5 Best Turntable Mat Materials – Does It Really Matter?
So you’ve just purchased a brand new record player, and now you’re trying to discover the best turntable mats available. Well, in this article, I’m going to provide you with the top turntable mat materials on the market, and we’ll also discuss the important topic of whether or not turntable mats are really necessary.
The Best Turntable Mat Materials
The top turntable mats are the following:
- Felt Turntable Mats
- Leather Turntable Mats
- Cork Turntable Mats
- Rubber Turntable Mats
- Acrylic Turntable Mats (or Acrylic Platters)
Felt Turntable Mats
Easily the most common turntable mat used on record players, felt turntable mats often feature a thin/medium thickness, 2 mm on average, and are usually included on entry level and mid-range turntables. You’ll find a felt mat included with your purchase of a solid beginner turntable like the Audio Technica AT-LP60X, for example.
Those who are not a huge fan of felt mats often cite concerns because of the static issues that felt mats seem to have in practical use. Some find that they attract dust, hair, and airborne particles in general, and require the user to goose every LP with an anti-static gun. They sometimes stick to your record after playing as well, which causes an annoyance to audiophiles and those of us who are terrified of damage to their records.
Overall, felt is a cheap material, and while it’s not a bad option, you could certainly do a bit better if you’re willing to pay a bit more. I will say, however, that felt mats provide the most interesting and fun designs–if you care about how your felt mat looks.
For example, a felt mat can come in unique colors and patterns, and they can even come with a spiral design on the front. Once a felt mat like that is placed over the spindle and onto the platter, it creates a hypnotic (and perhaps vertigo inducing) pattern in motion when the record player begins spinning.
All in all, felt mats tend to be the most versatile and can be used for both listening and DJing.
Rubber Turntable Mats
To truly appreciate the sound of your vinyl records, you’ll want to hear your music exactly as the musician did. A rubber mat accomplishes this by allowing the record to remain isolated from unwanted platter micro-vibration resulting in a deep, full, tone for high fidelity playback of your vinyl music.
Rubber mats are a favorite of Technics, one of the biggest DJ companies in the world. Rubber mats are highly sought after because they’re especially good at dampening vibrations, holding records in place, reducing dust and you can actually clean them, as well.
In a good rubber turntable mat, very specific detail is accounted for to produce the highest quality playback possible. With a recessed center, a rubber turntable mat allows your records to lay perfectly flat. They can protect your records, absorb vibrations induced into the record by external forces, and help dampen your platter’s ringing. If placing a record on a hard surface disturbs you, use a rubber mat to fit over your platter for maximum protection.
Cork Turntable Mats
Common felt mats give a smooth contact between the record and platter, but that smooth contact comes with one major disadvantage: static. A felt mat often collects a lot of dust, which can be then transferred to the record. Also the damping ability is very limited which can be a problem with metal platters. So what’s the solution: buying a cork turntable mat.
A cork mat is going to provide you with much more anti-static protection for your records. While a felt mat is cheap, flimsy, and clings to your record, a cork mat tends to be made of a thicker material that stays adhered to your platter–not your record.
Not only does this remove static and stress, but it also helps to provide a much better playback experience. When a cork platter stays adhered to the platter (due to its weight and material), it allows for smoother playback. A cork platter will also improve the sound quality you hear because its very essence better dampens unwanted resonance, as well.
On top of that, there are also cork and rubber turntable mats available too. In these situations, you’ll often receive a turntable mat with a dual design. This means that the cork will be on the top layer of the turntable mat, while the rubber will be embedded into the bottom layer of the turntable mat.
I’m a fan of this option too, because the rubber on the bottom of the mat is going to grip your turntable’s platter like a champ, while the cork on the top layer will help absorb vibrations that might be heard coming from your motor.
Thick rubber mats, by themselves, tend to overdampen a record and have an isolation effect, which leaves the static on the record. This is what causes you to hear all of those infamous “pops” and “crackles” that records are known for.
A cork and rubber turntable mat can be used on all platters, even those that are made solely out of glass or acrylic.
Leather Turntable Mat
Popular leather turntable mats are often made of a soft suede leather that is medium thickness, often between 2mm-3mm, and most have a supple, graded texture to it. A leather mat provides a noticeable improvement over a felt mat because if its ability to dampen resonance and severely cut back on unwanted static and noise (pops, ticks, and crackles you can hear when playing a record).
The other thing I like about leather mats is that they aren’t quite the dust magnets that felt mats are. Now don’t get me wrong–dust cannot be avoided. But dust absolutely loves felt mats, as it can get trapped into the felt, and as a result, get transferred from the mat to your record (and from your record to your stylus). This results in undesirable, noisy playback whenever you drop the needle on your favorite record.
A leather mat cuts down on this dramatically, which is why leather turntable mats tend to be fairly pricey. The best mats of this material will be high-quality ones such as the Pro-Ject Leather-It Platter Mat or the Thorens Leather Record Mat.
With less static and less dust than a standard felt slipmat, along with exceptional sound dampening properties, a leather turntable mat not only looks great but sounds great too. When cut from natural tooling leather and stamped with meaningful, audio-friendly patterns, these could be the best choice for you.
Leather is an excellent option to upgrade sound quality. Resonances are dampened more effectively than felt, and dust is kept away while avoiding static. Leather turntable mats provide a cost effective way of improving sound while reducing noise, static and dust. In short, go the cork or leather route if you’re seeking a good anti static turntable mat.
Acrylic Turntable Mats or Platters
Here’s an idea–if you get a platter that’s perhaps made out of acrylic, for example, then why not go mat-free?
If you were to buy a turntable like the Marantz TT-15S1 or Clearaudio Concept, for example (check out my review of the Marantz TT-15S1 here and my Clearaudio Concept review here!) then you’ll notice that it (at least the TT-15S1) comes with its very own acrylic platter. And because of that, you’re able to place your vinyl record directly onto the platter’s surface–there’s no mat needed!
This will save you from having to deal with static that sometimes happens when you use a felt mat. It also prevents you from having to deal with a felt mat clinging to the surface of your record when you’re ready to flip it over to the other side.
To get one, you can purchase the Pro-Ject Acryl-It Platter and be done with turntable mats forever. However, if you want to spend a lot less money, you can also consider purchasing an acrylic turntable mat, as well. The benefit of an acrylic mat is that it’s not going to be as flimsy as a felt mat, nor will it pick up nearly as much static or unwanted noise of a felt mat, either.
Why Buy a Turntable Mat?
Buying a turntable mat provide a significant improvement to record sound quality. As the single point of contact between a record and turntable platter; mats are an effective way to enhance your turntable playback experience. Platter mats absorb vibrational energy in a unique way, ultimately enabling a stylus to make improved contact with the grooves on a record.
Turntable mats are one of the most important and affordable turntable accessories that will really help to improve the quality of the sound you produce when DJing or listening to music. Finding the perfect turntable mat for your setup can be more work than you originally did picking out the perfect turntable.
Do you want a slipmat or a turntable mat? Rubber turntable mat? Leather turntable mat? Cork turntable mat? Felt turntable mat? As always, the answer is, “it depends.” Record slipmats are fine for home listening, but they’re traditionally designed for DJing. Turntable mats come in a variety of materials that will each affect the sound of your records differently,
A turntable mat is a disc-shaped object which is placed between your platter and the vinyl. About the same size as your leather, turntable mats keep your record steady as it spins and ensure a smooth, even sound throughout your listening experience. Different turntable mat materials provide different acoustic experiences.
This makes the turntable mat one of the most important accessories for your record player. If you hang around vinyl enthusiasts, you will quickly learn that there are strong opinions regarding different turntable mats and their acoustic properties.
Turntable mats first appeared on the platters of early gramophones. They started out as velvet pads but were quickly replaced by rubber since it doesn’t collect dust and it’s easy to clean. Over time, music lovers have become more aware of the importance of turntable mats.
They support records and keep them from slipping, protect records from scratches and dampen vibrations to improve sound quality. Audiophiles and DJs have kept records alive. DJs use them because it’s easy 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. You can even push records back and forth for a scratchy hip-hop sound. Felt mats are perfect for this purpose. Just replace your rubber mat with a felt one and you’re good to go. There are a lot of positives and negatives to different turntable mat materials, so let’s get into the specifics of each kind.
Many argue that changing the slipmat of your turntable from something other than its original is counterintuitive. The turntable plinth, platter and mat, as well as tonearm and cartridge and ancillary devices such as vacuums, are holistic systems. The ideal mat might be the one that came with the turntable, if it was properly designed. That obviously comes down to whether or not it was designed correctly in the first place, which can be subjective.
The market for replacement and “upgrade” mats is far smaller than it was ten or twenty years ago. There are certain mats designed for compatibility, but you run the risk of possibly doing harm to your turntable by changing the original “synergy” of proper matching.
Wrapping It Up
Acquiring one of the best turntable mats on the market just might be what you need to push your vinyl listening to the next level. There are a lot of great options available, and while there are pros and cons to each turntable mat material, you’re bound to find something that fits your needs!
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