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Is this voodoo or science?


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Well here goes another one maties, from the land down unda, although not made in Aus but made in the land of the rising sun, Japan!

A very good mate of mine, who also happens to have CLX's with a fine analog rig consisting of Allnic phonostage, separate power supplies and the fine Linn LP12, fitted with the Candenza Black and SME arm, highly recommended this particular TT mat from a company called 'Spec'.

Made in Japan, with research and engineering based in Japan, I was a bit weary not because of the make at all but rather the price! It costs a fair bit but I guess like everything else in terms of the high-end that's justifiable by the user.

Just picked it up yesterday arvo, dropped it in, replaced the high grade carbon fibre mat that costs only ,$80... plonked this one in, and oh my! Is this voodoo or science? I don't really know but something's going on here big time!

I'll try to summarize much as possible, since I've just finished listening to some very fine LPs and now it's nearly 6am!

1. The surface noise, soundstage depth, tonality, remains the same. So LPs that are in pristine condition will sound extremely quiet and the noisey ones will always have noise...

2. The most significant differences are the dynamics, and pick up energy. Such that, the grooves seemed to be read at far greater clarity and definition.

3. The brilliance comes through more vividly, as if a new cartridge is being used. So the clarity improves by quite a margin, not as high as my personal benchmark in performance, which is around 40 - 45%. This particular mat improves the pick up and overall performance by about 20 - 25% or perhaps even 30% on very high quality recordings.

Therefore, is the price tag justifiable? Probably not but what it does on a particular TT may obviously differ from every TT brand or analog rig out there... I would suggest a trial before taking the plunge, although I sort of had an idea of the outcome, based on the feedback from my good mate, I certainly wasn't expecting this kind of improvement!

The Spec Mat is unlike no other, it's not soft, stiff or brittle, rather it's a form of high grade composite material including an aluminum coating, which basically makes it almost like a platter! It's hard, and very rigid, and basically "plonks" down on the main platter. It's a solid piece of machinery or may I add, a finely crafted and tuned instrument that adds the interface between the platter and the LP.

I simply cannot proclaim that this is the best mat on earth but all I can say is that this is definitely the best sounding mat interface I've ever come across and used to date! On my particular system that is.

I've attached a few pics, and will try to do more research on this particular company. As for now, I'm heading off to doze so that I could have another very very late night session once again today, before heading back to the grinder on Monday.

Cheers to Spec and their high end tech, whatever they're using, voodoo or science or snake oil, oh boy have they got this one correct! Very very highly recommended!

Cheers, RJ

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Edited by Big Dog RJ
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14 minutes ago, Big Dog RJ said:

Well here goes another one maties, from the land down unda, although not made in Aus but made in the land of the rising sun, Japan!

A very good mate of mine, who also happens to have CLX's with a fine analog rig consisting of Allnic phonostage, separate power supplies and the fine Linn LP12, fitted with the Candenza Black and SME arm, highly recommended this particular TT mat from a company called 'Spec'.

Made in Japan, with research and engineering based in Japan, I was a bit weary not because of the make at all but rather the price! At nearly 500 smackers, what on earth can a Mat do...?

Just picked it up yesterday arvo, dropped it in, replaced the high grade carbon fibre mat that costs only ,$80... plonked this one in, and oh my! Is this voodoo or science? I don't really know but something's going on here big time!

I'll try to summarize much as possible, since I've just finished listening to some very fine LPs and now it's nearly 6am!

1. The surface noise, soundstage depth, tonality, remains the same. So LPs that are in pristine condition will sound extremely quiet and the noisey ones will always have noise...

2. The most significant differences are the dynamics, and pick up energy. Such that, the grooves seemed to be read at far greater clarity and definition.

3. The brilliance comes through more vividly, as if a new cartridge is being used. So the clarity improves by quite a margin, not as high as my personal benchmark in performance, which is around 40 - 45%. This particular mat improves the pick up and overall performance by about 20 - 25% or perhaps even 30% on very high quality recordings.

Therefore, is the price tag justifiable? Probably not but what it does on a particular TT may obviously differ from every TT brand or analog rig out there... I would suggest a trial before taking the plunge, although I sort of had an idea of the outcome, based on the feedback from my good mate, I certainly wasn't expecting this kind of improvement!

The Spec Mat is unlike no other, it's not soft, stiff or brittle, rather it's a form of high grade composite material including an aluminum coating, which basically makes it almost like a platter! It's hard, and very rigid, and basically "plonks" down on the main platter. It's a solid piece of machinery or may I add, a finely crafted and tuned instrument that adds the interface between the platter and the LP.

I simply cannot proclaim that this is the best mat on earth but all I can say is that this is definitely the best sounding mat interface I've ever come across and used to date! On my particular system that is.

I've attached a few pics, and will try to do more research on this particular company. As for now, I'm heading off to doze so that I could have another very very late night session once again today, before heading back to the grinder on Monday.

Cheers to Spec and their high end tech, whatever they're using, voodoo or science or snake oil, oh boy have they got this one correct! Very very highly recommended!

Cheers, RJ

 

20200503_014826.jpg

 

Hi Raj,

 

Yes, another SNA member ('hayabusa') has one and swears by it.  I would love to get one but face what to me (but obviously not to your friend) is a currently unsolvable problem.  :(

 

This is ... the diameter of the mat is too large - so that, on an LP12 platter, it is only supported by the raised lip at the outside of the platter.  This, to me is not good - the mat should rest on the whole platter - not just the outer lip.  This can be achieved by getting someone with a lathe to shave down the outside circumference of the mat; if Duc (RIP!) was still alive he could've done it easily - but I don't now know anyone who has a lathe, who could do this.  :(

 

Enjoy!  :thumb:

 

Andy

 

 

 

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Yes very valid point Andy!

 

That's in fact the first thing I noticed but lucky enough it wasn't a major issue with the Rega. So all is well...

 

Also, it kind of helps to easily lift off the LP withou ever having the previous mats attached to it!

 

Cheers mate, RJ 

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5 hours ago, andyr said:

This is ... the diameter of the mat is too large - so that, on an LP12 platter, it is only supported by the raised lip at the outside of the platter.  This, to me is not good - the mat should rest on the whole platter - not just the outer lip.  This can be achieved by getting someone with a lathe to shave down the outside circumference of the mat; if Duc (RIP!) was still alive he could've done it easily - but I don't now know anyone who has a lathe, who could do this.  :(

The diameter would be an issue on my turntable too though for a different reason being that my linear tracking tonearm sits fairly close to the platter so clearance may be a problem.

 

I do actually know someone in Ballarat who happens to have a lathe that would be big enough to do a job like that.

I don't know how easy it would be to cut down to size though as that would depend on what the material it happens to be made of.

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Yes, that certainly could be an option.

I was wondering why they make this disc/mat a bit larger than the standard... I guess they have their reasons. It would be a fantastic learning curve to chat with the designer of this awesome product but I guess I would need to learn Japanese first!

 

From the moment I placed it onto the platter, I noticed straight away- no soft landing, no fuzzy cushy feeling, no ripples or that sort, just a hard plonk! So I guess this thing is supposed to sit on the platter flat hard! I can see how it would alter resonances, that makes perfect sense but I also think it allows that ultimate interface between the platter and the LP, which is like having no mat at all!

 

I'm still trying to get my head round this thing and its technology... hardly any material about it but one thing for sure is I'm going to follow this company closely, just to see what else they offer because they're onto something when it comes to extracting the most from LPs. I feel this company is not recognized much compared to the other mainstream gear out there... or perhaps I've just been aloof.

 

I'm truly overwhelmed by this product and it doesn't even look fancy. When the wifey saw this disc, she commented "Oh goodie just what I was looking for, a large tray to keep cake on!"...? ? then went onto ask how much was it dal... did you pick it up at the Salvos...? Why bother ?

 

Cheers to all, and stay safe

Big woofty woof!

RJ

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The (edited) Grooveworks description:

 

Quote

A Platter Mat made of the same material as the record master disc
Yes, it's expensive...but this, by a huge margin, is the best platter mat we have ever used at GrooveWorks.

When making a vinyl record, the master disc that cuts the original sound uses a material called a lacquer board, that's composed of a combination of thin aluminum plate and lacquer. SPEC has processed this lacquer board and released it as a Platter Mat.
Because it has the same structure as the vinyl master, it has a high affinity with the vinyl. Firstly, this will reduce the vibration of the platter and enhance quietness.
Secondly, the AP-UD1 Platter Mat reproduces a more realistic tone by moderating hardness and resistance, improving the conduction characteristics to the stylus as compared with rubber mats etc.
AP-UD1 is also supplied with the SPEC super class turntable system GMP-8000 as standard equipment.

The surface of the mat is processed twice by sandblast. In the first process, sand particles are blown and scraped off. The second time, the mat is given a more detailed surface treatment.

 

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Many thanks for the info, that was certainly enlightening! Seems like these chaps go to great length and effort in making this product. I guess that's the price we pay.

 

I'm wondering if they would've thought about a slightly smaller or standard version to fit flush onto average size platters withou too much extra edge...

 

That would definitely make Andy happy .?!

Perhaps Andy mate: you could propose to them to make the exact size. Again not sure why it comes this way, I guess it's for a certain reason.

Hope all is well, cheers & best

RJ

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11 minutes ago, Big Dog RJ said:

 

I'm still trying to get my head round this thing and its technology... hardly any material about it but one thing for sure is I'm going to follow this company closely, just to see what else they offer because they're onto something when it comes to extracting the most from LPs. I feel this company is not recognized much compared to the other mainstream gear out there... or perhaps I've just been aloof.

They also make a Class D Amplifier which is actually quite good.

Their turntable looks very interesting too.


https://spec-corp.co.jp/e/productlist/index.html

 

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7 hours ago, Martykt said:

They also make a Class D Amplifier which is actually quite good.

Their turntable looks very interesting too.


https://spec-corp.co.jp/e/productlist/index.html

 

Their entire range was looking interesting, and then I came across this... "thing":

https://spec-corp.co.jp/e/audio/RSP-AZ9EX/index.html

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1 minute ago, Martykt said:

Probably something to do with the impedance like a Zobel Circuit would be my guess.

In principle sure, but a zobel should be designed accurately around the impedance curve of each speaker, not some random add-on. It's seriously lacking in information and just looks like a block of timber :(

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8 hours ago, Big Dog RJ said:

 

I'm wondering if they would've thought about a slightly smaller or standard version to fit flush onto average size platters without too much extra edge...

 

Perhaps Andy mate: you could propose to them to make the exact size. Again not sure why it comes this way, I guess it's for a certain reason.

Hope all is well, cheers & best

RJ

 

 

I have exchanged emails with them.  That's the only size they make ... they said it would be expensive (even more expensive!  :) ) if they made a second size.

 

9 hours ago, Martykt said:

 

I do actually know someone in Ballarat who happens to have a lathe that would be big enough to do a job like that.

 

 

Wow, really!  Can you ask him about it?

 

9 hours ago, Martykt said:

 

I don't know how easy it would be to cut down to size though as that would depend on what the material it happens to be made of.

 

 

It's an aluminium base with a lacquer coating either side  The SPEC guy I emailed said the machining would result in the top & bottom edges of the circumference being very sharp - so as well as machining about 4mm off the radius, there would need to be a final, angled rebate cut top & bottom.

 

Andy

 

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1 hour ago, Martykt said:

Probably something to do with the impedance like a Zobel Circuit would be my guess.

Marty, could you explain this more in simple terms that a non-tech could follow? 

To my mind such an add-on for speakers would be superfluous, because I would assume that if there was circuitry available to improve the sound it would be built into the power amp's design. 

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I found a review (it's not really a review, more like a puff piece) on that Spec RSP-AZ9EX wooden thing. - Google translate of a Polish article, so it reads a bit clunky.

 

"Purpose and operation of the "Real-Sound Processor"

Our "Real-Sound Processor" has two main functions. One of them is the improvement of sound resulting from the reduction of impedance fluctuations as a function of frequency in the medium and high frequency range. The second is the ability to absorb, to some extent, the electromotive force generated in the loudspeaker coil and to eliminate the inductive component of the system consisting of the loudspeaker coil and the crossover components.

Thanks to this, the "Real-Sound Processor" amplifier controls the speakers better, more precisely. In other words, it makes the music signal more phase coherent. The resolution and control of the speakers are improved, which more naturally reproduce natural resonances. And above all, we get a deep, tonally rich sound that we have never experienced before, and the amplifier has never before controlled the speakers with such freedom !!!

The latest version of the "Real-Sound Processor", RSP-AZ9EX

In our offer intended for markets outside Japan, there have been three "sound processors" so far: RSP-101, 501 and 901EX. We are lucky that we have received a lot of positive feedback from buyers from all over the world during these seven years. This is a real confirmation of the assumptions I mentioned earlier. Based on this experience, I came to the conclusion that further improvement of sound quality is only possible by replacing passive components, i.e. capacitors and resistors.

In fact, I thought the RSP-901EX would be our last and best RSP - until last summer. It was then that we managed to make even better sounding capacitors, Green Cactus, prepared by Arizona Capacitors, Inc., but also our own mica capacitors, designed for audio applications. For a long time, however, I was looking for resistors whose sound would satisfy me. Finally I succeeded, I found resistors with an extremely complex sound.

We have the word 'Ne-Iro' in Japanese, translated as 'color' into English. 'Ne' means 'sound', and 'Iro' is 'color' / 'color'. By analogy, so Ne-Iro means "colorful sound" / "sound-color" and would mean the nature of color contrast in the lenses or film strip, known from photography and film. A richer contrast adds to the excitement felt when viewing photos.


In my opinion, sharp and clear focusing of objects is an important element of creating impressive photos, as well as clean, clear imaging for real sound ('Real-Sound'). When I think about the sound and tonality of the resistors I have chosen, I think of the extremely rich colors and great focusing of my very old Contax Sonnar T 85mm / f 2.8 lens from the West German company Zeiss.

So, as a result of using RSP, you can enjoy your favorite music even more, as well as experience deeper, more organic colors and higher sound resolution in the entire band, just with our latest RSP-AZ9EX "processor".

I will add that the new wooden box is made of Manchurian walnut ('Manchurian walnut'). We can follow the natural color and the rings - this light-colored, rigid housing gives strong and deep medium and low tones. This enclosure is manufactured by Shirakawa Co., Ltd, a famous furniture manufacturer from Hida-Takayama, a famous historical city in Japan.


The main listening with the new "processor" Mr. Shirozaku Yazaki I made in my reference system, i.e. with the Harbeth M40.1 speakers and the Soulution 710 power amplifier. The amplifier represents an extremely stable high-power current source, so theoretically it should be resistant to the electromotive force he wrote about Director of SPEC. The loudspeakers have in turn not very high nominal and complicated impedance

 (8 Ω) and minimum impedance (6.2 Ω), but their crossover is extremely simple. And finally I listened to the Xavian Calliope multi-speaker loudspeakers, both with the Soulution and the Accuphase E-650.

To introduce order - I will write about different models of "processors" - I will use the following names:

| RSP-AZ1 (AZ1) - is the top model for the Japanese market so far.
| RSP-901EX (901EX) - is the top model so far designed for markets outside Japan | TEST |.
| RSP-AZ9EX (AZ9EX) - new model, prototype; Mr. Yamazaki in his text above says about him "RSP-901 Plus".

| RSP-AZ9EX

As it turned out, each of the RSP "processors" I listen to - and I have them all - sounds different, regardless of the combination of amplifier and loudspeakers. Interestingly, the latest version was clearly better than the previous ones, not only with the top speakers, but also when I listened to the Spendors A2, which are small, relatively inexpensive speakers. The differences I am talking about seem to be not very big, that is, they are not dominant. But this is appearances, because even, as I say, with Spendor speakers costing little more than the "processors" themselves, the sound improvement was binding, once heard it did not let me forget about it, and the lack of RSP hurt like a small pebble in the shoe.

The most important observation and what most of all interested our friend from Japan was that RSP-AZ9EX is much better than both "processors", 901EX and RSP-AZ1, and 901EX is better than its "Japanese" version of RSP-AZ1 . Comparison of RSP-AZ1 with 901EX also showed that they have many connections in common, they share DNA.

901EX was more resolving, and the music with it more palpable. Its high tones are excellent - dense, vibrant and juicy. In turn, AZ1 has something that 901EX doesn't have: the sound seems more "wooden" with it. I mean richness and depth, in the whole band, but above all on the low midrange. This slightly emphasizes the "presence" of wooden acoustic instruments. As if mixing the material, the violin, cello and others were more strongly protruding on the muffler. But this did not disturb the proportion or distort the message, it was just different, from my point of view more interesting. It brought me closer to the sound of the Harbeth M40.1 at their best. On the other hand, with the 901EX they sounded more transparent, with much more "air" between the instruments.

And AZ9EX comes to it all. This is a version that is even more resolving than the 901EX, so in this respect it is far more advanced than AZ1, which would confirm the assumptions of Mr. Yamazaki. But the resolution in question was not the result of a stronger treble, because 901EX was a bit higher than AZ1 in this way. It was a real resolution resulting from better shown connections, from a wealth of harmonics, from a better attack.

And that's why the prototype AZ9EX sounded more organic, denser. And even with warm loudspeakers, and all three with which I listened to it are unambiguously warm, it was a value, an amazing addition that brought out the beauty of this kind of sound. The sound with the prototype was darker than with the 901EX, in which it approached AZ1. It was also more consistent, smooth. After thinking about it, I can say that I was a bit lacking in the illuminated mountain 901EX, but apparently you can't have everything. In return, we get a more natural midrange.

Listening to the next versions of "processors" I did not know how they differ inside. When I learned that the RSP-901EX and AZ9EX models differ only in two elements - the resistor and the type of wood used for the casing, I went through shivers. Because if such small changes in the construction give such important changes to the sound, what about the basic things, such as layout, configuration, performance? It would only mean that in high-end hi-res systems - I think about the sound, not the signal - the number of variables is staggeringly large. So it would be another time when my thoughts run with increasing respect towards the best, faithful to myself and sound designers.

Listen to any RSP, it doesn't have to be the latest version. The "processors" harmonize perfectly with any loudspeakers, but it is with the saturated, dense their most valuable influence. A small box, and such a difference! And to skeptics and ridiculers I have to say one thing: "he who has ears, let him hear!"

 

Summary

Dear Wojtek-san!

It is an honor for me to receive from you such a fantastic comment about our future prod

uct. Thank you with all my heart !!!

As you said, for me also, 901EX Plus is the best. To tell the truth, I used exactly the same combination of elements that I used in the crossover to divide the midrange and tweeter from last summer, my beloved ONKEN drivers.

The differences in the construction of 901EX and 901EX Plus relate only to two elements, the appearance plus the wood from which the housing and resistor were made. And being the last one to say that I was looking for something even closer to the ideal for the last four or five years. This is, in my understanding, the final goal.

Finally, I will add that Ishimi-san has just decided that the RSP-901EX plus will be called RSP-AZ9EX."

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17 hours ago, andyr said:

Hi Raj,

 

Yes, another SNA member ('hayabusa') has one and swears by it.  I would love to get one but face what to me (but obviously not to your friend) is a currently unsolvable problem.  :(

 

This is ... the diameter of the mat is too large - so that, on an LP12 platter, it is only supported by the raised lip at the outside of the platter.  This, to me is not good - the mat should rest on the whole platter - not just the outer lip.  This can be achieved by getting someone with a lathe to shave down the outside circumference of the mat; if Duc (RIP!) was still alive he could've done it easily - but I don't now know anyone who has a lathe, who could do this.  :(

 

Enjoy!  :thumb:

 

Andy

 

 

 


 

Im putting on my engineers hat on now 

If one wants to modify this platter mat to fit ones TT platter especially if the TT platter has a high ring / ridge as my Garrard 401 and other TT’s have 

 

I believe the size of this mat corresponds to a tuned frequency - so shaving a portion off will put it out of tune ( if that makes sense) 


So assuming that the platter mat has enough thickness 
Instead of shaving off a section off on the lathe 

One should take measurements and create a single groove to accomodate the high ring of the TT platter 
Then it will sit on the whole platter and the ring of the platter will slot inside the groove much like a gear 

 

If the platter mat is not thick enough - then the only other way is to remove the high ring off the TT platter itself 

 


 

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4 minutes ago, Full Range said:

 

Im putting on my engineers hat on now 

If one wants to modify this platter mat to fit ones TT platter especially if the TT platter has a high ring / ridge as my Garrard 401 and other TT’s have 

 

I believe the size of this mat corresponds to a tuned frequency - so shaving a portion off will put it out of tune ( if that makes sense) 

 

If your assumption - that the diameter is the result of resonance calculations - then, yes, changing this diameter will degrade the performance of the mat.  :(

 

But the SPEC guys didn't say they can't make different sizes for tecnical reasons ... they simply said it would be very expensive to change the tooling.

 

4 minutes ago, Full Range said:


So assuming that the platter mat has enough thickness 
Instead of shaving off a section off on the lathe 

One should take measurements and create a single groove to accomodate the high ring of the TT platter 
Then it will sit on the whole platter and the ring of the platter will slot inside the groove much like a gear

 

 

That would be great - but the mat is not thick enough for this.

 

4 minutes ago, Full Range said:

 

If the platter mat is not thick enough - then the only other way is to remove the high ring off the TT platter itself 

 

 

This would be a very difficult task!  :(  And one needs to ask ... why did God design the LP12 platter with a little raised lip, in the first place?  :)

 

Andy

 

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15 hours ago, Martykt said:

No voodoo here @Big Dog RJ.

A turntable mat like this works by changing the resonant frequency between the platter and the record.

 

Very interesting, I wonder if it would be similar to using a copper mat.

The"resonant frequency between the platter and disc".

There is no resonant frequency between the disc and platter. 

But a good platter mat will couple the vinyl to the rest to the mechanical network and thereby damp any vibration of the disc.

Those TTs with no platter  cannot be good. 

50 years ago I experimented with different mats and yes if they effectively couple the disc to the system the SQ is improved but to what degree is up to the individual.

My favourite mat is a Mission sorbothane I bought in the 70s. But an Orpheus mat I have does a good job.

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9 hours ago, audiofeline said:

Marty, could you explain this more in simple terms that a non-tech could follow? 

To my mind such an add-on for speakers would be superfluous, because I would assume that if there was circuitry available to improve the sound it would be built into the power amp's design. 

A Zobel Circuit essentially helps to flatten the impedance curve of a speaker. 
From there it gets a bit more complicated depending on how it is used and how a particular amplifier reacts to changes in impedance.

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10 hours ago, andyr said:

 

Wow, really!  Can you ask him about it?

 

I'll ask him and see what's possible.

 

8 hours ago, andyr said:

 

  And one needs to ask ... why did God design the LP12 platter with a little raised lip, in the first place?  :)

This may be a slightly different solution... :angel:

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6 hours ago, Colin Rutter said:

The"resonant frequency between the platter and disc".

There is no resonant frequency between the disc and platter. 

But a good platter mat will couple the vinyl to the rest to the mechanical network and thereby damp any vibration of the disc.

Those TTs with no platter  cannot be good. 

50 years ago I experimented with different mats and yes if they effectively couple the disc to the system the SQ is improved but to what degree is up to the individual.

My favourite mat is a Mission sorbothane I bought in the 70s. But an Orpheus mat I have does a good job.

I think you've misunderstood me.

I'm not talking about a stray resonant frequency I'm talking about the resonant frequency of the material.

The vinyl will have a particular resonant frequency and the platter will have a particular resonant frequency depending on what material it is made of and introducing a different material in between the platter and record will effect how the vinyl will be coupled with the platter.

Some mats will also absorb vibrations though with a metal mat it's more about how those vibrations are transferred.

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3 hours ago, Martykt said:

A Zobel Circuit essentially helps to flatten the impedance curve of a speaker. 
From there it gets a bit more complicated depending on how it is used and how a particular amplifier reacts to changes in impedance.

Thanks for the reply.  Can you take it one more step for me?  How does this affect the speaker.

Does the speaker's impedance change with diff freq's?  And how does flattening this affect the speaker?

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I find this part of the Grooveworks description interesting:


"When making a vinyl record, the master disc that cuts the original sound uses a material called a lacquer board, that's composed of a combination of thin aluminum plate and lacquer. SPEC has processed this lacquer board and released it as a Platter Mat.
Because it has the same structure as the vinyl master, it has a high affinity with the vinyl. ..."

 

It's quite a stretch to make that assumption.  The lacquer board would have properties that make it suitable for the manufacturing step it's designed for.  That's totally unrelated to the use of final (record) product, that doesn't emerge until many steps after the lacquer board is used in the manufacturing sequence. 

 

I'm not saying the lacquer board doesn't have properties to make a good mat (I haven't tested it, so I don't know).  But these false associations really annoy me. 

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