Just a prediciton, but if 20 people respond, 5 will say the SOTA, 5 will say the 301 and the other 10 will say whatever turntable they own.
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My understanding is that SOTA, under its current ownership, provides excellent service, repair parts, and the ability to upgrade any tt they have ever produced to current configuration.
I can also tell you that my 1983 SOTA Sapphire looks and works as well as it did the day I received it 27 years ago. And that I can pound my fist on the plinth while a record is playing, with light to moderate force, with no audible effect whatsoever.
I have no experience with the 301, although I am aware that it is one of the most highly regarded vintage tables.
Just a prediciton, but if 20 people respond, 5 will say the SOTA, 5 will say the 301 and the other 10 will say whatever turntable they own."
Well, so much for predictions. I make turntables, and I would pick the Garrard 301. It isn't that the SOTA isn't a good turntable in its price range, but that the Garrard is an investment piece. I believe it sounds fairly good, but if you don't agree, you can always get your money back. Then, you can try the SOTA. I suppose it is a matter of sequence, so you don't lose money along the road.
That an easy choice: Garrard 301!
Why: the Garrard sounds when it´s in good shape and serviced absolutly outstanding. Of course it is mechanical turntable and never so quiet as a direct drive or a belt drive turntable, but in a good shape and good service the noise level is very low and don´t annoy the performance. That´s very old turntables, but the performance is very modern and it´s fantastic musical.
Of course it all comes down to personal preference. In my system the cosmos has outperformed everything else Ive heard over the last 30+yrs including the much admired idlers. I wonder how many commenting on the cosmos IV have actually had one in their system? The cosmos is a completely different machine from its predecessors and easily outperforms tables at many times its price. That said I could live very happily with a 301,124, EMT or?. A preowned cosmos holds its value as well as a 301 in most cases.
i have 3 turntables of which 1 is a Dobbins' plinthed, Loricarft powered, Garrard 301. it also has a Dobbins platter and Kokomo bearing. even though the other 2 tt's are better in some ways, the Garrard connects best with the music with many listeners.
the Garrard adds a bit of spice (energy) to the music which is addictive. it also slightly 'rounds' things (only in contrast to my other 2 very very detailed and resolving tt's). these very subtle characterisitics bring a bit of magic and get your toes tapping, your shoulders relaxed, and your mouth grinning. you think about the music as an experience and forget all those 'hifi' things.
buy the Garrard.
Just to keep Gmuff on target...
Get a Basis with a vac and synchro and be done! :-)
But most of all enjoy whatever you get, It's the soul satisfying notes and the relaxed shoulders that matter. Also occasionally not having the desire or compulsion that playback has to be enjoyed or listened too only from the sweet spot.
Once that final part happens, you know your enjoying your TT and you have a fine system.