CAF2016: Do Go Back to Rockville

If you must know, I do in fact maintain on my desktop computer a file-folder labeled Vintage, which is where I put all my audio porn, much of it gathered at audio shows such as CAF2016. Janet has seen it, and she agrees that things could be a lot worse.

Because I love Garrard 301 and 401 turntables, I photograph every one that I can find. And at CAF2016—notwithstanding the fact that VPI was the predominant brand of turntables, by a huge margin—I found three of them. The first was this beautiful hammertone, grease-bearing, ca-1955 301, owned by Vu Hoang of Deja Vu Audio. Aldo D'Urso, who ran the Deja Vu demonstration room in question, allowed me to remove the platter so I could have a glimpse of a 60-year-old idler wheel in virtually perfect condition. ‹Sigh.›

The next 301 I saw was this beauty in the DC-DIY room. Owned by Joe Roberts, this cream-colored, oil-bearing Garrard has been fitted with a Thomas Schick tonearm and Ortofon SPU pickup head. A couple of alterations have apparently been fitted; I would guess that the red button on the right is a 007-style ejector.

The third and final idler-drive Garrard I saw was not a 301 but a 401 (think: a 301 with a slightly improved motor and Emma Peel-esque chassis styling). And this 401, owned by Dave Slagle, had been modified to such an extent that it was virtually unrecognizable—yet the torquey two-pole induction motor still beat within.

And there you have it: a show so good, it came dangerously close to eliciting smiles from two of the most difficult-to-please men in audio, Stereophile's Herb Reichert and VPI's Mat Weisfeld. Both of them suggest they are anxious to go back to Rockville—sooner than usual, if possible.

Every good show deserves a sequel, and CAF2016 was a very good show. Congratulations and thanks to Gary Gill and his team of tireless volunteers!

J-ROB's picture

I've had that old Garrard 301 motor unit since 1985. I picked that one for permanent adoption out of many I've owned because it has a handy prism-steered strobe light neatly installed by the machinist/ham previous owner.

One must adjust speed when switching from 45 to 33 and I check occasionally for peace of mind and something to do. Who wants to look around for a strobe disc?

The red button is a reviewer alarm just in case they get too close. Nah, it turns on the neon strobe light. Cool, huh?

I anachronistically transplanted a grease bearing from a hammertone Series 1 into this motor unit because I wanted the better sounding early bearing and the later strobe platter with custom light. Back then 301s were $50 and generally unrecognized, so I didn't feel bad about running a chop shop. Today? Well we all know the tale...

While participating in a vintage gear seminar at the Brooklyn show, chaired by Art a few years ago, panelists were asked which piece of gear we would save in case of fire. I was not the only one to name the Garrard 301.

a) It is a trustworthy old friend who has seen me through thousands of LP sides. Good memories, good vibes.

b) I can lift it and run. My speakers will be sadly left to the blaze.

c) For my tastes and analog aspirations, I wouldn't know what to replace it with.

At the Munich show, we ran a room on a 301/Schick combo with a lowish compliance cart that Mr. Schick commissioned from van den Hul and to me it sounded like the voice of god. My god, is what phono should sound like to this devotee.

Good to see that old Garrards are showing up in positions of honour and privilege.

Long live the 301! At the current rate of rediscovery and restoration, the wide usage of this classic appears certain to outlast me! I'm training my son to carry it forward to the next generation.

I heartily second the motion on CAF being an intimate, friendly, relaxed, and fun show! Not to be missed!

beauranheim's picture

The third and final idler is actually a 501 that was modified by Ijaz Khan and lent to Dave and the room.

naim00's picture

I do not see myself upgrading my Keel-ed Sondek/Aro/Armageddon any time soon but thank you, Art, for justifying the use of "audio porn" when talking about stereo. Picked it up first at Linn chatroom Show us Your Sondek and used it indiscriminately since, then noticed that some folks I talk to misunderstand the meaning.
Anyhoo, thank you for your consistently fine writing, been your follower (groopie?) since the Listener days :-)