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Trying out different TT mats

Wharfedale Diamond 11 Series

jls001

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So I've been trying out a new cork mat prototype that fellow forum member Rikhav had made. Since I have mats made from different materials, I compared the cork mat against them.

The silicone rubber mat that I have is 3 mm thick. It was made by BeginnerN on the forum. This mat has a lively treble, and lots of info comes through. However, it seems to attenuate the bass weight. Its sound is attacking with a nice decay but less holographic overall. More hifi-ish sounding. It gives a good sense of pace and good timing. The same volume knob setting was used for all tests, and the silicone rubber mat seems to sound softest of all the mats tested, and I wanted to turn up the volume a notch or two but refrained from doing so as I didn't want to add the uncertainty of adding another parameter to the tests. This could possibly mean that the silicone rubber is having the highest attenuation of vibration, and thus attenuating the playback volume too, more than other materials tested here. Anyway, this is just a random hypothesis and I have no scientific tests to prove it. For what it's worth, the silicone rubber mat is the densest and heaviest mat despite being only 3 mm thick. I used the sound of the silicone rubber mat as a baseline against which to assess the others.

Natural Cork Mat 5 mm thick:
The treble is laid back compared to the silicone rubber mat. Bass has more weight compared to silicone rubber mat.

The attack is less frenetic but overall sound is more musical to my ears, and a bit more holographic. I don't have a thinner cork mat at this time, but I feel a thinner (say 3 mm) could improve the sound further. 5 mm I feel is too thick and damping more than I would like.

Yoga Mat 3 mm thick:
This is home made from a yoga mat that was lying idle and never saw its intended action. The sound of the yoga mat is very, very close to the silicone rubber mat. I won't be able to tell them apart in a blind test. This is surprising because the yoga mat has much lower density.

78 rpm shellac record used as record mat:
I have been using a shellac as record mat for some months now. To my ears it sounds the best among the different mats I've used. But this could be setup/system dependent, and my personal musical/audio biases.

10 inch vinyl EP used as record mat:
The argument behind using thick acrylic or delrin platters in many modern turntables is the fact that these materials have properties close to, or similar to, vinyl records. I haven't tried delrin but have tried acrylic both as platter and mat. Acrylic mat is hard and is the exact antithesis of a soft rubber mat. The sound is extra lively but it accentuates pops and ticks in the records. It has one major problem, though - the surface being glass smooth, there is very low friction between the acrylic mat and the platter below it. A simple action line using antistatic record cleaning to brush away dust from a spinning record can slow down the speed of the record due to the slippage of acrylic over the platter. But for a further twist in this tale, I tried the 10 inch vinyl EPs and they sound more alive than the shellac. Very alive, in fact, almost as much or same as acrylic, but without the slippage problem as it is a record with grooves already cut in it, and so does have good purchase.

More to check out: A regular rubber mat (very old, from one of my turntables), a mat made from regular bubble wrap sheet, and one more new rubber mat made from regular vulcanized rubber are waiting to be tested.

Here's the bottomline: if you want to tame the highs a bit and don't mind a slight loss of resolution, use something softer like rubber or something even softer like yoga mat. I find the overall presentation quite balanced. It's no wonder that OEMs have been using rubber mats for the longest time due to its balanced presentation.

Try cork if you want to have a more laid-back presentation. At least in my chain, cork adds a sense of 3D-ness which I don't hear with other mats. Also, cork sounds very musical to my ears.

Shellac brings the music alive. If you like it even more livelier, try vinyl or acrylic mat.

Personally I find shellac most to my taste. Your musical goals might be different so please don't be afraid to try out different mats.

Caveats are in order: a more lively presentation accentuates ticks, pops and record hiss, so one must take that into consideration. A general rule is softer mats will dampen vibration better.
Since the mats are of different thicknesses, it was necessary to adjust the vertical tracking angle when using different mats.
 

Fiftyfifty

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Yes, I too have experimented with a few mats - the naked acrylic platter of my tt, the stock felt mat, a DJ slipmat, a shellac record, a vinyl record, a yoga mat and Rikhav's cork mat. I felt the cork mat had great dynamics, which perhaps contributes to the sound stage, musicality and 3D effect that jls001 has mentioned. In my highly revealing system, the yoga mat results in a degree of high frequency roll off, which is what I like. But in most other systems, I feel the cork mat would score very high.
One other observation: The harder the surface of the mat, the greater the need to use a centre clamp and an outer ring clamp to ensure maximum contact between the record surface and the mat.
 

drkrack

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Hyderabad
So I've been trying out a new cork mat prototype that fellow forum member Rikhav had made. Since I have mats made from different materials, I compared the cork mat against them.

The silicone rubber mat that I have is 3 mm thick. It was made by BeginnerN on the forum. This mat has a lively treble, and lots of info comes through. However, it seems to attenuate the bass weight. Its sound is attacking with a nice decay but less holographic overall. More hifi-ish sounding. It gives a good sense of pace and good timing. The same volume knob setting was used for all tests, and the silicone rubber mat seems to sound softest of all the mats tested, and I wanted to turn up the volume a notch or two but refrained from doing so as I didn't want to add the uncertainty of adding another parameter to the tests. This could possibly mean that the silicone rubber is having the highest attenuation of vibration, and thus attenuating the playback volume too, more than other materials tested here. Anyway, this is just a random hypothesis and I have no scientific tests to prove it. For what it's worth, the silicone rubber mat is the densest and heaviest mat despite being only 3 mm thick. I used the sound of the silicone rubber mat as a baseline against which to assess the others.

Natural Cork Mat 5 mm thick:
The treble is laid back compared to the silicone rubber mat. Bass has more weight compared to silicone rubber mat.

The attack is less frenetic but overall sound is more musical to my ears, and a bit more holographic. I don't have a thinner cork mat at this time, but I feel a thinner (say 3 mm) could improve the sound further. 5 mm I feel is too thick and damping more than I would like.

Yoga Mat 3 mm thick:
This is home made from a yoga mat that was lying idle and never saw its intended action. The sound of the yoga mat is very, very close to the silicone rubber mat. I won't be able to tell them apart in a blind test. This is surprising because the yoga mat has much lower density.

78 rpm shellac record used as record mat:
I have been using a shellac as record mat for some months now. To my ears it sounds the best among the different mats I've used. But this could be setup/system dependent, and my personal musical/audio biases.

10 inch vinyl EP used as record mat:
The argument behind using thick acrylic or delrin platters in many modern turntables is the fact that these materials have properties close to, or similar to, vinyl records. I haven't tried delrin but have tried acrylic both as platter and mat. Acrylic mat is hard and is the exact antithesis of a soft rubber mat. The sound is extra lively but it accentuates pops and ticks in the records. It has one major problem, though - the surface being glass smooth, there is very low friction between the acrylic mat and the platter below it. A simple action line using antistatic record cleaning to brush away dust from a spinning record can slow down the speed of the record due to the slippage of acrylic over the platter. But for a further twist in this tale, I tried the 10 inch vinyl EPs and they sound more alive than the shellac. Very alive, in fact, almost as much or same as acrylic, but without the slippage problem as it is a record with grooves already cut in it, and so does have good purchase.

More to check out: A regular rubber mat (very old, from one of my turntables), a mat made from regular bubble wrap sheet, and one more new rubber mat made from regular vulcanized rubber are waiting to be tested.

Here's the bottomline: if you want to tame the highs a bit and don't mind a slight loss of resolution, use something softer like rubber or something even softer like yoga mat. I find the overall presentation quite balanced. It's no wonder that OEMs have been using rubber mats for the longest time due to its balanced presentation.

Try cork if you want to have a more laid-back presentation. At least in my chain, cork adds a sense of 3D-ness which I don't hear with other mats. Also, cork sounds very musical to my ears.

Shellac brings the music alive. If you like it even more livelier, try vinyl or acrylic mat.

Personally I find shellac most to my taste. Your musical goals might be different so please don't be afraid to try out different mats.

Caveats are in order: a more lively presentation accentuates ticks, pops and record hiss, so one must take that into consideration. A general rule is softer mats will dampen vibration better.
Since the mats are of different thicknesses, it was necessary to adjust the vertical tracking angle when using different mats.
Was planning to place order for a Cork mat, Wasn't aware that 78rpm can be used as a Mat, will try it!
Thanks..
 

Hari Iyer

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@ Jousha. That was a nice writeup. Have you tried Glass and Leather mats too in your setup? Curious to know.
 

jmascreen

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Jan 27, 2011
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A mat has to have a center hole of about 0.276 inch and a diameter of less than 12 inch. If the LD meets these conditions, give it a try.
I was under the impression that an adaptor can be used but its not fitting do dropped the idea until i find a small adaptor
 

souravin

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Apr 26, 2009
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Dhakuria, Kolkata, India
Just tried out cork mat made by Rikhav and very impressed on the improvement. The bass seems to be more tight and sound stage more sweeping. . I used to keep the original rubber mat in reverse side up to avoid the friction to the extent possible. The inner rings of rubber mat helped to held high the record from the platter.

Now cork mat will be tasted for prolonged hours.

Thanks,
Sourav
 

Fiftyfifty

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Hi,
Mats matter and I am surprised how.
After the acrylic, felt, slipmat, shellac, vinyl, yoga mat and Rikhav's 5mm cork mat, I tried 2 others - 5mm rubber and 3mm cork mats. I must say that the new 3mm cork mat completely outclassed everything that I had tried before. Wonderfully balanced sound. The rubber mat came through as a little harsh and forward. But for me, the 3mm cork had great dynamics, very listenable and rhythmic.
Now, I wonder what really makes a difference. I guess the even contact with the record and the cushioning provided by the mat are all that matter. The acoustic property of the mat may not have any other significance.
But mats do make a big difference and I would encourage people to experiment. And 3mm cork is a must try!
 

Beast_of_burden

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Jun 14, 2011
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Hi,
Mats matter and I am surprised how.
After the acrylic, felt, slipmat, shellac, vinyl, yoga mat and Rikhav's 5mm cork mat, I tried 2 others - 5mm rubber and 3mm cork mats. I must say that the new 3mm cork mat completely outclassed everything that I had tried before. Wonderfully balanced sound. The rubber mat came through as a little harsh and forward. But for me, the 3mm cork had great dynamics, very listenable and rhythmic.
Now, I wonder what really makes a difference. I guess the even contact with the record and the cushioning provided by the mat are all that matter. The acoustic property of the mat may not have any other significance.
But mats do make a big difference and I would encourage people to experiment. And 3mm cork is a must try!
It’s a mechanical system so mats will influence the sound for sure. I just got back into vinyl and would like to try them 3mm cork mat. Would you describe the sound as balanced? Where did you source the 3mm cor mat from?
 

Naturelover

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Hi,
Mats matter and I am surprised how.
After the acrylic, felt, slipmat, shellac, vinyl, yoga mat and Rikhav's 5mm cork mat, I tried 2 others - 5mm rubber and 3mm cork mats. I must say that the new 3mm cork mat completely outclassed everything that I had tried before. Wonderfully balanced sound. The rubber mat came through as a little harsh and forward. But for me, the 3mm cork had great dynamics, very listenable and rhythmic.
Now, I wonder what really makes a difference. I guess the even contact with the record and the cushioning provided by the mat are all that matter. The acoustic property of the mat may not have any other significance.
But mats do make a big difference and I would encourage people to experiment. And 3mm cork is a must try!

Are all these tested on the Marantz acrylic platter or other turntables?
I am thinking of my Scheu Cello which also has an acrylic platter. What would you suggest I try?
 

Fiftyfifty

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Are all these tested on the Marantz acrylic platter or other turntables?
I am thinking of my Scheu Cello which also has an acrylic platter. What would you suggest I try?
In my case the 3mm cork topped all other options. Even the yoga mat had a characteristic sound that I preferred over the acrylic. Having said that, I find that many in other forums prefer the acrylic. So I guess it all depends on individual taste and other components in the setup. Considering local availability from Rikhav at very reasonable prices, I believe it's useful to experiment.

Regards
 
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