Audio Ramblings - The Giro Turntable from Unison
Great products are always fun to spend time with as a reviewer. Whether it's that they are great at what they do, or that they are great at what they do and don't cost a lot, makes it even better. Case in point; the Unison Giro turntable at $3995 with arm. (It has been pointed out to me that "when was $4k not a lot of money" and rightly so; $4k is a lot of money period, especially to this teacher. Even so, my feeling was that in the context of $50k tables, then perhaps $4k is a good deal for a product that does so much... and so much, so well).
Now, Unison is open to the fact that this is manufactured for them, and to their specifications, by Clearaudio… hence the similarity to the Clearaudio line. Yeah, the table clearly resembles a Clearaudio table, as does the arm (think a carbon-fiber-modified Satisfy), but the Unison design beefs up the motor, adds wood to the table's plinth to address resonances and all (plus it looks way nice), changes out the counter weight, uses a magnetic assembly to adjust force, options to a ceramic bearing, adds cool isolation feet, and so on. Quite nice and easy to set up too! Loved the ability to change speeds via the 45 and 33 switch, as opposed to swapping the belt to an appropriately sized pulley... but I did find the spindle to be a wee bit larger requiring more effort to plant an LP on the platter than I am used to with the Transrotor Leonardo 25/25/60 Doppio (meaning that in this situation, size was an issue and not in a good way… but not a deal killer).
I swapped out my Shelter 901 and had the table where mine sat up and running in about 45 minutes. Now some will argue that after spinning records on my table and then going to the Giro a good 45 minutes later is not the best way to compare two tables. That is, will I fall victim to a loss of memory in that I will forget to a degree what I had heard previously and any comparisons will then become circumspect… yeah to a degree I would agree. But then again, I listen to my table on a regular basis, and feel pretty comfortable with how it sounds… or makes my vinyl sound. So, sure it was not possible to do immediate, instant side-by-side comparisons… but even so, like I said, I have a good handle on the Transotor, and over time I felt I had a pretty good handle of the Giro and what it was doing differently with my vinyl.
The two tables are quite similar in use of materials (acrylic for the plinth and platter) and design (motor, plinth, spindle, platter, arm… KISS) and yeah, they are both from German companies… so one would expect, and quite rightly so, that they would possess similar sonic traits. Even so, the Transrotor is way heavier and ‘bigger' in all respects and sounded way heavier and ‘bigger—meaning that in this situation, size was again an issue but this time in a good way… but not in an overly dominating way. That is, the Transrotor had more weight and extension at the bottom end (say robusto) along with a greater presence of warmth and that sense of stability or control (solid and firm), however, the Giro was faster and more resolving—more alive and visceral. The Transrotor was in many ways like a Mercedes CLS offering luxury and a killer drive possessed of robust comfort and control compared to the Giro's Mercedes SL-like qualities: leaner, faster, more tactile and expressive…. and yet still cut from the same cloth. The Giro got you there and did so with more speed, nimble-ness-ness, and excitement while still possessing luxury and an elegant quality.
To clarify, Giro was not lean in the sense of being stripped down, no not at all; just a touch or four less of the bigger and heavier Transrotor's overall character. But the Giro was clearly faster and more resolving… I simply heard more ‘stuff' on my vinyl. Way cool. But this ‘stuff' was not necessarily more musical ‘stuff' mind you; no they both brought me what was there in terms of musical engagement, but the Giro simply had more in the sense of the little "details and clarity" that brought a certain sonic sparkle to what was being tracked in the grooves.
No, not at all.
More upfront or analytical?
No, not in the least… just more presence and well… say more from the lower treble and up in terms of making the music more alive and there. Okay, that is perhaps a bit of a reach, but yeah, the shift in terms of how the music was being presented suggested that I was hearing more information in that frequency range… more emphasis from the Giro? Perhaps, but in a good way. A real good way.
Of course I had to ask myself if this was because the table offered a bit less weight and warmth resulting in an apparent shift tonally that made it seem that it was opening things up… or was it that the table was simply more resolving and hence more open? I'll go for a bit of both. Like I said, the table did not dig as deep or offer the overall warmth (of which for many could be too much) of the Transrotor, but damn it… that arm might just be doing way more than the Transrotor's modified Rega to present what I was hearing: more musical information, more clarity… and more resolution. The Giro was simply more open and engaging in terms of overall resolution of the musical details, and I was having a hard time not blaming much of what I was hearing on that beautiful arm. Just wish I could plop the arm on the Transrotor and go from there to really see what was what, but alas no such luck. Wrong size so it won't fit the way larger arm cutout on the Transrotor. Yeah, I feel that the arm was in many ways the deciding factor… loved what it was doing… that carbon-fiber arm has to be the ticket as the two tables share so much in common material-wise. For sure the bearing and motor are doing what they do… but damn that arm.
Anyhow… the Giro is a wonderful table that offers the end user so much for relatively little when compared to what other tables are running for these days. Sure, there are many tables that are considerably less, and I will freely admit that many are unfamiliar to me, but the Giro is no such table… I would add it to any list for anyone in the market for a table to live with for, well… forever as it should last a life time. Easy to set up and to use… no glitches, no problems, the table worked from the get go. Simple and elegant. Highly recommended.
Colleen Cardas Imports