Systemic Development > Analog Devices

My new thing. The best thing to start any analog rig...

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Folsom:
Maybe someone here has already seen this, but I am attempting to share wide because I'm very impressed.

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.





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).





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)





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.





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.





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. Nuances are improved, the intelligibility is overall vastly better - especially for timberal separation. 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

dpatters:
Estimated price?

Folsom:
I'd contact the maker on that. He has aluminum mats under $200 with copper ones up to $800. To have one like mine there is more machining so it adds a fair bit to the price.

P.I.:
Jeremy, that is very cool.  I really like the outer lip relief.  It makes too much sense.  :thumb:

BTW - the link didn't get me to the ebay listing...

Folsom:
Link should be fixed.

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