Gold Spot Ringmat quick review :
Last night, my wife was out with her pals so I thought this was the ideal moment to unpack the newly delivered Ringmat and try it out....
Initially I did the comparison as a straight swap then tightened the VTF by a few milligrams. In fact the alteration was so slight I wasn't even sure I had achieved it but it did enough to tighten the top end by a whisker.
Played a couple of sides first to warm up the cart and refamiliarise myself with the old Ringmat before trialing. Instant impression was that vocals and general instrumentation were endowed with more presence, solidity, focus and immediacy, not to mention greater detail and consequent realism. As a result soundstaging was also a beneficiary. One of those things you also notice when going from one mat to another is perceived speed/pace/tempo changes to familiar music, but it wasn't expected when switching from one Ringmat to another.
Afterwards, upon reading the supplied leaflets, the description of the projected improvements echoed the virtues listed above, so one can argue that this product genuinely "does what it says on the tin".
A specific instance springs to mind : "Delius" (by Kate Bush) featured her brother Paddy on backing vocals serving as the "voice of Delius". My previous recollections of this vocal - especially when using MC carts - was that it was just a "voice within a reverb unit". Here, "Delius" was corporealised and presented as a living, breathing, free-standing and utterly solid figure performing within the room, at the LH boundary, in disconcerting detail which withheld no secrets of the performance! Like going from standard VHS imaging to Blu-Ray only better.
It has to be a recommendation.
Happy listening.......................................Vi ctor.
Recent updates : Latex Rubber Underlay(“Base Mat”) for the Ringmat.
Since the introduction of the “Gold Spot” Ringmat my system has undergone changes.
In place of the Ittok/mmIII combination there is now a Graham Phantom II/Lyra Delos.
At the time of installation, the Ringmat latex Base Mat was added “on spec” so I didn’t get the opportunity to quantify it’s effect. I admit that I’d had progressively good experiences with the Ringmat range so purchasing this accessory was largely done on trust. In recent weeks, having optimised everything else on the turntable, I decided to take a step backward and characterise the sound benefits of the Base Mat (if any) and make certain that it was actually beneficial (!)
One immediate advantage is in mechanical setup : the Phantom is quite tall and can have too much headroom for some turntables/carts. The addition of a mat adds up to 4mm of height to the LP position and bridges the VTA gap.
Much to my surprise it was a “chalk & cheese” difference. Unipivots are not renowned for their bass qualities but the Phantom is no slouch under any conditions. With the latex underlay – which is only 1mm thick and featuring a variety of anti-resonance cutouts – the bass took on some serious life. Bass slam and tonality were significantly improved but the benefits extended all the way up through the spectrum to the upper registers. I began to suspect that this property may have been what the Herbie’s users have been enthusing about for years!
Not that the sound of the unassisted Ringmat is uninteresting or uninvolving but there is a sense that some uncertainty has been removed and everything is given that little bit of extra focus?
Voices and instruments “project” better into the room when changing dynamics while maintaining their point of origin. One might see this as improved “leading edge” or “attack” but for me those descriptions sometimes imply stridency of which there is none here. Simply put, these waves “launch” into the listening space in a manner which is more natural than reproduced, more real music than artifice.
The mere presentation of voices is noticeably more realistic, fully formed and tangible than the unassisted mat.
The background is quieter (lowered noise floor?) greater dynamic range is evident, and there is an improvement in front to back layering. The entire musical stage assumes greater intelligibility.
The Phantom II has been described as being “like a Phantom I on steroids” but I can report that the Ringmat with Latex Underlay is like Darth Vader on Steroids. With this setup, no one would dare accuse the Phantom of being bass-shy, indeed, it’s solidity seeming to outdo my old gimballed arm. The mat’s effect is claimed to be independent of platter material and construction and I’d agree that’s the case. Normally I would have said the rubber is aimed at damping metal platters. Mine is a polymer composite and is as resonance-free as any platter currently out there but also seems outwardly similar in properties to the LP and the latex Base Mat itself. Despite this the Base Mat still delivers improved sonics. FWIW my gut feeling is it wouldn’t matter if you were using metal, a constrained layer platter or any other platter designed for matless use, those mats would still give some benefit.
The beauty of the Ringmat hybrid is that it seems to offer all the delicacy and refinement of the cork/paper substrate along with the potency of rubber. It’s a clever balancing act which the manufacturer seems to have optimised perfectly. For those without VTA adjustment it naturally allows this capability. None of these mats are free but should you decide to spring for one their relative cost is a modest outlay in the context of any half decent system?
In writing this review, I’d hate to be accused of product placement as I have no connection with Ringmat Developments at all other than as a user. Nevertheless I’d recommend that anyone curious about turntable mats - including the bare platter folk - should give this combination a try or at the very least consider the Herbie’s . The worst that can happen is it proves an interesting alternative.
Personally, I feel that already this combination is advancing the turntable to a level I would expect to hear from rigs costing twice as much.
The only caveat I would add is to pay equal attention to VTA/VTF etc. in order to fully realise the benefits of the mat and of course the final disclaimer is always trialing first, wherever possible.
When it comes to tweaking, Analog has almost limitless possibilities and even the simplest things make an audible difference. This may be one itch you just have to scratch if you haven’t done so already…
P.S. If you already own a 330XLR, given the cheapness of the Base Mat, it’s too much of a no-brainer to ignore and well worth the effort of compensating the VTA on your tonearm by 1mm.
P.P.S Tip : The Base Mat is 12” in diameter with larger anti-resonance features but align the corresponding cutouts as closely as you can, disregarding any scale differences, then enjoy.
Last edited by Victor; 02-27-2011 at 06:53 AM.
When I made my first own TT I compared different types of mats. Rubber mats of different thickness, cork and some other, but the best then was 3mm thick acrylic mat on MDF platter. With Lenco L75 I preferred very thick rubber and currently I have Michell platter (on my own TT) so no mat needed.
ACHROMAT Test :
Background : My current turntable (Raven One) partnered with a Graham Phantom II, cannot be used without a mat for VTA accessibility reasons, hence the present incumbent, a Ringmat “Gold Spot” plus 1mm latex base layer…
(The platter needs at least 2mm elevation to bring it in range of this tonearm)
Having heard that Acryl/Vinyl mats, when applied to plastic composition platters, “tend to make little or no difference” (Quoth one reviewer), and that the Achromat recently won a Review shootout against “all comers”, I decided that this was an ideal opportunity to test whether it’s time to go “matless” with the Phantom by trialling the 5mm Achromat as an interface.
For those unfamiliar with the Achromat it is a vinyl mat which has a cellular internal structure (claimed to dissipate resonance) making it a more lightweight proposition than a solid mat.
In view of the cheap packaging used by Funk Firm I was initially concerned the mat might be bent or warped on delivery. I needn’t have worried. It was as geometrically flat as one could wish. The fit on the platter was so good that the Achromat looked as if it has been bonded to the surface!
In terms of manufacturing quality the product looks very good indeed.
Please note the manufacturer also supplies 3 pads of double-sided tape for fixing it. (However, given the obvious rigidity of the Achromat such a move would introduce an air gap between mat & platter, not to mention the compliance of the tape, meaning that it would lose its property of being a substantially “damped” platter mat.
(It should be mentioned that some users liberally plaster the mat with Vaseline or adhesive to bond it evenly to platter but this is highly inadvisable when it is, as yet, un-evaluated!)
So, to the appraisal. With its micropoise on-board spirit level the Phantom is capable of setting up identical VTA for each mat.
First the positives. What immediately struck me about the Achromat was the smoothness and cleanness of the sound. Don’t think I’ve ever heard the Raven sound this clean and smooth before. As with the Ringmat, the Achromat’s noise floor was impressively low and there was very little to choose between them but I felt the Achromat was a winner in this dept.
I didn’t recall any significant clicks or pops on any of the 6 LPs played. I could have played the same 6 on both mats and not remarked on any noise. The Achromat also appeared tuneful with a high degree of musicality.
In the L-R axis the Achromat was precise and imaged well (in 2D…)
Texturally, the mat wasn’t bad at all and there was a decent sense of bow on string, performers breathing etc.
Getting to the negatives, what was immediately obvious was that ambient detail – a sense of the venue - was posted missing and image depth was poor. The general effect was very “Front Row” operating just behind the speaker plane at realistic listening levels. With an earlier tonearm, I don’t recall the bare platter ever being as sterile of ambience as this. As a result, things on the stage were simply rendered and presented in an uncomplicated way. I’d go so far as to say that it made Martin Logan dipoles sound almost like front-firing speakers. Not a good effect depending on your allegiances.
Disappointment was beginning to supersede those initial good impressions and at this point I almost found myself reaching involuntarily for the Ringmat.
To compound the imaging issues, the Achromat’s bass presentation appeared poor on this type of platter i.e. at first it seemed as if there wasn’t any bass at all in near-field listening, until I realised that the metal surround on the fire was vibrating (!) so there was clearly bass present!
Retiring to the back wall, 7 yards away, revealed an amount of tuneful low bass. And something of a mid-bass hump. It would be cruel to suggest that the Achromat is guilty of being “one-note” because it isn’t.
The reference Ringmat’s bass on the other hand is generous and deep - but not bloated - by comparison and well targeted.
The Achromat’s lack of ambience and consequent flattened depth soundstaging is an interesting contrast in behaviours between the 2 but not unexpected given that one mat is mostly damped while the other is mostly undamped. I would analogise them to being similar to SS amps and Tube amps in this respect.
A less favourable comparison is to liken the Achromat as being more akin to CD listening.(Except perhaps I might have found myself preferring the CD!)
We are all different and there is no doubt in my mind that some listeners will prefer the Achromat presentation over any alternative.
One of my more idiosyncratic tests is the success with Shostakovich String Quartets (a poor rendition will make them a tedious exercise so the item must perform well enough that the listener feels he could play 15 of them in sequence and still be crying out for more) For the Achromat this test was positive but not emphatic. My earlier review of the Ringmat was much more glowing in this respect.
Realism and believability represented another stumbling block. Switching back to the Ringmat midway through a side illustrated the above points well.
Soprano plus piano accompaniment sounded controlled but bland coming from the Achromat. With the Ringmat it sounded like a breakthrough system improvement in detailing and imaging. Immediately the soundscape was presented in cinemascope and room exploded into life! The lower registers and sheer presence of the piano returned. Suddenly there was a pianist at the keyboard and you could hear the emotion and forcefulness in his playing as obviously as if you were watching him live.
The (mature) vocalist instead of merely offering a robotic performance was showing emotional content and effort/strain in her vocal inflections as she grappled with the stresses of each song. There was a greater feeling of realism and listening to a live event than a recorded one.
Not that the Achromat didn’t occasionally sound live or dynamic (dynamics were very good) with instruments and voices but the Ringmat presented a wealth of ambient information and microdetail which assailed the senses…
Although I expected both mats to sound different to a degree I was unprepared for the extreme nature of 2 completely opposing viewpoints.
Bottom line: if a hifi exhibition were running 2 identical systems featuring these 2 mats in adjacent rooms, I wouldn’t have given the Achromat more than a few moments of air time.
When one hears of Supertests in which Product X trashes the opposition then it’s natural to want to investigate. I’ve learned my lesson. The Ringmat is staying put for the foreseeable future and after this experience I consider myself cured of mat-related upgraditis )
In conclusion, it appears that mats, like most other things, are a personal choice, and what might be peerless to a Reviewer, especially given the differences manifested here, may turn out to be abhorrent to you. If I had to, I could probably live with the Achromat but would most likely drop vinyl altogether and adopt CD as the primary source instead - but that’s just my opinion. It’s not that the Achromat doesn’t have its strengths or is not an admirable product, just that it contrives to lose the very things which make analogue special and distinctly preferable to 1s and 0s.
Please bear in mind that these are my results with my hardware and in no way damns other users with their setups.
Given my feelings on this subject it comes as no surprise that many LP12 users prefer to stick with their felt mats.
I never used to understand this tendency but I do now!
I approached the comparison with some enthusiasm because I believed that perhaps the Achromat could challenge the already excellent results I was getting from the “Reference” Ringmat. Unfortunately for the Achromat, the original setup was reinstated with the speed of a scalded cat.
Hope this info is of use to those with heavy plastic/composite platters….
Last edited by Victor; 02-20-2012 at 10:50 AM.
Achromat was a good fit...pity about the performance.
Victor, just ruminating - do you have enough height adjustment capability on the Graham that you could stack the two mats? It would be an interesting thing to try.