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Shindo Giscours Preamplifier Review

Pushing the Art of Listening to Vinyl, Part 2:

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The Organ

You’ve got to hear a big pipe organ with the Giscours in my system. Jim Hannon of The Absolute Sound wrote in his blog on their website about listening to my system. He said, “On recordings from Gary Karr on bowed string bass to pipe organs, the bass had richness and body without any bloat, and one could hear (and feel) the deep pedal tones on the organ.”

I have found it to be a really transforming experience, I had no idea the Teresonic Ingenium Silvers could go as low with as much authority. I love to hear a really big pipe organ like the one at Davies Hall. That is I love to hear them played live, but I’ve most often found it to be such a let-down in my home. I think we misunderstand what it takes to reproduce a pipe organ. Who cares if your system can play down into the low 20Hz range. That’s not what organ music is all about. It’s about air, lots of moving air. It’s about dynamics. It’s about hearing the hall the organ is being played in. The added weight, decay, and harmonic textures you get with the Giscours in the system makes listening to organ music truly magical.

Violins, Violas, Cellos, and Most Importantly Fiddles

One of my favorite recordings is Starker’s King of the Cellist, Starker plays Kodaly. This is one of the most beautiful recordings of a cello I have ever heard. I find Starker’s playing to come across as quite intense, but full of feelings. The cello is warm, beautiful, and quick. With the Giscours in my system, you can hear a great sense of breadth and space not only around the instrument, but within the instrument as well. With most electronics, my system can’t pull that off, and no other combination of equipment has managed to involve me in this performance like this system. Like all Shindo preamps, the Giscours allows the listener to experience the excitement of the moment the bow first touches the strings, and, for several seconds after Starker pulls it off the strings. The sound of the cello flowed with unabashed emotion and there was something just so right about the sound.

Violins and violas sound just as good as the cello, very sweet, never bright or strident. With the Giscours, the system allows you to hear the different layers and textures of the tones of the strings as a bow passes over each of them. Massed strings were full bodied and extended while never being abrasive. Now, on the Bluegrass and Gypsy fiddles, whether it was Stéphane Grappelli or Alison Krauss, the excitement and emotion of these genres of music just ooze into my room with the Giscours in my system.

Plucked Stringed Instruments

Like the Shindo Cortese amp, the Giscours simply has an incredible way with plucked strings. It makes no difference if it’s a blues guitar, a standup bass in a jazz group, or a harp in classical ensemble. The Giscours furthers my systems ability to let you first hear the leading edge – fast, quick, and dynamic, and then to hear the decay and air inside and around the instrument.

This incredible character of the sound is just as true when listening to a great cello, bass, or guitar player. I find the sounds of these instruments and musicians more mesmerizing than ever before. It makes no difference whether it is Wes Montgomery, John Williams, Hendrix, Clapton or even Chet Atkins; I have never heard them sound better. The amazing thing is, with each of their different instruments and styles they each sound so alive, natural and tonally correct. If you have to think in audiophile terms, I think three things are partially responsible for this rightness. First, it’s the way the Giscours sounds so weighty and natural without in anyway inhibiting the speed of the micro-dynamics. This really allows an acoustical guitar to sound real. Second, is the way the Giscours makes my system sound even more powerful than the incredible dynamics I already have with my Teresonic Ingenium Silver speakers being over 100dB efficient.

More often nowadays I get in the mood for bluegrass and I have never heard recorded dulcimers, and dobros sound so much like the real thing. I grew up hearing a lot of bluegrass and it’s a music genre with lots of emotion and incredible micro-dynamics contrasting from all the different handmade small string instruments. My system with the Giscours and Shindo 301 Vinyl Player allows me to enjoy recorded bluegrass more than I had ever dreamed possible.

When listening to classical music, plucked strings come from all kind of stringed instruments. The same traits I talked about above make for some of the most enjoyable classical listening sessions I can ever remember. Whether it’s a harpsichord or a harp, it just comes to life.

Horns and Woodwinds

I grew up listening to my father’s Pete Fountain records; he plays a great clarinet. I also love to hear the great saxophone players of jazz. On the classical side, flutes and oboes really appeal to me. To truly experience woodwinds, your system must have great balance from the upper bass through the top-end. Woodwinds move small amounts of air but this air is a very essential part of their sound. You can hear it when you listen to them live whether you notice it or not. If your system doesn’t let these fine details come through, the music will sound nice, but not lifelike. Then, there is the matter of coherency with woodwinds.

There is an incredibly recorded flute on the Opus 3 test record. The flute and the breath are obviously from one source and the breath is not exaggerated, but it is definitely there. I hope I’m letting you know how beautifully and lifelike the Giscours plays these instruments.

Horns are more demanding, both in frequency range and dynamics. Most systems struggle with horns. It is just difficult to get the explosive dynamics, the bite, and the body of a trumpet or cornet right without sounding edgy or just downright bright. With the Giscours, my system can bring you out of your seat when a horn cuts in and at the same time never gets edgy or bright. Likewise, they bring big-band music to life without hurting your ears. They have the ability to get really loud in a very effortless way. In my experience, mostly only very efficient speakers can do this. This kind of music especially benefits from the robust, weighty way the Giscours plays music.

Drums, Cymbals, and Percussion

I don’t know about you but I find it very difficult to know if a system is accurate when playing drums. I remember one night at the Columbus Symphony Pops concert, when, during intermission, they changed the setup on the stage for the guest that was coming. This included a new drummer and drum set. The difference was between what we audiophiles would call slow, overdone bass with the first set and fast, tight bass with the second set. Now, I ask you, how would you know this if you weren’t there? Yet, there is something I can tell you about both drum sets and drummers. They both carried the rhythm and pace of the music. I think that’s what we always have to consider when judging the ability of a system when it comes to drums. It’s easy to rob all the weight and substance from your system if you try to get every recording to have fast and tight bass, but it is with few exceptions that the drums shouldn’t convey real rhythm and pace.

The Shindo 301 Vinyl player with the Giscours combined with the Wavac EC300B playing music from the Teresonic Ingenium Silvers allow drums to convey rhythm and pace better than I have ever heard from any other system. In both rock and jazz, this is so important if your system is going to bring a performance to life. I like slam and dynamic rim shots as much as the next person, but it is this ability to carry the rhythm and pace that is the difference between a really good system and a very lifelike one.

I’ve mentioned in several reviews that it has always amazed me at the symphony when the percussionist would strike the little triangle and you could so clearly hear it with all the other instruments of the symphony playing. This is what a system with great detail should do for you. It’s not that everything should have its own etched-out space, but that you can hear everything distinctly as part of the whole. The more easily you can hear these little percussion instruments the more natural an orchestra sounds. Now, in jazz, often the same instruments are played by the drummer and are much more forward in the performance. Again, a really lifelike system can do both of these if playing a well recorded performance. Then, there are the cymbals. They can range in sound from a startling crash, to a very brassy bright sound, and a very silvery shimmer. All cymbals do not sound alike just like drums don’t, but speakers that play cymbals right will let you hear those differences with ease and naturalness.

Truth is, my system already played cymbals better than any I had heard. One of the biggest leaps with cymbals came when I added the Shindo 301 Vinyl Player to my system. The Giscours just allows all these things I’ve said above to be even truer, and it certainly does that beautifully.

Pianos and the Human Voice

Well, let’s end with the two most important instruments for me in the musical listening experience. The piano may tell us more about our system than any other single instrument. It plays over such a large frequency ranger. It can be powerful or soft. It reacts sonically to how hard or easy the pianist strikes the notes. It can sustain a note or the note can be quickly released. The piano is also capable of incredible dynamics and micro-dynamics.

It’s not that I listen to piano solos that often, it’s just that if a system can’t get a piano right, I find that it usually just doesn’t sound right. With the Giscours finishing off my system, I find the piano sounds very right. It sounds very coherent top-to-bottom, and has the speed to keep up with the instrument. With the Giscours in the system it also has the weight and gusto to sound like a real piano.

For me the most important instrument to get right is the human voice. This is part of what draws me to the Lowther-based Teresonic Ingenium Silvers. They are so articulate and human voices sound so natural and easy to listen when played through the speakers. Again, Jim Hannon said in his blog, “Voices and massed violins not only have immediacy but are beautifully reproduced without a hint of stridency. The music seems to ride on a cushion of air and pulls you in.”

The Giscours adds body and soul to those articulate voices. It does this by letting you hear more of the air, and more of the vibrato of the voice. It also allows the voice to occupy a more natural space resulting in voices sounding more like real people singing and less like well recorded voices.

This last point makes a good transition into talking about the Giscours’s influence on my system’s ability to produce a believable soundstage. I spent a lot of time during the review of the Allnic L linestage and H 3000 LCR Reference phono preamp talking about the way they revealed space. I remember wishing I could get that without giving up the way my Masseto let music flow into my room. Well, I’m here to say you can; all you need is a Shindo Giscours. With the Giscours you’ll get even more of the Shindo preamps’ magical way with musical flow and a more fleshed out, but just-as-incredible way with space that you get from the Allnic preamp combo.


As I reread the review with the prospective of several months of listening, I think I should mention how the Giscours continued to improve over time. It sounded great right out of the box, but after a month or so it really sounded beautiful. Nothing could point this out more than Mike Zivkovic of Teresonic’s comment when he came back over to hear my system with Jim Hannon. He had heard the system when the Giscours first came in and now he was hearing it after it had been in the system for about two months. During the listening session he leaned over and said, “that new preamp makes a bigger difference than I remember.”

For several years, the Giscours was Shindo’s statement preamp, but now he makes the Petrvs. I will probably never hear it in my system, but I know that what I have been saying about Shindo preamps for a while is still the way I feel. They do something for vinyl that brings my system to life, each and everyone of them. So the question isn’t whether or not to get a Shindo preamp, but which one can I afford. For me, that answer is the Giscours.

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