Listening #98 Page 3

Now then: My Garrard 301 came mounted on a large, boxy plinth, the top surface of which is spring-suspended, which is how G.R. Koonce bought it back in 1958; for that reason, and because a number of photos on the Internet show Garrard 301s in identical plinths, I assume that this was made either by Garrard in England or was commissioned by one of the company's US distributors. Because I intend to make my own plinth later on, and because I'm not presently interested in the Shure M232 Transcription Tone Arm that accompanied my 301, I decided to begin by concentrating on the motor unit only. So my first step was to remove the platter from the bearing spindle (the former lifts up and away from the latter, which is held in its well by an internal C-clip), and to loosen and remove the four bolts that hold the 301 to the plinth, setting aside the latter till later.

That done, I set the 301 on my worktable, cushioning its motor with a small pillow, and set about removing its platter bearing. A full strip-down of the turntable didn't appear necessary, but it seemed reasonable to believe the bearing well would benefit from a good cleaning—and that proved true. Luckily, G.R. Koonce had held on to his tube of Garrard grease, as well as the box in which it came; it was still fresh and still half-full, the latter because Mr. Koonce removed his 301 from service in 1965. For those less lucky than I, a good-quality automotive grease can be substituted.

But the first thing I did when I removed the platter from my 301 and separated the motor unit from the plinth was to look for parts that obviously need replacing. The likeliest candidates were three slender springs used at key points in the idler-wheel mechanism, now black with corrosion and surely stretched beyond effectiveness. I poked around on the Internet and found a company in England called Perfect Sound (, which makes and sells Garrard spares for the restoration expert Terry O'Sullivan and his company, Loricraft (makers of some very recommendable record cleaners, also covered in past installments of this column). Perfect Sound offers a kit of all the idler (and related) springs, so I ordered that and a few other bits, paying for my purchases with PayPal; the order must have been filled within a day of sending it, for the parts were in my mailbox less than a week later. That's remarkably good service!

I then dismantled the mechanism that holds the idler wheel, cleaning and lubricating (and polishing, with liquid Brasso) the various parts, and examining the rubber-edged wheel itself; the latter seemed okay, and required only a light cleaning with denatured alcohol to remove the glaze of age and use.

From that point, my efforts in this initial renovation phase were mostly a matter of cleaning—and cleaning, and cleaning, and cleaning. Cotton swabs, scarcely dampened with isopropyl alcohol, proved their mettle for most parts, including the motor casing and the dirtier bits of the cream-colored finish. (I always took care to "rinse" the latter with a soft rag moistened with warm water.) After a gentle scrubbing with dishwashing liquid and a long rinse with distilled water, the rubber platter mat looked reasonably good. For the really grungy bits I took the advice offered by Jim Donahue, on his superbly thorough and literate 301 restoration site ("No.6435"), and used naphtha, commonly available as lighter fluid. The idler's metal hub and integral bearing pins also got the Brasso treatment, followed by isopropyl alcohol.

Then, of course, I applied oil—Thorens oil, I admit—to the idler bearings and other such points: The Garrard 301 manual lays them out quite clearly. After that, I bolted the repacked grease bearing in place, put a schmeer of grease on the speed-change cam, bolted the 301's chassis back to the newly cleaned plinth (into which, in the meantime, I had drilled an arm-mount hole for my EMT 997 tonearm: another story for another day), and put the platter back in place. Done—for now.

Clef hanger
I'll try to describe my Garrard 301's sound in full detail in Part II. For now, suffice it to say that the Garrard 301, in its old, springy plinth, is wildly promising: Musical sounds have remarkable presence, body, and texture—there have been recent moments when I've found it difficult to accept that my phono source could have been improved in that regard—and the increase in sheer musical drama that the 301 brings to my system is the sort of thing I'd expect from more efficient loudspeakers: Lines of notes fairly leap from the groove with realistic tension and momentum. On the other hand, I'm hearing a bit of flutter—that idler might not be in such great shape after all—and subtle midbass details are swamped by the 301's highish rumble. The sound is also somewhat dark overall, but in a pleasant way. (Could it be that the grease bearing's real advantage lies in the damping characteristics of its heavy lubricant—or is the darkness down to something else? Beats me.) There are questions left to answer, but my hope is encouraged by the many hobbyists and writers who've come this way before me: good fortune abounds.


WillWeber's picture

It's great you found time for your refurbishings. I enjoy reading about them.

Too bad about the misrepresentation in "AA" postings. I can't tell from your ventoid here what aCtually happened, but these things are unfair indeed.

Keep up the good work here, thanks!