The Garrard 401 is an extremely good choice for a vintage turntable. Unlike its cousin the 301, the 401 is less sought after, and as a result it is cheaper. The 401s are less sought after due to a small difference in sound quality. The 301 has better sound, despite its slightly inferior design. The 401s were not made as well as the 301, and consequently their sound is not quite as good. The Garrard 401 is not exactly cheap, however, and you can expect to pay at least 500 USD, with good condition 401s fetching over $1000 on Ebay. For an excellent quality turntable, that is pretty good bang for buck, but these dinosaurs often need restorations. This is easily done in the UK by a company called Loricraft who will tune up your old 401 to make it at least as good as new. Once properly set up, a Garrard 401 tends to run forever.
The key to an excellent Garrard 401 is an excellent plinth. The folks at Loricraft manufacture such plinths, and their opinion with Garrard turntables is to use a fairly thin (around 25-30mm, or one inch) wooden plinth. Their famous plinth is essentially a 25mm thick piece of MDF with 4 squash balls with yellow dots supporting the MDF. The beautiful hard wood surround makes it look more extensive than it really is. Clever 401 owners have grabbed a 25mm thick chopping board and DIY’ed their own plinth for about $20.
Garrard 401 Turntable Specifications
Rumble: 35 dB unweighted
Switch: double pole with two-click suppressors
Base plate: die-cast aluminium
Garrard 401 Cartridge and Tonearm Suggestions
The ideal tonearm length for the Garrard 401 is 12″. A tonearm from SME (the 3009 is a classic pairing), a Jelco or a Thomas Shick if you can afford it! The cartridge will depend on the tonearm, but for the most popular SME 3009, the high compliance cartridges like the Shure V15 or the Ortofon 2m work well. The Garrard 401 is a highlight of the idler wheel generation that is an excellent mid to upper range turntable.