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Garrard Zero 100 SB turntable

Listening test

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[Garrard Zero 100 SB]

[Italian version]

I hope you've already read the introductory article about this turntable so that I can concentrate on the listening test notes only.
This listening test has been quite long and several different HiFi systems have been used and matched to the Garrard, even one from the Seventies (Galactron MK10B amplifier, Goodmans loudspeakers)!!! Now the Zero 100 SB is playing in my secondary HiFi reference system (a budget one).
These listening test notes are referred to the turntable after the restoration but before that any mod or tweak was applied. I've used three different cartridges: two old pick-ups of the same period (the 70s): an ADC 220 XE and a wonderful Excel ES 70 EX. I've also used a modern Gardo cartridge, the ZF 2 model.
The interconnects were from Eagle Cable (budget stuff) and the mat was the original, ugly, rubber one.

The Sound of the Seventies

The Garrard Zero 100 SB is a turntable that imposes its sonic fingerprint :-) to any cartridge: its sound is warm, plenty of bass and softly rooled-off in the mid-to-high range. So you have the feeling of a sometimes big and lazy sound, compact, full bodied and not particularly refined.
The bass and the mid-bass range are powerful, even if sometimes the lower bass is out of control. For example, think of the bass range of a Rega Planar 3: well, the Zero 100 is exactly its opposite. While the bass of the Rega is usually dry, the one of the Garrard is softer.
Let me say that this bass range is amazing: powerful to a point that even modern CD players seem a bit shy when compared to it. It seems that this powerful bass range is one of the pluses of other Garrard turntables such as the Slate Audio 301's and 401's.
With the Garrard Zero 100 SB your woofers will not sleep for sure. Put some rock LP on the platter and you won't be able to stop your foot from stomping, though you shouldn't expect the deeper bass of the modern turntables.
The neat zero tracking error arm works well and even the inner grooves are played fine, provided you've properly aligned the cartridge using the Steven Rochlin's Protractor, for example.
I wonder how good could it have been a parallel tracking arm like this one built with modern standards and bearings...
One of the major drawbacks of this turntable is the mid-to-high range (upper mid, that is): dark, sometimes imprecise and slightly poorly refined...no, it is not airy and delicate: this turntable likes the punch and the impact of the Music instead. Male voices are solid, sometimes aggressive and always full-bodied. And this attitude doesn't change much using different cartridges: of course the modern Grado brings some new life to the sound (though for the overall balance I prefer the old Excel) but the improvement isn't all that dramatic.
One could try to use more vivid cartridges but, as we'll see after some tweak, this will no longer be necessary.


This turntable can rock! The punch and the impact of the Music never lack to the sound of this English table and, as said before, the comparision with a modern budget CD player is not an easy win...for the latter.
The sense of pace and beat that this TT delivers is simply stunning, considered that it is an almost 30 years ago HiFi component. A very high air guitar factor can be experienced with some rock LPs (try Van Halen, for example) and it seems that the electric guitar and the drums are among the most preferred instruments of this turntable.
Also the piano, one of the most difficult tasks for any turntable, is nicely reproduced by this English analog dude, listen for example to the Bruce Hornsby's piano touch. Clean, with naturally fast attacks and decays, a very realistic performance indeed. So, while it feels better at home with macro dynamics the Zero 100 SB can do its job even with microdynamics, though the dynamic performance in the high range is just fair.
The cymbals are metallic but not as splashy as I like them to be. We should not ask too much, to be honest. A 30 years ago player can't sound like a modern turntable.

3D imaging

3D imaging? What's that? In the Seventies soundstaging wasn't a very HOT issue among audiophiles. Most of the times the loudspeakers were either laying on the floor or hanged 3 meters high, on some dangerously oscillating bookshelf. Bass, mid, highs: this is what the HiFi of the Seventies was all about, for the masses, of course. Yes, because even at the time there were some enlightened audiophiles who tried to reproduce a realistic 3D image at home.
The Garrad Zero 100, lacking the refinement of the high frequencies, does try to recreate a soundstage but its attempts fail every know and then. Since it is clear to my ears that this turntable can do much better regarding to this parameter let me tell you about this later, after some tweaking :-)


This turntable sounds exactly like I expected it to do: warm, plenty of bass, punchy and not exatcly refined in the highs, like most of the amplifiers and loudspeakers of the time.
There's one thing that's stunning: punch and overall dynamics and this is the reason why I have spent several weekends tuning, tweaking and modifying it. I was sure that there was something hidden somewhere into this turntable waiting for going out and sing.

For die-hard tweakers and DIYers I've also written an article on how to tweak this little delight (and other similar turntables as well).

Copyright © 1998 Lucio Cadeddu

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