Picture this. You have built an envious collection of custom vinyl records and have invested in an excellent turntable. As any audiophile, you enjoy the texture of music made by your records. But now you are wondering if there is any upgrade you can do to further improve the sound quality. One of the low-hanging fruits to pick is to change the turntable mat.
While taking care of your records – keeping them clean and always storing them in the record sleeves – is one way to ensure that you always get the best out of them. But, changing the platter mat can be a simple step towards getting better sound out of your custom vinyl records. So, let us look at different types of turntable mats and how they affect the sound quality.
What are Turntable Mats?
A turntable mat is a thin, round mat that sits between the platter and the record being played. It is usually 1.5 to 3 mm in thickness. It serves to minimize the vibration between the parts of the turntable by giving a stable surface for the record. It also limits record skips so that the sound you hear from it is as natural as possible.
The sound quality depends on how frictionless and steady the contact is between the record and the platter. It also depends on how well the turntable mat is able to absorb any vibrational energy. The mat should enable the stylus to make better contact with the grooves on the record. All this is determined by the quality and material of the platter mat. Read on to know more and if you should head to the record store to get yourself a new platter mat.
What are the Different Types of Turntable Mats Available at Record Stores?
The standard mat that comes with the turntable is usually a felt mat. It is soft and hence keeps your records protect vinyl records from scratches while playing. The low friction between the surfaces ensures that the disc runs smoothly. But, felt attracts dust, static, and lint which could then stick to the surface of your record and damage it. If you are using a felt mat make sure to wipe the discs before putting them back in the vinyl record covers. Also, because the surface of a felt mat is not totally flat, it doesn’t have good sound damping ability. It is not able to absorb vibrations well. So, if you want to get the best out of your vinyl record pressings, it would be a good idea to change the felt mat.
The most affordable upgrade from a felt mat is a cork mat. You get better sound with cork mats as they provide better contact with the disc. They reduce resonance and hence enhance the sound quality of the vinyl pressing. These mats come in beautiful finishes giving a more elegant look than felt mats. However, cork mats are also not great at controlling the vibration of the stylus. Also, cork mats tend to start flaking over a period of time and this is not good for your records. To be on the safe side, make sure to clean the discs before placing them back in their vinyl record covers.
Rubber mats are a fantastic option for your turntable. These mats are totally flat and so they provide a more stable surface for the record. They are great for absorbing vibrational interference and enable the record to give a warmer, deeper sound. They are more durable than felt and cork mats and also do a good job of protecting the record. Rubber mats can give off a burnt smell after some use due to the repeated friction produced. However, this does not affect the quality of the sound played on the turntable.
Leather mats are a cost-effective and aesthetic alternative to felt and cork mats. They are available at record stores in beautiful styles and finishes and can greatly enhance the look of your record player. Leather mats also provide a flat surface like rubber ones but are less effective in absorbing stylus vibrations. They have the ability to provide mild sound dampening and users of leather mats notice a subtle enhancement in the bass frequencies.
Another very interesting option is to do away with the turntable mat and instead opt for an acrylic platter. The disc is taken out of the record sleeves and placed directly on the platter in this case. This is an excellent alternative as the material of the platter is almost the same as that of the record. This gives better contact between the record and the platter which leads to better sound performance. There is good control over resonance and also over the vibrations of the stylus on the grooves. The only drawback is that this surface is hard and doesn’t provide a cushioning effect for the record.
So, if you have a collection of custom vinyl records in Australia and are looking at ways to improve sound quality, the easiest way would be to change the turntable mat. You can choose from felt, cork, rubber, or leather mats. Or you can do away with the mat and change to an acrylic platter. Make sure to choose a mat that provides a stable surface for the record and is able to absorb the vibrations produced between the various parts of the record player.
If you are looking at also upgrading your collection of custom vinyl records in Australia Impress Vinyl is the place for you. At our record store, you are guaranteed to find the best sound at the best price. Our team is known for its fast lead times with both short and large runs. We deliver all this without compromising on quality and design. These amazing-sounding records come in custom vinyl record covers that we help you design.