I can’t afford “audiophile quality” equipment, but I DO consider myself a bit of one, having been buying records since I was six (I’m fifty in June!!). After this length of time buying and listening to records, you tend to know when something sounds right…or so I thought. I’ve got a late ’70’s Sony PS-22 direct drive turntable with an Ortofon 2M red cartridge, going into a Marantz PM 4000 amp and Eltax Liberty 3 speakers. For late night listening I use Sennheiser HD 555’s.
I had a problem with audible vibrations, but sorted that out by replacing my “floating” glass shelf rack with an oak rack with a nice solid piece of oak that the turntable sits on. So that was that…or was it?
I’d always had a problem using elliptical styli on my turntable, which I thought was just a foible of the turntable. I play a lot of mono 45’s from the ’60’s and when I used a cartridge with an elliptical stylus I got a lot of distortion on the left channel. So had to make do with conical carts.
Enter the Vibro Stop mat!! The rubber mat that came with the turntable actually unbalanced my tonearm causing this distortion. I can now play anything with an elliptical stylus with no distortion at all.
“…there was no doubt that I was hearing percussion way back in the mix that I was hearing for the first time. The strings on the LP were lush and clear, this was something so different than what I was used to hearing.”
Now to how this thing sounds. I also used to have a channel level discrepency of 10-15% with the left channel the lower. The channels are now much more finely balanced than ever before. Guinea pig No.1 was a Stereo copy of The Beach Boys “Pet Sounds” Instantly heard the difference on the vocals, the woodiness gone out of them, the drums tight and crisp when they used to sound muddled. Brian Wilson used tons of musicians and instruments on this album and intended the listener to hear them all. And there was no doubt that I was hearing percussion way back in the mix that I was hearing for the first time. The strings on the LP were lush and clear, this was something so different than what I was used to hearing. I’m a tad cynical when I hear about new things coming out. You read all the blurb, and then read that these things actually DON’T work. Trust me, this does!!
“I’ve had this LP for well over 25 years, but this time the sheer performance of this incredible platter mat just made me sit up and take notice of this particular piano piece. The iconic Nights In White Satin turned into a force of nature. The attack when the chorus kicked in was nothing short of a revelation.”
The Moody Blues classic LP Days Of Future Passed was next. I always thought that this was a bit on the muddy side once the orchestra finished their section and the Moodies came in. But again, the clarity was stark. Ray Thomas’s flute never sounded so true to life, the vocal harmonies sounded really sweet. On side two, there’s a track which kicks in with a strident piano lick. I’ve had this LP for well over 25 years, but this time the sheer performance of this incredible platter mat just made me sit up and take notice of this particular piano piece. The iconic Nights In White Satin turned into a force of nature. The attack when the chorus kicked in was nothing short of a revelation.
Dark Side Of The Moon was next, and the Vibro Stop did not disappoint. The spoken voices that punctuate the LP all the way through were actually understandable and came through a bit more into the mix. Stereo separation is enhanced. Pink Floyd loved to put layers of instrumentation on their records, and you can now differentiate the electric guitar from the electric piano. The whole sonic spectrum seemed to widen, this mat is extraordinary!!
David Gilmour’s guitar solos from “Time” and “Money” sometimes sounded a little shrill and hard to listen to at reasonably high volumes were now fuller bodied, but by no means less effective. I’m pretty sure that this is the mat taking out those hideous peaks and troughs through certain frequency levels that have now been very much flattened. Richard Wright’s fantastic piano playing on The Great Gig In The Sky sounds more sensitive and delicate than before, and Clare Torry’s vocals again seem more balanced and less harsh to listen to at volumes just past the moderate level.
I’m a great Gary Numan fan and the LP to test was his 1979 LP The Pleasure Principle 180g audiophile edition. Analogue synths can sound a little screechy when at higher pitches, but yet again the harshness disappears without a loss in the drama of the music. Again, stuff lost in the dominance of the lead lines came through. The bass drum seemed less boomy and tighter, the cymbals actually sounded like cymbals rather than dustbin lids. I could hear the drumstick actually hit the cymbal and then it not sound like a car crashing into a load of bins!! His iconic track “Cars”, which I’ve heard more times than I’d care to admit (yes, THAT many!!) gave me something else that I’d never heard before.
In conclusion, I will say this: I’m not one who is easily convinced by something just because it’s new. And although I read the science bit and all the graphs and whatnot, this thing is all about the sound. And it sounds magnificent!!!!
Gary Player, UK