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|Postcards from Garrardians at large
After Srajan published my first installment of the Garrard Project, I've found out that there are many of you out there into Garrards or that you've gotten interested in Garrards after this first article. I got a kick out of Alan Sircom's article "Music Matters" in issue 37 of one of my favorite audio print rags, HiFi+ from the UK. Alan classifies audio nuts by four cult groups: Artists, Scientists, Mystics and Moonies. Surely moonies is just a coincidence? Anyways, Alan goes on to say, "similar cults seem to be emerging throughout the industry; the phase-correctees, the single-ended-sleepers (who are staging a comeback, having slumbered for a dozen years) and the Garrardians who insist that all music must be played on a Garrard 301 if it is to count as real music. Hang on a minute though. They may just have a point..."
|Garrards are like that. They cut deep into audio roots & consciousness and are a secret treasure in more audio-insider & underground systems than you might imagine. Why? Because they play music convincingly well. You wouldn't be far off if you considered Garrard 301s to be the S.E.T. amplifier of the turntable world. A
|Garrard 301 is a classic time machine that plays music startlingly well. 301s infuse music with a flesh & blood reality, a foot-tapping sense of PRaT while injecting a nice dose of rich musical pleasure. There's also a certain pleasure of ownership that goes with Garrard 301s that is akin to owning a fully restored 1953 Norton Manx motorcycle, a 1955 Ford Thunderbird automobile or a 1934 Martin D-18 guitar. The Garrard 301 is an audio milestone, a classic in a hobby that has few enduring classics to recognize. What other audio products do people still lust after 50 years past their introduction? Very few.
I have been delighted to hear from all of the Garrardians out there about their adventures and to see the photos of the fruits of their labors. I'm so impressed with what I've seen that I want to share a few of those photos with you to whet your appetite, just so you can see what's possible with a little effort of your own. If you have a photo of your Garrard project that you haven't sent me yet and would like to share it, please do. I'd like to share it with our fellow moonies in future Garrard Project articles to fuel their inspiration.
|After reading the original Garrard Project article, Netherlands reader Bas bought a grey grease-bearing Garrard 301 & a cream oil-bearing Garrard 301 to serve as the basis for a couple of projects. Bas built a solid ebony plinth for his grey grease-bearing Garrard 301 and installed an SME tonearm. That's the same ebony that's used in musical instruments by the way - an inspired choice. Bas also built a solid maple plinth for his cream oil-bearing Garrard 301. Maple too is used in musical instruments like my old Gibson arch top guitar - another inspired choice. Bas told me, "There is no boring sound to the grease-bearing Garrard 301. As you suggested in your article, they have attack, drive, etc. and are the opposite of boring. In my opinion (and other people who I have spoken to in Holland), the grease-bearing Garrards are superior to the oil ones." So what do I know? Some people like the grease bearings better, others the oil bearings. Me, I'd like to have one of each just like Bas so I could find out which one I like best. I suspect the two versions just sound different, and some will like one version over the other based on their listening preferences and how the table interacts with their system. Either way, having any Garrard 301 is better than not having one! Bas
|has bought a couple more grey and cream Garrards and just finished a gorgeous granite plinth project. Bas, you're my hero! Keep those photos coming!
Fellow moonie Edward in the UK sent me a photo of his own Garrard 301 project and shared a little about his own adventures. Edward has been experimenting with Garrards for quite a while before reading the Garrard Project article and had some tips and stories. "From a British and European perspective, it's still a question of a whole bunch of disbelievers versus us converts. Then there are the real Garrardissimos, some of whom might be more entrenched than Linn fanatics. I was originally put onto 301s by Frank Schroeder who uses one at home (where he's got a lot of turntables). Then there's a top vinyl shop in Berlin that uses one as their reference - and this when selling $40K plus tables!" Edward went on to tell me that he's done quite a bit of work on plinths. Initially he preferred less material in the plinth's top plate. He also commented that his experiments with spring suspension degraded the sound. Edward told me a while back that "at the moment, I've got it on a less than inch-thick birch ply sheet that sits blu-tacked to hockey pucks, which are blu-tacked to 4 hardwood block and blu-tacked to the birch ply isolation shelf (which is the same as I use for the main rig). A further step will be to isolate the arm itself from the plinth but I need to make a bigger shelf for that. This is a really simple thing to build, cheap and a big improvement over any of the box versions I've heard or tried." Edward has since gone to a thicker top plate that he says has improved detail, drive and rhythm. Edward sent me the photo of his work and said, "Thar she blows. Here's the new 301 plinth, I just got it up and running. Still can't quite match the black backgrounds and bigger scale of the Scheu turntable but it has extraordinary detail, drive and rhythm. Anyway, it sounds very good - superb really. Amazing what can be done with these things." Edward uses either a Hadcock & Music Maker or Schroeder & Allaerts tonearm/cartridge combination. Am I envious? You bet!
6moons reader Jeff R. also has been working with his Garrard for a while. Jeff told me, "I just read your great article on restoring a Garrard 301. I have embarked on the same project but via a somewhat different route. So far, I have been very very pleased with the results. I opted to keep the original SME3009 arm and supplement it with a Rega RB300. As I bought the turntable in England, I had to have a new pulley made for it. I have included a few pics of my table for you to see. They are, really, amazing devices. I had no idea, however, that they were so well regarded and that people were willing to pay such silly money for them. All the best!" Jeff's Garrard 301 uses a heavy box-style plinth for its foundation.
|I received a message from Lee in Alaska who, after reading the Garrard Project, decided to pursue his own Garrard project with a twist: Instead of a Garrard 301 table, Lee used the idler-wheel Lenco L78 turntable, another well regarded classic turntable design that is quite sought after by the audio underground. Beautiful work, Lee!
I also received a message from Gary in Washington about his "Garrard" Project: A beautifully restored Thorens TD124 idler-wheel turntable with a gorgeous Brazilian Cherry plinth. I have always thought that the TD124 is one of the most beautiful turntables of all time and Gary's is the most beautiful restoration of a TD124 I've ever seen. My hat's off to you, Gary. Your table is a knockout!
There are as many ways to pursue restoring and implementing Garrard 301s as there are people doing it. Many of you have strong opinions about what is right and works best and what does not. If you want to know the best approach, you're probably barking up the wrong tree reading this article. My pursuit is one of exploration of the whole Garrard scene and looking into a few of the many permutations that are possible. I don't claim to have any particular insights as to what is best but if you want to explore with me, I'll tell you about my personal findings.
I'm really enjoying this hands-on approach to DIY audio, the creativity it inspires and the rather remarkable results I'm hearing. I'm stoked about the performance of the Garrard 301 in my own HiFi system and in those other HiFi systems I've been able to try it in. It's also nice to know that I have a piece of audio history -- an enduring classic -- that is not only pleasing to the eye but can sonically compete with the best of today's designs and run circles around many of them in the way it plays music. My Garrard explorations are more about having fun exploring our HiFi musical heritage, spending time with friends, meeting new HiFi nuts, being creative and enjoying the music than it is about any kind a search for an imagined "best". If you want to join the fun, be inspired, get some ideas and give your own Garrard project a try, by all means keep reading.