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Garrard Zero 100 SB turntable - TNT Limited Edition
You may have read the other two articles dedicated to the Garrard Zero 100 SB turntable and already published here on TNT-Audio. In case you have missed these, please take a look at our Listening tests section.
Into this article you'll find some tweaks I've applied to this turntable in order to improve its sonic performances. Eventually the same tweaks can be successfully applied to other turntables, especially of the vintage kind.
Warming up the engines
Before you start modifying your Zero 100 SB you should restore it to its original conditions.
First of all clean and lube it with high quality spray oil, such as the one used for guns care and lubing. Gently clean and lube the bearing of the Zero arm, one of the most critical areas of this turntable.
Now, if you think you're sufficiently skilled, disassebly the platter and the housing for the spindle which is secured to the platter via three little screws. Clean the housing and the hole of the platter with alcohol, then assemble again the platter and lube the housing with a good motor oil (10W40, better if fully synthetic). Before reinstalling the belt and the platter clean and lube the spindle. The keys for a perfect result are: extreme care and precision.
The stock mat of the Zero 100 isn't exactly impressive: a much better choice is our
TNT Janus double-face dual-damping compound DIY mat.
To be honest, the Garrard Zero 100 SB isn't very quiet and moreover the platter acts like an amplifier (a bell, actually) for the hums and the noises coming out from the transport system (belt, motor, spindle and motor pulley).
The TNT Janus succeeds in dampening any vibration and moreover it offers a far better interface between the record and the platter. If you want you can even match it with a record clamp, think of something of the minimalist kind like the good old See The Pig.
The Garrard Zero uses a Garrard Labs synchronous motor and, like any similar device, it works better when the AC that feeds it is clean and stable.
I hope there's no need to explain how relevant a good motor operation is for the sonic performance of any turntable.
First of all install a mains filter using those IEC filtered sockets described here on TNT-Audio. Cut a hole in the wood cabinet of the turntable and install the filtered socket.
Do not cut the power cable too short!!! Otherwise the cable from the motor to the IEC socket will interact with the floating subchassis. Leave the cable long enough so that it can follow a smoooooth curve from the motor to the socket.
Now, just to not destroy the good effects of the filter, use a shielded power cord like our DIY Merlino mains cable. The reason why the Merlino CAN'T be used throughout (that is, till the motor terminals) is that this shielded cable is heavy and stiff and it may literally destroy the free play of the floating subchassis.
If this happens you can say bye-bye to the good sound of this turntable: more precisely it is the bass range that completely disappears.
Believe me, I'm (sadly) experienced :-(
A further improvement could be the installation of a shielded isolation transformer (1:1) between the turntable and the wall socket. Even an electronic AC voltage stabilizer could work well. Alas, these devices don't come cheap especially when compared with the class of the Garrard Zero 100 SB so I can't officially recommend their use here. But don't fret: the anti-RFI filter and the special mains cable make wonders to the sound of this turntable...
Interconnecting the Zero to the outside world
The Zero arm has a very, very nice feature: two easy-to-use RCA terminations so that you can easily hook up any kind of interconnects without messing around with the soldering gun or fancy DIN connectors. The key is to use a very light and flexible interconnect here, otherwise it could interact (again) with the floating subchassis free play.
Since I wanted this tweaks session to be as cheap as it could be I've choosen a Monster Cable Interlink 200 interconnects. You are free to use any other interconnect with a good price/value ratio, it's up to you to choose. I can't recommend using expensive cables, remember the old Latin saying: Est modus in rebus (sounds a bit like sonus faber, uh? :-))
The Zero arm
The weak spot of the Zero arm is its complex system of shafts and bearings. There's nothing you can do about it, except change the bearings with something custom built following strict tolerances.
Another weak spot is the cartridge shell. It is made of two pieces of weak plastic, sliding one into the other. The best solution would be to glue the two parts together...but this way you won't be longer able to change the cartridge. Too radical of a tweak.
Why not some blue-tac then? Just put a tiny strip of blue-tac in front of the shell, so that the two parts can't move or vibrate (see the picture for an idea, the blue-tac I've used is yellow, actually :-) ).
The key here is the amount of the damping material, which has to be as little as possible, and the precision of the placement: an uneven placement of the blue-tac may cause the arm to be slightly unbalanced...we're talking about mg's here!!!
The subchassis and the cabinet
Let's start with the simpler things first: place three pin points (brass or steel, as you prefer) and three graphite blocks (ART, Audio Tekne...) under the turntable. Yes, the graphite blocks should be placed under the tip toes, see again the picture for details. Say what? The white blocks in the picture don't seem of the graphite kind? You bet! They're cheap clones right from TNT-Audio...but this is matter for another tweaks article (don't ask, it'll be on-line soon).
In order to install the tip toes firmly under the cabinet you should use a tiny amount of blue-tac (again!).
The 3 toes are strictly necessary, you can't avoid these. First of all they improve the overall sound of the turntable plus they allow the cables (AC power and interconnects) to follow a smoother curve, thanks to the increased distance of the cabinet from the shelf.
take your audiophile stethoscope and start investigating for vibrations, hums and noises inside the turntable while it's turning. Once you've found the weak spots, apply some blue-tac and listen again.
Then take a sheet of tar damping material and glue it under the cabinet which is, normally, nothing else than a thin layer of light wood composite.
Now you can take a look at the screws that hold the motor: spray the elastic mounting washers with some silicon-based spray oil, eventually put some blue-tac on the top of each screw. DO NOT put anything on the motor, the spindle, the pulley, the platter or any other moving part of the turntable.
If your Zero 100 SB has a dust cover, remove it.
Listening to the Monster
After this tweaks session the Zero 100 is a whole NEW animal. The over-warm and shut-in sound of the stock Garrard has been replaced by a lively, modern and articulated musical reproduction.
The typical sound of the Seventies disappears in favour of an up-to-date analogue dynamic character, still with a sweet warm note but with an amazing and entertaining punchy swing.
Even the soundstage, hidden and confused before the cure, is now wide and excellently focused, even considering this is still a cheap TT.
The already good dynamics in the bass is now well mated with a sparking and fast mid/high range, it seems like the sound has been washed and polished.
How does it compare with serious analogue players? Well, I like the sound of this turntable, no, don't sell your Voyd or LP12, but this analogue machine can play your records in a way that you will have few things to complain about.
For example, the precision and the detail are just fair but the Zero 100 still retains its original capability to go straight to the heart of Music. It will let you enjoy the Music (right, Steven?) without worrying too much about HiFi.
The total cost of the tweaks described here is still under 60 $. This means that, buying a second hand Zero for 80/100 $ (in mint conditions) you could easily get a decent (and fascinating) analogue player for less than 180$, depending on the cost of the interconnects you will use.
Of course, if you have many good LPs and plan to buy many of them in the future you should better consider buying a new, modern turntable. Otherwise the Garrard can be the analogue player you were looking for your records collection.
Are you asking about a cartridge? There's no need to spend much more than 100$: take a look at the Grado catalogue, you'll find something that will make your records happy for the years to come.
Warning: in case you aren't sure you're skilled enough leave the turntable as is...modifying such a complex and delicate machine without knowing exactly where to put your hands on is the shortest way to destroy it.
Also, let me add that these tweaks aren't just plain simple "add some blue-tac here and there" operations: they come out from several months of trials and errors and a couple of these tweaks (the TNT Janus mat, for example) have been designed precisely for this turntable, even if they work well with different players.
Tweaking a turntable isn't an easy task: do something wrong and it will sound worse, forcing you to start again from...Zero (pun intended :-) ).
Happy tweaking to everyone.
Copyright © 1998 Lucio Cadeddu
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