Loricraft FAQ - The Garrard401 vs the Garrard301 Motor

Some thoughts from Nigel Pearson

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We have often expressed our opinion that the Garrard401 has a better motor than the Garrard301. The background to this is a nice piece of history. The Garrard301 wasn't designed for Mono it was designed for the then new medium of Vinyl LP's. History preferred that the modulation was side to side and not vertical, this dated back to 1888 when Emile Berliner of Deutsche Gramophone and inventor of the record player fame proved that Edison's vertical modulation caused many technical problems. It is said that only 6 playings of the Edison cylinders is possible before the sound was significantly degraded . To compensate Edison used a sapphire stylus. The Edison machine was expensive and ultimately a rich persons thing (the engineering would put many high end turntables to shame even today, no joke).

The Phonograph of Berliner avoided this vertical modulation (hill and dell as some know it ) and at a stroke cheapened production, steel or fibre needles were usable. Even with this compromise the records lasted longer. At this point it is worth saying Pathé used a hybrid system. Sapphire stylus (ball shaped end), start at the end as it were playing to the outside. These recordings circa 1900 were of the highest quality, a Pathé gramophone was a loud instrument albeit without any amplifier. Pathé discs could be played on any normal gramophone/phonograph if one remembered to place the stylus at the end. It should also be said that un-played Edison cylinders are of remarkable quality. Pathé were correct to do this as crescendos are normally to the end of a musical piece, the larger circumference helps distortion.

So up to 1955 nobody would willingly go back to vertical modulation. In 1953 stereo tapes became available. The record industry felt in had to have stereo. Mr Haddy of Decca perfected the modern stereo recording technique, to his surprise the Patent could not be granted as in the 1930's Alun Blumlein has already patented the same system for EMI. Alun (correct spelling I think) mixed the two modulations to produce stereo. Mostly the system was compatible with Mono, any difference in the two channels producing a minute amount of vertical modulation. Alun's system was called 45/45 stereo which is the system we use today, 45 degree cutting head coils. Alun recorded steam trains on nearby Hayes station to test the idea. This was genius as with the proviso a compatible stylus was used (0.7 thousandth of an inch not 1 thou) all mono players could play these records. Alas problems which remain to this day emerged. The mono stylus rubbed out the vertical just like the Edison system had. Also bearing and motor rumble were exposed in equipment, these vibrations were mainly vertical.

For what it is worth for classical music stereo in my opinion brought more problems than added dimensions. Mono recordings (not stereo made mono) are highly prized. They sound very real, depth is noticeably better . As stereo doesn't exist in a concert hall (too many echoes) mono is a truer representation. Maria Callas singing Tosca, has it ever been equalled? This is also true of 78 records, Beecham's 1930's recordings are still preferable to most modern recordings if it's the musical interpretation all important . A vinyl pressing of these would be something quite remarkable.

People who are prepared to have a separate pickup and arm dedicated to mono will have many treasured moments if they can find these genuine mono records. Although not for the same reason Beatles' Sgt Pepper is a mono treasure, for those who don't know it is different in mono. Most mono material after 1955 is suspect, certainly after 1962 this is true as mostly these are cheap versions of stereo master tapes. DG mono recordings are well worth finding. There are additional problems of equalisation to hear these as they should be, a Quad pre-amp will restore these reasonable if tone controls are used (sorry guys sometimes they are useful for technical reasons - don't tell the Flat earth society).

Stereo is music in it's own right, most modern recordings are stereo inspired or give the conductor's perspective. It is an added dimension, alas it isn't High Fidelity if large scale classical music. Gilbert Briggs said stereo is a way of selling two of everything where one has sufficed. His advice was not to downgrade to stereo if owning good mono equipment. He said buy two loudspeakers as we do have two ears. You then will know if going stereo is worth it and have prepared at minimal cost - shrewd advice as Wharfedale, his company, would do best from this. For all that he was right. He rightly said much stereo equipment was inferior to good mono gear. History supports this view, try getting a Leak TL12 (not the 12 plus) cheap. My Ford Focus cost less !

For those who doubt try some day to hear a Garrard 301 SME 12" and Denon DL102 (cheapest good mono set up). If you think a 301 is good you've heard nothing yet. Preferred amplifier would be Leak Mono pre-amp and TL 12 plus amp (again cheapest good unit). A pair of Spendor Prelude wired in series is another cheap reference for mono a la Gilbert Briggs. (perfect matched pairs at 90 dB for 1 watt, 15 ohm tap)

So to recap, the stereo 301's and 401 were reactions to the market. The Garrard 301 was mono by era, not mono by design. The 401 had to meet the stereo challenge.

In 1955 it became clear that the 301 would be too noisy for professional stereo monitoring. Various modifications were made up to 1964 . Most significant is the change from grease bearing to the oil bearing circa 1956. Decca also were not happy with the 301 saying it had too much hum. Looking back it was Decca's pick up cartridges which caused this , a problem to this very day.

Garrard circa 1964 brought out the 401. One could say 90% a 301 with the styling of the day. The motor was now housed in cast iron, previously it was aluminium. These modification were for stereo and to please Decca. The 401 had a revised bottom bearing thrust pad, we use this design in the 501. Critics of this element might like to note the - 79 dB rumble of a carefully made example of the identically dimensioned bearing in the 501 (albeit in a precision casing). Measurements compliments of Germany's " Audio " magazine.

The Garrard501 is spiritually a 301 with better specs.

Brief spec (weighted to the ear's actual sensitivity).

  • 301
    Rumble - 40 dB (-45 dB later models typical)
    Wow and flutter 0.08 typical
  • 401
    Rumble - 57 dB
    Wow and flutter 0.05 typical
  • 501
    Rumble -68 dB
    Wow and flutter 0.05 typical
  • 501 Inspiration
    Rumble - 79 dB
    Wow and flutter < 0.05 (test limit)

Generically all are the same design. One can see how 501 is a modern turntable with vintage pedigree. The 301's 40 dB rumble, although not wonderful, is not too audible as speakers which can truly reproduce this low frequency (23 Hz) are rare. The 401 is no worse than most cutting lathes. The Garrard501 is state of the art.

Some other interesting links are

Addendum - Garrard501 and Bing Crosby.

The design of the Garrard501 was heavily influenced by our interests in true archiving requirements. As with all true professional equipment, sound quality is understood to be excellent because the customer often has master tapes to refer to. This can mean a lost master tape is substituted by an LP record, very few people will spot this has been done when transcription is this good. This is more common than people would imaging. For 78's new vinyl copies are made if the stampers exist.

The Garrard501 was used to transcribe the 1940's Bing Crosby radio show, and this transcription won the Ceda award for Masterpiece studios in London. The discs wer16 inchch un-played acetate's at 78 RPM. A note in history. Bing Crosby was a very rich man. This didn't come from him singing. Bing had to perform the radio show "Live" in 3 time zones of the USA, he hated that. A friend introduced Bing to a Nazi reparation product the "Magnetaphon" of BASF used from 1937 onwards in Germany. Bing acquired the rights and called his company Ampex, the rest as they say is history. Bing became very rich due to his laziness one could say.

Here is some more information on Bing's involvement in the recording industry

  • Bing's recording experiments
  • Bing and Ampex
  • Copyright - Nigel Pearson - 2006

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