Record Clamps, which one and why?

I've been very interested in the effects of different types of record clamps. Some are marketed as clamps, others as stabilizers and then ther are some that are marketed as weights. So what's the deal?

Technics SP-10 with Myrtle cutom made 3.25" thick plinth, separate arm pod made of Ebony with a leadshot filled inner cavity and an SME Imprved 2009 Series IIIs arm, Cardas rewired. Jelco headshell with the new Cartridge Man Isolator. Lots of other tweaks, too many to mention here, now.

Thorens TD-316, split plinth, solid wood design using Leafsprings instead of coil springs. A superior design IMPO.

Ariston RD-40, three spring, suspended two part aluminum plinth with heavy platter, modified-highly tweaked Rega RB300, Cardas wired with junction box, RCA-all Cardas.

Several LOMC, HOMC and MM cartridges, vintage and new.

Of the three turntables I'm currently using, one is high torque direct drive with no suspension, the other is a suspended belt drive with old tired springs and the third a leafspring suspended table. The use of a clamp has always proven to change the sound, but I'm not exactly sure that the change is necesarily one that benefits the sound. Yes, a record weight can help to flatten a warped record, but so can a steam shower while spinning on an old turntable.

Using a weight stresses the suspension of my belt drive and possibly the bearing too. And it requires that the suspension be readjusted to compensate. But then because the springs have to be tightened to compensate the suspension aspect of the turntable becomes hindered because freeplay is very limited leaving the tables suspension too taught and overly sensitive to vibration and foot falls.

Using a clamp seems to make an improvement but because the mass is so much less than a weight, if it doesn't firmly grasp the spindle there is no sonic benefit at all. If the record is warped and you don't have a steam set up, suddenly the weight seems like a better idea.

Using a Stabilizer like the Thorens which uses mass evenly distributed to the outside edges of a record label when the stabilizer is mounted and is theoretically designed to flatten records and increase inertia and dampen vibrations. I'm not really convinced that these stabilizers stabalize anything.

So, here is a list of some of the more common clamps I've tried. Not a complete list mind you because some were DIY, but most of these names you will recognize if you're in to vinyl. I can't say that any one of them is better than the other, can you? But I left what in my opinion is a brief explanation of what my experiences were. You can decide for yourself, that's what makes this hobby fun and us all different with different tastes. Love to hear of any others not on this list too. Is this even a provable subject. None of these accessories has anything other than a clever explanation of what does in Theory.

Sota-Reflex, a good clamp but I don't see justification for price
PIG-cheap awesome clamp made by KAB I think
Thorens-expensive eye candy, that's about all
Clearaudio-All, didn't keep any
Pro-ject Puck-The only one worth its price tag
JA Michell-I can make a better, cheaper one with Home Depot parts
TT Weights-Just machined eye candy, no real science here
Bren1-No science here either, priced to high for what it is
Rek o kut-made a great vintage prof clamp rare but really good
Mapleshade-Good high mass clamp similar to the pro-ject
Locus Design-A really nice design, definitly makes improvements
VPI-Great for VPI tables only, same with Music Hall
Denon-Awesome little weight/clamp, very hard to find.

Misc. $20-$55 ebay Brass, Copper, Lead/Lead filled. some with bubble levels, many out of Honk Kong with names never heard of, some never to be heard of again-Actually some were pretty good.

My personal favorites are both made of Hardwoods and were DIY projects. One was a design to be made of aluminum but I had a very thick chunk of Ebony so I had one machined, then machined a cavity in the middle close to the base to experiment with leadshot, silica sand, pebbles, marbles, etc. And I've had some great results worth sharing with anyone interested.

Your thoughts?
Unless your turntable was designed to accomodate a heavy weight, I think the best choice is a lightweight threaded clamp similar to the Pro-Ject or Michell Engineering clamps. I think the threaded clamps are far better than the friction clamps because you can fine tune the amount of pressure on the record without having to apply any force down onto the platter and bearing. The threaded clamps work especially well with slightly dished or broadly warped LPs.

But if the platter spindle isn't threaded you can't use a threaded clamp and so you're stuck having to decide whether to use a weight or a friction clamp. Personally I think a lightweight friction clamp is the better choice between these two and certainly better than nothing.

I compared the VPI stainless record clamp to the TT Weights 1080 gram clamp with bubble level made for VPI on my VPI Scout turntable and found the TT Weights to do a better job of clamping the record, and also seemed to solidify the bass. I am quite impressed by it and no longer use the VPI stainless clamp.
This, as the OP has found, is going to be dependent on the particular clamp and the particular platter involved, IME. For instance. Even though a clamp or weight sounds like it solidifies lower frequency sounds, it may well be doing this at the expense of ringing or smearing in the upper registers. It would not surprise me at all to find that one may go through many clamps before finding one that works well for their table. Then again, it wouldn't surprise me to hear that one doesn't find any clamps to work well on a given table.

And then there are the peripheral ring clamps, but that was covered recently on another thread on ring clamps.

It is still a worthwhile experiment if for no other reason than you get to listen closely to your own table and get to know it better. Kind of hard to find a downside, unless it involves a lot of cash outlay.
Clamps will change the sound of your playback provided you have enough resolution in your system to hear the changes. There are so many that I hesitate to tell you which one to use. Some high-end table makers prefer NO clamp. They feel that clamps reduce high frequency extention. I suggest you try as many different ones as you can by borrowing from friends and local stores. I have experimented at length with and without a clamp/weight. I have found that I prefer using a weight. I use the HRS Record Weight. While upper frequencies might seem slightly better without a weight, the image is smeared and less exactly placed in the soundfield. What appears to be greater frequency extention might be distortion since the record is not secured to the platter. Let's face it, so few records are really flat. I use the HRS because I think it is not heavy and leaves the upper frequencies in tact for the most part. These are my findings anyway. I'm sure it depends on the table as well. Best of luck in your search.
Thanks for this comprehensive list! This is extremely helpful and does uncover some of the typical "pricing practices" in the audio industry...
Can you please share how you did the DIY JA Michell record clamp for Home Depot parts?
Which? Orsonic DS 200G
Why? It clamps
Bren 1 sounds great not to heavy.
Herbie's Audio Lab SuperSonic Record Stabalizer (in conjunction with the Way Excellent II mat).

I've found that using anything remotely heavy can *sometimes* actually cause the record to come up from the platter's outer edge.

The Stabalizer adds what Herbie refers to as "a moderate amount of virtual mass...without clamping." And because the WEII mat is somewhat grippy, the two combine to keep the record "held" in place without jamming it down on the platter and possibly causing it to bow.

If you've got records that require so much force because they're really warped then simply get another copy. :)

Hope that helps.
And if you need substantial weight, I second the Pro-Ject Puck...

It looks nice, is well made (as simple as a cast and painted brass weight probably is to make) and is, indeed, the only one worth it's price tag (in my opinion).
When I bought my Thorens in the late 80's I bought friction fit Nagoaka (TS-623) that has 3 spring steel arms with pads that bear on the record label. It's well engineered and made to last, I think I paid under $10 for it and it's lasted about 25 years
Another vote for the HRS
I went from the VPI Classic 1 with spindle record clamp to the Classic 3 with center weight and peripheral ring weight. The Classic 1 center clamp actually works on suction. Against the aluminum platter is a 1 inch diameter rubber washer. There is also a small lip on the outside of the aluminum platter. When you place the record on the platter it contacts the rubber washer first. As you clamp down the record, the end of the record needs to meet the lip on the outside of the platter. If a record is warped, then you really need to clamp it down hard. Once it is clamped the rubber washer keeps the air from escaping through the spindle. If you have a good clamp, you can take the center clamp off and the record will stay in place due to suction. If you lift up the edge of the record with your hand, then the suction is lost and the record will resume it's shape. Therefore there is actually a layer of air under the record keeping it clamped to the aluminum platter.
On the classic 3, there is no rubber washer on the spindle. You put down the center weight, then the peripheral clamp and you are done.
Ergonomically I think the center weight with the peripheral ring is easier.
On the Classic 1, I used to rotate the record to ensure I had a seal all the way around, with the Classic 3, I don't have to do that so even though there is a separate step of adding the peripheral ring, it is easier, because it is a mindless activity. Just put on the center weight and then the peripheral ring.
As far as sound, I never switched the clamping systems to check it out. Plus the platters are different, since the Classic 1 has the ridge and the Classic three as the trough on the edge for the peripheral clamp. So in reality the clamping systems are not interchangeable because the Classic 1 is designed for the clamp (outer ring lip on platter for suction) and the Classic 3 is designed for the ring clamp (outer trough for the peripheral ring). So interchanging them on those 2 turntables is not comparing apples and apples.
I need to correct my post, I took a look at some pictures of my Classic 1 and it looks like the platter for the Classic 1 and the Classic 3 are identical. No lip and they both have troughs for the peripheral ring. So the suction is accomplished without a lip. Therefore I could have made an apples to apples comparison.
With VPI Classic, I found the heavier the clamp, the better. However, I think a clamp can change the sound enough such that the same clamp on the same table but in a different system may or may not always work. On my Micro Seiki table, I find lighter clamp like Orsonic 250g or Sutherland Timeline actually works really well and I prefer these 2 over heavier VPI HRx, TTWeight, Thorens or Micro Seiki clamp. My TW Raven AC-1, also prefer not using any clamp after trying all the listed clamp above with and without mat. In my friend's system, his Micro Seiki table seems to like heavier clamp more and his TW sounds really good with Orsonic 250g clamp so go figure. There does not seem to be a hard and fast rule regarding which clamp for which turntable.
I use the Sota on all my turntables, but especially my suspended tables due to the weight issue. Simply the best design and operation, and adjusts for variances in spindle diameter. If you have a threaded spindle, the Oracle works well.

I see TT Weight just came out with a new heavier clamp for most TT's and a heavier clamp specifically for VPI tables.
I use the Sota on all my turntables, but especially my suspended tables due to the weight issue. Simply the best design and operation, and adjusts for variances in spindle diameter. If you have a threaded spindle, the Oracle works well.
I replaced the VPI weight on my VPI Super Scoutmaster Ref. Rimdrive a few years ago with Black Diamond Racing Round Things carbon fiber Record Clamp. Definite improvement in overall sound, better bass, soundstage versus standard VPI weight. Check out this review:
Own the Classic 1 and bought a heavy brass TT Weight clamp that looks great on the Classic along with brass Eden Sound bearpaw feet, but I'm back to using the stock VPI clamp. First, the TT weight created an audible chatter that I can only attribute to the clamp being out-of-round and heavy. Second, the TT Weight (IMHO) deadened the sound of the tt. Initially thought the problem might be my preamp tubes. But after going back to the stock VPI clamp, the music is more "alive".
I too have a Superscout Rim Drive with a Classic Platter....I just got the word that it sounds better without the rubber mat. I tried it and it does.
I've tried many clamps/weights and finally settled on the Black Diamond Racing one piece screw down clamp.
Captain winters -
I understand the added features with the Classic 3 that the Classic 1 does not have, but was there any improvement in sound to justify the extra cost?
I don't want to hi jack the thred, start a new one and I will contribute