Are you a vinyl enthusiast looking to enhance your turntable setup?
Have you considered the impact of a turntable mat on your listening experience?
While it may seem like a small detail, the right turntable mat can make a significant difference in the sound quality and overall performance of your turntable.
From protecting your records to reducing friction and improving sound clarity, a turntable mat is an essential accessory for any vinyl lover.
But with so many materials and options available, how do you choose the best one for your setup?
In this article, we’ll explore the benefits and drawbacks of different turntable mat materials and help you find the perfect match for your turntable.
So, let’s dive in and discover how turntable mats can make a difference in your vinyl listening experience.
Do Turntable Mats Make A Difference
The short answer is yes, turntable mats do make a difference.
The turntable mat is the single point of contact between your record and turntable platter. It absorbs vibrational energy in a unique way, ultimately enabling a stylus to make improved contact with the grooves on a record.
Different turntable mat materials provide different acoustic experiences, making the turntable mat one of the most important accessories for your record player.
Rubber mats are said to isolate the record very well from vibration interference, but opinion varies on the pros and cons of this material. It does offer superb grip and durability, with plenty of listeners reporting a deeper, warmer sound. However, some audiophiles feel that rubber over-isolates the record, leading to an increase in audible static.
Cork mats are another popular option that can give a big sound difference. This mostly inexpensive option is great at creating a smooth contact between the record and the platter, making it extremely easy to separate the record after use. Resonances between the record player and vinyl should be dampened more effectively than felt and material mats, whilst also absorbing mechanical noise from the record player with greater ease. Many users also swear by an improved sound and separation of detail within the music. On the downside, some cork mats can start ‘flaking’ over time, meaning tiny bits of cork could get lodged in your records. They’re also often not as durable as something like a felt mat.
Felt mats are perfect for DJs looking to get distinct sounds by spinning or holding a disc. You can’t do this with a standard rubber mat because it’s designed to grip the platter and record. With a slip mat, you can hold records still while your platter keeps spinning underneath. Felt or material mats are renowned for sticking to the record when trying to remove them, but you shouldn’t have that problem with cork.
In the end, adding a mat to your turntable or changing the one you have will give you a sonic improvement at best or up the cool factor at worst. Nothing wrong with that, and it’s an inexpensive tweak.
The Importance Of A Turntable Mat
The importance of a turntable mat cannot be overstated. As mentioned earlier, it is the single point of contact between your record and turntable platter. It plays a crucial role in absorbing vibrational energy and minimizing other vibrations caused between the turntable’s platter, surface, and other parts of the turntable.
By doing so, the turntable mat enables a stylus to make improved contact with the grooves on a record. This results in a higher fidelity listening experience, reduced skip rates, and music that becomes far more integrated with the system, creating a more natural sound.
Different turntable mat materials provide different acoustic experiences, making it important to choose the right one for your setup. Rubber mats are great for isolating records from vibration interference but can lead to an increase in static. Cork mats offer a smooth contact between the record and platter, effectively dampening resonances and absorbing mechanical noise from the record player. Felt mats are perfect for DJs looking to get distinct sounds by spinning or holding a disc.
Different Types Of Turntable Mats
When it comes to turntable mats, there are many different materials to choose from. Each material offers unique benefits and can affect the sound quality of your records in different ways. Here are some of the most popular types of turntable mats:
1. Rubber Turntable Mats: Rubber mats are designed to grip the record and prevent it from slipping. They also help to reduce vibrations and protect your vinyl records from scratches. However, some audiophiles feel that rubber over-isolates the record, leading to an increase in audible static.
2. Cork Turntable Mats: Cork mats provide a smooth contact between the record and the platter, making it extremely easy to separate the record after use. Resonances between the record player and vinyl should be dampened more effectively than felt and material mats, whilst also absorbing mechanical noise from the record player with greater ease. Many users also swear by an improved sound and separation of detail within the music. However, some cork mats can start ‘flaking’ over time, meaning tiny bits of cork could get lodged in your records.
3. Felt Turntable Mats: Felt mats are perfect for DJs looking to get distinct sounds by spinning or holding a disc. With a slip mat, you can hold records still while your platter keeps spinning underneath. Felt or material mats are renowned for sticking to the record when trying to remove them, but you shouldn’t have that problem with cork.
4. Leather Turntable Mats: Leather mats are renowned for being used by lovers of bass tones and creating an unrivalled warm sound. As well as being static-free and heavier in weight, the leather is usually smooth and soft which creates an ideal playing base and easily removable after use. Leather platter mats are durable and long-lasting and have that ‘quality’ look about them, but are always going to be one of the more expensive options.
5. Acrylic Turntable Mats: Acrylic is regarded by many as one of the best options for turntable platters as the material is virtually the same as a vinyl record. This makes acrylic far better at controlling resonance generated by the stylus scrubbing in the record groove than traditional felt, cork, or leather mats. In turn, this results in better performance and sound quality. The chance of mistracking caused by movement between the mat and platter is also eradicated.
Ultimately, choosing a turntable mat comes down to personal preference and what you’re looking to achieve with your sound quality. Each type of mat offers its own unique benefits and can affect the sound quality of your records in different ways.
Cork Mats: Pros And Cons
Cork mats offer a unique set of benefits and drawbacks that should be considered before making a purchase.
– Reduces resonance: Cork mats are great at dampening resonances between the record player and vinyl, resulting in a tighter, more focused sound.
– Less prone to static: Unlike felt mats, cork mats are less likely to attract dust and create static electricity, keeping your records cleaner and sounding better.
– Attractive: Cork is an attractive material that can add a unique aesthetic to your turntable setup.
– Big sound difference: Arguably, cork provides the biggest sound improvement of all platter mats.
– Not as durable as other materials: Cork mats can start to fall apart over time, meaning tiny bits of cork could get lodged in your records. They’re also often not as durable as something like a felt mat.
– Trial and error: Cork mats may work better on certain types of platter over others, meaning there may be some trial and error involved in finding the right fit for your turntable.
Despite these drawbacks, many audiophiles swear by the improved sound quality and unique aesthetic offered by cork mats. It’s worth considering if you’re looking for an affordable upgrade to your turntable setup.
Felt Mats: Pros And Cons
Felt mats are one of the most common types of platter mat material. They offer a soft surface that is gentle on your records and can come in a variety of colorful designs to make your turntable more personal. Felt mats are also often used by DJs as “slip mats” because they have less friction, making it easier to manipulate the record.
However, felt mats have their downsides. They are notorious for attracting dust, lint, and static, which can affect the sound quality of your records. The mat’s low dampening ability also means that it will not control stylus vibration, which can lead to a loss of detail in the music. Additionally, felt mats may not stay as tight to the turntable if you’re only using it for listening.
If you’re still using a stock felt mat, it might be worth considering an upgrade in the not-too-distant future. While felt mats are cheap and lightweight, they may not offer the best sound quality for serious audiophiles. However, if you’re a DJ or just looking for a colorful mat to add some personality to your setup, felt mats can be a great option.
Leather Mats: Pros And Cons
Leather mats are a popular choice among audiophiles because of their ability to dampen resonance and significantly reduce unwanted static and noise. They are made of soft suede leather, usually between 2mm-3mm thick, with a graded texture that provides a noticeable improvement over felt mats. A leather mat also attracts less dust than felt mats, which can get trapped in the felt and transferred to your record and stylus, resulting in noisy playback. Leather mats are also visually appealing and can add a touch of class to any turntable setup.
One unique property of leather mats is their ability to enhance bass response, providing a clearer and broader sound. They are also durable and long-lasting, making them a great investment for audiophiles seeking a cost-effective way to improve sound quality.
However, leather mats do have some cons. They do not control stylus vibration or provide as much resonance control as cork or rubber mats. Additionally, they tend to be more expensive than other materials, making them less accessible for those on a budget.
In conclusion, leather mats can provide a significant improvement in sound quality while reducing noise, static, and dust. However, they may not be the best choice for those seeking complete resonance control or on a tight budget. Ultimately, the choice of turntable mat material depends on personal preference and the desired acoustic experience.