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Stringreen, when I purchased my Prime VPI shipped it with a felt mat and wanted me to comment on the effectiveness of the mat when used. I felt like you that it diminished the sound quality in every important area and just used it for a while to protect the platter while not in use. One thing I am curious of is an older Audioquest Sorbathane mat that I still have that I used to great effect on a modded AR EB101, might pull it out and set the VTA to adjust for it's thickness and give it a try just to see.
The mat is a pretty important part of the turntable! It controls resonance in the vinyl caused by the tracking of the cartridge. If not controlled, the resonance can talk back to the needle and so mess up the sound.
The proper mat will be of the same hardness as the LP itself, so as to prevent any reflections of energy at any frequency. So they can affect the tonality!! No mat at all will be too bright and a soft mat like felt or leather will be too soft (and some oils will be imparted to the LP surface, allowing it to gather dust a lot easier). Felt mats are only used by DJs to act as a clutch between the platter and the LP surface. Mats of this latter type are not predicable sound-wise- they might also be bright and trashy, simply because damping is almost non-existent.
A good mat will also serve to damp the platter to some extent. This is a lot to ask of a mat which is why its a good idea for the platter be damped on its own. Two mats that I favor are the one made by Oracle and the Vibro Stop. I'm sure there are others but when examining the issue keep the principles I've outlined above and you will save yourself some cash.
You make a good point about leeching...
Here’s a mat related DIY horror story and an important caution… ;^)
I recall the case of someone who decided to make a DIY mat from rubber off-cuts. The rubber was smooth on one side and diamond patterned on the other. The experimenter preferred to use it diamond side up.
He left an LP on his turntable for a prolonged period (perhaps using an old LP as a makeshift dust cover). When he finally lifted the LP off and inspected the underside, the rubber diamond pattern had leeched onto the LP itself(!)
This is similar to what happens with natural rubber feet such as those used on many items of equipment, from T/Ts to tape decks.
One example was the old LP12. Placed on a table, eventually the rubber would “bond” itself to the object in contact. After a time it became more difficult to move the T/T because it was effectively “glued” to the table. Once moved, one could see the familiar black rings on the table where rubber feet had left their mark.
With suspended turntables this wasn’t good news. The strong coupling bond between one massive object and another led to the turntable’s performance being affected adversely. The solution to this (and a simultaneous turntable upgrade tweak for Linn, etc) was to place 1” squares of paper under each of the feet. The feet then “glued” themselves to the paper but not the supporting structure. ;^)
It caught on and for many years, there were thousands of T/T owners with bits of paper under their equipment feet. :D
Where mats are concerned, I guess the moral of the story is that we should try to anticipate bad things when experimenting with materials. The mat is easily replaceable but the vinyl may not be… ;^)
stringreen, you experience points out something we all should remember, at least from my perspective.
Even small changes may be audible and many times something new/different may sound better. So I find the best procedure is to make an A/B/A comparison. Also of course is to never make more than one change at a time, but you followed that.
Interesting take on felt mats, since Linn ships them with their tables. Since no mat is not an option with the Basik, I chose a cork blend. That was before I started spending stupid money on my addiction.
On my Oracle I use the original IsoGroove. Were you referring to this or their new acrylic mat?
is that across the board with all tables?Yes. The problem is finding a mat that is neutral. Obviously a lot of them cause more problems than they solve so no mat at all might be preferable in some cases.
How do your findings relate to a tt with a vacuum sealing function?Getting the LP to be flat really increases the effect of the mat and also reduces the amplifier power used since there will be less warp. The flip side if you will pardon the expression is damage that might occur to the other side of the LP. I've seen some vacuum systems do serious damage to the unplayed side.
On my Oracle I use the original IsoGroove. Were you referring to this or their new acrylic mat?We've been getting the same mat from them for the last 15 years so I'm going with the former rather than the latter.
I like the (graphite) Boston Audio mats. Sadly, BA is out of the business of making mats. They do come up second hand from time to time and do not cost a mint. While it is a bit contrary to Atma-sphere's advice, I also like my SAEC SS300 metal mat. Speaking of metal mats, copper mats are very popular for some reason, maybe because they are cool looking as much as anything else.
I want to thank stringreen for bringing this subject up and atmasphere's thoughts as well. I got off my duff and finally tried a material I've had around. It is a vinyl material, around 1/16" thick with a smooth side and an irregular other side. I cut it at 11& 3/4" diameter w/ a 1&1/2" center hole. (I left in place, my 1&1/4" vinyl based center donut). I'm using the smooth side down. With this arrangement, the center is slightly higher, so to allow some smoothing out of the lp when clamped.
It didn't take long to hear the positive effects after getting the VTA dialed in. I have the opposite experience of stringreen. No loss of air, detail. The bass is more fleshed out and powerful and much more musical. Music has more soul and is more enjoyable to listen to. A big upgrade!
It does kind of adhere to the lp when lifting one off. I don't notice any leeching, but I suspect if left for a long period, it could be an issue.
Next, I will try the carbon fiber alone and the CF adhered to a piece of this vinyl. For now, I'm just going to enjoy!
I find it can be hit and miss with TT mats. I have quite a few different ones. I do not like felt or rubber mats at all. I’ve settled down on a few different hard material mats because it depends on the cartridge I’m using at the time. I find that I can get the best sound out of a cartridge by using the right mat for that particular cartridge. So my advise is get an assortment and play around till you find something that works. When you put on a different cart that is new to you, it's time to experiment with mats again.
In thinking about this whole subject, it is important to note a few things:
(1) The very center portion of a lot of lps are "raised". This will affect any sort of method one chooses to use. This is very evident in using the VPI center weight which is flat on it's bottom surface. (This is never addressed, anywhere)!
(2) Using a flat lp.
(3) Any platter mat that doesn't allow for the label thickness and/or a center/spindle support/donut, may be defeating the very purpose it is intended to address?
(4) A weight vs. clamp still can make a difference.
I think we would appreciate you filling us in on which mats you are using and in what circumstances?
Hi astro58go. Yes all those points you brought up make a difference. It all effects the dampening of vibrations in the record you are playing. Dampen too much, and you loose information. Dampen too little, and you get extra info that was not originally recorded. Another complication is different materials resonate at different frequencies. Which is why different materials may match better to a particular cartridge/tonearm/table/stand/room.
I could list all the combos I've tried but it may well not translate to another persons setup. I'm just saying it pays to experiment for yourself.