When it comes to product names, some are more fanciful than others, but in the case of Grand Prix Audio’s Monza equipment support system, it’s easy to make the connection. With each level employing 16 bolts (each using one of three different Allen bolt sizes, while eight also sport a self-locking 3/8th inch hex nut), a carbon-fibre base, a bamboo platform, a quartet of one of several different sets of weight-matched viscoelastic interfaces between the two, with Apex feet beneath the whole stand (and ideally beneath the products that rest on each level), the precision engineered parts, high-tech materials, and tuning options, building it makes you feel like a member of a pit crew.
Fortunately, putting the Monza together does not challenge your Ikea-fu, and all that high-tech precision means that everything goes together with ease. One point to note, however, is that the outriggers for the bottom shelf (or the dedicated amplifier platform) are materially different to those of the upper shelves, and this can cause some confusion and potentially inverted platforms for the hard of thinking. It’s also worth noting that you should build up the platforms ‘finger tight’ until you have all the support levels in place, then start locking the Monza down. Once you get the knack, though, you whizz through the build-up like a boss, and there is a sense of achievement to building the Monza from scratch that you don’t get from building a bookshelf made from cheap MDF, even if it has a name like Böjåflürkøne.
This construction reflects the fact that each ‘sub-system’ is designed to cascade spurious energy, ensuring the components on Monza are effectively multiply decoupled from their environment (and each other). It’s an approach successfully used in the company’s flagship Silverstone support system, but here in a less elaborate form. Where the Silverstone’s polymer damped, stainless-steel uprights have an extruded groove allowing infinite height adjustment of the individual suspension units from which each level hangs, the Monza uses a ladder of spaced bushes that runs the length of each upright and to which the outriggers are bolted. This simpler system might reduce the overall degree of isolation and decoupling relative to the Silverstone, but the Monza is still one of the most decoupled environments in the home. You can also add extra bays to the rack, with extension kits of two legs plus the necessary support levels.
Let’s look at this systematically, from the ground up. Monza sits on four Apex or Apex XL couplers, each with a silicon-nitride ceramic ball sitting in a detent at its tip. That effectively decouples the Monza from the world beneath it. The carbon-fibre sub-frames are attached to the four, damped aluminium uprights by metal outriggers. The bamboo shelves (nature’s own, natural ‘carbon fibre’) are supported on load-matched viscoelastic dampers that create a critically damped, constrained-layer interface between the shelf and its supporting frame.
Add in a set of Apex footers under each product and you create an extremely efficient exit path and multi-layer dissipation system to deal with both internal and external energy. Put Apex footers and levellers under your loudspeakers, and you have pretty much isolated the system from structural interference, unless you live on an active fault line in a war zone.
The strange thing is we don’t realise just how significant the impact of the world outside the system is on good audio until we take a lot of that world away. This is what Monza does and does so well, just like the company’s excellent Apex footers, only more so. What they all do is let the components be themselves, unalloyed and unvarnished by their surroundings. This has an interesting effect because it delineates ‘good audio’ from simply ‘audio’. Many components are – consciously or otherwise – designed with an expectation of being influenced by their surroundings, and effectively removing that source of influence leaves a product that falls by the wayside in one of two ways; being too ‘peaky’ or – paradoxically – too bland. In fairness, most of the better grade of products of the sort that would be used with a rack of the Monza’s gravitas make the cut, and for many more that ‘absence of influence’ is more benign than ‘throw out my system and start again’, but the absolute honesty of the Monza demands to be well met by audio electronics.
The most surprising thing about a truly honest equipment support system is just how much bass gets lost somewhere in other racks. The bass takes on a greater sense of ‘torsional strength’ irrespective of the size of the loudspeakers; there is greater definition, yes, but also greater energy, drive, and precision. However, Monza is not artificially tuned to make a more up-beat sound – that’s not the job of a rack, after all.
This also gives another great advantage to the sound quality: headroom. Your system goes louder with less distortion. However, your system also hangs together better if you play it at post-whisper quiet levels. The Monza not only brings a wider range of listening levels to the mix, however; your system just hangs together better, and that holds regardless of playback volume.
The rest of the sound grows out of that powerful foundation but does so honestly and with excellent integrity and coherence. You notice this when turning back to a ‘mere’ support system, as the sound becomes more of a disjointed ‘bass-midrange-treble’. You also notice it with vocals; you become awed by Joyce DiDonato’s vocal range and diction as a cohesive whole, for example.
If you have reached that point in audio maturity where you don’t want a ‘tuneful’ rack or a ‘dead’ sounding platform, but just want to hear what all those fine pieces of audio equipment you already own actually do for a living, then the Grand Prix Audio Monza tells it like it is.
Prices and contact details
Monza Equipment Support System
Monza Amp Stand including APEX XL: £5675
Monza four Shelf 42” tall rack including APEX XL, levellers and couplers: £20,500
Manufactured by: Grand Prix Audio
Distributed in the UK by: Definitive Audio
Tel: +44(0)115 973 3222