Are Garrard Turntables Any Good? A Review


Image Credit: "Born in the USA" by werejellyfish is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Image Credit: “Born in the USA” by werejellyfish is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Are Garrard turntables any good? Before smartphones, walkmans, iPods, there was the Garrard turntable. Garrard was a turntable brand known for quality and excellence in the industry. However, in 1982, Garrad completely shut down, ceasing all turntable manufacturing. So are the legendary Garrard turntables any good?

Garrard turntables are formidable turntables in the industry. They withstood the test of time and provided audiophiles with an impeccable experience.

They serve as a collective piece for some vinyl enthusiasts. However, they still function effortlessly if adequately maintained.

Most Garrard turntables aren’t in premium condition, and users will have to restore the turntables to their former glory. Regardless, you can find parts for this turntable on eBay and similar sites.

Are Garrard Turntables Any Good?

Garrard turntables were extremely popular during their time; not only were they present in films, huge companies like the BBC primarily used Garrard turntables in their stations. In the 1987 war comedy film Good Morning Vietnam, the late actor Robin Williams utilized a set of Garrard turntables in a broadcasting station.

Garrard turntables were predominantly popular in Europe, most especially in the U.K. The British people would not listen to music from any turntable brand other than a Garrard. But it’s been over 30 years since Swindon, the company behind its production, shutdown the Garrard manufacturing plants.

In the 21st century, Are Garrard turntables any good?

The Sound

Numerous owners and enthusiasts rave about the music quality that you get from a Garrard turntable. Some enthusiasts have called it a testament to the vinyl era. Garrard turntables are recognized immediately because of their almost musical tone.

However, some people may argue that the brand image is a huge selling factor behind its legacy apart from the sound. Garrard created the turntables and designed their appearance to appeal to a broader audience.

The Current Price of Garrad Turntables

The current pricing of Garrard turntables speaks a lot about the value of a Garrard turntable. Depending on the state of the turntable, it could cost over $200 on platforms like eBay.

Not only that but restored Garrard turntables can cost up to $4000 on eBay. Garrard turntables are remnants of the vinyl age and showcase a legacy. Not only that, but Garrard turntables were and still are high-quality turntables. Here’s why.

What Made And Still Makes Garrard TurntablesTop-Tier?

In 1953, Garrard introduced the classic Garrard 301. Its main selling point was that it could play in three speeds:

  • 78 rpm
  • 45 rpm
  • 33 1/3 rpm

There were two schedules of the Garrard 301 turntables. Schedule 1 was the grease-bearing model, and Schedule 2 was the oil-bearing model.

The 301 was an evolution in the turntable industry at the time; its appearance speaks true to its era.

After the 301 came the 401, a step in the right direction for Garrard. But what made these turntables perform? Experts theorize that it all boils down to its motor.

Other turntables in the industry (at that time) took a lot of time to start, but the Garrard turntables offered instant start-up due to the powerful motor unit.

The powerful motor is what also made it so popular with radio stations. Broadcasting and radio stations needed a turntable with a faster start-up process, and the Garrard was the answer.

So what makes it any good in the current decade?

Garrard turntables come with problems that, at that time, had temporary solutions. Keep reading to find out more on what you need to know about Garrard turntables.

If you have, find, or buy a Garrad turntable in good condition, you will have some problems you may need to solve. Once you solve those problems, you can now get the full capability of the Garrard turntable.

But does that take away the originality of its sound? Some would argue it might, and others would argue otherwise. The answer lies with what you want from your Garrard turntable. Restoring a Garrard turntable will require you to make some compromises.

The Garrard turntable is an excellent investment if you want a legendary turntable in your collection. After all, the Garrard turntable did rule the industry for nearly two decades before its downfall.

What You Need To Know About The Garrard Turntable

The Garrard turntable came with its share of problems that you can quickly solve today. At the time, the issues seemed less problematic and more a compromise to having a high-quality turntable. Here are some things you need to know about the Garrard turntable:

  1. The powerful motor emits a considerable amount of vibrational energy.
  2. The bearing wears out quickly.
  3. The aluminum platter.
  4. The stylus produces a drag.
  5. The idler wheel system

The Motor

The motor, although power, transmits a considerable amount of vibrations to the chassis. The vibrations make it harder for the user to get the whole listening experience from the turntable.

Garrard did note this down as a drawback to their powerful motor. So they encouraged users to add ‘sound-proofing’ elements to the turntable. These elements would absorb the vibrations from the motor.

The Bearing

In the case you do find a Garrad turntable in the market right now, there’s a high probability that the turntable has a worn-out bearing.

Nonetheless, you can take it out and examine it to be sure. If the turntable has a worn-out bearing, you may have to replace it.

The Aluminum Platter

The issue behind the aluminum platter is that it would ring like a bell when tapped. Not only that, but the platter would have an uneven thickness that would cause an imbalance.

The Stylus

The stylus can produce a drag that changes randomly, and its force depends on the speed at which the groove is moving. The result is that you get a shaky tone and smudged transients.

The Idler Wheel System

The idler, the motor pulley, and the platter work together through the means of springs. The springs will slowly start to wear out with time, and you have compromised stability.

Not only that but the entire idler wheel system toughens with age. It begins to lose its grip and eventually causes increased vibrations.

What Are The Vintage Garrard Turntable Models?

Garrard made two main turntable models, the 301 and the 401. In 1965, Garrard introduced the Garrard SP25 with four speeds instead of three. It was extremely popular at the time.

There are other honorable mentions, such as the Garrard Model Lab 80. A multi-purpose record changer that also served as a transcription turntable.

What About The Garrard Type A Turntable?

Garrard released the Garrard Type A Mark II turntable in the 1960s. Like its predecessors, it was a top-tier and durable turntable during its time. In the 60s, experts refer to this turntable as an automatic turntable.

Collectors will generally seek vintage Garrard 301 and 401 models, so there isn’t much information regarding other models.

Regardless, these models are still in existence and circulate the market.

Why Did Garrard Shutdown?

Garrard shut down due to failed product lines, late implementation of innovation, and derailing from its original image. But there is a silver lining in every cloud.

There has been a rebirth of the Garrard turntables. In 2018, Cadence Audio SA, another turntable company, took ownership of Garrard.

Conclusion

Garrard turntables are an excellent investment for collectors and those interested in the Garrard legacy. If restored, they will function impeccably and deliver appealing results. So, are they worth it? Yes.

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Sources

  1. Garrard, Garrard, The Legacy Continues, Garrard, https://garrardturntables.co.uk/ Accessed December 16th, 2021.
  2. Wikipedia, Garrard Engineering and Manufacturing Company, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garrard_Engineering_and_Manufacturing_Company Accessed December 16th, 2021.
  3. Swindon Web, Garrard in Swindon, swindonweb.com/?m=8&s=116&ss=394&c=1324&t=Garrard%20in%20Swindon Accessed December 16th, 2021.
  4. Adrian Wu, Ancient Garrard Turntables: Still Relevant Today? PS Audio, https://www.psaudio.com/copper/article/ancient-garrard-turntables-still-relevant-today/ Accessed December 16th, 2021.
  5. Gramophone Museum, Garrard History, Gramophone Museum, http://www.gramophonemuseum.com/garrard.html Accessed December 16th, 2021.
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