Perhaps an odd name for a company making products out of acrylic, Iron Audio was, until recently, called Sheer Audio and you may have seen their platters marketed under this name in the past. As with the Origin Live upgrade this one is for Rega users only, Iron Audio’s acrylic platter designed to fit the Planar 3, P3 and the P25. The company also makes a model for the Planar 2, P2 and NAD turntable. CNC machined from what they call the “finest American acrylic” the platter has the same outside diameter as stock with a frosted top and bottom and clear edge. The Iron Audio platter is thicker than stock, 16mm vs 12mm, but a recessed area on the platter’s underside allows it to sit at exactly the same overall height as the stock platter, avoiding the need for any VTA adjustments. Iron audio also claims that at 39.5 oz their platter is heavier than the stock platter, but when I dangled each off my index finger Rega’s glass seemed like it had noticeably more heft.
Acrylic has become a popular material for platters and turntables due, in part, to its inert acoustic properties. Give this platter a rap with your knuckles and it will “ring” much less than glass, making it less likely to sing along with the tune and muddy up the sound - or so the theory goes.
What I heard from the Iron Audio platter did jibe with the theory, and most of their claims, in fact. It’s funny, but the type and character of the improvement was very similar to the other tweaks, if to a lesser degree. The first disc I did some A/B comparisons with was Up in Duke’s Workshop, a fantastic sounding Pablo release of Ellington in the studio late in his career. What I heard with the acrylic platter were blacker backgrounds and cleaner sound with quicker, sharper transients. The extra transient snap certainly worked in the favor of micro-dynamics, notes starting and stopping more quickly with less overhang.
Spinning Art Pepper’s Smack Up told a similar tale. The sound with the Iron Audio platter was more vibrant and three dimensional. Switching back to the stock glass made the sound a little shrill by comparison with less image depth. Sticking with Art Pepper I cued up Stardust from the swanky Analog Prodcutions LP of So In Love and was startled by the immediacy and shimmering sparkle of the piano. With the stock platter the sound was noticeably flatter and less involving without the same level of harmonic “rightness” on the piano. Ditto on Daniel Langois fabulous Shine LP, which I had recently heard with the other tweaks, but not yet on the new platter.
Just before completing this column Iron Audio sent me a prototype version of their new turntable mat. Heavy and substantial, compared with the flyweight Ringmat, the mat is basically a 1/4″ slab of acrylic with a thin layer of damping material on the bottom side (production versions of the platter will apparently be thinner). It’s designed so that vibrations generated by the stylus are transmitted through the acrylic and then dissipated in the damping layer as (tiny amounts of) heat. I had very little time to listen to the prototype mat but the results were promising. It seemed to amplify the benefits gained with the platter, producing a sound with more snap and sparkle, bumping up the sense of speed and immediacy yet further. The sound with the Ringmat was mellower, and if less detailed, only by a fraction. I look forward to hearing the final production version. Pricing is set at US $120.
As with the Origin Live and Aural Thrills products, the Iron Audio platter upgrade was a significant step in the right direction, the cumulative effect of the three tweaks bringing a new level of musicality, vibrancy, and immediacy to my analog rig. The platter’s a keeper too, and damn good value considering the results.
(Page Five: Rega P3 Motor Upgrade)
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