Metal Mats

Folsom

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Oct 26, 2015
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So I originally wrote this all up thinking Matej would like to post it on Mono & Stereo, as he posted my last mini review (I kinda like writing a bit on the "small" stuff because it seems like I spend forever on different things without enough research-able content to come to quicker conclusions/any available information). I think @PeterA might be interested in this... And I suspect someone might say "but you're changing the intention of the turntable by the manufacturer" eh, so? If you own a sports car are you afraid to change the tires to something else that might give better performance? By the same logic you'd use whatever recommended cartridge they recommend also, and we don't do that...



Metal Mats

Maybe you are like me and you’ve got a few turntables you like, but you want to explore other sound possibilities without committing to entirely new tables/stands/etc that you’d have to get built up just the way you want (after ordering, waiting, room arranging, etc). A clear option to changes in sound has to be mats. What about metal surfaces? Don’t have a conclusion on them? Neither did I. Hearing them on systems that were never my own didn’t allow me to identify their contribution, and for some reason I had tried basically anything but solid mats.

Then one day I started, and for awhile I’ve been trying everything I could get my hands on – including non-mat items or skipping the mat altogether. My conclusion is: there are huge changes in sound based on all different types of surfaces and there’s no reason to be specifically tied to ones with damping qualities. Sonically the standard softer materials like felt and decoupling mats sound flat – they lack body & pizzazz, character in some form or another. But some harder materials like wood can be too much, a little fatiguing if your stereo isn’t laid back to begin with – however the type of wood may be able to balance out the issue. So the next obvious step to me was to get an ideal mat that would couple as well as possible. I found someone who could make one to the specs I wanted. Weeks later this arrived.

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The thickness is 5mm at the outer edge for compatibility with VTA adjustments on existing tonearm setups – but probably up to 7mm would be fine for most arms without any changes. There is a 1 degree slope from the outside to the inside, and a label relief. The material is Stainless Steel (recommended by some trusted ears - (everyone around here knows)).

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The diameter is 285mm to allow the lip of the LP to rest off of the mat, as it otherwise would lift the grooves off the mat near the edge. (LP’s vary a bit in this area)

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You can see here how the hole of the LP and the hole in the mat are about 2mm from each other without a weight on top.

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However once you put a weight on top that gap closes and the LP is coupled very well to the mat; and able to pull out a lot of warping.

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You may wonder if there is a determent to the sound in some way; what about the change in VTA? does a hard surface resonate really bad? what about azimuth? does it sound like the vinyl is stressed? is it fatiguing? No. The change in VTA doesn’t seem to be enough to make a difference as the arm moves farther in. I suspect once VTA is within a certain range on the record for the shape of the stylus, the critical adjustments are then more for arm/plinth interaction. It doesn’t appear to resonate in the audio spectrum; but for example, light wood does make a noticeable emphasis in certain ways that could be explained by resonances. The azimuth is changed just slightly, and can be set again with tools. The mat doesn’t sound like it causes any problems; and certainly is not fatiguing. In fact it just sounds better than any other mix of materials and or weights I’ve played with. It sounds “right”. Music in general has much better timbre, and the attack/decay sounds normal so you actually don’t think about it at all.

Nothing is spot-lighted but rather more intelligible overall so you can read all the stuff happening better. Tone and harmonics seem melded together in a way you actually get from live music – something newer to me despite having heard a lot of gear. While I can try to tell you all about the ways you hear the difference, the most convincing way to think about it for me is it simply makes you want to listen to more music. The sound is enticing, making you want to listen to the music instead of hearing the stereo.

At this point my recommendation to anyone wanting to achieve the best sound possible would be to start here, and everything else you settle on from here after will be a solid choice you won’t have to renege on in future.



*Disclosure: because two metal surfaces rarely mate perfectly I do have a piece of paper cut from an old record sleeve between the platter and the mat so that it’ll couple them together better as the paper compresses more where the pressure is the highest but without providing appreciable “CDL” effects.





If you’d like to contact the maker for mats/custom inquires:

qualityjoe100@gmail.com


And some pieces on eBay


 

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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Fascinating...I have not played an LP in decades and dont have any. However, I am curious...do you think the added weight of the metal causes trouble to the turntable mechanism in terms of spinning at the correct speed? Does it tax the spinning engine a bit more? Sorry if a completely remedial question.
 

PeterA

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Dec 7, 2011
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Great project. Congratulations, and thank you for the write up.

How much does it weigh, and would you consider having more made and trying to sell them? What type of stainless steel is it?

The idea of sloping from outer edge to spindle Sperry interesting for coupling with a clamp or central weight. Just like an excellent sounding turntable that I have heard.
 

Folsom

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Oct 26, 2015
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Fascinating...I have not played an LP in decades and dont have any. However, I am curious...do you think the added weight of the metal causes trouble to the turntable mechanism in terms of spinning at the correct speed? Does it tax the spinning engine a bit more? Sorry if a completely remedial question.

Once a turntable is up to speed it needs almost no power at all to keep it going. Think about some of the 100lb platters out there that spin from big rubber bands or string. They need help to get going but once they do, they’re good to go. I betthe only thing being taxed is on one of my tables it has a break for when you stop it. I’ve been pulling the weight off the top before hitting stop to relieve it a little. (Worst case scenario I replace the felt on it)

I thought about these things. The bearings on turntables are overly robust and don’t seem to care at all. Like my Lenco, people put double platters on them all the time and it hasn’t been reported as a problem I have seen (those platters weigh a lot more than a metal mat).
 

Folsom

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Oct 26, 2015
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Great project. Congratulations, and thank you for the write up.

How much does it weigh, and would you consider having more made and trying to sell them? What type of stainless steel is it?

The idea of sloping from outer edge to spindle Sperry interesting for coupling with a clamp or central weight. Just like an excellent sounding turntable that I have heard.

Funny, I never weighed it... I should. It’s not super heavy. It weighs more than the weight on top, which is 760g I think (1.6lbs). I’ll check on whether it’s 304 or 316 (I wasn’t too concerned, 316 is probably slightly better objectively for a platter but maybe not for a mat).

The fellow who made it might be open to a group buy, if enough people were interested. There’s certainly no one to stop anyone from directly requesting them. Were I to sell them though I’d probably ask for exclusivity on the exact makeup from him, and have to order bulk. We’ll see. I have several manufacturing challenges in my log book right now!
 

wbass

Member
Jul 12, 2020
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I see they make an aluminum mat (which would be more my speed price-wise). Wonder if it rings more than the steel.
 

LL21

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Dec 26, 2010
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Once a turntable is up to speed it needs almost no power at all to keep it going. Think about some of the 100lb platters out there that spin from big rubber bands or string. They need help to get going but once they do, they’re good to go. I betthe only thing being taxed is on one of my tables it has a break for when you stop it. I’ve been pulling the weight off the top before hitting stop to relieve it a little. (Worst case scenario I replace the felt on it)

I thought about these things. The bearings on turntables are overly robust and don’t seem to care at all. Like my Lenco, people put double platters on them all the time and it hasn’t been reported as a problem I have seen (those platters weigh a lot more than a metal mat).

Thanks...and interesting read.
 

PeterA

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I see they make an aluminum mat (which would be more my speed price-wise). Wonder if it rings more than the steel.

If the stainless steel mat is in good contact with the platter what makes you think it rings?
 

Folsom

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The weight is about 4lbs 8oz. (It’s hard to see under it when centered so it could be off a hair, but I’m sure 4lbs is right in the ball park)

All metal rings, whether it is 4lbs or 4000lbs. However denser metal rings at higher frequencies.

For reference with it on an aluminum platter that will ring by itself, the piece of paper between, and SS metal on top there’s no ringing in the audio spectrum that can be heard when I tap on it. If there is any, I believe it’s well beyond what an LP tightly coupled could produce.
 

Folsom

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I confirmed that when weight properly it's about 5lbs, so a little more than I could weigh it at. It's also 316 Stainless.
 

Folsom

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I had not seen that one, but it doesn't have the 1 degree slope for coupling. Still I'm a bit curious, may have to grab one.
 
Jan 18, 2012
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my Basis Ovation has that slope in the platter
haven´t noticed any significant disadvantages with respect to VTA or azimuth....
 

PeterA

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I had not seen that one, but it doesn't have the 1 degree slope for coupling. Still I'm a bit curious, may have to grab one.

I think that 1 degree slope is a very nice solution and better than the "washer on spindle plus clamp" solution of my SME. Better coupling, at least in theory. Tell us about the smoothness of the mat surface? Is it scrolled or very smooth/polished? Does it matter? Have you tried it with a layer of felt or leather as on the AS2000?
 

ack

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RaceDoc

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Sep 11, 2017
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Do you have an information about the thickness of the Soundeck mat?

I agree that the little slope has an advantage but the price of the nice
copper plate is a killer for cheaper turntables :-(
 

Folsom

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Oct 26, 2015
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Do you have an information about the thickness of the Soundeck mat?

I agree that the little slope has an advantage but the price of the nice
copper plate is a killer for cheaper turntables :-(

Which copper mat?
 

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