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It may look pretty simple, but a turntable mat provides a bunch of benefits like record protection, steadying your vinyl during play, friction reduction, and overall improvement of sound quality with a higher-def listening experience. Simply placing one of these disc-shaped mats between your platter and the vinyl can make a big difference.
Choosing the best mat for you can depend on the type of turntable you have. Belt-drive, direct-drive, brass or aluminum materials, and even the weight of the platter itself all contribute to the sound you’ll get. With so many mat materials available, it’s possible to choose a specific style to get some control over the desired sound you’re aiming for.
“The platter mat’s sonic effect will vary across turntables and music styles,” says Ely Liberov, Founder of Hudson Hi-Fi, a New York-based company that develops turntable accessories, record displays, and sound isolation solutions. “Like musical preference, the sonic and aesthetic preference of the mat is subjective to the listener; there is no right or wrong answer. Mats are interesting, as they each offer different sonic characteristics.”
What Are the Different Types of Turntable Mats?
How do the different types of turntable mats affect sound? Liberov breaks it down like this:
Cork: According to Liberov, cork mats tend to have a “warm” sound, somewhat like tubes. Cork turntable mats are also among the most popular turntable mat options available online.
Acrylic: Acrylic mats can help brighten highs and tighten lows. “Modern releases, rock, and metal pair well with the acrylic for me,” Liberov says.
Leather: Choose a leather turntable mat if you want to broaden bass.
Silicone: The best silicone turntable mats have a transparent sound and provide decoupling from vibrations. “I enjoy pairing it with jazz and classical [records],” Liberov says.
Other Materials: Some audiophiles use brass, plastic, wool or glass materials, or even another record itself as a mat. There are also combination mats available with two materials, usually with a carbon-type layer on the bottom.
Why Do You Need a Turntable Mat?
The rubber turntable mats that often come with your record player can get the job done, but many of these basic mats also create the most static, while newer and more efficient mats can cut the crackling noises way down. Rubber mats still have their advantages though, especially for DJs, as they can help with toning down unwanted vibrations. Same goes for felt mats that give you the ability to hold the record in place while the platter still spins. The more devoted, DIY record enthusiasts can even cut out a mat themselves from their material of choice.
Is a Turntable Mat Necessary?
Note that if you already have an acrylic platter, you may not even need a mat – acrylic platters do a great job of controlling resonance, and adding a mat may mess with the angle of the stylus, and ultimately affect the playback and lifespan of your discs. Other factors can include humidity, room temperature, dust, and proper covering and storage of your collection when not in use.
“For a first-time upgrade, the cork is a great place to start,” advises Liberov. “It offers the most consistent sonic enhancement across all musical styles and turntables. [And] for those looking to add some ‘color’, the acrylic mats are absolutely awesome.”
1. Hudson Hi-Fi Premium Acrylic Turntable Mat
At just ten ounces, this 3mm, acrylic mat is not just classy looking, it also significantly reduces unwanted noise and static.
Resonance is noticeably dampened too, especially on metal platters. The leather helps to get a better grip on the record, isolating vibration, and producing a clearer and cleaner effect that can even have bass boosting results. This mat will fit any 12-inch table.
This turntable mat comes from Hudson, a New York-based company that makes multiple types of mats, along with a wide array of products for Hi-Fi enthusiasts, for cleaning, stabilizing, measuring and better sound isolation.
2. Acrylic White Turntable Mat by Pro Spin
At 3mm thick, this acrylic mat can bring out a crisp and punchy sound in even the oldest records. It’s a huge improvement over a factory-installed rubber mat, removing rumble and absorbing annoying popping and static.
This works on both 33 1/3 and 45 RPMs, and the difference is noticeable from the first listen. Sound is less “splashy,” and at only 6.4 ounces, it won’t weigh down your platter either.
3. Hudson Hi-Fi CoRkErY Recessed Turntable Platter Mat
Another great option from Hudson Hi-Fi here, the cork overlaps with some of the other mats in terms of what it provides, but also brings its own benefits to the turntable.
Cork is a naturally non-conductive material that’s airy and light, soft to the touch yet still pretty tough. It also doesn’t attract dust as much as other mats can, and is still easy to clean. It’ll greatly reduce static buildup for a cleaner sound, and is infused with rubber for extra durability.
Since cork is non-resonant, this works especially well on steel and lightweight platters, acting to reduce friction and absorb vibrations without over-dampening it, or under-delivering on sound like felt can.
4. Facmogu Anti-Static Wool Mat
At just 1.44 ounces, this excessively light wool mat is soft while greatly reducing bumps and vibration.
It’s foldable but still lays flat on the platter, though it can sometimes stick when switching out discs. But the wool can also increase the adhesion of records during play, creating a unique sound compared with other harder mats.
If left out in the open air, it can build up with dust and debris, so best to keep it (and your turntable) covered when not in use.