Steppin’ Out…

First impressions of the Grand Prix Monaco v3.0

By Roy Gregory

Grand Prix’s Monaco turntable has been an ever-present in my system since the arrival of the v1.5 version, since updated to v2.0 status. In that time, many a ‘table (many of them much-vaunted and much more expensive) has passed through my hands. None has matched the musical coherence and expressive range of the compact but incredibly dense, minimalist, high-tech, beautifully and exhaustively engineered Monaco. There is nothing (and I do mean nothing) except those elements that contribute directly to the performance. There is next to nothing here that contributes to the sound. If you are interested in what’s captured in the record’s grooves, in getting closer to the original performers and their performance, the Monaco takes you there. It ain’t big, but it is clever. It eschews massive structures and ‘magic’ materials, ‘jewellery’ alloys and fancy finishes. In an audio world that rewards ostentatious appearance, extravagant construction and equally extravagant pricing, the Grand Prix turntable represents a laser focus on performance and engineering excellence. It’s easy to accommodate, easy to optimise and easy to enjoy. Compared to the over-weight and over-priced competition, it’s also (relatively) easy to afford – and it’s upgradable, with users able to keep their existing ‘table (and investment) current. It’s an island of sanity in an analogue world gone crazy. And now, in what amounts to the first major, physical revision of the basic Monaco package, the v3.0 has arrived…

Like previous revisions, earlier ‘tables can be upgraded to v3.0 status and my v2.0 will be making the journey to Colorado for updating. But given the distances involved, the vagaries of international shipping (not top mention customs) and the time taken to actually upgrade the ‘table, I don’t expect that process to be as swift as I’d like, which raises an important question. How reliably will I be able to detail the comparative performance of the 2.0 and the 3.0? Aural memory is one thing, but having the products side-by-side is quite another. So – with that in mind (and before despatching my Monaco for remodelling) I took the opportunity to run the v2.0/v3.0 comparison in familiar surroundings and with the considerable aid – and indulgence – of Definitive Audio in Nottingham(UK).

But before digging into the sonic and musical distinctions, let’s take a look at the physical differences between the two ‘tables. The v3.0 revisions introduce three core changes and one significant option to the Monaco:

  • There’s a new main bearing (which is – as all long-term analogue users know – is the true heart of any turntable).
  • There is a new computer and software to run the direct-drive motor and the speed maintenance system.
  • The v3.0 employs the same longitudinal rails and single-bolt fixing for the arm-board first seen in the more affordable Parabolica.

Finally, GPA also now offers the option of a battery power supply for the turntable – which also helps explain the increase in the size of the control unit. The batteries demand a box of a certain size and if you are going to supply two boxes with the ‘table, it is far more cost effective as well as aesthetically congruent to make them the same size. In this case, that size is somewhat smaller than the full-width separates dimension, roughly akin to the Rowland Corus prea-amp. The black shiny box(es) match(es) the carbon tub of the Monaco and, like the ‘table, sit(s) on three GPA Apex cones.