One of the reasons there is a paucity of ‘ultra fidelity’ components in the Museums collection is that their build quality is extraordinarily high and so they continue to be sought after by users and collectors. One of a handful of audio components of this calibre that has made it into the collection is the Garrard 301.
The 301 is a heavy duty high performance transcription turntable and was first produced in1954 by the Garrard Engineering and Manufacturing Company Ltd of Swindon in the UK. The 301 remained in production until it was superseded by the 401 in 1964. There were a small number of variations of the 301 and this is the first and most desirable ‘schedule 1’ type with silver-grey hammerite finish and a grease bearing. The 301 found its way into broadcasting studios and the homes of high fidelity enthusiasts.
The 301 came onto the scene after the introduction of the long play polyvinyl chloride record (1948) for the consumer market and prior to the introduction of stereo. The only rival to Garrard 301 was the Thorens 124 and these rim drive turntables dominated the upper end of the market for two decades before the appearance of belt drive turntables.
The Garrard 301 drive motor is enormous (not over-engineered just capable of driving a 78 disc with a stylus tracking weight of 10g) and one of the reasons many of these units were discarded – they were never mounted in a high mass plinth that would have rendered the motor ‘noise’ negligible. Nowadays there are a plethora of concerns that service and rebuild 301s and supply plinths in a variety of material including slate, granite and exotic hardwoods.
The lp and turntable have seen the coming of competitive media such as the compact disk and the mp3, new mediums and means of distribution have, at times, almost rung the death knell for the old liquorice pie and it player – however records and turntables persist. For me the Garrard 301 is desirable and a symbol of vinyls persistence.