So I replaced the original Garrard 401 mat with an EP


So I replaced my original Garrard 401 mat with a 10" record.

Years ago, I had tried the Boston graphite mat and it deadened the music. I’ve messed around with cork tile, paper, little brass rings, 12" record, no mat, and kept going back to the old mat. The 10" record on the other hand is interesting...reduction of smearing, damped and woolly bass. It’s not that it was badly smeared and soft, but it definitely tightened things up and improved (increased) the highs.

Any stories to tell?

Previewnoromance
Vic at TransFi has an interesting new mat, one with little nubs the LP sits on, the LP suspended above the surface of the backing sheet the nubs are attached to. I don’t approve of that design (there are others making similar mats, primarily British), but some users like what they hear. Vic argues than any surface an LP is in direct contact with will cause reflections from that surface, not absorbing them as claimed.
I have the transfi mat and it makes the sound thin and bright
Since 1977 I have been using the Hiraoka Diskmat SE-22 on my Ariston RD11S (cost new was $20!). Tonearms and cartridges have come and gone - yet this Japanese mat remains! I regard it as a perfectly neutral device, neither adding nor subtracting from the overall sound of the Ariston + arm and mc cartridge. I bought it new from Harvey Sound (48st NYC) in '77. Never felt the need to change or upgrade, unlike my other components! For me, it's a keeper!
Did some back and forth and can confirm the result of removing the mat and replacing it with a 10" record:
1. Warmth - a slightly yellow-brown 'coloration' has been removed
2. Heaviness - with mat, it sounds like the musicians are behind a curtain and on a smaller stage
3. Brighter - As @pani said, it is definitely brighter - but much clearer. Rim of drum and plucked bass distinct, clear and fixed in space.
4. More air, depth, and dark space between instruments instead of a wall of warm sound - less lush. plucked strings snap into space in a startling manner. 
5. Increased pace - I had to test speed with strobe as I was sure it was running faster without heavier mat - it was exact.
6. Sounds louder - confirmed by others present.
Notes:
a. I can understand bright recordings being irritating but the improvement is too much to ignore.
b. I am convinced the mat damps and veils the sound. It's like going from Mullard to Telefunken.
c. Surface noise frequency spectrum shifted up slightly.
I replaced the original mat on my Garrard 301 with the SPEC+ Analog Disc Sheet (AP-UD1)

A nice improvement to the clarity and resolution.
Same... I replaced the original mat of my 301 with a SPEC+ mat and love the improvement.
Thanks for the recommendation. Reading about the Spec+ gave me an idea.
I just swapped the 10" vinyl record (Daughter - His Young Heart EP) for a 10" shellac 78.
Wow! All the improvements listed above even more pronounced:
1. Lower surface noise
2. Improved depth
3. Hearing further into recording
4. Better focus and more neutral.

noromance,

I played around with several mats and found the original Garrard mat on my 301 sounded best. Same with my Dual 1229. I do like the original Oracle Platter mat and will use it occasionally.  A audio buddy of mine recently bought a solid copper mat and I was really impressed by it.

I also like your idea of using a 10Ep. I have some 78's and might give that a try as they are very rigid and flat.  It seems that the softer the mat the warmer the sound. The harder the more dynamic. 

N.
@normansizemore 
Yeah, I thought the general consensus was leave the original mat. But I have to admit the improvement is not small. I've swapped between the original, the 10" vinyl and the 78 using a number of tracks. Considering I've a stash of old shellac 78s, I think I'll repackage them as a miracle mat for $300!!


I meant to follow up earlier. I've been swapping between all 3 and have gone back to the original mat for the moment! The oddest part to all this is that sonic improvements depend on the record/recording. The changes to the sound depending on which mat is used are ridiculous - making most records sound utterly different. Depth, timbre, space, tone, clarity, blackness, silence all vary. In fact, so much so, I wonder which one is correct!

ORACLE GROOVE ISOLATOR especially when used as it was meant to be with the original DELPHI/PREMIERE platter, is a killer combination. Actually mat/platter becomes a very tight unit and this is the magic of early ORACLEs, with soft suspension to be exact. They totally went wrong with that hard mat from MK IV with stiffer suspension. To be honest, it sounded awful back in the day and I never looked back.

I have a GROOVE ISOLATOR on one of my DIY projects. Using vinyl record(s) as mat is a very good idea too IME.
Forgot about the thread. I did some more tests and am now staying with the 10" EP as the best compromise. 
Noromance.
Glad you linked back to this thread.
I found on my Victor tt-81 that a 10" EP gave the best results by far.
Very fast and dynamic, even better than the MyMat.... On that table.

On my 401 the MyMat comes out ahead.

Then a lead/ cork hybrid followed by the 10" EP.

Most interesting how results vary considerably between differing tables.
Hey Uberwaltz. Since I replaced the platter with the PAC 20mm oversized aluminium (it's UK made!) one, I prefer no mat. Rings like a bell -by design- until the record is placed on it. Sounds by far the most resolving.