May 302015
 

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This particular review wasn’t scheduled and popped up out of the blue, as a result of a friend asking me to set a new purchase up for him (lucky guy) and what a joy that process has been.

AMG short for Analog Manufaktur Germany have been around for awhile making quality turntable parts for other companies (those names not public knowledge) but have only had their own products on the market a short time, with the Viella and its 12 inch arm first to market, followed by a cartridge, phonostage and the new Giro.

AMG say this about themselves….

‘Precision engineering and classic design are embodied in the first turntable from AMG (Analog Manufaktur Germany), the Viella 12 or simply, V12. The AMG turntable line was created by a group of audio industry experts to advance the art of vinyl playback.

Werner Roeschlau, his son Julian Lorenzi and other master machinists developed the AMG products at their bespoke multi-story Bavarian factory located north of Munich.

All machining is done in-house, combining the latest Computer Aided Design and CNC machines with “classic analog” tools, including custom lathes and drill presses. Their factory has been manufacturing key, precision parts for some of the world’s most highly regarded turntables for over a decade. This expertise in the design and manufacture of turntables led to the AMG line, premiering with the Viella 12.

Julian Lorenzi, after years of experience working closely with his father, combined with his education and background, will carry on the AMG legacy as Managing Director.’ 

This is one of those products that photos don’t do justice to as the two identical circles, in photos to my mind just don’t seem to look right but in the flesh they do, and then some. I think it fair to say that this is one of the most beautiful and understated designs I have ever seen. Viewed from every angle this turntable oozes class and high quality engineering, its simply a work of art.

The metal work is beautifully finished with a satin/silk feel in aircraft grade aluminium, in which one can see the fine machining which looks like a brushed finish. In saying that this is finer than any brushed finish I have ever seen before – with light shinning on it, it ripples like satin.

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I had a brief exposure to an AMG Viella and its 12 inch tonearm last year and I was impressed, but being in unfamiliar surroundings and a system I was neither familiar with or truth be told particularly comfortable with, made it hard to be sure exactly what I was hearing, as to what was the turntable and what was the system, but despite any reserve bias re the electronics and speakers it was overall a very pleasant experience. The ideal would have been to be able to hear the turntable in my own environment but that was not to be.

However what I did go away from that experience with, was a deep admiration for the build quality, fit and finish and on the surface the stunning simplicity of the design and these feelings have not only been retained re my encounter with Giro but in fact increased. I think it needs saying right from the get go that AMG and their products are a very classy act.

I think many assume that high end, high ticket price audio components are well built, well designed, come with full instructions and are well thought out – sadly that isn’t always the case as a recent experience reminded me. However the AMG Giro is truly an excellent example of the former hope than the latter often encountered reality (1)

The AMG Giro comes in a very compact, surprisingly so, box that frankly doesn’t look like it could contain the turntable and tonearm but it does, and how it does is beautifully executed. I don’t often enthuse about packaging but in this case I will.

On opening the box – a real Tardis re what was contained within – this simple act put a big smile on my face as I knew I was in for a real treat putting this turntable together.

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The AMG Giro is packed in layers, with all the parts held safely in recessed foam, with the arm contained within its own beautiful wood box. The first layer has the well written and clear instructions (another rarity in the analogue audio world), tonearm, PSU, powercable, belt, under clamp washer, gloves and wonderfully well made clamp. Next layer the platter and then the compact chassis, which comes with the bearing pre oiled and the inner hub fitted.

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Upon opening the wood box which contains the 9W2 9 inch tonearm, within their own foam recess, a full set of tools (2) for setting up the arm (excluding VTF gauge and alignment protractor) and turntable is included.

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I think it fair to say that within the analogue audio domain few companies match SME for fit and finish, simplicity of design, ease of set up and clear instructions and in my opinion AMG can be added to that select group of companies that do.

AMG say this about the Giro….

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‘Both platter and bearing housing are CNC machined from POM, a high tech synthetic, with a special “Slow Machining Accuracy Regulated Technique Extra Sharp Tool” manufacturing process for greater precision, cost-effectiveness, and high finish quality.

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The Giro’s circular plinth is machined from aircraft-grade aluminum and provides both 33 and 45 RPM via electronic control. It shares the high-mass stainless steel machined pulley of the V12, coupled to a precision Swiss-made DC motor. The belt-driven platter features the single piece construction and decoupled spindle design of the Viella turntable. The platter bearing, a hydrodynamically lubricated radial 16mm axle with PFTE thrust pad and integral flywheel, is a scaled version from the Viella.’

After unboxing the turntable and checking the parts for any issues – none were found – I sat down to read the instructions and then build the turntable, which was a quick process but while on the face of it a simple one, it did require some care and thought.

Setting up the Giro

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Firstly the turntable chassis needs placing on the equipment table it will be used on – this needs to be totally level – because the three sharp spikes the turntable rests on need levelled, because once the platter is in place one access point is covered. These three spikes are adjusted from above via three small holes in the top surface and using the supplied long Allen key. There was no friction or lack of fluidity in doing this, in fact adjusting these spikes was as smooth a process as running ones finger over silk. This speaks highly of the quality of engineering, fit and finish.

Unlike many turntables the AMG Giro comes with its bearing pre fitted and lubricated already. This bearing is hydro-dynamically lubricated, and is a 16mm axle with a PFTE thrust pad and integral flywheel, which is a scaled down version taken from the AMG Viella.

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So the next step once the Giro is levelled is to fit the platter and this is awkward as one needs to do so with the belt held in place to fit onto the motor. In this regard the Giro reminds me of my Oracle Delphi and the solution required to facilitate this was the same as I use to fit the platter and belt with that turntable. With the turntable positioned so you can see the motor pulley and the belt in position – it sits within a groove in the underside of the platter – and a length of wool yarn, which one fits behind the belt allowing it to be pulled out and held tensioned, you lower the platter down onto the bearing.

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Unlike other designs this is a large item, more like a sub-platter which slides gently but tightly into the underside of the main platter. As one lowers the platter holding the belt out you need to fit the belt into the groove on the motor hub and realistically you need to do this so you can see the motor hub to fit the belt. This process is fiddly as gravity pulls the platter down onto the bearing and you get one go at this, miss getting the belt onto the motor and you have to try again.

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This isn’t easy as the fit of the platter and bearing is very tight and it takes a bit off effort to gently get the platter off again to try again. My understanding is its harder to do this with the Viella as the platter is much heavier. I did miss doing it first time, my advice is don’t miss first time and maybe a second person on hand to help might be wise – I was on my own.

Once the platter is in place, the belt fitted its time to fit the tonearm.

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AMG say this about the new arm…..

‘The Giro uses the 9W2 9” tonearm with the identical, revolutionary bearing design of the 12J2, scaled for the arm length and the Giro’s smaller footprint. 

The new 9” tonearm use a scaled version of the AMG Patented Dual-pivot bearing. The vertical bearing, similar to a technique used in helicopter rotors, utilizes 2 steel wires that allow fine azimuth adjustment while eliminating bearing play. The horizontal axle is hardened tool steel needle roller bearing. The aircraft grade aluminium armwand which is anodized for resonance control. Identical to the 12J2, the new 9” tonearm’s internal-wiring is multiple stranded high-purity copper, and features magnetic anti-skate and precision locking VTA adjustment. The 9W2, with a pivot to spindle distance of 211 mm, as designed for the Linn LP-12.’

Kw_AMG_12J2_Bearing_CutAway003-1024x681(Cutaway of the 12J2 showing the internals, that are also found in the 9W2)

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Like the Giro setting this arm up was a fairly simple process but required care and delicate handling. One small gripe, which I also mentioned during the Funk review is the use of only one grub screw to hold an arm in place but in saying that the tight smooth fit of the 9W2 into its holder means I am positive there is no chance that tightening the screw that holds the arm in place will push the arm out of true, as tolerances here were among the best I have come across so far – other companies take note. However I feel two screws are a more effective method of holding an arm in place, when this method of mounting is picked by a company.

001_768x1024One other small issue was I felt some sort of protruding guide on the lower arm with a corresponding slot inside the mounting hole would have made setting arm height and position relative to the platter easier.

As it was I found it fiddly to get arm position correct but the one blessing included was the threaded rod (similar to SME’s VTA implementation) which screws down to rest on the motor unit arm mount and thus stop the arm dropping while finding the correct VTA. This made setting this much easier than if it hadn’t been included, but this particular implementation won’t permit changing VTA on the go as is the case in some other tonearms. Once done a gentle careful but firm tightening of the fixing screw, with the supplied tool, held the arm in place. I would though once VTA is set, unscrew the rod back up into the arm as leaving it down, touching the arm mount, affected sound quality to the negative.

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The 9w2 allows the arm tube to be adjusted left to right to make sure azimuth of the tonearm is correct for the fitted cartridge, thus ensuring the bottom of the cartridge is parallel to the surface of the record. In my case I didn’t need to adjust this as the Airtight PC3 was fine, as the arm was fitted but its a nice touch to include this facility.

AMG recommend not doing this by eye but by using a Fozgometre to establish the correct balance of signal to each channel, which will be off if the stylus is not accurately sited in a records groove. (3)

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Another lovely touch, which I haven’t seen before, could be found on the top of the tonearm, which is the inclusion of a recessed bubble spirit level, which can be used in setting the arm up to be parallel to the surface of a record. I didn’t use it opting to use a gauge instead but after doing so and checking I found the bubble was level when the cart was resting on a record.

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Unlike other arms I have come across the bias is set via a crub-screw in a slot in the tonearm and works via magnets. Be careful adjusting this screw and only loosen enough to allow the locking screw to be manually moved up or down as desired. If you remove the screw the mechanism will be pulled to the top and I would imagine quite a bit of hassle will be your reward to try and get it re set as the magnetic pin will be pulled up inside the arm. I would have liked some indication measurements lines beside this slot to denote settings as this would make the process easier and moving the bias back and forward between setting more easily repeatable.

This particular 9W2 was fitted with a din socket at the bottom to allow the customer to fit their own choice of arm cable. The din is a standard SME type but a straight down plug will be required as a right angled one won’t fit – something worth keeping in mind when ordering any AMG turntable.

I would take care here not to pick a stiff thick armcable as I can see a possibility for an overly stiff cable allowing too much vibration into the deck by exiting from underneath in such away that it touches the underside of the turntable and the surface upon which it sits. My guess would be that AMG’s own cabling hard wired to the arm might be a better choice.

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Fitting the cartridge in the headshell was easy and while the cartridge tags and cabling look flimsy I had no issues fitting the Airtight cartridge.

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Speed is selected via two soft touch sensors just in front of the tonearms mounting base and by touching these in a particular way (details in the instructions) fine speed adjustment can be made. Speed on this example was perfectly pre-set and no adjustment was required.

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Once everything is set up, all that remains to do is plug the tiny PSU into the cable that exits the motor unit and away you go. A nice touch here is that this small PSU has a full sized IEC socket so those that want to try aftermarket mainscables can. The supplied mains lead is terminated with a SCHUKO plug and is no use in the UK, unless you happen to be among those select bunch of audiophiles that use this type of mains connection – I don’t.

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I did try swapping mainscables from a standard one to an audiophile model and a small but worthwhile improvement in sound quality was heard after doing so.

System

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Balanced Audio Technology VK300SE integrated amplifier, Balanced Audio Technology VK10se phonostage, Anthony Gallo 3.1 speakers. Cabling: signal Audience AU24 XLR – XLR, speaker QED Genesis Silver, mainscables TCI Boa Constrictors. Equipment tables Target B3, Base Audiophile table. AMG recommend placing the turntable on granite and that is what I did with Bright Star Isonodes under the granite.

Music

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Thomas Dolby – Aliens Ate My Buick

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Yello – One Second

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Dead Can Dance – Into The Labyrinth

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Hawkwind – Warrior on The Edge of Time

plus many others.

Listening

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From the moment the tonearm was lowered and music flowed out of my speakers I knew I was in the presence of excellence and as I continued listening that first thought wasn’t lost. Record after record sounded better than any other time I had listened to them before, with new details revealed in familiar recordings again and again.

It was obvious from the get go that playing vinyl via the Giro benefited from a very low noise floor, there was an almost total absence of vinyl rush at the beginning and during the transitions between tracks, even clicks and pops were less intrusive than I am used to.

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One of my bug bears re vinyl playback has always been surface noise and clicks and pops but the superior soundquality over digital playback mean’t I tolerated the occasional intrusion of noise but with the Giro for pretty much the first time playback artefacts were no issue as they were virtually absent.

Bass was deep extended, nuanced and powerful when contained within the recording, and no matter how busy or congested a recording was, the Giro allowed bass lines to be heard and followed with ease as was always the case with all instruments. The Giro allowing the cartridge to extract all the information from the grooves and present that information coherently to the phonostage.

Treble was extended and very detailed but not bright, etched or nasty in anyway and was fully integrated with the bass and midrange. Music was natural and unforced and anything but HiFi sounding, a pleasure to listen to.

Soundstage width, depth and image height was dependent on the recording, varying between them but when the recording contained such information the music was walk into deep, with information extending way past the speakers and my listening rooms dimensions overridden.

My listening notes are dotted with words like, precise, focused, wide, expansive, open, detailed, excellent separation, effortless, coherent, clarity, dynamics etc and along with those, magical, sublime, beguiling, awesome, excellent, wow. I think it fair to say I was very impressed.

I listened to all my normal reference recording, Thomas Dolby, Yello, Dead Can Dance and each album sounded wonderful but it was some off piste recording that really brought home just how amazing the Giro was and one of those in particular was Hawkwinds Warrior on The Edge of Time.

I know this album intimately, or at least I thought I did and I think it fair to say its a challenging recording as Dave Brock admits he was stoned when producing and mixing Hawkwind’s albums and this one was no exception. On the Giro it was a new album, with never before heard aspects of the recording revealed. The morass of swirling sounds, clashing instrumentation that can sound a complete mess even on a good audio system was blessed with a clarity I had never heard before except on the recent DVD Audio version, but on the Giro it was much better again.

It was possible to follow Lemmy’s bass playing no matter how congested the music got, as it was also the other instrumentation, in fact all aspects and elements were open to individual scrutiny or just listened to as a coherent whole. No matter how busy or weird the music got, no matter how high pitched, such as the violin screech as Assault and Battery becomes Golden Void, everything was handled without fuss or issue. Nothing was impossible to hear, where once aspects were lost or obscured by other elements of the music on the Giro clarity was king. This clarity, this detail, this openness never sounded etched, bright or nasty, it simply was natural and musical.

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Over the last while I have spent a lot of time listening to direct drive Technics 1200 turntables and advocates for direct drive will site speed stability, timing and pace as being areas where direct drive beat belt drive. Well not in this case, subjectively the Giro’s belt driven platter was as solid and stable in speed as any direct drive I have heard. Being honest none of my modified Technics turntables came close to the Giro’s level of performance.

Obviously the Air Tight PC3 MC cartridge was playing a significant part in proceedings and forming an excellent match with the Giro and its 9w2 tonearm, and while I would have liked to have tried some of my own cartridge collection on the Giro, sadly time constrictions prevented me from doing so. However to be honest the performance was such with the PC3 that even if time had allowed I might just have continued listening to this magical combination anyway. 

Conclusions

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I can’t say that this is the best turntable in existence, currently or historically, nor can I say precisely how much better an AMG Viella is over the slimmed down Giro, though as I recall I would say the DNA is very much in there with the bigger turntable having a bit more weight and scale and better detail retrieval (advantage of a 12 inch arm over 9 inch?) but what I can say is that this is the finest analogue playback I have ever had in my current system, or for that matter any system I have owned. The AMG Giro also offered quiet a bit more musical enjoyment than any digital front end I currently own – thus giving me a serious, sobering reminder as to how much better analogue is over digital.

Who would have thought that many years after what should have been the time of wind swept dusty tomb stones of vinyl replay, with digital king that not only are vinyl sales growing – now vinyl music sales has its own chart show – but that amazing new turntable designs are coming to market.

The AMG Giro and 9W2 tonearm are beautifully made, clever designs, with stunning levels of fit and finish, excellent packaging, clear set up instructions and sound quality to match, and in spades, so it is without any hesitation or reservation that I offer an unqualified – Highly Recommended award to the AMG Giro and 9W2 tonearm. Well done AMG.

As the Giro left my house, I shed a real tear.

 

Neil

 

Source of loan – End User.

Manufacturer – AMG http://www.amg-turntables.com/about-amg/

UK Distributor – Select Audio http://www.selectaudio.co.uk/

UK Retail Price (including arm, but excluding arm cable) £7000

 

Additional Listening (4/6/15)

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Not long after setting the deck up and completing the review, the entry level AMG armcable was sent to the turntables owner and he brought the deck back over so I could here the Giro with it in place and I am pleased to report despite the armcable being new and not run in the addition of this item improved soundquality.

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Music was slightly more open and detailed and little details and nuances even more clearly delineated than before, bass and mid range was improved too as was soundstaging and image depth and width.

However these improvements didn’t change the overall balance of performance, just add a bit more icing to the already wonderful cake and once run in I guess – and it is a guess – that things might improve a wee bit more again. Such has been my direct experience of improvements in sound re cable run in in the past.

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The AMG cable uses a Cardas SME din connector and it was quiet a tight fit pushing it into the receptacle on the bottom of the tonearm. Care needs to be taken here as being a tight fit if one hasn’t tightened the arm in position correctly I can imagine the arm being pushed up out of place.

 

Neil 

 

(1) The AMG Giro screams quality right from the off, the packaging is well thought out and its obvious time and care was taken putting this package together. Pride of ownership and reassurance that money has been well spent established and this is even before one listens. I wish more companies respected their customers enough to provide quality in all aspects, from packaging, instructions to the final item. It speaks highly of AMG that they have.

(2) Sadly many highend companies don’t supply tools or for that matter decent quality instructions. AMG supply tools befitting a turntable of this price and quality and clear instructions, while not to SME standards (what is with step by step photographs in SME instruction manuals ?) still AMG’s are better than many others out there. Well done AMG.

(3) Musical Surroundings say this about their Fozgometre….

Fosgate Fozgometer Azimuth Meter [large view]

‘FOSGATE FOZGOMETER AZIMUTH RANGE METER

The Fosgate Fozgometer is a breakthrough for checking the adjustment of the cartridge’s azimuth, axial tilt or perpendicularity of the cartridge’s cantilever to the groove. With an incorrect azimuth setting, the electrical output from a stereo cartridge’s two generators will be not be equal when reproducing a signal of equal strength in both channels, thus resulting in a channel imbalance and a shift of the soundstage to either the left or right.

The Fosgate Fozgometer is a small, portable, battery powered unit used in conjunction with a test record. It measures channel separation, channel balance, and signal direction quickly and accurately. The meter reads channel separation in both directions and channel balance. The LEDs indicate left, center, and right signal (test tone) positions. Simple and easy to use, the Fosgate Fozgometer is a very accurate tool to help you optimize the sound quality and performance of your cartridge.’

Link to instructions http://www.musicalsurroundings.com/Manuals/Fosgate/FozgometerManual.pdf

 

© Text and Photos Copyright 2015 Adventures in High Fidelity Audio. Except album sleeves/manufacturers images Copyright resides with those owners.

NB No part or portion of this article may be reproduced or quoted without written permission.

 

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