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What Are the Different Types of Turntable Mats?

By Mal Baxter
Updated May 17, 2024
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Turntable mats are round pads that sit on a turntable platter; they can dampen or otherwise influence sound, as well as elevate the record from the platter to permit freer vibration. Different materials influence the vibration responses of sounds with their own characteristics. In thicknesses from one to several millimeters, these mats differ in traits such as grip, antistatic properties, resonance, and even appearance.

Felt mats have low mass and limited effectiveness, but are very inexpensive and easy to make. Turntable mats made from acrylic dampen resonance thoroughly; this may reduce noise, but if taken too far, can result in a duller sound. Costlier composite materials, such as carbon graphite, are designed for absorbing energy with characteristically low mechanical impedances.

Mats can be made from easily obtained materials, such as rubber or leather, or two materials bonded together. For example, a copper mat covered with a layer of felt may provide the favorable qualities of more expensive mat types. Finding a mat that strikes the perfect balance between vibration and tone is very often a subjective experience. Numerous other materials are available as well, such as rubber types, and proprietary and multilayered varieties.

Slipmats are a variety of turntable mats used by disc jockeys (DJs). These permit a record to spin at a consistent rate by keeping a good grip on the disk. When the DJ holds the record to temporarily suspend the playback, the platter continues to turn. Scratching, as it's commonly called, is a rhythmic manipulation of this effect popular with hip-hop music, and allows a DJ to also perform with the music. Such types of mats grip the platter and permit smooth finger manipulations.

Savvy audiophiles and record enthusiasts choose their mats to balance with components such as the stylus, tonearm, and other mechanics that may affect the final sound. These mats are sometimes used with cork rings or pucks made from other materials to stabilize the disc and help it play with resonance and optimal frequency response. Varying masses possessed by different turntable mats influence the responses of the styli, or needles. As a stylus oscillates in a groove, some of its vibrations are fed back into the vinyl; this can degrade the clarity of a signal, with audible relics that may be deadened or amplified by a mat.

Finding the right balance for the optimal sound is often a compromise between technology, cost, and personal taste. Players introduce various levels of motor noise and performance. A moving apparatus introduces imperfections in audio reproductions. How well turntable mats perform is a result of their conductivities, mechanical impedances, and absorptions; these are directly influenced by materials and thicknesses, as well as rigidities and shapes. Experimentation and experience figure into the informed selection of the appropriate type for an audio system.

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