Here's a step by step build to look at (lot's of templates when I Googled).
Garrard 301 restore
Im about to embark on a 301 restore project. I just reached out to woodsong with questions. The unit is super clean but clearly needs work that I would prefer to leave to the pros. It currently resides in the original plinth which I would like to replace as it's pretty but not very dense. I am also pulling the Fairchild arm.
I might be comfortable making my own plinth if I can get a cutout template from someone.
My budget is 2k all in. Table, plinth, and arm. I might pony extra for cart but it will likely be a 103r.
So...I need help with plinth plans and an arm suggestion that wont break the bank. I am pretty well versed on arm types, tendencies etc. I love vintage but sight unseen 40-year-old arms can show up with play due to bearing wear.
Would love to hear from the community- Im an old seller/buyer on AG before it went retail and very expensive.
A local dealer who buys, restores and installs Garrard, Thorens, Gates and Lenco idler tables for use in extremely high end systems actually likes some of the lighter weight, simple box plinths over the very heavy versions that utilize cutting out space from a solid block of multiple ply wood. He thinks the more massive plinths sound a bit dead compared to the lighter plinths. He has his plinths custom-made or he buys reasonably priced plinths from Eastern Europe.
After do this a few years ago i would also look at plinths form over seas they seem to be well made and reasonably priced.
I’d spend more on an arm if I was doing it again, but for the final arm you can getaway with a lesser arm to start. Also consider the 103r is not a modern cart and will required a heavier arm then most modern carts would. The arm is going to be the big spender, that and a proper arm board set up will take time and money to do right. Suggest looking at some arm boards that are round and have the hole off set to allow spindle to pivot changes. Also consider the Garrard’s can sit above or recessed into the plinth this will determine the arm board height or the need for shims etc.
Also consider if your table need restoration that it will not be cheep if your having someone else do it and will most likely require parts. Skimping on the restoration will give you unsatisfactory results, example rumble due to out of round idler. Upgrades can wait, unless your replacing something anyway may as well upgrade it.
IMO setting up a 301-401 for excellent results cannot be done on the cheep so focus on the main stuff now ( base table and plinth-arm board) and put off the stuff like costly carts and arms for a time when you can afford more.
If not done right you wont be happy in the end. They can sound great but if not done right they sound mediocre at best.
I ended up spending upwards of $5k (Canadian) on my restoration with a 12" jelco 750 arm ($850). Expect to spend more over time to sort it out correctly.
In the end I ended up selling mine.
How much do you have in the Garrard 301?
A restoration by a quality rebuilder will be a few hundred. You could keep your plinth for a cost of zero $. A tonearm will cost at least $500 unless you find a real bargain. No idea on the cost of a Denon.
$2,000 will be a tight squeeze depending on what you have in the 301.
I looked for a great rebuild of a 301 for many years.
When I finally found a Woodsong 301 in their highest level plinth and $3500 Jelco arm I was v happy to buy it for $5300. You might ask for advise from Woodsong, but Chris Harban is great at what he does and not cheap. But he is a v nice guy and I’m sure will help on the phone.
Do you have a phono stage or preamp with a built in phono? This is probably where the lion’s share of your money goes.
There are a number of plinths on eBay. I would get one with a removable arm board in case you change tonearms. My reason for this is the plinth will be the biggest PITA to sell if you upgrade. So I would plan to not upgrade the plinth later.
I think you should buy plinth in the $800 - $1,000 range. A friend recently bought one and eBay and it was very nice, but not as nice as the ones from Woodsong.
You should spend the least on the cartridge, and maybe tonearm with a plan to upgrade later.
If it all does not fit in your budget keep the existing plinth until you can afford to buy something you will want to keep long term
The USA rebuilders I Googled charge $450-$650 plus parts (figure an additional $200-$250 for there/back shipping).
As mentioned, the deck first and then what's leftover for the tonearm.
The OP has a functioning base, which is fine to get it up and running.
I (being a pot licker) would then experiment by "stuffing" the hollow base/plinth with various inserts/layers of plywood, probably using double sided tape in the beginning to hear how the added mass alters the sound.
The use of tape would give it somewhat of a constrained layer, which some seem to prefer in high mass TT plinths, plus it would allow easier experimentation.
I think my real point, although not well articulated, was don't buy a base that you need to upgrade.
I agree with you, and I am always happy to see another person put a Garrard back in service.
I have one and I am very happy with my Garrard 301.
I owned Thorens TD121/TD124 in the late 70's and preferred my TD160's.
This was long before plinths/arm board material was a consideration.
This said, I did like the stock 301 back then, but never found one on the cheap (paid $25-$35 for the Thorens idler/belt jobs @ local house sales).
I used all the decks with SME 3009 II non-improved and 3012 arms (depending upon the base) but even though the older Thorens decks were fuller sounding in the bass/mid-bass they lacked definition there and the mids/highs lacked the reverb quality I got with the 160's.
The TD121/124 were cabinet finds in crappy bases with slide out rails on the bottoms (one was a long base though).
I recall using white glue on the corners of the bases as both were starting to separate/fall a part.
Never heard a "modernized" 121/124/301, but would like to.
Unless the base/plinth is falling apart, your budget priority should be on getting the table serviced and selecting a good arm. A well conditioned 301 deserves the best possible arm. I know that really good arms are way out of your budget, so I am only trying to make the point that this table is so good there is no arm that would be inappropriate. The Artisan Fidelity site, for example, shows this table coupled with a lot of top notch arms. My local dealer's favorite arm with the 301,401 and 124 was the higher end Ortofon arms made by Jelco (Japan). I don't know what arms he now favors now that Jelco is no longer in business. He has plenty of customers with these idler table, with Ortofon arms and cartridges as high end as Koetsu Rosewood Platinum Signature and Blue Lace cartridges.
Please see my profile and system for confirmation that I have experience with restoration of the 301. My recommendation is to send the 301 to Greg Metz of STS/Classic Thorens just outside of Nashville for meticulous restoration. Greg is a perfectionist. His prices are just a tad on the high side but you get what you pay for.
Now this is going to perhaps offend you or some others but without knowing what you do for a living and/or what your financial responsibilities are, it is a complete shame, imho, to limit the potential of a "super clean" 301 with your budget. $4500 is a much more reasonable budget. Wait, save, re-allocate, do whatever you need to do but restore the 301 with an adequate budget for restoration, tonearm, and plinth. Please :-).
Also, someone above mentioned that there is a school of thought that super-dense plinths such as slate deaden the sound. I agree. The sound with a slate plinth and top end tonearm and cartridge will sound more precise but sterile. The liveliness is gone. But on the other hand the 301 has a somewhat noisy motor/idler drive such that a mid-weight plinth with good footers will help. So don’t expect perfection and instead accept the inherent compromises. I happen to have one of the Muldovian plinths linked above just sitting around collecting dust. PM me and if you want it, you can have it at a price that will be bound to make you happy. But-I warn you in advance-while it looks very nice and seems to be built well-it is still rather cheaply made.
And last, while there are tons of great tonearm choices out there and no single best-for-the-money choice, you might add these to your consideration; https://purefidelity.ca/product-category/tonearms/
I completely agree with what you said. It is indeed a table worth saving for and spending appropriately to get into top shape. The store I mentioned above which loves these idler tables is Deja Vu Audio in the Washington D.C. suburb of Vienna Virginia. They utilize the Moldavian plinth you mentioned that you have, although they have also had their wood person pimp that plinth out with koa wood veneer.
These tables do have a touch of rumble, but, they are lively and fun to hear.
Thanks! Yes, but a good idler like the legendary 301 has a sense of drive and liveliness that few if any belt drive tt's can provide. My 301 has no audible rumble that I have ever been able to detect. I owned five belt drive decks before deciding that a pimped out TD124 and 301 were my final turntables. Barring Armageddon they will be still playing great music a few generations from now. You can not say that about most other tables. Art Dudley's articles on the TD124 and 301 are must-reads. Perhaps the best articles on audio ever written.
I mentioned the "school of thought". We can call it a "school of opinion". I it is my opinion too but I don't claim to be right! That said, there may be other variables at play with your two 401's.
I do believe that choice of plinth does not have as much effect as choice of platter. The OEM platter is relatively light and results in an incredible sense of liveliness. The Dobbins platter which I have on my deck now looks much nicer but results in a more "hi-fi" sound with all the various hi-fi adjectives. And then I have a Shindo style solid brass platter that I ought to sell.
@fsonicsmith Platter definitely has a big impact. I’ve swapped out my PAC 20mm oversized aluminum platter for the original just to compare. The original sounds imprecise and small while the PAC one sound stable, weighty, increased finer detail and larger soundstage all dimensions. Then add 3 x Nobsound springs ($35) as footers and everything just gets even better.