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David Gortner's Garrard 401 in custom plinth:

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I have been farting around with my 401 on and off for a couple of years now. I got it dirt cheap in the first part of 2007 and have been doing this and that to it since then.

First up was a piece of leftover ply, and three door-stops cum footers. That lasted for a few months as I tweaked the mechanicals of the deck and I got going on the Kauri plinth.

The wood for this plinth is swamp Kauri from an Iwi in Dargaville, NZ - radio carbon dated as 43,000 years old, and the deck and removable armboards are inlaid. I did all the work at a local high school in night clases. The biggest surprise with it was using Rollerblock Jr. footers. I got the idea from KiwiPete on Pinkfish, who I met at the vinyl fair at the Polish hall here in Auckland. He has some that a friend of his made for his 401 and liked them. When I put them on, it was almost as big a change as the ATA bearing. Almost. I was shocked; I swapped them out for wood, and for Mitchell points. They came back in. Weird, but it works.

But, I had been listening to my 301 which is in a dual-slab sandwich Jarrah (I think) plinth for a the previous 6 months or so (god - maybe longer) while I was tweaking the 401's plinth to try and get rid of some resonance issues with it. Or should I say, I have been listening to the 301 while the 401 was sitting there waiting for me to do it. But I finally finished it by adding 3 layers of 15mm hardwood ply to the bottom of the Kauri, and really love how it looks. I rebated the sub-plinth 27mm. Looking form the top angle makes it look like it is floating - in real life it looks way cool.

So, then it sat for a while longer waiting for some parts that a mate dropped over - namely the Pete Riggle VTAF and his Origin Live Silver mk3 arm - so we could do a straight A/B between the two decks with as many of the same components as possible.

The 301 sounded pretty good - better with my OL Silver Mk2 than with the SME 3009 Series I that it came with. But, I knew the plinth's on both could be better.

So, rather than changing arms and risk my cantilever again (I broke my Benz's cantilever when it was brand new by booting it across the label as I was aligining it - but they were legends and fixed it gratis - thanks Benz!), I decided to just mount the mate's VTAF bushing and vertical guide onto the arm board, and then just slot my arm in. This also saved a bunch of time as this part took about 10 minutes - and the cantilever's alignment was dead on! I just had to adjust the overhang about 0.6 mm (pats self on back). All up, about an hours job.

I am using the Rollerblock Jrs, like I was on the 301. Both decks have a Kokomo bearing. Same cork underlay and Herbie's Way Excellent mats. Only differences in the set-ups are the deck and plinth.

Wow. What a difference. The new sub-plinth seems to have done the trick - as the 401 now sounds better than my 301. Total flip-flop. Same arm, same cart, new sound - in a word - Clarity. Everything is crisper, more defined, more dynamic. Vibrant. Toe-tapping. So much as I can tell so far, the rumble I had heard before has disappeared. There is no motor noise unless I put my ear directly on the plinth. On the downside, there is a bit more surface noise on the same LPs I was playing last week - but I am sure it was just being smeared on the 301.

This is now an arms race, of sorts.

First - I am now more tempted than ever by the Jelco 750L. I bet this would up the ante quite a bit on the 401.

Second - I have to figure out what is holding back the 301. First off, I will have to undo my "light-bulb fix" to reduce the line voltage (since it runs fast with out it). I have heard this can have an effect on the dynamics, so that is the cheap and easy thing to address - just have to find a good machinist to turn down the pulley to a correct diameter.

Then, if that doesn’t really address it - I will have to make a Baltic Birch or Slate plinth.

My bet is that once I sort gettting the pulley turned down, the lions share of the difference is the plinth. I would bet that with a top-notch BB plinth, the 301 would kick the 401. And then the 401 in a slate plinth would kick the 301.

Arms race: Plinth Wars.

But, that is all conjecture. Sounds damned good now spinning …

PS - more plinth pics for the interested at http://www.flickr.com/photos/gortnipper/sets/72157605424335349/

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