Record clamps: do they really make a difference.

Hello all,

I have a Sota Sapphire that I love. I recently purchased the reflex clamp. I cannot tell a difference. Perhaps they matter when you have an older record that is somewhat warped? What do you guys think.
There are many threads discussing the pros and cons of record clamping, but I think the general wisdom is that a clamp helps eliminate some of the micro-movement of the record, resulting in a more precise sound. I would put on a well-recorded solo piano or piano/bass and listen again. IMO, clamps and weights are tuning devices and I could see that, depending on one's system, someone might prefer the somewhat looser, more resonant sound without a clamp. Ask anyone who owns a Linn. If you can't hear the difference, so be it. Try it with some more records, but don't turn it into a source of grief.
My strong belief is that the LP must become one with the platter if if it is to sound it's best. Rapping one's knuckle against the LP surface when it is on the table will reveal the truth. If properly coupled, you will hear a solid sound. If not, it sounds hollow, flimsy. The difference in playback is MAJOR! The Sota tables, with their vacuum platter, do an excellent job of this. The clamp helps pull the center of slightly warped records down flat, enabling the vacuum to complete the job. An LP that is 'floating' above the platter will sound very inferior! Clamps on non vacuum tables can also help. I have both a Sota and a SME table. On the SME, the clamp is threaded to the spindle; the degree of tightness is critical. Again, rap the LP and listen!
I am of the came which says If you cannot hear any difference, then, for you, there IS no difference.
Do some task because someone else might hear it (but they aren't there with you) is crazy IMO.

I ony use a weight clamp, and that onky when a LP seems too slippery on the platter due to slight dishing.

Otherwise for me, a clamp is a PITA to bother with.
(I am really lazy)
I have a sota jewel. My friend with a sapphire brought his clamp over. Within 10 seconds I was in shock. It took the clarity to a whole other level. Are you putting the clamp on tightly? Is your table set up properly?
I purchased my Sota table used in 1989. Back then, the rest of my system was nowhere near as revealing as it is today. I too heard little difference as far as the clamp back in those days.
To complete the mating on the vinyl with the platter, add a heavy weight periphery clamp.
I have found that with periphery very much depends on the platter mat used (or not used)?
With any compressible platter my system.....a periphery clamp sucks the life out of the music and robs the vinyl of its magic....whilst with a metal patter mat (or no mat at all)....there is a benefit (when used with a centre clamp) in flattening warped records....although any sonic benefits are subtle.
A centre clamp is platter mat dependent as well (although not to the same degree).........but is certainly beneficial with metal mats or no mats at all.
As always....YMMV
It all depends on the table. The worse the turntable, the greater the need.
It depends on the platter. The old VPI TNT platters we're recessed in the center with a washer around the spindle, so when the clamp was turned down the record was held flat across the entire surface. The result was the entire surface was part of the platter. Worked well if you did not "over tighten" the clamp, resulting in "dished" record.

Vacuum hold down also works in most cases.

In order to be serious, you need it all, that being clamp, periphery ring and vacuum hold. All else is a compromise. Oh, don't forget the electron microscope platform that should be under your rig. I am sure you don't want those nasty vibrations intruding in your pleasure. Give it up, enjoy the music.
11-03-13: Mosin
It all depends on the table. The worse the turntable, the greater the need.
You have to be joking.

If you believe that then

Q1. If a record is not flat, do you think it sounds better with half the record not supported, floating in mid air ?

Q2. Can you unequivocally say that there is absolutely no slippage from a record sitting loosely on a platter ?

Q3. Do you not think that there is substantial energy generated from the stylus/record interface that requires dumping to ground ?

A properly designed weight or reflex clamp with raised edge toward the outside of the record label and a small washer under the label can be very effective in coupling the record to the platter by compression.

Unfortunately most record weights are poorly designed. If you look at 90% on what is available on the market - the bottoms are flat. So effectively its a weight on the centre label and does nothing for warped records or coupling the record to the platter UNLESS the platter is concave.

In terms of your proposition, I would argue the opposite is more likely - that a stabiliser will sound worse on an inferior TT as it is more likely to exacerbate problems of noisy bearings and platters that do not deal with energy transmission properly from the stylus record interface.
If you have the right mat, a clamp is not beneficial.
Mosin, Can please explain the logic of your statement?

"It all depends on the table. The worse the turntable, the greater the need."

My thoughts sort of go along with Bdgregory's view, except I maintain that it isn't the mat per se, but the entire turntable that matters with the mat, or mating surface, being the telltale area of concern because it is so near the beginning of the audio chain.

One oversimplified example would be that of tossing a coin onto a table. Would the resulting sound depend upon the surface of the table? Of course, it would. What if the table was unsteady? What if it had a loose board on top? Would that affect the sound of a coin striking it?

Now, put wheels on the table and roll it. Might you hear the coin rattling? Yes, you might. What if you taped the coin down? Would you hear it then? No, probably not. But, you might not hear it on a table that was designed and built better, even without the tape.

I submit that turntables are no different. A good one is solid enough to handle most resonances thrown at it. A bad one is not, except by luck. The record isn't perfectly interfaced, you say. Well, it takes two to tango, you know.

The platter and bearing assembly should be more than mere ways to look cool, and offer ad copy. Every minute aspect of them should be considered, including, among other things, the effects that a heavy ring clamp might add due to changes in inertia. If, however, the turntable isn't so great, go for it. Anything is an improvement, in that case.
Mosin, Let's assume we have a well engineered turntable as the starting point. (There is no point to a discussion with a poorly crafted TT.) The LP is placed on the platter and set in motion and the stylus is engaged with the disk.

When the stylus generates energy as it vibrates in the record grove, what/where is the best way to dissipate that energy away from the vinyl?
It's equally true that if you have the right clamp, a mat may not be beneficial. :-)

That's the case with my Teres, for instance. Which approach is best, and which particular device is best, depends on the rig, system characteristics as a whole and listener preference.


If you can't hear a difference than something seems amiss. I would expect to hear some alteration in the rig's sound floor and resonance behavior at certain frequencies, whether the record is warped or not.

OTOH, Elizabeth's approach contains much wisdom. Like her I adjust what I hear and ignore what I don't.
Redglobe said, "...When the stylus generates energy as it vibrates in the record grove, what/where is the best way to dissipate that energy away from the vinyl?"

I believe any extraneous energy should dissipate in the very least stressful way possible, if one assumes there is enough energy there to cause problems, and I don't assume that is necessarily the case. Quite often, in my opinion, clamps cause more problems than they solve by altering system inertia, changing the character of the musical presentation of the turntable, and opening the door for user accidents caused by carelessness.

If a record isn't flat, a puck in the center isn't a bad thing, but a flat record is better. In any event, a 100% vinyl interface to the top of the platter is rare, if it ever happens. Even with vacuum, new problems arise that may be worse than the cure, if you are talking about having a turntable that performs at the highest level possible.

In my mind, having a perfectly centered record is a far more productive pursuit. Unfortunately, no one has been able to do that without artifacts, either.
Actually, a heavy weight will make a noisy bearing run quieter.
No. No. No.
Actually, a heavy weight will make a noisy bearing run quieter.
It may, but it's also a sonic band-aid that's unlikely to be the optimal mechanical approach.

Some TT bearings have inherently sloppy tolerances and need grease. Others have tight tolerances and need a lightweight oil. A bearing designed for grease that's running on oil is likely to chatter. Adding a heavy weight might stabilize it and/or dampen the chatter, but it would be better to use a more appropriate lubricant. The appropriate lubricant for a TT bearing depends on its tolerances and materials.

OTOH, some bearings are noisy because they've worn due to friction. In these cases, adding a heavy weight might temporarily dampen the noise but it will also increase friction, causing the bearing to deteriorate even faster. This would be the worst possible approach, as it masks the problem while simultaneously exacerbating it. The indicated approach would be to repair/replace the bearing.

Noise is a clue that something is amiss. Masking the noise without identifying and addressing the root cause is not the path of progress.
Dear Mosin: As there are no flat LPs or perfect centered LP holes there are not ( at least I don't know it yet ) a perfect TT that can damp perfectly the resonances/vibrations/noises caused by the cartridge stylus and the LP surface grooves and at the same time impede feedback about.

A TT mat is critical down there when the TT platter ( whole TT. ) is not " enough " to that job and even that a clamp is always a good " thing " but depend of which kind of clamp we are using.

In the past I used the Sota Reflex ( that's very good ), Basis, Shumonk, Harmonix and several other till I find out the " right " TT mat where all those clamps made more harm than help.
I was listening ( for some months ) with out any clamp till one day I found out in my closet a light weight wood clamp that an internet friend send me as a gift ( he build it and its shape is the same as the Shumonk one. ) years ago and I mounted and like it what I heard so I made a modification to that clamp and till today I don't find out something better.

What this clamp does is not to help for a better contact between the LP surface and the TT platter or mat but to " damp "/change the resonance/vibrations frequencies generated at stylus/grooves where makes lower or less harm to the cartridge signal, at least is what I hear and I'm not aware yet of any negative side on it.

I thinmk there are no rules on the whole subject and as always in analog audio we are full of imperfections where we have to be really " wise " to choose the right trade-offs.

Those choosed trade-offs are the ones that makes the differences for the better or the worst.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Dear Elegal: +++++ " Record clamps: do they really make a difference. " +++++


++++ " I cannot tell a difference. " +++++

but differences exist even that you can't detected yet.

There could be several reasons why you can't be aware of: maybe you can't do it because your system/room has no resolution for it, because a not so good analog rig overall set up, because even that your ears have the resolution you don't know what to look for, because you have no precise reference to compare it, etc, etc, etc.

In the other side, it's not matters if the LP is warped or not, you can hear a clamp for the better or worst.

Could be some reason why we can't detect a clamp " job "?, could be but I don't have the precise answer about.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Dear Dover: ++++++ " If a record is not flat, do you think it sounds better with half the record not supported, floating in mid air ? " +++++++

what do you think?, I infere that you are against it.

Other than W.Benesh there were at least two other TT proponents precisely to leave wide part of the LP in the air supported by small tiptoes like or something else.

I can't remember the precise opinions about but several years ago I did that kind of excercise and not so bad at all and maybe is time to do it again and see what happen. Sometimes in audio is benefitial to think and try " ideas " out of the box.

Why not?, we have to lose nothing but to have " fun time " testing it.

Regards and enjoy the music,
On the other recent thread covering this topic, I was in the minority in stating that I do not like heavy record weights or heavy peripheral rings. Like Win and someone else that commented above, I find that they usually (but not always) detract from the musical presentation. But there is no doubt at all that they DO "make a difference".
I own a SOTA clamp. Usually I do use it, but I rarely if ever clamp it. I think it's (rather light) weight alone does just about as much dampening as I care to introduce. I also own the record weight and peripheral ring that Kenwood expressly made to use with their L07D. I find that they murder the sound of that great table, but I do use the peripheral ring UNDER the LP (not over the outer lip of the LP), just to add rotational inertia to the platter.
Elagal, Think of it this way: That stylus has to trace a groove with undulations that are as small as a millionth of an inch. Will the stylus have greater success tracking the record groove with additional vibrations or with less vibrations?
"It may, but it's also a sonic band-aid that's unlikely to be the optimal mechanical approach."
"Noise is a clue that something is amiss. Masking the noise without identifying and addressing the root cause is not the path of progress."

The record clamp better couples the vinyl disc to the platter. If the turntable has a bad or noisy bearing, and/or is not well isolated, then expect the sound to be worse with the clamp. All of the external vibrations are going to be efficiently transmitted through the record to the stylus when it is well coupled to the platter.
The analog system starts by creating vibrations- actually recreating the vibrations frozen into the vinyl disc. Any variance from those vibrations in the disc is distortion. The turntable must also accurately recreate the time domain, ie. the correct speed. If the record is not fixed firmly and flat to the platter, then how can there not be added distortion? The record can slip on the platter, or it can buzz being excited by the moving stylus. Any warps causes reaction at the tonearm/stylus and also affects the time domain- as does eccentricty of the disc.

Interesting comment from someone that too much damping as in using a periphial ring sucked the life out of the music. I wonder if it was really that or some incompatibility between the record, mat and platter. I don't see how it could suck the life out of the record since the record is the source of the vibrations- not reflecting them.
Since your cartridge/tonearm must follow the plane of the record, the primary purpose of a clamp is to level the playing surface. A flat surface reduces dramatic up/down cartridge motions, resulting in better tracking. Other perceived benefits of a clamp are adjunct. A mat cannot physically accomplish this.

Yes - check out the Meitner turntable from the 80's. It had no platter, clamped the record under/over the record label portion and left the playing surface unsupported. Many audiophiles here tried various versions and iterations - loss of resolution. The unsupported record gave a smooth sound which was alluring, but lacked resolution ( detail ) and leading edge.
I have tried the Resomat on various decks - coloured, tizzy and lacks information compared to an unclamped copper mat.

I also had a Roksan which had a removable spindle whjlst playing ( ET2/Carnergie ). A small subtle difference when spindle removed for playing.

I will use a clamp or stabiliser if it improves resolution. I dont look for a pretty sound, I want to get as much information off the record as possible, with accurate timing, accurate preservation of harmonic structure etc and minimal addition of spurious artefacts and distortions with the playback system.

Whether the use of clamps/weights is better or worse is going to depend on the quality of design and the platter underneath. There has been no explanation here on the clamp design by contributors who have posted their findings. In my view most folk here are using clamps/stabilisers/rags/record mats simply as tone controls to get a sound they like.

Someone here uses the Sota Reflex clamp as a weight only - reflex not engaged, probably no washer. Surely a disservice to the designer - if you are going to comment on a product run it as per the manual/designers intent, reflex clamp engaged with washer under the record, and with the matching Sota mat. By the way for Sota clamp users, there is adjustment available of the "grip level" and reflex action that should be adjusted for your spindle to get the clamp working at an optimum.

As I stated above most weights/stabilisers are flat bottomed and merely sit on the label. They are not improving the coupling of the record to the platter, they are simply a weight on the label that would alter the resonant characteristics of the the record. In the case of reflex style clamps they are coupling the record to the spindle as well as the platter and this may be detrimental on a poorly designed turntable.

On my Final Audio the 1.8kg stabiliser has a rim that applies pressure only at the edge of the record label. I made a series of washers of varying thickness to sit under the record. In this way I can optimise the coupling for records of varying thickness, rigidity etc to get the maximum surface coupling to the copper (4.5kg) mat that has a recess for the label and is designed specifically for the stabiliser/washer system. In this system with or without the clamp soft mats tried such as leather, Sota gauze mat ( cant remember the name ), felt all lose resolution ( detail ). I have not tried the much vaunted pigskin that Halcro uses.

Halcro if you are reading this you will be pleased to know that 47 Labs makes both a pigskin and doeskin mat you might want to investigate.
Dear Tonywinsc: +++++ " that too much damping as in using a periphial ring sucked the life out of the music....... I don't see how it could suck the life out of the record since the record is the source of the vibrations- not reflecting them. " +++++

IMHO we can't overdamp the LP grooves/stylus, as a fact what we want is precisely that: overdamp it for the stylus/cantilever can take only the grooves modulations with out any other kind of " movement " that could alter that situation. This means that as better we damp ( no feedback either. ) down there as better lower cartridge signal degradation.

Your post is precise, real and lot better that what I can explain about:

+++++ " The analog system starts by creating vibrations- actually recreating the vibrations frozen into the vinyl disc. Any variance from those vibrations in the disc is distortion. " ++++++

we have to understand that and understand its consequences.

The other side of that subject is that almost all of us are accustom and with ears/brain perffectly equalized to several kind of distortions generated down there that when we " overdamped " those several kind of distortions almost disappear and disappear too almost all the colorations/false information we are accustomed with.

When this happen ( the new " overdamped " sounds ) this IMHO is a very good news and what now we have to do is to make a reset on the overall set up audio system chain: link by link and if is necessary even change the links that now do not perform well with the today system needs.

Regards and enjoy the music,
Tony, Reproducing or creating "The life" in an LP is often serendipitous, to my way of thinking. Thus if I like the sound from the LP better without the clamp vs with, or without a peripheral ring vs with, I don't go to pieces emotionally, fretting over what is "wrong" with my system. It is entirely possible that doing without a clamp or ring does introduce euphonic distortion; I don't give a shit. Life is short. Plus, I think we all kid ourselves about the degree to which the results of little tweaks actually are predictable.

I know of three examples of commercial products that in fact minimize all contact between LP and platter: the old Transcriptor's turntables, the well known Ringmat, and the new Resomat (I forget who makes that). I don't necessarily endorse that extreme opposite from using a weight or ring, but some do. Those who like them, love them.

No question, LP slipping on a mat is not a good thing. I do worry about that, which is one thing I have in mind when I do use the SOTA clamp, un-clamped.

I think record weights and peripheral rings are like religion or your favorite baseball team; everyone has a right to his or her opinion, and converting people to your own belief system is often futile.
Dear Lewm: +++++ " Life is short. " +++++

so why try to improve nothing that always is time consuming?

Makes sense that to you?

+++ " fretting over what is "wrong" with my system. " ++++

yes, who cares !!!!!!????????

Well, always exist audiophiles whom cares.

Life is short and that's why we have to enjoy it in the BEST way. I don't like the idea to live in the " error " just because " life is short "!!!!!!

Like yours only an opinion,

Regards and enjoy the music,
Hi Lewm, I have been using the Sota reflex clamp religously for 21 years now. I think that for me to play a record without it now would be almost as hard for me as walking naked in public. (btw- I hate those dreams). I believe in it for the reasons that I cited while at the same time knowing that my reasons could be all wet. I have learned some things through experimentation and I have improved my analog sound with better isolation and dampening materials. I have been pleasantly surprised by some changes that I made using different materials; getting more than I expected and I have experienced disappointments when changes made things worse.
I will not presume to tell people that they must use a clamp. Like I said, I have used the clamp for so long, perhaps I should try a record without it once and see what happens. I'm just not sure that I can take that first step...
I think the issue of clamps or weights is too equipment-specific to permit generalized recommendations. In my case, a number of years ago when I used a VPI 19 Mk3, I thought the stock clamp improved the sound without any negatives, so I used it all the time. When I switched to a Galibier table, I started out with the heavy PVC platter (14 lbs) and I spent many hours experimenting with the 6 lb weight (appropriately named the Anvil) that came with it. The Anvil is an aluminum weight that is filled with lead shot and oil. What I found is that the Anvil consistently did some very good things but also some not-so-good things. In other words, there were tradeoffs when using it. To complicate matters further, the type of reflex washer made a significant difference as well. On balance, I usually ended up using the Anvil but I was always aware that I was sacrificing in some areas.

Fortunately, this all changed when I upgraded the platter to what Thom Mackris now calls the Gavia platter. This is an even heavier (32 lbs) aluminum platter filled with lead shot, oil and PVC damping materials and topped off with a graphite top plate. This new platter sounds much better than the old PVC platter but it also consistently sounds better when used bareback, i.e. without the Anvil or reflex washer. This makes life much simpler.

So the takeaway as far as I'm concerned is that it is difficult to generalize about clamps. With some equipment and to some users, they may be an overall improvement, but to others not. You just have to try it for yourself and reach your own conclusion. One thing can be stated unequivocally---a record weight or clamp does change the sound. Anyone who says differently hasn't listened carefully enough in my opinion.
But I don't think there is "error" in bringing my system to be as accurate and "distortion"-free as possible while also being enjoyable to me. You ALWAYS assume that someone else's Nirvana is inferior to yours. That may not be so. Please stop twisting my words so to make it appear that I am sloppy in my thinking or my approach to audio. In that way, you close off meaningful discussion.
I bought a Mitchell record clamp for my Linn/Akito rig last year and I think it sounds better with it makes me feel better knowing it's there, I think I'm a better person for going to the trouble of buying it, and the table looks cooler. So it's win win win win.
11-03-13: Mosin
Actually, a heavy weight will make a noisy bearing run quieter.

It is Nov. now and I can honestly say, you gave me the laugh of the year. Thank you.

That rocks, dude!

Always happy to help. ;)
Dover, I agree with your aim of striving to retrieve all of the information as possible from the LP. There is no magic to the execution of sound retrieval from an LP: It is pure physics.

The effective coupling of an LP to a platter by use of a center weight or clamp and a periphery ring are very effective. I have found that the more massive the clamp the more stable the platform and greater resonance control.

I also found that increasing the mass of the center weight improved the sound extraction. Though, on initial use, I felt that the music had lost its vibrance. However, upon further listening, I discovered that there was greater definition to the music and less background noise. What became evident with the lighter-mass weight was that the resonance from the stylus was fed back through the audio chain. It was like hearing music played is a hall.

TTWeights makes a well-thought out center weight with a cupped underside to impart pressure on the LP to mate with the platter.
I find that once accustomed to hearing just the music that is recorded versus an enhanced audio experience, the more exhilarating and gratifying it becomes.

It also works the other way: I can readily detect audio equipment that fails to extract sufficient information from the record groove and there is a measure of disappointment.

I use both a TTWeights center weight, 3.2 lbs of brass, and their 2.1 lb. periphery ring, a copper mat and an alloy mat over a stainless steel platter (Mirko's).

Previously, I had used the two versions of VPI clamps (Delrin and combination stainless/Delrin), and their solid stainless center weight. With each increase in mass, there was increased clarity.
Dear Dover: Tone control?. Well, one way or the other and due that exist no perfect clamp/TT/Mat what we are using has a side effect as " tone control ": want it or not.

As you tehre are many advocates that coupled the LP to a metal Mat or TT ( direct. ) metal platter surface and this makes more harm that help due that the metal is more resonant and with better characterists that does not helps to impede feedback that other non-metal materials.

IMHO the best way to take out the LP grooves informstion by the stylus/cantilever is to " overdamp " down there: we don't want any single resonance/vibration, noise/feedback, etc, etc that be added to the grooves/stylus/cantilever own and unique modulations.

Please read again the Tonywinsc post about and remember that we are not talking what we like or not but what we need that the stylus/cantilever can take out of the LP grooves with no additional " information/distortions ". IMHO in this " equation " probably the worst enemy is metal material.

Regards and enjoy the music,