Garrard 301/401 audition request

I was thinking about the movie "Inception" the other day, where there was a line about how hard it was to insert a thought into another person's mind in a way that the person believes its his/her own original thought.

I think Art Dudley's very interesting column in the latest Stereophile re. his refurbishment of a Garrard 301 caused a not so little "bee to start buzzing around in my bonnet". I began to find myself scanning E-Bay throughout the day for the latest 301 or 401 offering; checking out Craigslist not just in Southern California and was actually the second caller to an original owner selling his "grease" not "oil" 301 in Northern California (can you say shouts of "Road Trip" followed by a not-so-little letdown when he informed me that the first caller was about to show up on his doorstep later that evening). I've just started to peruse the various websites, forums, and posts with owner's insights, observations and glorious pictures of both 301's and 401's mounted in an amazing variety of plinths with an equally varied number of tonearms.

So before complete insanity takes ahold, I thought it would be prudent to attempt to actually hear what the Holy Grail sounds like before embarking on what could well be a mad, prolonged quest. So...if you are in Southern California (or Northern California for that matter) and feel a twinge of pity and/or sympathy for what I have brought upon myself, and you are willing to share your wonderful system with me for a couple of hours, I'd be only too happy to provide a nice bottle or two of aged California cabernet sauvignon or, if you are a believer of terroir, a red Burgundy from the hallowed hills of the Cote d'Or to accompany the listening session. If it would be of interest to you, I would gladly haul my Linn Sondek LP-12 over for a little side by side comparison/contrast.

Anyway, thanks for reading this post and Happy Listening everyone!
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That sounds like one helluva time. Nothing like a nice Vosne and a slab or two of vinyl.... Too bad I'm in Texas. If you ever make your way to Austin drop me a line. The 301 is definitely one to hear....
You can try a Lenco,see website.If you are the DIY type the Lenco is an excellent choice.A Lenco is now Arther Salvatore's(sp?)new "reference"

Some people sold their Linn after hearing a replinthed Lenco.

Good Luck
From his 'nik it's more likely to be a Volnay.

Sorry I can't help, wrong continent and all that.
01-29-11: Quiddity
"From his 'nik it's more likely to be a Volnay."

Ooops missed that..... FWIW, I have no problem with a Beaune ;-)
You could also try to find a good "cheap" one , which could be easily in resale if things dont work out , thats often what i do.
Make sure you get a good arm with it
Buying cheap may be okay, but one of the main concerns with hearing what an idler drive turntable is about is having it in a good plinth. Also, If you have a 'table that's not gone through, cleaned and lubed, and made sure that the bearing/drive mech./etc. are in good order you may be shorting yourself too....
I did actually mean a new /old garrard with a stable (hardwood?) plinth.
I sometimes see them quite cheap on audiomarkt for example.

good luck hj
Like the OP, I too live in southern cal and am willing to bring over a bottle of cakebread or duckhorn for the privilege of hearing what a 301 can do.
What is it that you're expecting or hoping to hear from a piece of vintage audio equipment? I perhaps understand the desire to rebuild a piece of equipment one has a sentimental attachment to, but to expect some sort of audio nirvana coming from just one component of a system is just silly.

If I were you, I'd save that bottle for an date that is likely to bring you more sensory stimulation that an old turntable. In the alternative, I'd save it for when you have to placate your wife, if you have one, when you try to explain your trip to listen to yet another turntable.
So Actusreus, what's wrong with Redcrayon and Closdeducs wanting to hear a nicely set-up 301? Something wrong with being curiuos? I'm not sure anyone has stated they're expecting audio nirvana - well, I guess if things got carried away and that one bottle turned into several......

BTW, I used to own a 'table very similar to yours - a VPI Aries, w/JMW 10.5. FWIW, I sold it to keep the "vintage" Garrard 301 (and I'm not a sentimental kinda guy;-)).
It could be audio nirvana...or not. After all, it's also very dependent upon the system that surrounds the turntable. But having read the various articles and numerous websites, my curiousity is piqued. A well designed audio product that stands the test of time and still delivers a lot of bang for the buck interests me. For me personally (so no flames please), a system that involves you and requires you to slow down and be more deliberate in your thoughts and actions is of more interest to me (I'm thinking a "slow foods"-like approach to hi fi) than the convenience of a music library on a server with selections to thumb through via your iPad (not that there's anything wrong with such a setup if it floats your boat). I've enjoyed my Linn LP-12 which is supported by older ARC tubed amps and preamps but am curious about what older well-kept Thorens and Garrards have to offer. Properly set up, there must be something to these TTs that have caused people to react the way they have over the years. As for the wine, well, it's always fun to enjoy older Chambolle Musigny's from Domaine Roumier, Volnays from d'Angerville or Lafarge, or new world California pinot noir on steroids from the Santa Rita Hills, Sonoma Coast or the Russian River Valley from the likes of Kosta Browne, Sea Smoke, and Rochioli and what better way to enjoy "bottled sunshine" than in the company of people that are passionate about their system and their music. Cmo, thanks for your kind offer. If I ever find myself in the great state of Texas, rest assured, I will contact you, bottles of Matrot, Bouchard or Remoissenet Beaune Marconnets (my fav Beaune vineyard) in hand.
I think that's a "sound" approach: try before you buy. If you're not impressed, nothing lost (good excuse for a road trip and meeting new people). Of course if you do like what you hear, as many do(including me), then you're in trouble - 301s/401s are getting to be an expensive proposition these days :-o
Even if that proves to be the case, there are alternatives, as Travbrow suggested. And DIY is always a possibility. I went that way with my 301. If it were possible, I'd have you guys over to listen to it, even though it's not nearly as nice as most of them out there (it's ugly in fact, looks-wise, not sound-wise, IMO) and I'm not set up for anything like guests right now, unfortunately. Anyway, it sounds like fun. Audio road trips - why not?
Kudos to you for doing the research on my analog front. To be fair, my post was meant to contain both sincere curiosity as well as a little bit of both skepticism and sarcasm.

Perhaps because I'm a little younger than most A-goners (in my 30s), I am a little skeptical of any vintage equipment that develops an almost religious following. If the design is so good, why did it disappear from the market in the first place, and why isn't someone building turntables based on this design, whatever that design is? In the capitalistic economy it simply does not add up as turntable designers are always looking for ways to improve their design and capitalize (no pun intended) on a successful idea.

Since you had experience with different designs and manufacturers, perhaps you can shed some light what it is that this particular table does so much better than more modern models?
Hello Actusreus,

You wrote, "If the design is so good, why did it disappear from the market in the first place, and why isn't someone building turntables based on this design, whatever that design is? In the capitalistic economy it simply does not add up as turntable designers are always looking for ways to improve their design and capitalize (no pun intended) on a successful idea.

The two classic idler designs experiencing a vintage resurgence now, were the Swiss Thorens TD 124 and the Garrard 301 and 401. These are idler turntables, and they were produced by both companies in the tens of thousands in the 1950's and 1960's, when it was possible to have economies of scale for truly industrial turntable production. These decks had die cast chassis and platters and custom built motors, and serious engineering.

Skip 50 years. Today turntables are sold in hundreds of units by high end manufacturers, not tens of thousands. From an engineering and production standpoint, what could be less expensive than using a cheap, tiny motor, driving a belt or piece of tape to drive a platter? These motors, which are mainly sourced from two large corporations, are very easy to design around. Many designs simply have the user plop the motor down and tension the belt.

If you wanted to produce an idler drive deck, it's a much different story. You would need to have a new, much more powerful and substantial motor designed and built just for your turntable, which is clearly beyond the financial capacity of today's small manufacturers. Ditto for the die cast chassis needed to support the moving parts. There are many other issues involved with designing a successful idler turntable, but the complexity of the vintage decks with their idler engagement mechanisms, eddy current brakes, and other such features, preclude their being made today. Especially for a customer pool who have been virtually brain washed by decades of audio journalism that belt drive decks are inherently superior.

Disclaimer- my company makes slate plinths for these decks, and was involved with the first ground up idler drive turntable design in about 50 years (the Saskia.) We will be coming out with a followup to Saskia this year, by the way, so although making a new idler is difficult, its not impossible.

Jonathan Weiss
Oswaldsmill Audio (OMA)
Just a follow up to my OP. I was able to acquire a grease bearing cream colored 301 from the original owner but I got sidetracked over the past year with having a Thorens TD-124 mki refurbished and mounted on a multi-layered baltic birch plinth. Paired with a SME 3012R tonearm, a Soundsmith retipped Denon DL-103R cartridge, and an Auditorium 23 SUT took spinning vinyl to a whole new level.

Was able to roadtrip up to Pitch Perfect Audio (Thanks Matt!) and listen to the Shindo 301 setup which was beyond sweet!

So perhaps later this year is the time to get the Garrard up and running. Still trying to decide between another birch plinth or slate (anyone able to provide a side-by-side comparison?), and between a 12" SME or a Schick tonearm to pair with an Ortofon SPU.

Something about those idler drive TTs!
I would say do not limit your search in hearing different topologies belt,rim,DD etc.

proper execution of all above is most important IMO + can make them sound wildly different..take notes

Fidelity Forward
I'm in Los Angeles and have a 401 in a Loricraft-style plinth. Send me a message here to arrange to hear it. Thomas Schick tonearm, Ortofon SPU or Zu103.

Setting up a full best working 301 would not be a cheap task. With 301, you may want to invest $300+ for a plinth (like a heavy birch wood plinth), and a real good tonearm for $1500+ (like Ortofon RMG 309 or SME 3012 tonearm), and a real good cartridge at $1500+ (like Ortofon SPU cartridges), and a good SUT at $1000+.
The table itself in good working condition would cost $1500+, totaling $5800+.
The question is, is it worth the money and can such Garrard 301 outperform other tables at around $6,000?

I am almost there, short of an SPU cartridge and an SUT. ;-)

Would very much like to hear the Garrard 401 within the context of your system. I live behind the Orange Curtain but work in South Bay. I too have a 401 that will eventually get worked on, but the 301 comes first.

Kind regards,
I recommend 301 for shellac and 401 for vinyl since it has twice as much motor suspension.
Lawrence, i just had the most beautiful plinth built by Woodsong Audio for my 301. He also did a full rebuild for me. I can tell you it is one sweet piece, in my eyes it's the crown jewels of my system.

I've had to lay it up in storage for now since my one year son might accidentally get to it but once i get a chance to bring it down again i'll let you know, i'm just a little north in the Long Beach area.
>>Would very much like to hear the Garrard 401<<

Lawrence - Private message me via Audiogon to arrange a listen. I am in the west Valley.


Thanks for sharing info on your Woodsong Audio 301 plinth and rebuild. I agree, Chris H. does exemplary work! I was fortunate to acquire a Cocobola plinth from him for my Linn LP-12. As for the 301, I'm in the process of obtaining quotes for a multi-layered birch plinth but am also evaluating going down the slate plinth route too.

I was able to obtain an SME 3012, Series II tonearm that I'll be sending to Alfred at KR Audio shortly for refurbishment so it's slowly coming together. Hopefully it will be up and running before summer is over. Can't wait to A/B the Garrard 301 and the Thorens TD-124 side by side!

Please do let me know if you ever bring out your TT from the mothballs. I'm just down the road in Pedro so it's just a hop, skip and a jump to LB.


I've heard great things about the 401 too. Comparing the two TTs side by side, it feels like the 401 build quality isn't the same as the 301, but I've heard others rave about its sonic capability.

I have a fairly clean 401 tucked away that hopefully will be mounted and played one day... But I was planning on getting the 301 up and running first.

One day...
Just a little note to say that my journey has come full circle. Several years ago, I was able to audition a Shindo 301 Player System over at Pitch Perfect Audio back when Matt was based in SF and came away mightily impressed in its performance within a mostly Shindo system. And I feel very fortunate to have recently been given the opportunity to acquire one in very good condition. So one more chapter in a fun-filled audio adventure has reached its Happy Ending!
It's good to hear you've reached a satisfactory result in your quest regarding the Garrard 301/401.

I was in a similar situation around three years ago, and I wound up buying a 401 on Ebay UK, and having it shipped to my home in western Washington State. I rebuilt the table, built a plinth, and mounted a Dynavector DV 501 arm on it (which, by the way, I happened to purchase from Chris Harban).

Probably my favorite cartridge is a Zu Denon 103R with the ESCCO cantilever/stylus upgrade. It is my opinion that one could spend a great deal more on a table/arm combination, and not be any better off than I am with my Garrard.

There is something very special about the old Garrard idler wheel designs, they leave very little to be desired.

Congratulations, and regards,
Coincidentally, this past weekend I received from the gentleman who sold me his Shindo 301, the following link to a Positive Feedback article:

The Garrard Project 2015: From Simple to Spectacular!

A great read and somewhat of a surprise to me that Shindo is not presently producing their 301 Player System.
Is it likely that any vendor would try to reproduce Garrard 301/401 or Thorens TD124 in the near future?
If not, why not? Would it be so hard to remake them? The cost would be too much and economically not feasible?
What's the current demand for a table that plays 16 & 78 RPM discs, or with an idler wheel drive? There are obviously those that are fond of these tables, but- too few to motivate any current manufacturers.