Life’s a Journey
The first time I ever heard a Garrard 301 that I know of anyway, was when I was seventeen and a freshman at Baylor. I was trying to get a part time job at a Stereo Shop in Waco, Texas. When I entered the store their main system was playing. It consisted of a Garrard 301, some Marantz tube electronics, and Altec’s Voice of the Theater speakers. It was an exciting sound, but at that time it seemed so way beyond my audio dreams that I didn’t pay it much attention. A year later, I would hear the Quad 57s, Marantz electronics again, and a Thorns TD125. That became the audio path I started down and I never really thought about the Garrard 301 or any other idler turntable again for over 30 years.
Then about four and a half years ago, I went over to the city to hear the Shindo electronics. I was amazed to see that the Shindo turntable was a Garrard 301. Yes, it was a modified 301 with a plinth tuned especially for it, but it was still the same 301 I had seen 39 years ago. The tonearm, cartridge, platter, mat, bearing, and plinth were all totally Shindo’s own designs. Still, it was a rim drive turntable, and everyone I knew had known for years that belt drives were the only real high-end turntables. As I listened to the all-Shindo system at Pitch Perfect Audio I knew I had never heard recorded music sound like this before. It was so relaxed, so dynamic, and just so emotionally involving. I purchased a preamp, wrote a review that was published in Dagogo and before I knew it I was meeting lots of people who loved rim drive turntables.
As my system improved I kept trying to get that something special from my system that Matt gets at Pitch Perfect. I thought the key might be a twelve-inch arm, and the ones I tried in my system were good, but as they say, no cigar. I kept thinking that there was no way a turntable that came on the market the year I was born (1954) could be as good as the magnetic bearing tables that are setting new benchmarks in transparency and detail. Still, I had to admit as good as my system sounded, when I would go over to spin a few tunes at Matt’s I knew something was keeping my system from sounding quite as natural. By the way, most people including certain speaker designers, some other reviewers, dealers, and non-audiophile casual listeners all said my system was one of the very best they had ever heard, but I just knew that there was more. I had heard it at Matt’s place several times. So, I broke down and decided I had to hear a Garrard 301 in my reference system.
I talked to lots of people who loved rim drives, some loved slate plinths, others liked skeleton plinths, and most said the Shindo was just overpriced. I priced out several units, and came to the conclusion that the Shindo wasn’t overpriced. The Garrards I heard in heavy slate plinths sounded dead to me compared to Matt’s system. I heard one in a skeleton plinth, but it just didn’t sound like what I was wanting. Now, I need to admit that I didn’t hear these tables in my system, but still they just didn’t sound like music in the same way the Shindo always did.
You need to compare the Garrard turntables themselves. No one else was offering the same bearing, platter, tonearm, cartridge, or plinth that came standard on the Shindo. If you purchase the Shindo patter, bearing, tonearm, or an EMT tonearm, and a comparable phono cartridge, if there is one, to put on one of the best slate, or synthetic slate turntable plinths the price will come out about the same or more. So, after a year of not being able to make a decision and trying to come up with the funds, I broke down and purchased the complete Shindo Vinyl Playing System.
Well, Was It A Good Decision?
The simple answer is, “it surely was.” It is simply the best way to play records that I have heard, and I have heard some pretty fine turntables. I lived for years with a Linn, I owned a Mapleknoll (heaven and hell at the same time by the way), I’ve lived the last three years with the Clearaudio Wood Anniversary CMB, I had just finished reviewing the Clearaudio Innovation with their Universal Radial tonearm. Last year, I had the DaVinciAudio Labs In UniSon turntable with their Grand Reference Grandezza tonearm, and I have also review the Merrill-Scillia MS21 turntable with the latest Tri-planar tonearm mounted on it. By the way I would say that the wonderful Merrill-Scillia MS21aAAAaZSzt6tgdxddssdx has the most in common with the sound of the Shindo 301. That’s probably all I need to say, but that’s never stopped me before so let’s get on with a review of the Shindo 301 Vinyl Planing System.
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