My Garrard 401 was purchased by my granddad in either 1969 or 1970 and from what I understand had little use before my dad inherited it in the late 70s. It had some play as I was growing up in the 80s (I remember playing a 7 inch single of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer’, which I still have) but with the arrival of CD in our home the 401 was confined to my parents’ loft until around 2001 when I developed an interest in vinyl and fancied getting a budget turntable. Fortunately my dad let me have the 401.
The old adage ‘It’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ worked in my favour as a friend of a friend is an ex-aerospace engineer and hifi designer/builder and he managed to build the 401 into a unique plinth design using granite, ash and carbon fibre, as well as making a bespoke power supply. I have since fitted an SME 309 with an original early 80s (re-tipped by Expert Stylus) Koetsu Black.
From the first time I heard the turntable it sounded vibrant, dynamic (both micro and macro), naturally rhythmic, musically fluent. As the rest of my system has evolved over the years - the same ex-engineer has built valve pre and mono power amps and a pair of transmission line speakers for me - the 401 has kept up every step of the way, showing itself to be a truly world class turntable. Naturally I started looking at ways to modify and improve the 401 unit itself, and although some have been available over the years I was never convinced of the quality, and was always wary of irreversibly damaging my 401 in some way.
Cut to about 18 months ago when I first started reading about the PAC platters. I was impressed by what I read and decided on the brass platter for the massive increase in inertia over the aluminium version. The improvement was phenomenal. Stability, pitch, BASS!, reduced noise floor, and an overall effortlessness in presenting music. This is an improvement that I think the 301 and 401 have both been in dire need of for a long time, regardless of how well your Garrard has been built up. With the further addition of the SMD steel bearing and spindle the 401 is showing yet again that its design is stunning but its potential is limited by the level of technology that was available when they were originally produced.