In my original “Garrard Project” back in 2004, I started with a nice old original 301 in a simple plinth, and built it up into a music-making machine – the results were superb!
Those vintage Garrard 301’s (and 401’s) are really wonderful classics of turntable design, and they have endeared themselves to generations of music lovers with their robust and no-nonsense design, and their superb balance of musicality & sonic performance, which puts many current production turntables to shame.
Then in Issue 79 of Positive Feedback, almost 2½ years ago now, I told you about my then new “Garrard Project” for 2015.
I wanted to be a little more ambitious with my Garrard project for 2015, and incorporate the decades of learned wisdom about how to get the maximum performance out of a Garrard 301, which meant addressing its weak points of a flexible chassis, a vibration-prone platter, a somewhat noisy motor, and a less than ideal bearing thrust pad, which in fact were all identified as weakness clear back in 1967 by Garrard’s Chief Engineer, E.W. Mortimer, in his publication Design of Transcription Turntables.
So my vision for my Garrard project in 2015 was a Garrard 301 with the upgrade of the quieter Garrard 401 motor, and to address the issues of the flexible chassis, vibration-prone platter, and a better spindle & bearing design.
I wondered how I might accomplish all of that with a vintage Garrard 301, and while doing research on the topic I became aware of Ray Clark at Classic Turntable Company in the UK, who had been refurbishing vintage Garrard’s, producing replacement parts, hot-rod parts, and had even come out with his own version of the classic Garrard 301 addressing all of the performance issues I had identified during my research phase for the project.
Ray fittingly called his creation the Classic 301 (above) and it incorporates an impeccably CNC’d aluminum chassis that addresses all of the original 301’s chassis issues, utilizes a restored low-noise 401 motor, and utilizes an uprated custom stainless steel oil-bearing spindle assembly to accommodate a heavier CNC machined platter.
Essentially Ray’s Classic 301 was my dream come true for a Garrard 301, and I made arrangements with Ray to purchase a Classic 301 in Hammertone, along with the optional high-mass 20 mm oversized CNC’d brass platter that Ray offers.
I decided I didn’t like the simple skeletal plinth of my original Garrard 301 project, as the Garrard 301’s that I heard with high-mass plinths (i.e the Shindo plinth), sounded a lot better to my ears.
I wanted a beautifully finished high-mass plinth for my new Classic 301 with its high-mass & oversize brass platter, so I commissioned Christopher Thornton to build me a custom-fitted high-mass, two-tonearm Artisan Fidelity Statement plinth, which would allow for the use of one tonearm with a stereo cartridge, and a second tonearm with a mono cartridge. Christopher fitted the Statement plinth with Stillpoints Ultra SS isolation devices as the plinth’s footers.
Now my project was down to deciding which tonearms & phonograph cartridges to use. I chose two of Thomas Schick’s simple and elegant 12-inch tonearms, an Ortofon SPU Mono CG 25 Di MkII mono phono cartridge, and an Ortofon SPU Classic GM MkII stereo phono cartridge.
Ray and Thomas sent all the hardware to Christopher, and Christoper integrated everything and turned it into a gorgeous turntable creation!
I was delighted with my Garrard project for 2015, and its level of performance exceeded all of my expectations both musically and sonically, and it was many performance levels above my vintage Garrard 301 project.
So now it’s 2½ years later, so what’s my long term assessment of my Garrard Project for 2015?
Well, to put it simply, I love it!
I’m so glad I did the Garrard Project in 2015, as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the impressive musicality & sonics I’ve been hearing from it over the last 2½ years.
I’ve made a few changes from the original project, the first being the addition of a Pete Riggle Audio Engineering Woody SPU tonearm that is absolutely magic with my Ortofon SPU Classic GM MkII stereo phono cartridge.
I also added an Spec Corporation AP-UD1 platter mat, and just yesterday I added some GPDS damping spacers from The Soundcoat Company between the mounting points of my Classic 301 and my Artisan Fidelity Statement plinth.
My Garrard Project rests upon Acoustic Revive RIQ-5010W pure quartz insulators underneath its Stillpoints Ultra SS isolation footers, and underneath the quartz insulators are Soundcoat GPDS pads.
Finally, I am using an Acoustic Revive RAS-14 power stabilizer on the AC power cord for the turntable.
I have had a couple of minor issues with my Classic 301.
The first has been an ongoing issue from the first moment it arrived, which is that if I’m not really careful and deliberate when turning on the power power switch, it pops back to the “off” position.
Certainly not a deal-breaker, but it is annoying. The culprit is the lever assembly that you can see in the lower right of the photo above.
When you engage the power switch the arm moves a pin over a rise in a plate to a detent, where it stops, engaging the AC power. The problem is that the slope of the rise from the detent position back to the “off” position is too shallow, which allows the pin to slide back over the rise to the “off” position, shutting the AC off.
A bit of shaping to make the rise steeper on its way back to the “off” position with a Dremel tool would probably fix the issue, but you shouldn’t have to fix it, it should come “fixed” from Classic Turntable Company. It’s not just my Classic 301 either, my buddy Leo has exactly the same issue with his Classic 301, so it’s something that needs to be addressed at some point. Ok, enough about that.
The only other issue I’ve had is that the handle for the on-off switch snapped off. Ray sent me a new one to replace it at no charge, so I appreciated that. However, I suspect the reason it snapped off is due to the issue I described above, which puts extra stress on the lever.
Other than those two minor issues, my Garrard Project 2015 has worked perfectly, and has been a joy to use and listen to music with!
Overall, I am absolutely thrilled with my Garrard Project from 2015. The quality of the Classic 301 and the Artisan Fidelity Statement plinth are extremely high, and the fit & finish are impeccable.
Would I do it all over again? You bet, in an instant!
The Garrard Project from 2015 is one of my most treasured musical possessions, and I enjoy using it for music listening at every listening session.
Ok, that’s it for now.
As always, thanks for stopping by, and may the tone be with you!