Inside the Collection

Spinning around – The Garrard 301

Garrard 301 turntable
Collection, Powerhouse Museum

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 The 301 remained in production until it was superseded by the 401 in 1964.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.

2 responses to “Spinning around – The Garrard 301

  • Garrard 301 rumble and vibration is as likely to be a product of an unlubricated 50 year-old motor as a poorly mounted unit. It is important to mention that there are more ways to effectively mount a Garrard 301 than just Mass Damping in a heavy plinth as you describe: the alternatives are Constrained Layer Damping, which uses a complex laminate to neutralise unwanted energies (such as Shindo et. al), and Suspension Damping, using a light motorboard, with compliant but energy-absorbent suspension (such as Loricraft, who now make the Garrard 501). Each of these theories have their adherents, advocates and opponents, but the original Garrard design was intended to run on a light suspended motorboard and the Loricraft products are critically well received.

  • Hi James, You are right to mention the alternatives to mass damping. I had read about constrained layer damping especially the SlateDeck product and a review of it and had omitted it from my post (as you can imagine we could write a book on the 301). I will read up on the others you mention. Thank you for your contribution.

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