Legendary Gale GT 2101 Appears At My Door

An Analogplanet.com reader emailed to ask if I'd like to spend a week with his Gale turntable. I knew the Gale loudspeaker from the 1970s but was unfamiliar with the turntable so I figured, "why not"?

Shortly thereafter he arrived at my door with this unusual looking turntable that resembled an Oracle Delphi, except that it was from the 1970s and so came first! Now this was getting interesting.

I started researching it and the more I uncovered the more intriguing it became. The "rare and exotic" and incredibly beautiful turntable was a project initiated by the late Ira Gale, an American "ex-pat" living in the U.K. He collaborated on the design with the now legendary Dr. Sao Win.

The two had met at college in California. Gale went to the UK to study music at the Royal Academy of Music, while Win went to Cambridge University. The two shared the patents on the design. The photo I took hardly does it justice. It's not easy photographing a transparent turntable.

The 'table features two thin acrylic plinths, with the upper one suspended via a trio of suspension towers very similar to what Oracle later adapted and that I'd long thought were original to Oracle. But more critical to the design is the motor system: a direct drive DC servo motor pod that hangs within an upper plinth opening.

The motor features an integral small diameter stainless steel platform incorporating the spindle that rotates at the chosen speed. Atop that rides a triangular shaped "platter" with three stainless steel cylinders that support the LP. It's very cool looking but while that looks nice, it's not the best way to support a record.

The outboard motor controller is notable for how it operates and for being way ahead of its time technologically. It features a quartz locked motor drive that can be set for 33.3 operation with LED digital read-out, or with the flip of a switch the speed can be varied from 10 to 99.9rpm.

The motor is a high-torque brushless D.C. design adapted from a shipboard gyro and featured a floating magnetic bearing. You can read more details about the design and history at Gale Audio.

A notable design and engineering team turned the ideas into reality. No one is really sure how many of the $1975 (without tonearm) Gale turntables were actually manufactured. Some say 60, others as many as 200. Either way, finding that out kicked the excitement factor up quite a few notches for me! When I told my friend UK audio journalist Ken Kessler that I had a Gale turntable in-house, I thought he was going to faint!

J. Paul Getty owned three and Elton John was reputed to own a pair. Other owners include Frank Sinatra, Ann Margaret and Freddie Mercury! An organization called The Gale Audio Group is said to have located but fifteen of these turntables. The going price before the 2008 financial crash was said to be $5000, with $2500 the current market price if you can find one.

The turntable currently here was fitted with a Magnepan Unitrac unipivot tonearm and I was supplied with an original Koetsu Black cartridge in the box. The 'table hadn't been used in five years and was not ready for playback. One of the spring towers had collapsed and the arm was in a state of 'disrepair'.

Fortunately, I have plenty of experience with Oracle spring towers. In fact my first really good turntable was an Oracle Delphi fitted with? Right! A Magnepan Unitrac tonearm! So it took about three hours of work to get everything working, especially since there was no owner's manual supplied nor could I find one on the Vinyl Engine web site.

But the satisfaction was enormous when I spun the first record on this classic. How did it sound? Well, the cartridge had sat for years, but the 'table was remarkably quiet and smooth-sounding. It was hardly the last word in dynamic contrasts or low bass or low bass control, but it was a lot of fun to listen to it and watch it spin.

If I had the room to properly display it and were the owner interested in selling, I'd probably want to keep this piece of analog history. I was happy to have it here, if just for week and happy to share the experience with you!

COMMENTS
concerto12's picture

I was a young subscriber to Popular Science back in the early 70s, and recall quite clearly the photograph and description in the February 1975 issue of what was then an outrageously expensive turntable but a very cool design. I'm surprised you didn't know about this one Michael, but it probably remained quite obscure.

Cheers, Greg

http://books.google.com/books?id=WwEAAAAAMBAJ&pg=PA76&lpg=PA76&dq=popula...

emmaco's picture

Many of today's "innovations" in turntable design can be traced directly back to the Gale turntable of 1975.  Outboard power supply, electronic servo motor speed control, magnetic bearing, digital readout, infinitely variable speed control, non-resonant acrylic double plinth, etc.  

As the author says, the picture does not do it justice.   It is breathtaking in person when properly polished.   

paul-s's picture

On first glance, I wondered why the only photo you posted of the Gale showed it without its platter in place. I was very surprised to learn that the thing on top WAS the platter. Whoa, what an interesting design! Thanks for showing us.

NAJB's picture

I remember going to a Hi-Fi show in London in '75, with a friend who had just bought a Transcriptor Reference Turntable. We saw, but did not hear this new Gale turntable. I remember quote clearly talking to the designers about the suspension and how it (nearly) eliminated any small disturbances. This was in the days when turntable suspension was quite crude. One of the designers showed this by rapping his knuckles very hard on the (flimsy) support table. He was mildly upset when my friend tapped one of the suspension turret horizontally and showed that it might have had vertical resilience but not horizontal resilience, as the arm shuddered sideways across the (static) record.

What a great looking turntable, though.

I think my dream system then would have been that turntable, a Lecson AP1/AC1 amplifier and Gale speakers (especially if they came with the model used in the advertisements).

Supercollider's picture

I was recently having dinner with Dr. Win and wondered what was currently posted about him and his products. We enjoyed an evening of listening to his own personal system of his design: turntable, arm and strain gauge cartridge, along with his incredibly beautiful new/latest speakers. Just wished to drop in and mention that he is indeed around and still innovating for anyone who was interested.

~SC

Michael Fremer's picture
Probably would make for an interesting interview. I've never met the man.