surprising degree, and the Zen-like calm I'd already come to expect from the GPA stands was immediately apparent. It was as if another $1000 or so worth of performance had been grafted into the already good-sounding Champion.

Perhaps the most telling aspect of the Monacos was that they were the first stands I've used that were not further improved by the use of separate isolation footers under components. Neither amps nor CD players sounded better when isolation footers of any type were inserted between a component and an acrylic or F1 shelf. In fact, using footers only muddled things to varying degrees, and seemed to cancel out the beneficial effects of the unadorned stands. This is perhaps the best evidence of the fundamental soundness of the GPA approach to vibration control.

The Monacos are expensive, but their splendid appearance and their across-the-board improvements in resolution, imaging, and dynamics make them a "must audition" for anyone looking to maximize the performance of a high-performance system. Easy to set up, lovely to look at, extremely effective, and highly recommended.

Grand Prix Audio
26582 Avenida Deseo
Mission Viejo, CA 92691
(949) 587-1065

apollosan's picture

this is a wonderful thing to know "Lloyd backs up his approach by providing comparative test results of GPA stands, conventional metal stands, and air-bladder shelves, measured on a shaker table. GPA claims that while air-suspension devices provide an 80% reduction in vibration over conventional shot-filled metal shelving, the Monaco reduces vibration even further" I want to thank you for sharing this information. More power