Listening #99 Page 3
And then, almost as suddenly as it had begun, the construction phase of my project was over: I now had a 4½"-thick plinth, massive but not stupid-massive, that actually looked rather nice, even without the sanding, grain-filling, staining, and lacquering that I intend to do when the snow really hits.
I'm especially proud that, even without taking special pains to keep my plywood sheets from warpingI did, after all, clamp them in free air, and not against a known level surfacemy completed 301 plinth is perfectly flat. And that's a good thing, because literally none of the accessory feet and isolation products I've tried so far sounds quite as good as when my plinth simply rests directly on the very solid Box Furniture stand beneath it. But I'm getting ahead of myself . . .
Flat is good
On the last day of November, I fastened the Garrard 301's motor unit to its new home, then mounted the EMT 997 tonearm's output jacks in place and soldered their contacts to the tonearm's lead wires. After some coarse adjustments, I selected Frank Sinatra's recording of "Oh, You Crazy Moon" as the first record to play on my new combinationusing an Ortofon SPU pickup head, of course: nothing else will do.
Clichés abound that describe good impressions: Minds and even entire selves have been blown. Socks are knocked and gobs are smacked by forces unseen. The poorest wretches regain consciousness only to find their jaws on the floor ("literally!"), without benefit of yoga or tropical diseases.
None of those things happened to me. Rather, the first two things I met in this sonic heaven were a complete absence of rumbleit wasn't reduced, it was eliminatedand the fact that musical nuances were explosively more dramatic. Like the trumpet obbligato throughout the song. Like the jabs of vocal power Sinatra otherwise holds in reserve, themselves a product of the man's nearly operatic breath control. Like the uncanny force behind a drumstick hitting the bell of a cymbal near the end.
Another thing, which also can't help stinking of cliché: Even though my schedule was tight and I had an appointment elsewhere that day, I couldn't resist sitting down and playing more records: not to hear the bass on this or the imaging on that, but because the newly increased emotional wallop of every song brought to mind a connection to yet another, and a greedy need to hear it.
On one or two occasions I've wondered whether my Thorens TD 124the older one, with the iron platterhas a little more texture than the Garrard 301. My Linn Sondek LP12 can sound cleaner and more transparent, and though the Linn doesn't surpass the 301 in terms of momentum and flowquite the opposite, in factit does have a nice way with melodies carried by softer instruments in orchestral settings. I remember the Roksan Xerxes having an even surer sense of melody than that, and better stereo imaging. And the Continuum Audio Labs Caliburn, which I've heard only once, had at least as much crazy presence.
But this 301, in this plinth, whomps every other turntable I've heard in terms of spatial wholeness, the realism with which individual voices pop out of the sonic whole, explosively real nuances, timing, momentum, and sheer force. That last one is it, really: force. In a way, that word sums up all the others: No other turntable of my acquaintance sounds anywhere near as forceful. And I like that.
Some people select a turntableor an amp, or a preamp, or a cable, or whateverbecause they don't hear anything wrong with it. I prefer to select a product because I hear a lot of things that are right with it. The Garrard 301 fits that bill perfectly well.
E.W. Mortimer is dead. Most of the people presumed to have made my 301 are dead. Garrard is dead. But my 301 will live on.