Perhaps the most amazing thing about turntables is that you can literally hear every part of them. They are ultra-sensitive, high precision, analogue measuring instruments designed to trace a groove in a vinyl disc down to microscopic tolerances. No surprise then that if you drop the stylus into the groove when the disc isn’t spinning, and tap the platter or plinth, you’ll hear a noise through your speakers. The better the deck, the less this should happen – ideally it should be immune to all extraneous mechanical vibrations, from motor to plinth to platter.
Sadly, the perfect turntable is yet to be invented. Resonances enter the playback chain via the plinth from the ground upwards and into the system as a whole from the air. No single part of the turntable is immune – even the record itself plays a part, picking up vibrations from both air and ground as well as vibrating on the platter. This is bad news, as the disc should ideally be a completely inert entity that doesn’t feed any extraneous vibrations into the stylus. So, you can see why the turntable mat is such an important part of the record playing chain.
Made from tapered tungsten-mixed butyl rubber sheet, Oyaide’s BR-12 is an aftermarket platter mat designed to damp down vibrations and improve sound. It is slightly tacky and thick, but soft and very smoothly textured. Tapping it with your finger produces a dead ‘thunk’ which decays very quickly, almost as if the vibrations are disappearing down a black hole.
The profile of the mat has a slightly tapered cross section, angled 1° from the center circle to the edge, to counter the effects of warping. The manufacturer says that if the record is placed on a perfectly flat surface, the warped area will not be in contact with its support and will have a tendency to vibrate at frequencies with a wavelength related to the distances over the warp. This mat alleviates the problem, although a record weight of over 300g is recommended for maximum effectiveness. Oyaide makes such a thing – the STB-MS vinyl stabilizer – although it isn’t supplied in this package.
Another point is the surfacing of this mat, which has 18 ‘tuning holes’ arranged in a special, irregular spiral pattern, and these are also said to minimize vibration. Finally, the rubber itself has a very high friction coefficient that enhances adhesion and prevents slipping. In all my years of fiddling with turntables, I’ve yet to come across a rubber mat that feels so hard to move one’s fingers across – you can glide your digits across most standard types without a care in the world; doing it on this one feels like someone has put on the brakes!
I try the BR-12 on a range of decks and find that on turntables with an already good, ‘quiet’ platter, it makes less of an improvement than on relatively noisy ones, but in all cases it is real step forward.
Generally, the mat makes LP records sound tonally deeper and smoother, with a less pronounced upper mid-band and a silkier treble. There is a real sense of the ‘edge’ being removed from the sound, while the soundstage becomes less two dimensional and more immersive. Bass is tighter yet more fluid, and across the mid-band rhythms seem to be more natural yet more engaging. Dynamics are more pronounced, not least because the quieter parts of the music seem to fall back to an inky-black silence when they have previously been a blur.
On a Michell GyroDec with its fairly inert acrylic platter, there is a real improvement, but it is a subtle one, whereas on a Technics SL-1200 with its resonant Mazak platter the difference is profound, dramatically smoothing the sound and deepening it, too. The same effect is heard on a classic Sony PS-8750 direct drive, whose metal platter does a passable impression of Big Ben when you tap it. It seems to improve a Rega P3-24 too, giving a more relaxed and sumptuous sound.
Weight for it
In all cases, adding a record weight makes things sound better still, locking in the improvements and taking them a little further. This mat is quite thick, so you will have to adjust your cartridge tracking angle.
This is an essential audition if you’re in the market for a relatively inexpensive and easy vinyl upgrade. Oyaide’s BR-12 will win many friends, and the bundled stroboscopic speed disc and overhang gauge only add to its value. Beautifully made and very effective, it’s money well spent.
· Name: turntable-sheet BR-12
· Material: butyl rubber (tungsten particles mixed)
· Dimensions: outside diameter 294 mm, maximum thickness of 5 mm, 1.0 ° taper angle
· Weight: 385 g
· Stroboscope with: (printing 33 / 45 / 78 rpm, 50 / 60 Hz product package, compatible with both PP coated paper backing)
· Over hang Gage Accessories: (from the measuring range 5 mm 30 mm, stroboscope Center near the printing)
· Packing number: BR-12 one, the stroboscope & over hang gauge 1