Anthony Hind's Garrard 301 in custom plinth.
"I have just completed a plinth for a Garrard. It is a three-tiered affair partly influenced by Cain and Cain, but with more mass. Each tier is made out of four pieces of oak panelling from a very old English hotel. The edges are American oak. I used an additional tier to the Cain and Cain, because I want more mass, but I also want the mass distributed more on the lower tiers. Both arms are fixed to the lowest tier and do not touch the tiers above."History
I gave up active lute playing while completing my state thesis in Phonetics and Linguistics here in Paris. I then became a very dissatisfied listener. Not even my highly tweaked system could cope with the micro-dynamics and low-level detail of the lute on my large collection of Astrée and Reflexe LPs.
I have been on a long quest for hi-fi bliss like many of you. At last I feel I am almost satisfied. My new plinth, Silk step-up transformers acquired from Sacthailand, and both my 12" tonearms, are bringing me much much closer to the sound I am looking for. Both the Garrard in this plinth and the Sacthailand transformers tend towards a dark black background and very strong dynamics, but with no loss of subtlety.
I can not comment on the success of these transformers, but I think the plinth at least partly succeeds, because the arms are at the maximum distance possible from the Garrard motor; the electrical noise is reduced to a minimum by step-down transformers, light bulbs and oil-bath filter capacitors; while the bearing noise is also controlled, by an H bracket above and a yellow tack "well" below.
My plinth is partly based on the beautiful Cain and Cain plinth http://www.cain-cain.com/plinth/index.html. However, I feel the C & C two tiered plinth has a weakness. The top tier that holds the Garrard motor and deck seems insufficiently massive. it is just sitting on a single lower tier, from which it is decoupled by spikes. I wanted to combine the maxi-plank principle using 4 pieces of Oak panelling per tier (taken from the Grand Hotel Bournemouth, England, probably therefore nearly a hundred years old).
I also added an intermediary tier, to be able to add brass weights to increase the mass and lower the gravity; and also be able to add the yellow-tack "well" under the bearing to help damp its residual movements.
In the centre, under the bearing it is possible to see the circular "well" containing the yellow tack.
Above, we can see that the two arms are independent of the Garrard plinth. The SME on the left is sitting on a Swedish made brass base, used originally on a Micro Seiki ( I bought this during my project on EBay). It stands on a 10" thick-ish brass rod (more than 3 cms, but cut down to 3 cms in the last inch). This rod is held by 13 pieces of oak panelling and a pair of bolts. The whole thing is veneered to hide the planks. The German magnet bearing arm is sitting on a veneered cylindrical box filled with sand and with an Italian bell weight acquired from Stefano Bertoncellohttp://www.theanalogdept.com/stefano_bertoncello.htm.
The German magnet-bearing arm was made for me by Robert Fuchs. He does not want to manufacture it in quantities, but as he is experimenting with the effect of different woods with this type of bearing, he is willing to sell the occasional arm to finance his experiments. My arm is made of Bocote wood, but Robert has four arms on his Scheu turntable, each with a different wood and therefore with different densities. It seems to give a very warm, dynamic but relaxed presentation to the music, even compared to the SME. The wiring is not yet completely burnt-in. I have only been using it for about a week. I imagine it will become even more subtle and transparent. It has even been suggested to me that the wood needs to be run-in like a musical instrument. It was not Robert who suggested that but a Korean audiophile who has a wood uni-pivot. Here is a photo of the arm (as it was) sent to me originally by Robert Fuchs.
More project history
I had a very nice grease-bearing Garrard 301 in a maxi-plank structure by Martin Bastin. It is a good plinth, but I was not happy with using a 9" arm on this turn table.
At first, I was quite happy with this set-up, but I was soon to have serious doubts about it.
I bought a Thorens TD 124 mk II and built my own plinth using four pieces of very old oak panelling taken from the Grand hotel Bournemouth England. These were constrained by the pressure of a surround made up of a heavy American oak banister. The 4 pieces of panelling are glued and then slotted into the groove of the oak banister. This keeps them under pressure.
The tip of an oak cone can just be glimpsed under the front of the plinth. These help to give a well focused and warm sound, but only if the plinth is heavily weighted. If the weights are removed the sound immediately becomes blurred.
I call this Thorens my French country plinth. Although, I am using a 9" vintage Ortofon SKG 212 arm, and this should be inferior to the Martin Bastin Garrard plinth, it is clearly better. The soundstage is more "authentic", the frequency range more extended.
In short, I decided to use and extend the principles attempted here (with the Thorens) to my Garrard. I have written out my notes with accompanying photos to explain the history of the project.
October 2006 : I have been cutting out the basic structure for my Garrard 301. I am basing my plan on the Cain and Cain plinth. However, I feel the C & C plinth has a weakness. The top tier that holds the Garrard motor and deck seems insufficiently massive. it is just on a single board, decoupled from the lower tier.
November 2006 : Here is the fist mock-up, showing the basic idea. The state of the very old oak panelling can be observed. It is very dry, but somewhat warped. Careful placement of the warps in opposing directions will allow them to cancel each other out.
March 26, 2006: I receive the photo of my future magnet bearing arm. I had been hesitating between using two SMEs, or using one SME for SME type cartridges, and going for a new style of magnet bearing arm with a wood wand. I feel the wood tonearm is really in keeping with my wood structured plinth. I decide in favor of this German arm. Anyway it is my birthday,
May 17, 2006: Here is the first picture of the Garrard plinth under construction. The Oak layers are now glued, but there is still much to do : edges to be added, cones to be fixed, base on the other side for second tonearm etc), but it gives an idea of how it will be.
I also sent you pictures of my preamp. This is a classic transformer output, preamp, but with independent PSUs and regulation for every section. As there is a powerful radio transmitter next door, I have added mulitple local bypass caps as near to the valves as possible. Some of these can be seen on the surface of the pre-amp, but there are many more inside (including vintage American, English, French and Russian military caps).
Apart from the two turntables, my Garrard grease-bearing, and Thorens TD124 MKII, I have an old Linn LP12 with DC motor. Although it is very inferior to the other two machines, it remains a reference point to allow me to judge how good the two other turntables are.
I have Quad ESL 57s speakers with double power-supplies (one for bass and one for tweeter) which get every last ounce out of my upgrades. These are on Arcici stands and have an accompanying pseudo ribbon tweeter.
My amps are heavily modified Quad IIs. I have no compunction about these modifications, they were already modified when I bought them. I therefore felt free to continue to modify them. The circuit is now mainly Marantz 8B, the lower level tubes being valve regulated.
The mixing of the Quad II and the 8Bs circuit, allow me to call them "Quad II B or not …" I always have a slight tinge of fear when I light them up. At present I can barely lift them. The array of military oil bath chokes, transformers and caps adds so much weight, I have to put on a weight lifter's belt, if I want to do any work on them.
With both arms at present, I am using the very good Silk transformers made by SacThailand <http://www.sacthailand.com/>.
I was advised about these by a Korean hifi contact Kim Dong Hyun (pseudonym Papageno) who comments on transformers (see http://db.audioasylum.com/cgi/m.mpl? forum=diyhifi&n=5322&highlight=papageno&r=&session=) I hope to buy a set of Tribute transformers in the near future, which Papageno also praises very highly.
I own two Denon 103s (one with a Fineline diamond), a Sony XL 33, and a Rega Elite. In theory I own a Pierre Clément mono cartridge, but it has been absent at the repairers for the last nine months. I am just acquiring a Grace SF 90 integrated headshell cartridge. I also own a Shure V15 MX but I seem to have lost the diamond.
I am at present semi-retired, which has given me the time to make this plinth and improve my listening system; but I have also become a little more musically active again, having acquired a beautiful gut-strung Renaissance lute by the master English lute maker, Martin Haycock.
I have joined a group of amateur musicians, who meet once a month to play and listen to, Renaissance and Baroque music. This both allows me to have the pleasure of close contact with the sounds that such instruments can make, but also to appreciate how much closer my system has now become to capturing the texture and micro-dynamics of gut-strung instruments.
Word doc: Tribulations of a solder Sniffer otherwise known as the "homebrew from hell"