Garrard 401 turntable
Copyright 2010 Troels Gravesen   Up-dated 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

 
2012 Up-date (New plinth, read below)

2010

 


This is how it all started. My first 401 plinth with LINN and later Jelko arm.

Dynavector XX2 mkII (low output cartridge)
Dynavector DV20X (high output cartridge)
Denon D103 (low output cartridge)

It was during high-school in 1970 I bought my first Garrard 401 fitted with a 12" SME arm and some SHURE M75nn cartridge. A few years later - being a poor student - I unfortunately sold the whole thing including my Revox A78 integrated amplifier. So, a few years ago I found a mint condition Garrard 401 on eBay/UK and I've been pleased ever since getting this robust work-horse back in place, this time with a LINN arm replacing an initial REGA 300B arm, which I never really liked, mostly due to the lack of azimuth and VTA adjustments. I know kits can be bought to compensate for this but not really convenient compared to properly designed tonearms. A new tonearm plinth has been installed in replacement of the black one seen below.

The Garrard 401 has recently been supplemented with a similar all-time classic: The Thorens TD124 mkII. This one I got from Germany and it turned out to be in mint condition. I need to make a plinth, find a tonearm and cartridge before this is spinner is running. Winter 08-09 project.

The 401 is a turntable that is very easy to live with. It's got a large motor than can spin the disc while cleaning the vinyl. There is no rubber belt or thin nylon wires to worry about and should you need a spare idler wheel, it can be found on eBay.
The original rubber mat is no good and was immediately replaced by this 4-5 mm thick rubber mat from Thorens, a mat I bought in the Eighties. I've tried mats from cork and silicone but they didn't beat the Thorens mat.

In the Eighties I used a number of Ortofon cartridges, mostly MC30s on SME Series III tonearm. These cartridges could track almost anything but I always had a thing for Dynavector cartridges and to make a long story short, the DV20X (high out-put) combined with the 52 dB gain of the Transcendent RIAA is to my ears a great match.

The Denon D103 has kind of cult status and a never ending subject for articles in HiFiWorld. I bought it because an email-friend in Australia told me I simply had to try it. It's got a fine bass, seductive midrange and that's about it. I don't get why the Britts keep raving about this cartridge. I find the Dynavector 10 x 5 a much better cartridge, but it comes at twice the price of the D103. I admit the D103 is some fine moving coils for 100 , but the lack of resolution and tracking ability are serious drawbacks.

Replacing my Dyna 10 x 5 with the DV20X was a major leap forward and I was sitting up all night to hear my vinyls - and what I'd missed over the years. I'd recommend this cartridge any time if you have some 400 at hand.

Latest addition to my cartridge collection is the Dynavector XX2, and is it good? You bet it is! Although I still find the DV20X a steal for the money the XX2 mkII offers improved overall transparency, a smooth, smooth treble range, better low-end resolution, smoother transient attack and it makes listening to vinyl even more easy than anything else I've tried. Strings and woodwinds - - yummy! Even old worm vinyls are worth a listen with this cartridge, revealing details I never noticed before. The SILK trafos work excellent with this cartridge.

 

The plinth is made from 5 layers of 21 mm Baltic birch. There are about as many opinions on the optimal plinth for the 401 as there are 401 owners. Some say the plinth should be low-mass, some say high mass. I go for the high-mass. This block of Baltic birch is heavy and I had to take it to my local carpenter to have it cut clean after guing. Some 401 owners here: http://www.theanalogdept.com/garrard_gallery.htm


2010 Aftermath

Eventually the Garrard 401 became my sole turntable. The Thorens TD124 mkII was sold with the LINN arm and the Jelko 750 had an arm base for the 401 plinth. I use my turntable a lot and in daily use the 401 is the more handy turntable of the two. Fitted with the Dynavector XX2 mkII I'd probably have to get into some serious investments to further increase sonic performance.
The Denon 103 was sold. This cartridge is to my hearing much, much overrated. Great bass and lower mid, but that's about it. Harsh midrange and treble. The Dynavector DV20X was sold too. I think this is a great cartridge for the money if it wasn't for the XX2 mkII just being better. I was fortunate having my XX2 mkII from Hong Kong at a very reasonable price. If I had to buy here in Denmark, I would consider other alternatives. I'm not saying it's not worth the money, only it is a lot of money.



2012 Up-date

Doing the plinth for the Lenko L75 turntable made me want to make a new plinth for the Garrard 401, adding the bitumen layer to the sandwich - and do some nicer routings, in particular for the arm base. I still only use one turntable and I thought the 401 was up for sale, but after doing the plinth and some further maintenance to the motor (cleaning and lubricating motor bearings) I'm not so sure. Maybe I will, maybe not. First and foremost: A new plinth.


Great turntable. I like it!