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Shindo 301 Turntable Review

Pushing the Art of Listening to Vinyl, Part 1:

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Description and Setup

The first Garrard 301s were sold in 1954. The 301 and then the 401 stayed in production until the mid 1970s. Over those years Garrard sold nearly 100,000 301s, which explains why there are so many still out there to be found for restoring and modifying, though you probably won’t find one cheap now days. My reluctance to use such an old turntable design makes me ask the question: How does a 56-year-old design work so well today? There are two answers to that question: First, it was well designed and well built to start with. Second, Ken Shindo has taken the basic design and used the best parts available today to bring this 56-year-old design into today’s world.

The original Garrard 301 required very little in the way of maintenance and was built like a tank, as the saying goes. As good as the basic Garrard 301 is, it takes quite an artist’s touch to make it the lifelike music source that the Shindo 301 is.

We’ll start the description by talking about the beautiful cherry plinth that Ken Shindo makes for his Shindo 301. The major drawback of a table like the 301 is its susceptibility to vibration. It can rob your system of resolution and can cause rumble. Everyone seems to know the answer to vibration is mass. The only problem is that when filtering vibration from the table we must make sure we remove it evenly throughout the frequency range or the table will emphasize one area of the frequency spectrum. Shindo has been working on his plinth designs since the sixties and the current version has been in production and unchanged since the seventies. He took years to perfectly voice the plinth for perfect tonal balance and just enough life to sound like music and not just quiet.

The Shindo plinth weighs nearly sixty pounds and is made of laminated layers of solid hardwood glued together. Ken feels that this process doesn’t over dampen the sound of the table like layers of MDF or stone, but at the same time has enough mass to give you a completely quiet table that simply comes alive with music. The artisan Japanese, high-gloss cherry lacquer is done by sixth generation master carpenters. The plinth is completely solid and fits the 301 like a glove. The plinth itself has no feet, so excellent isolation feet are included that you place under the table; a version of ball bearing footers. This means that you need to be able to level whatever you choose to sit the turntable on.

Next, let’s take a look at the Shindo platter and mat. I think many modern turntable designers have forgotten that the platter and thus the speed accuracy of a turntable has to deal with many different levels of groove modulation as it plays just one record. It has to handle the light modulation quietly and maintain speed for us to enjoy quiet passages. Likewise on the heavy modulation found on complex passages, it cannot let the sound fall apart or sound strained as it happens most usually. As the platter and the record plays, the stylus is offering various amounts of resistance to the platter as it navigates these various levels of modulation. It’s not enough to just have a heavy platter, it’s also important how the weight is distributed and where the weight is located. It seems to me after listening to various platter designs that the better the platter the more natural, more dynamic, and more organic the system sounds.

In order to handle the above problems, the Shindo platter is 20mm larger than the stock unit, and about 3 pounds heavier. The extra weight is around the peripheral of the platter. The platter is beautifully made and weighted for the best centrifugal force and speed accuracy. If you take your fingernail and flick the platter like you would a fine crystal glass, surprisingly it will ring pure like a really expensive piece of crystal. Then when you place the mat that Shindo has designed especially for this platter onto the platter, and flick the same platter with your finger nail or even a metal object, there is no sound at all. I don’t mean that it goes dud, I mean there is no sound at all. This kind of design detail and sound tuning is what you are getting for your money with the Shindo. By the way, just like the plinth the platter is also very easy on the eyes.

The platter is driven by Garrard’s powerful, high torque motor that is spring-suspended and uses an idler drive. As a result of the high torque design it comes up to speed almost as soon as you turn it on. The biggest problem with high torque motors has been that they can be noisier than low torque designs. This is why the plinth is so important in the design of the Shindo 301. The motor shaft has a stepped pulley mounted on it in three separate sizes. So you can play 33s, 45s, and 78s. You can’t change speed when the 301 is on. Don’t force it; I’m told you can break it. It also uses an “eddy current brake” which keeps the motor loaded all the time. This load is real important to the power and flow of the 301, if the magnets in the eddy current break become week, you will lose some of this sound. The brake also allows you to have a +/- 2% speed change.

3 Responses to Shindo 301 Turntable Review

  1. Rafe says:

    Thanks so much for a brilliant, well thought out and written review.

  2. foongchinfee says:

    I recently heard a garrad 301 plying music thru Macintosh pre and Macintosh 224 power tube amp wired to a pair of jbl L300 speakers. The sonic experience was so memorable that I bought his unit of spare garrad 301. I m retired and not rich but I bite the bullet and bought it. No regret till this day cos I think I can almost relate my experience with what was written by the reviewer.

  3. Vencel says:

    It would be interesting to know how much of this impression created by the turntable, by the tonearm and by the cartridge. Without knowing it I think it is useless to compare to any other vintage turntables, like the TD-124. I never had the possibility to listen to a Shindo 301, but I guess that the difference between a Shindo 301 and a properly refurbished and upgraded TD-124 using the same tonearms and cartridge would be very small. For sure there would be differences, but I assume rather small and be subject of personal preference. To summarize I would say that it is only possible to compare different turntables if they are being tested in the same (preferably independent) audio chain, using the same tonearm and cartridge. I understand it is hardly possible. Anyway thanks for sharing your experience.

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