Woodsong Garrard 301, Artisan Fidelity 301, Shindo 301, SME 301, or etc.?


I feel fortunate to own a beautiful Woodsong 301. Chris Harban is great to work with and has an incredible amount of knowledge. I believe he is among a handful of the best restorers. Artisan Fidelity seems to also do a great job and may even surpass Woodsong. And there are others in the cottage industry doing restorations.
Then there is the venerable Shindo version and, now, SME bought the original Garrard name and design and has come out with version using mostly original parts but saying that they aim to manufacture new. But the general view says that the SME one doesn’t compare to the great restorers. Has anyone bought any of these or others?
mglik
Look at Thoren the NEW DD TD124. Its a direct drive, what's that all about?

The old rim drives are tough to beat. Just like the old Belt/rim are (TD124s) BUT they both ride on a ball.. that is a problem.. It's not one that bothers ME but they do make noise.. Air lift or Mag lift (or assist) is the only way to eliminate the issue, IF it is an issue for you to begin with.

As far a accurate speed, forget it.. That is for recording not playback..
Speed control.. Remember.. it is for RECORDING.. You can't tell the difference in 32.3 vs 33.3 until I speed it UP..
Musicians can, percussionist it is their JOB.. Timing...
I think with your question we must distinguish  the differences between "restorers" and one who modifies to potentially make better.  Do all those fall into the same category?
Woodsong appears to offer plinths and I don't know if he does anything to the 301 like new platter and bearing.  We know Artisan Fidelity mods the 301 to a highly expensive level,  then we have to ask is it still a 301?
Same for Shindo.
SME seems to literally restore to origina and plop it into their own plinth and use their own arms,  no choices?

Question now is which do you want.

Chris at Woodsong does a complete rebuild including new platter.
In addition to highly developed plinths. Mine was $11K. Artisan Fidelity seems to go to a higher, but not necessarily better, level.
They are a few thousand more but Chris says that they farm out much accounting for the extra cost. Chris does everything himself and does an excellent job. I am thrilled with mine. Upgraded to a Triplanar arm and Lyra Atlas SL cart and Atma-Sphere MP-1 pre phono stage. Think his 301s are probably more like classic ones.
The SMEs are a new version and may also be more classic. No, only a SME arm. Think a 309. Maybe you can get a IV or V. But think they come only with the 309.
Do you have a 301? Rebuilt?
No Garrard's for me, but I certainly recognize the appeal.  I have a few friends that own different versions of the 301,  Some with mild mods some extreme, such as CTC chassis, brass platter and big bearing, in a custom plinth with motor controller.  Then another friend with a mild modded Shindo inspired 301 grease bearing with a CTC aluminium oversized platter with a Ortofon RF 297 and Ortofon SPU Wood A body cart.  Another friend has a stock oil bearing 301 in a Dobbins plinth with a Reed arm,  all are very enjoyable to listen to.
I lived with a Thorens 124 with a SME 3012R and Ortofon SPU 90 for several months,  it was enjoyable and makes you for the most part forget about being and audiophile and just listen to the music,  but I did hear it's colorations.  Still fun stuff.
I have the big boy EMT.  Is it audiophile approved?  Sure is for me
@pcosta 

I think with your question we must distinguish the differences between "restorers" and one who modifies to potentially make better. Do all those fall into the same category?
Woodsong appears to offer plinths and I don't know if he does anything to the 301 like new platter and bearing. We know Artisan Fidelity mods the 301 to a highly expensive level, then we have to ask is it still a 301?

You make a very important point which is completely lost in most discussions. I dont believe anyone offers an optimum reincarnation of the Garrard 301's. 

For example in my rebuild I have revisited fundamentals under the chassis that none of the premium rebuilders offer - 

1. I have punched out and replaced all the rivets/washers connecting the control levers under the chassis with nylon bushes and telon washers to eliminate noise from metal to metal contact and rattly levers. None of the rebuilders do this. In fact you would think with 3D printing it is now possible to remove all the metal under the chassis.

2. I have decoupled the power switching from the on/off lever so that when you change a record, the idler disengages but the motor continues running. Given that the motors take a while to stabilise it seems crazy to me that no one else has thought about this simple mod. It also eliminates having a 110/230 volts switch and wiring under your low output moving coil. None of the rebuilders do this.

These are just 2 examples. There are a myriad of other possible mods under the chassis that rebuilders have never thought of.

For me the rebuilders change the chassis/bearing/platter and build a plinth, but they faithfully replicate the motor/control systems of yore along with their inherit faults.

And then there are the thoughtless mods - like the aftermarket bearing "upgrades". Most people denigrate the original flat bottom spindle and thrust pad. However changing that profile to a ball and thrustpad actually destabilises the platter and spindle. Think about it - is it easier to stand on a flat surface or balance on a ball. The ball produces hifi but affects bottom end coherency compared to the original design.

I could go on and on. There are more tinkerers out there than engineers.



For me 2nd mod looks very promising and not difficult to implement - thank you for a hint.
I have tried ball profile as spindle mod but wasn’t too excited so moved to rod as Classic turntable company offers (Garrard 301 spindle thrust base). I like it more.

Congrats on your new turntable, OP!
The beautiful pictures on Woodsong and Artisan Fidelity's website were certainly inspiration for me to build my 401. When SME released the new 301 with M2-12R tonearm and a 20K price tag, I had to build a 301 as well but with a nicer plinth. There are so many plinth maker and aftermarket parts that you can custom one to your exact liking and makes a vintage turntable project fun if you're into that kinda thing.
I've always wondered how well the permanent Stillpoint and Track Audio feet that these professional builders use work. I always thought different flooring calls for different feet when dealing with idler tables, similar to the Shindo Garrard.
mglik

Thanks for posting this thread. Please post your system, so I can see pics of your Garrard.

I have a modified Garrard 301 in a Woodsong plinth as well. I am not a diy guy, but would love to hear a 301 with all of the mods made by @dover

My 301 was restored by Audio Grail. It also has an Audiosilente idler wheel, Harban eddy brake, and a Shindo platter/bearing. It is on Nordost SortFut. It came on Stillpoints, but taller feet due to the size of the Shindo bearing.

@scar972 Great looking room and turntables!

@pcosta The EMT is a big time audiophile qualifier.

Jim Perry


@jperry Thank you. I really like your Garrard 301, your Ikeda tonearm is a beauty and on my list when the time comes.
@bukanona
Yes the CTC rod is a good compromise - less friction and inherently more stability than a ball. Good luck with the motor switching mod, as you say it is not hard.
@jperry 
would love to hear a 301 with all of the mods made by @dover 

Thanks for the vote of confidence.
My 301 is not my main reference table, but it handily disposed of a Platine Verdier which I had as a second turntable ( for 78's and mucking around with arms/cartridges etc ). It wiped the Verdier and a Micro Seiki for timing and coherence and digs just as deep in terms of resolution.

Your 301 looks great. Audio Grail, Woodsong, & Artisan Fidelity all do beautiful work. The most important thing they do is actually the motor rebuild - it is not possible to relube the bottom bearing in the motor without dismantling it. After I rebuilt my motor with new bushes and truing everything up, not only was the noise reduced considerably, but it actually runs much cooler.

I run a Fidelity Research FR64S/B60 on it which seems very synergistic so I'm assuming your Ikeda would be great. Most of my audio visitors are shocked by my 301 ( in a good way ) when they hear it. 

@scar972 

I have also replinthed and tweaked a 401 for one of my listening buddies - starting with an Audio Grail 401 I built a custom plinth from engineered stone, did the power switch mod, and a few other tweaks - 11kg brass platter and new bearing, artisan fidelity idler wheel.

On that we've run a Helius Omega, Moersch DP8 and now a Kuzma 4Point11. The Kuzma 4Point is producing excellent results on the 401 with Kuzma CAR50 & Van Den Hul Colibri.

So thus far my 2 favourite arms for the Garrards are the FR64S & Kuzma 4Point. ( I also have Naim Aro/Dynavector 501/Eminent Technology ET2 and a few others kicking around for comparison ).

Chris Harban advised me not to switch to a much heavier platter.
That the 301 motor was not designed to move that much weight.
Although it does seem like a heavier platter would add thrust and a stronger tone. And the available heavy copper or brass platters are $1-2K. Does anyone have experience changing from a lighter to heavier platter?

A huge upgrade to my TT rig was putting it on a SRA VR platform. As always, never imagined there could be better SQ but I just changed from the entry level VR to the mid line Ohio Class.
Wow, what a difference! Why Ohio Class? Because SRA makes vibration control for nuclear submarines. Much more $ than a heavy platter but waaay worth it.
Chris Harban advised me not to switch to a much heavier platter.
That the 301 motor was not designed to move that much weight.

@mglik

Yes I agree with Chris on this. The 301 motor is not as powerful as the later 401 and in my experience the timing and coherence of the bass deteriorates with heavier platters on the 301.

On my 301 after trying heavier platters & bearings I stuck with the original platter.

The original 301 platter is slightly concave and you cant use metal or rigid mats on a concave surface. So i had the top surface of my original 301 platter very carefully precision machined flat and rebalanced. You have to be very careful and need a precision engineer, else you can lose too much meat off the platter and it becomes more resonant.

In terms of mats I have the following in my collection -
Final Audio 4.8kg copper
Micro Seiki 1.8kg copper
Goldmund methaclyate
Sumiko Compositions barium lead/methacrelate
SAEC SS300
Seisin Engineering ADS3005sp mk2.

I also have a collection of weights & clamps from Final Audio, Goldmund, Audiocraft and others.

With the original 301 platter machined flat, I prefer the SAEC & Seisin mats with no clamp or weight. both mats are not heavy and improve the sound without upsetting the balance.

You might want to talk to Chris about how to get a level surface platter - it might be better to buy an aftermarket platter from CTC to get a platter with a level surface - and then machine it down if necessary to match the original plattters weight.


@dover My 401 sits in a 6-layer ply Macassar Ebony gloss plinth. The platter is a machined finish version from Peak Hifi and I use an Audio Silente idler wheel. I’m very satisfied with the performance I’m getting and the 6 layer plinth is the perfect thickness to damp vibrations without deadening the sound. I don’t feel the need to tweak it any further at the moment which is good for me. I’m using a similar plinth for the 301.
Earlier this year, I got your opinion on the Morch DP-8 tonearm and ended up not getting the Morch after hearing your experiences. I ended up going in a whole different direction.
@scar972 
Very nice system you have - its great to get to a happy place. When I had a shop I met a lot of audiophiles who were never happy - always looking for something different. To me the Garrards embody that goal of forget about the gear and enjoy the music. They are a bargain really - the only requirement is that they are well sorted and there are plenty of options and spares to go. 
Chris Harban advised me not to switch to a much heavier platter.
That the 301 motor was not designed to move that much weight.
Yes I agree with Chris on this. The 301 motor is not as powerful as the later 401 and in my experience the timing and coherence of the bass deteriorates with heavier platters on the 301.
Of course the 301 motor was not designed for a heavy platter. That is inarguable. But what does that mean? Is Chris Harban stating that the motor will be damaged by being asked to turn a 25 lb solid brass platter? The Shindo 301 solid brass platter has been used for many years by many 301 fans with no reported failures though it does require a heavy duty after market bearing, preferably solid brass as well. Manually spinning the platter at the same time one engages the power lever helps alleviate start-up stress on the motor.
Again, I agree that the sound changes depending upon which platter one chooses. The descriptors for those changes in sound are subject to debate. I agree that common sense dictates that the OEM platter is the "easiest" for the motor to spin. There is not a motor known to mankind that won't eventually need servicing. 
It seems several people above are implying their particular implementation (plinth, platter, accessories such as bearings and idler wheels, tonearm, mat) are the best. News flash; there is no best and there is no optimum. It is all like making a pot of chili in a chili cook off. All subject to the variations in taste among the judges. 
Heavy stuff on a 301 are a main issue.
Starting with a heavy platter. I will stay with Woodsong’s version of an appropriate platter. Not the original but not very heavy either. Think it is about 6 lbs. 
Think the slate and iron plinths are questionable. Woodsong’s plinth is a very carefully layered ply and panzerholtz affair. Not very heavy but appropriate for the rebuilt 301.
Then it is a question whether or not to use a platter weight.
I use a 2 lb Stillpoints weight and don’t notice any change.
Anyone getting good effects with a weight?
I use a Helox clamp from Acoustical Systems which is very light, in conjunction with a Shindo platter/bearing/mat system. The Shindo is heavier than the stock Garrard platter, but I didn't weigh it so not sure how much heavier. The Shindo components were a significant improvement in my system

https://www.arche-headshell.de/accessoires/helox-reflex-clamp-system/