This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below
The Tonearm
I was focused on getting this turntable set up quickly and simply (in hindsight this was short-sighted), but the availability of quality tone arms made this slightly easier than the deck. I felt quite confident that an SME 3009 S1 would be a good choice but fate changed this. I could not ignore the success stories I had read of people using 12" arms with the Garrard and when an opportunity arose quite unexpectedly on an SME 3012, I just had to make my move.

It transpired that the 3012 I had found was a type 'A' which is thought to be a rare prototype version circa 1959. I am not sure how it differs from the MK1, if at all, but I was satisfied that this version SME had an elegant simplicity about it and was of a period which I could happily match with my 301. I was pleased to say the least; however the opportunity came at a price. The age of this tone arm had taken its toll and it wasn't without its problems. The main rear end weight was so heavy, the rear end of the arm was pitching down; the old SME RCA connector looked functional but a little worse for wear, the arm lever had lost its plastic end ball and I felt after nearly fifty years it could do with a rewire. Apart from this, the arm was in remarkably good condition for its age, far from a write-off but definitely requiring some work. It transpired that the spigot in the rear arm tube behind the elastic coupling needed replacing as it was not supporting the weight and the elastic couplings were simply failing as a result. Due to the specialist nature of this job, I spoke to Robert Graetke at Analog Tube Audio about a possible solution. Robert has a lot of experience with SME tone arms and offered the friendliest and most expert service I could have hoped for, as well as a solution which gave me great confidence. So, off the tone arm went for a full re-wire using pure silver hair wire, an RCA conversion, a new rear end tube and spigot along with a very nicely designed arm lever finger tip. My tone arm returned looking very nice, in full working order and exactly as Robert had specified. Great service!

The Plinth
So, I had my beautiful Garrard sitting in the corner of my room for a long time waiting to be resurrected. I had finally found a tone arm in keeping with my vintage tastes and I now needed to knit the two together. I looked at many plinth designs, not least the minimal mass box styles which Loricraft favor. But somewhere along the line I ended up settling for a solid mass design. I cannot say that I was a firm believer in either approach to plinth design and of course one might expect to go for the experts' recommendation. I think however that the combination of available information on forums like The Analog Dept, Pink Fish Media, Vinyl Engine, plus other resources on how to make high-mass plinths made this design an easier choice. I am sure that lower mass box plinth designs are relatively straightforward to make also but having the available templates, stories and tips besides equal support for either approach, it made an attempt at a high-mass design just easier.

Using the cut-out template for the 301 available in the Analog Dept library plus adding some requirements to accommodate my tone arm and styling, I ended up with a plinth 610mm w x 606mm d x 108mm h veneered in Santos Rosewood. I chose Birch Ply boards bought in a standard size of 1220mm x 606mm x 18mm. 3 standard boards of the above measurements, each cut in half gave me 6 boards of 610mm l x 606mm w x 18mm t, totaling 108mm of thickness when layered. Cutting to these dimensions was more than ample to accommodate everything and even perhaps a little roomier than is typical. Note: Shindo plinths are (L) 550mm x (W) 440mm x (T) 140mm. Of course a Shindo plinth is a very different product to the home-brew version I attempted here but I found it useful to have a reference to a highly regarded plinth and how doing one's own might compare in size and style. I wanted the positioning of the motor board to be the West of the plinth top board, leaving ample room to the East to mount my tone arm ensuring the mounting template measurements were adhered to and leaving sufficient clearance for tone arm balance weights. I had considered a two-arm approach as I still had a desire to try a 9" SME 3009, however I had read that such an application required careful thought to the positioning of the tone arm pillar in the North West corner and what the relationship was with the motor; the consideration being that possible magnetic interference from the motor might occur in such an application if not executed correctly. Given this was my first plinth, I felt this time round I was better sticking to a single-arm unit.

I was satisfied with the results. During the process, the most difficult aspect of the build was the veneer. It is not a material or process for the faint-hearted and takes some care to apply it well. It is a very fragile material, prone to splitting (so not easy to cut around corners), it is difficult to lay without trapping air and during drying has to be monitored as it can crack easily. Have no fear though, any such 'imperfections' are easily remedied with a bit of diligence, a sharp knife, glue and wax. The plinth can take several weeks to polish to the desired effect. French polish requires time and patience like a fine wine; polish then sand, then polish then sand and so until with age' its beauty slowly reveals itself. Notes: I used M6 50mm bolts and nuts to hold the Garrard down. I placed rubber washers between the motor board and plinth top board. I used a P.I. SME spacer for the tone arm which provides sufficient height to use with the raised motor board (although I think the P.I. spacer could be adapted and made slightly taller for a better fit). I replaced all 4 rubber grommets in the SME mount plate. The SME 3012 A has a pivot-to-spindle mounting distance of 306mm and the MK1 a distance of 294mm or thereabouts. I therefore opted to mark a radius at 300mm exactly from the spindle and placed the SME mount plate on this radius with the line cutting through the centre. This allows me sufficient room to fine-tune alignment within the bed plate tolerances.