Decision time - Garrard 301 vs EMT938


Hi Everyone - Want your help on making a decision on continuing with a Garrard 301 or shifting to an EMT 938, which is a TT I have been very impressed by. Some background:

- I have a 301, which is utterly silent, as observed from either the playback noise or vibrometer and similar apps on different phones. It has a DL 103 cartridge on a SME 3009 non improved tonearm. All three pieces are in fantastic condition. The interconnect is a DIY wire. The TT is so silent that I have resisted the temptation to pull it apart, re-lube, and set it back, since at least going by my current measurements, I cannot make an improvement, unless a more sensitive measuring system reveals otherwise. Plus there is the risk of botching up something. 

- I listen often, but after several years of optimizing the system including the tonearm wiring, choice of amp/phono etc. I feel I have maxed out my system. I feel it gives as much detail, sweetness and punch as an average system in a audio show. I like the sound signature a lot. In a 301, much depends on the plinth construction etc, and these are home-made, but after a lot of trial and error, it is a heavy sandstone plinth, and quite neutral. 

- I wanted to upgrade the cartridge, and there are several promising suggestions in the $1000 range, some of which will go well with the tonearm. If I spend even more then perhaps a SME V or equivalent plus a new cartridge.

Now my question: Should I persist in this, or instead, transition to an EMT 938? It is a pedigreed TT, with dynamic adjustments for varying thickness of the LP, no need for spirit levels, with matched internal wiring, and a matched phono of very good quality, and also built to last a lifetime. The additional advantage is that the TTs are professionally refurbished by German sellers. 

The disadvantge is that it may not be a hobbyist's delight - it is more like a CD player, in that you plonk it down, and then it plays for a lifetime. However, I have changed in my audio hobby to getting better overall sound than only tinkering with a TT, of which I have had enough, though I could not work on the innards of a Garrard as mentioned above. There is a lot to do, but I have a sneaking suspicion that my TT with its home-built plinth could be a bottleneck. 

Would love to have your thoughts. This is by far the most intelligent forum of all, going by the range of topics discussed here, and the depth of the discussions.
cool_jeeves
I would keep the 301. This is a classic mechanical design and is still around after all these years, all these new designs later. You have an exceptional audio component. I would change either the tone arm, cartridge or both. Maybe a different phono- preamp? But I would not swap out the Garrard!!!

Hi 2psyop, thanks for your reply, and I hear you. Perhaps I have not explained clearly. I have great respect for the 301, and am sure that with the right arm and cart and plinth, it can equal the best in the game. My choices are to 1) upgrade arm and cart - I am fairly sure of the plinth - but not touch the mechanicals of the motor and 2) change over to an EMT.

I am not interested in touching the mechanicals of the 301 for a variety of reasons. To my ears, it is rumble free. Rumbles also don't show up on the vibrometer app or the stethoscope. Is this sufficient reason to believe that the TT is worthy of a top grade arm and cartridge? I know of several Garrards whose owners sentimentally go ga ga over them, but they sound utterly disappointing. I am at least past that stage, thanks to my luck in getting an apparently good piece.

Or is it possible, that after investing in an arm and cartridge, I discover that all the noise was hidden by relatively less capable arm/cartridge combination? In which case I would have made a bad decision compared to an EMT 938.

For upgrade I have an SME V and a ART-9 in mind, assuming for a moment these match well, but that is a separate topic of research.