We recently supplied an oversized upgraded SMD Acoustics polished 301 platter to David Emerton. David has been kind enough to share his findings and some photos of his 301 which must rank as one of the most beautiful we have ever seen. A credit to David, Matt at AudioGrail and Russ Colinson.
"Since buying my Garrard 301 platter from you earlier, I can now tell you I have mounted the platter on my restored AudioGrail 301 and finally housed it in a new Russ Collinson plinth. I think you will agree that the results are quite stunning.
The decision to have the platter polished was the right one and compliments both the SME arm and the other chrome work. The choice of American white oak was also part of part of a colour co-ordinated plan for the final look and I am delighted with the outcome. Certainly the platter is key to the whole co-ordinated image and is probably what catches the attention in my view and I hope it encourages other 301 owners to purchase one with confidence.
Well that is how it looks but how does it sound? Fantastic! Compared to my old 301 I was using in the 1970’s – this was a standard stock 301 in a sound box cabinet- the result is awesome . The bass has a sledge hammer attack and goes deeper than my Thorens 124 using the same arm combination generally, the Garrard has an immediate authority that is timely and musical in a way only analogue can be. How much your solid aluminium machined platter adds to the mix is difficult to tell, as such things are always subjective, but I personally think it does sound different and must account in some way to the solid imagery and improved sound stage, as does Russ Collinson’s solid wood plinth.
The most noticeable difference in sound though is the immediate sense you feel when you realise there is no rumble or noise in the lower harmonics, only complete silence. This is something I have never experienced before and makes me want to keep playing the equipment at every opportunity. As you know, these turntables were heavily criticised in their day for giving off lots of rumble and general noise from the cast platter and idler assembly. I can only conclude, after having listened to my sorted 301 that the idler drive Garrards were an excellent design and it is sad that we did not have the necessary information and experience back then to allow them to give off their best. In particular, I also think that these turntables would have been even better if the ‘quality control and inspection criteria’ had been tighter during manufacture.
Overall opinion is the 301 now sounds brilliant and meets the expectations looked for in the 1950’ & 60’s but sadly did not happen. Also, I have to qualify my conclusion as to the deck’s performance by saying that this is the result of a number of major changes to the setup. For example; this is not a stock 301, it has been completely stripped and rebuilt to the highest engineering standards by the team of experts at AUDIOGRAIL where every attention to detail has resulted in a brand new 301 to a standard much higher than Garrard felt, at the time, was commercially necessary on cost grounds perhaps. You also have to factor in the effect from the new dynamically machined aluminium platter and its extra mass. And, finally, the solid birch wood ply plinth completely dampening any noise thresh hold to a new level not transmitted through the pickup. Lastly, a new acrylic platter mat that seems to enhance the sound. Or does it. There are so many changes that it comes back again to everything being subjective.
Finally, one also has to take into account that I am listening to the 301 through Quad 989 electrostatic speakers and 909 amplifiers and silver anniversary speaker cables, all of which will make their own interpretation on the sound and exposing rumble noise. Having said that though the 989 speakers generate a lot of base to quite a low order, so I am confident that if rumble was present then I am sure I would hear it. Ar present though the silence is blissful.
Sorry for this long email Shaun but I thought you might like a few facts to go with the pictures. I am happy for you to use me as an endorsement for your products.
Kind regards David Emerton."