Musical Surroundings, AMG, DS Audio, Rogue, Magnepan | FLAX 2020

At most high-end audio shows, I happen upon a turntable that strikes me as unusually beautiful–so much so that I almost want to own it based solely on its aesthetics. At FLAX 2020, I found that gorgeous table in the Musical Surroundings room fronting a surprisingly modest system. This gorgeous ‘table was an AMG Giro with the 9WT tonearm and outboard power supply ($14,250), with the stunning DS Audio E1 Optical Phono Cartridge System ($2750). I’ve seen the Giro before, but this one had a base in a beautiful metallic/cobalt blue with a white platter, and it gave me goosebumps just to look at it.

Sponsored by Core Power Technologies A/V
Florida Audio Expo 2020 coverage sponsored by Core Power Technologies A/V
Sponsored by Living Sounds Audio
Florida Audio Expo 2020 coverage sponsored by Living Sounds Audio

While I focused on that gorgeous disc spinner, most of the visitors to the Musical Surroundings room focused on the unusual technology of the DS Audio E1. An “optical” cartridge system? Sounds like one of those ELP laser turntables. With its blue lights, it kinda looks like one of those Soundsmith Strain Gauge cartridges. It’s neither. Normal cartridges use an electromagnetic generator to move the magnets (MM) or coils (MC), and the speed of that movement within the magnetic field determines the output signal. With an optical system, that output signal is determined by the distance the stylus moves. That makes everything much more simple: set-up and alignment, circuitry and passive RIAA equalization.

Another remarkable aspect of the Musical Surrounding system was the modest equipment that was hooked up to this intriguing analog rig. Garth Leerer chose a $3000 Rogue Audio Cronus Magnum III integrated tube amp and a pair of Magnepan .7 loudspeakers. Magnepan doesn’t engage in the whole high-end audio show scene anymore, so it’s rare to see Maggies at shows. The .7s sounded dynamic, fast and realistic, and you get that for just $1400/pair.

Still, it’s that AMG Giro turntable that I remember. I have some experience with the larger and more expensive AMG Viella 12 turntable–Australian hi-fi dealer Jeff Knox chose it to front his million dollar system when I visited Sydney a few years ago. He told me that the AMG was “the only turntable that made sense sonically,” and I agreed after spending most of the day with his system. The Giro has that same pull, that same sense of correctness.

Did I mention that it’s beautiful?