So what does the new, updated and improved GC1.1 bring to the party? In a word (or four) – more of the same. If you are already familiar with the GC1 then the GC1.1 simply brings the same benefits but more and better. Improvements in the performance of the all-important (and closely guarded) internal material, the medium tasked with dissipating that spurious HF energy, have increased both the GC1.1’s capacity and bandwidth, meaning that it does more and does it further down the audio rang as well. Comparing the older unit directly with the new, the differences are immediately apparent. Playing Jordi Savall and the Concert des Nations’ typically energetic recording of Mozart’s Symphony 41 `(AliaVox AVSA9934) the GC1.1 delivers a more clearly defined and more naturally proportioned soundstage and perspective, greater instrumental colour and tonal density and a more coherent spatial/dimensional presentation. That’s all indicative of the GC1.1’s ability to absorb not just more spurious noise, but noise from across a broader bandwidth. The characteristically compact arrangement of the small orchestra (only 29 players) is crucial to the sense of energy and purpose in the playing, those all-important dynamic and tonal contrasts – and with the GC1.1 connected, the system captures (and portrays) it perfectly.
Give me space (and time)…
But what is more important is the sense of space between notes and phrases. The GC1.1 uncovers another layer of temporal information, not just rendering that space far more accurately, but bringing a more purposeful precision to the timing and placement of notes and phrases, a greater sense of direction, momentum and poise to the performance as a whole. Anybody who is familiar with Savall’s fascinating, exciting and incredibly engaging cycle of Beethoven Symphonies (and if you aren’t, you should definitely treat yourself) will immediately recognise the importance of this to not just the drama but the humour he brings to his intensely musical performances. Without those sudden shifts in musical density and tempo, those little rhythmic and expressive flourishes, this wouldn’t be Jordi Savall. The GC1.1’s ability to reveal precisely defined and placed musical energy simply makes it so much easier to hear, appreciate and enjoy what makes this music and this performance special.
The impact on vocals is just as significant., extending well beyond more natural, more recognisable tonality, well into the realms of diction and expression. Well-recorded voices – you can take your pick from Janis Ian, Eleanor McEvoy, Ella or any of a thousand others – take on a new presence and intimacy, gaining the ability to engage with and speak more directly to you. It’s a fundamental shift in the expressive range of the system – and it’s all good.
Not just a one trick pony!
Once you hear what the GC1.1 does to a digital source, you wouldn’t be human (at least – you wouldn’t be an audiophile) if you didn’t wonder just what it might do for the rest of the system. Connecting it to the ground terminal on the system’s distribution block is extremely worthwhile, especially in a multi-source system. The sense of poise, clarity, musical purpose and increased dynamic range, presence and immediacy, will spread across your other sources too. This is another respect in which the GC1.1 is a more accomplished performer than the original model. Where the GC1’s attributes really leant themselves to the digital domain, the 1.1’s greater capability down through the midrange and upper bass makes it much more of an all-rounder. The extent of the improvement wrought on the system as a whole can’t match a more focussed, single unit application, but the GC1.1 gets much closer than the GC1 ever did. In absolute terms you really need to deploy the greater capacity of a GC3 (or GCR) in this ‘total system’ role, but that means more money and if the GC1.1 is as far as the budget stretches, rest assured it will do a sterling job. In that regard, the GC1.1 has evolved into one of the very few products that really does have at least half a foot in both the ‘focussed’ and ‘generalist’ camps. It will also graduate to the more specialised digital application if and when funds allow the purchase of a second or larger unit. Talking of price, the GC1.1 costs $2,250 plus $350 for a grounding cable (both plus tax). Given its plug and play, try before you buy nature, that’s a steal.