Return to the Garrard 501
We apologise to anyone who had to wait for a reply to their query. Since opening up the web site we are receiving increasing numbers of emails, and they have to be answered during meal breaks or in the evenings. We are working flat out in the workshop, and do occasionally take a holiday.
Many of you are obviously attached to your Garrard decks, and write very detailed letters/emails. We read them all but do not have time to answer them in the detail they deserve. In an attempt to please here are some simple answers to some the most frequent questions about the 301 and the 401. More may be added later. We have little or no experience of the many, many autochanger and mass produced cheaper decks produced by Garrard towards the end of the company life. We also list our services.
Was the 301 better than the 401?We think the 401 has the better design but was less carefully made, for this reason the 301 has the better sound. The ideal hybrid would be something like an early 301 with a late 401 motor.
In developing our model Garrard 501, we have tried to put right some of the design weaknesses of the 301 and the 401. These were the short cuts of mass production, maybe what the 501 has is `long cuts` hence the price. All 501 parts are retro fittable to the previous decks, this applies principally to the bearings, platters, motors and power supplies.
Translating Garrard's original prices into modern money, a deck with a modest arm would cost the equivalent of £1000. As far as we can see this did not cover their costs, the cheaper turntables must have subsidized these flagships.
Why do 301`s and 401`s rumble?They don`t.
The main reason for rumble is poor quality plinth design, sorry to say this is the majority of plinth designs. When designed properly, rumble is either on the record or heard only at a volume dangerous to the ears or the equipment. Think of a motor car with no suspension, no sound proofing, no vibrating damping and poor rigidity. This is an analogy to what you typically have, most plinths were nothing more than an electrical safety cage - a cardboard box, would be no worse.
What constitutes a good plinth?For us, this is a rigid motor board (25mm) of minimal mass, suspended on air filled decouplers. We use solid 28mm hardwoods for the outside of our plinths, with such a solid design we get very good results which are also pleasing to the eye. The alternative is the high mass approach which we not agree with.
Is the SME 3009 as good as a modern pick-up arm?Bearing in mind that many of you own these arms it seems reasonable to use them. With a good cartridge and deck they can put a top grade CD player to shame. If however, they need updating and repair work this needs to be weighed in the balance against the cost of the modern pick-up arm, be it from REGA or SME themselves. As we said to someone recently, it would not be correct to say the RB300 sounded no better than the SME. After consideration, he replied the SME pleased him better. Many of you have found the ideal answer in the SME series 4 and 5 albeit at a price. The best of all worlds is the most recent SME 12 inch arm but remember they need a larger plinth.
To us the 3009 is best with the 401. An early 301 can sound very dull with the 3009. The 301 circa 1957, RB300 Goldring Excel cartridge in our plinth with a PSU2 is the high end hi-fi bargain of all time
Do I need a new idler wheel?We have just received an idler wheel from Japan if we understood correctly it costs £100 and it is superb. For comparison we took a dirty old wheel from a 301, removed a little rubber and ran it at 78RPM for 24 hours. The difference was small. Reworking idlers is part of our standard service. We have a supply of Garrard idlers but 95% of you don`t need them. See also,
Do I need new idler bearings?Idler bearings do wear out. The material is cintered phosphor bronze. They cannot be made from near equivalent sizes as reaming will destroy their properties. Garrard did not use standard sizes, this had given us big problems doubtless this was deliberate. We are having more of these made, luckily most of you don`t need them.
Do I need new main bearings?Even after 40 years of use and no maintenance, most have survived. When we do replace these we hand fit to your original bearing shaft as with the 501. We have tried bearings of 3 microns fit. These were too good, needing a whole day to come to speed.
Do I need a new motor bearings?Sadly when needed this is a major problem. We have now run out of these and are urgently sourcing new ones. Having said this, there is no need for this to happen. If the motor is stripped every 5 years and oil reservoirs replenished they need never wear out. Do not attempt this if you are unsure, although not difficult, the realignment of these motors has often caused problems. Of course experience makes things easy. This is part of our standard service.
Do I need a power supply?We were very sceptical about this when studying other peoples turntables. However, we decided to build a unit at the limit of the technology available to us to test the validity of other peoples claim. We rejected crystal type oscillators as did DENON many years ago. We do not like to start with a square wave instead we use a Wein bridge in its purest form. This resulted in the acclaimed power supplies built for the 501 and 301.
With 7 years experience of our PSU`s we can say this unit places 301`s and 401`s in the highest level of top end performance. The 501 has its own version of the PSU2 as standard.
(Note - we have found a way to use a crystal design in the basic model developed in 2008. See here - PSU 45 AR.)
Is a belt drive better than idler drive?In our view, no. It is cheaper to make
Is an idler drive the best of all?To the best of our knowledge, yes. It`s mad, and difficult to make, but it sounds wonderful.
Idler wheels versus a power supply - the long version
Over 24 years Garrard produced over 100,000 301 and 401 turntables, essentially the same design evolved to meet the varying demands of the hi-fi industry. Specifically the introduction of stereo and an obsession for very low playing weights of pickups set the requirements. The main difference between models are subtle differences in motor specification. Alas, this led to 18 variations of pulley size. Additional to this, many of you have turntables made up from parts derived from a number of turntables which further adds to the complications. (These hybrids work perfectly well but need adjustment to optimize) The long and the short of this is that it is almost impossible to supply a pulley. It is better to return the deck to us and have us make an exact size.
Some explanation is necessary as normally turntables do not have this problem, this is simply because they use synchronous motors, the Garrard's use an induction motor which although very stable in speed, varies by about one per cent sample to sample for exact speed. Garrard could be criticized for this however, at the end of the day the induction motor is able to do a better job, (this would be too long a discussion to cover in detail).
In designing the new Garrard 501, we decided to continue with the induction motor and to build for it an electronic power supply to fine tune its performance. This is available as the PSU45 for 301 and 401s.
The PSU45 is very stable in terms of frequency and voltage, also having very low distortion. Additionally, voltage can be set from 190 to 246 volts (typical) or 95 to 123 volts depending on requirements of the type of 301 or 401.. The setting is by a small device like a volume control.
The above gives a rough idea, simple listening tests will set preference.
The late 401 reverted to a spec not unlike the late 301, both of these models are in many ways the better designs. However, with the power supply correctly set and the adjustments made, the differences are minimal, model to model.
Folklore has it that the best Garrard's are the grey 301s, 1955 to 1957. This has probably come about as in Japan, a grey 301 using oil in place of grease will run happily at Japan's 100 volts. A 401 would not be popular in Japan for 2 reasons: 1. the voltage is too low. 2. the number 4 is unlucky (China also) as number 13 is in Britain. For this reason, the 401 may not have the status of a 301, if you are looking for the best value for money, a late 401 is the one to go for.
The 401 has build-in stroboscope for speed regulation. Most 401s seem to come from the UK, we would strongly recommend a PSU45 as it will enable the full performance to be realized anywhere in the world. This is a byproduct of being able to feed in the local voltage and feeding out an ideal version of the UK mains voltage.
Where can I get a manual, template or drawings for a 301 or 401?
We don't carry manuals etc, but there are several web sites who specialise in providing them for many of the Garrard Models. Click here to see them on the links page
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