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  Phono Accessories: Sonic Bliss Turntable Mat, High End Disc Stabilizer, HRS Analog Disk Record Clamp

      Date posted: December 12, 2007

Sonic Bliss/Heybrook

Sonic Bliss Audiophile Turntable Mat
Sugg. Retail: $14.95
Source: Online eBay Sales by Kevin Yoder, (Ebay id: yoder365), ksy7@bnin.net

I was intrigued by the listing, and though there are many mats out there, most DJ slip types, this one looked interesting. Its technological hook seemed to be a crochet-like pattern that exposed at least as much air between the LP and platter as rubber, an integral part of the design of the RingMat I have used for close to 20 years. By providing this space, vinyl/stylus resonances and platter/motor noise are dissipated in the air, while the record is firmly supported.

I contacted designer/manufacturer Kevin Yoder for some background, and received this email in return: “Thanks for your kind words on the mat! I have been a diehard music and audio junkie since I was 14 years old, and at 42 now I am having more fun than ever at this hobby. I have a great passion for vinyl and spend a lot of time restoring, upgrading, and building custom turntables and vintage electronics!”

“I have spent countless hours with custom tweaks with turntables and speakers, and have found many very good ones. I really enjoy taking an average t-t and making it great!! About a year ago I purchased a mat very similar to this one for a crazy price, and decided to try different materials and see what I could come up with for my own use. I have a good friend that is a machinist and [he] made me the dies for cutting mats. There are many versions of this material that look the same, but this one’s sonics are far superior, and drive the stylus in the groove very well!”

“I gave a few to audiophile friends and to the owner and employees of my favorite high end audio store, and they all use them on their personal tables A few people told me to sell them on eBay, and so I listed a few and waited for the responses, and they were all good! To date I have sold around 100 of them in the last 5 months with great results!”

Sonic Bliss Mat

“The tables I tested them on were a Thorens TD-316 with an Infinity Black Widow arm, Luxman PD-277, Microseiki BL-51, Rega Planar 2, Systemdeck with Linn Basic Plus arm, modified Technics SL-2000, Dual CS-505-2, and a CS-5000. These are a a few tables from my personal collection of 76 tables!”

Kevin sounds like an extreme collector to me, and even if he’s not quite a pHD in mechanical and materials engineering, but there’s no denying that this mat works as claimed. We cannot quell the tinkerer/inventor even in today’s society, the Sonic Bliss living up to its name on my Heybrook TT2/SAEC 407/23 table, and a little more practical and attractive than the RingMat it replaced. The latter seemed to always come off with the LP in drier seasons, while this one, if you don’t grab the mat’s edge, stays put. It does seem to have anti-static properties.

It also exhibits the same characteristics of purer sound, lower noise, and a neutrality that really lets the resolution and musicality of vinyl shine. Its thickness seems identical to most mats, including its predecessor in my system. And it won’t dry our like the RingMat, which has a tendency to shed its rings when the glue dries out completely. I’ve kept a glue stick handy to repair mine over the years.

The Sonic Bliss is also quite attractive, especially with silver or coloured platters, letting these attributes show through the mat. According to the eBay listing, it’s “available in 1/16″ thick in 11.5′’DIA and 11.75DIA, [and] also available in 11″DIA for Music Hall, Dual, Project and others with 11″ platter”.

HRS Analog Disk

At $14.95, it’s an utter steal! We used to sell the RingMat for $79.95, a very fair price for a British import, and then it was taken over by a Canadian distributor, who immediately doubled the price. The Sonic Bliss is better made, simpler and more elegant in design/construction, more durable, and vastly better looking. My advice is, buy one before the price goes up. Bob Oxley now has a Sonic Bliss on his Kenwood, and initial reports are as glowing as mine. He will report in presently.

High End Disc Stabilizer
Sugg. Retail: Approx. $45.00 on eBay
Manufacuturer: Hellpier2, Drummondville QC

HRS Analog Disk Record Clamp
Sugg. Retail: US $110
Manufacturer: Harmonic Resolution Systems, Great Arrow Industrial Park,
255 Great Arrow Ave., Ste. 39A, Buffalo NY 14207
www.avisolation.com

Both of these disc clamps are beautifully made of machined aluminum, the Canadian HEDS one resplendent silver, the HRS a sleek polished black, with rubber base. Both fit snugly over the spindle, each having a rubber contact surface inside. The former weighs .8 lb, while the latter is a little less massive at .6 lb.

Their purpose is to add rotational mass to the playing system, while also vertically damping and better coupling the record to the mat or platter. These are best used with fixed-suspension turntables rather than suspended ones like my Heybrook, since leveling, and possibly speed, will be affected by the lowering of the platter. Belt-drive is also a factor to consider. As well, some mats will not be especially disc-stabilizer friendly.
Disc Stabilizer
The HEDS is said to be “made of solid airplane grade aluminum (6061 T6 stamped). Not only the material is first quality, but this item is professionally tooled on a computerized CNC machine, making it perfectly finished and balanced. In addition, special o-rings installed under the base inside the spindle hole isolate the stabilizer from outside vibration.”

The HRS Analog Disk “is a highly innovative design…manufactured from a proprietary polymer and billet-machined black anodized aircraft aluminum bonded together using a precision transfer mold with less than one thousandth of an inch tolerance for perfect alignment and balance.”

I used both on the TT2 with good effect, though I felt them unnecessary with the Sonic Bliss mat. They did work as advertised, adding mass and smoothing rotation, but also slowed speed slightly, this expected on some belt drives. This latter effect will depend on such characteristics as motor torque, whether there’s servo speed control, and other possible factors. And have you wondered until now what happens to all those de-commissioned 747 s? Part of one of them could end up on your turntable. But, then, maybe they use NEW aluminum blocks!

Prime candidates for either of these products’ use are budget turntables without suspension, or direct drive types, especially those with lighter platters. Names that come to mind are Rega and Pro-Ject, with dozens of others also candidates. You will hopefully now know if your turntable is in the running.

Andrew Marshall

Stabilizer on TT

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10 Responses to “Phono Accessories: Sonic Bliss Turntable Mat, High End Disc Stabilizer, HRS Analog Disk Record Clamp”

  1. Carl c-ca Says:

    dear sir, does the The HEDS weigh .6 or .8 lbs. thanks
    Carl

  2. Andrew Marshall replies: c-ca Says:

    The “former”, the HEDS weighs .8 pound, and the “latter”, the HRS, weighs .6 pound.

  3. Claude Latour c-unknown Says:

    I am looking for a weight outer ring to go over the records for my TECHNICS SL-1200MKII turntable…

    I have tried TT WEIGHT.COM copper ring but it is too large for my turntable.

    Any clue ???

    Claude

  4. Andrew Marshall c-ca Says:

    Hi Claude,

    I would strongly suggest that instead of looking for a weight for your turntable that you upgrade the table itself.

    The Technics SL-1200 is a DJ model I know well because I had two over 20 years ago for radio broadcast work. I would strongly suggest that you look for more modern designs of audiophile tables, that are belt-driven, well spring-suspended, and able to get more from the vinyl. A key part of this is a better cartridge, too, preferably a moving coil design that provides more information off the record.

    cheers, Andrew

  5. Joel Tatelman c-ca Says:

    I strongly disagree with Andrew Marshall’s advice to Claude. Assumng the SL-1200 MKII is working properly and is correctly set up, it’s a far better turntable than any of the popular “audiophile” belt drives. You’ll want, of course, a much better cartridge than the average DJ uses. There’s also various improvements you can make to the Technics DD ‘table–better wiring for the arm is a popular one–but in my 35 years of playing around with audio gear, I have found that, for the money, the SL-1200 does a much better job than much more expensive, Regas, Music Halls, Thorens, etc.

    Matter of fact, if you want a ‘table that informed listeners having been buying to replace their cost-no-object (i.e., $10 to 25K) turntables, find the granddaddy of the SL-1200, the SP-10 MKII, and build a 20-30 kg plinth for it with the arm and cartridge of your choice. That’s about as good as it gets.

  6. Andrew Marshall c-unknown Says:

    I can only reiterate my contention through direct experience with both SL-1200 and SP-10 tables during my long broadcast career, that my Heybrook TT2 is audibly and demonstrably better than the former and fully equal to the latter, and better isolated from external vibration than either. The Technics tonearm, however is very good, with excellent tracking accuracy and very low bearing friction.

    That said, I see no reason anyone should invest 5 figures or more in an LP playing system, since the medium is essentially limited in fidelity. In other words, anyone who takes Stereophile’s Michael Fremer seriously, deserves to to throw away a hundred grand. And I say that as the owner of close to 5000 carefully coddled LPs that I love.

  7. Jim Dandy c-us Says:

    I also disagree strongly with Andrew. He’s repeating what he’s heard elsewhere.

    First, I would argue that turntables produced during vinyl’s heyday were had much more engineering and quality built in than today’s also rans.

    Secondly, the Technics SL-1200 was produced and marketed as a home audio piece of equipment. DJs discovered it later and found it durable and reliable.

    Third, manufacturers moved to belt drive to save money and reduce R&D expenditures. What small assed “audiophile” turntable producer could design and produce a modern direct drive?? Answer, NONE. Too costly and too difficult. Check out a decent direct drive turntable, I did and won’t go back. Dynamics, soundstage, detail just to mention a few are far superior to belt drive.

    Forth, direct drive, quartz locked turntables are speed stable, they are also quieter and have much better s/n ratio, wow and flutter, and other important parameters. Most of yesteryear’s mid to hi-fi turntables sound better than today’s mega-buck crap made out of MDF, plywood, with noisy AC motors that are low torque garbage.

    I could go on but you get the point.

  8. Andrew Marshall c-unknown Says:

    But you did go on, Jim, and most of what you said was wrong! Belt-driven turntables like my 20-plus-year-old Heybrook TT-2/TPS with its floating suspension (I’ve always called it “a Linn made right”) are much superior to most direct drives. Belt drives and suspended turntables are more difficult to design than most direct drives because they require more parts than just a motor connected to a spindle/platter assembly. That is not to say that there are not poor belt-drive turntables out there: a cheap Rega or Pro-Ject is just that, not made for serious vinyl listeners.

    Furthermore, the “dynamics, soundstage [and] detail” are much more a function of the phono cartridge’s quality, once the motor noise and cogging distortion are removed from the audio signal. Informed opinion, including that of most turntable makers, always comes back to belt-drive designs as sonically superior.

    And I am not “repeating what [I’ve] heard elsewhere”, either, having had over 40 years of experience with all kinds of turntables, including broadcast and archival types. I know from personal experience and professional testing which are better, and that’s that!

  9. Chris c-us Says:

    It’s only subjective there is no right or wrong here really, and it’s no crime preferring a well designed direct drive to a belt driven one. Andrew prefers belt, Joel and Jim like DD. I would’nt say the SL1200 is the greatest TT around, but it is a very good one. I have to chime in with my own personal experience and say I overall prefer it to the belt drive Regas or belt driven/spring suspended Thornes models I have used. Normally people bash the SL1200 arm, but it’s good to see Andrew tell it like it is, the SL1200 arm has lower bearing friction than Regas and other more expensive arms. If you have’nt used one in awhile maybe try setting up an SL1200 with a good well matched cartridge in your main system, you might be surprised Andrew.

  10. Joel Tatelman c-ca Says:

    My major problem with Andrew’s assessment is that, according to him, his experience with the SP-10MKII, for example, was in a professional environment. That’s not surprising, as the SP-10MKII was a staple in radio stations worldwide for many years. Indeed my SP-10s all come from radio stations: two from CBC, one from BBC. Now the reason they were used in these applications is that, when properly maintained, they can run 24/7 for literally decades and still maintain factory spec. However, I’ve encountered dozens of these tables over the years and every single one has come with a $20 cartridge (typically a Shure M55) and various absolute crap tonearms. So of course any half-decent turntable with quality arm and cartridge is going to sound better–way better–than that. What I did, with the help of an engineer friend (whose hobby is audio) was directly compare, in my home audio system, several different turntables: a Thorens TD-125MKII, a Rega P9, a VPI (forget the model), a late 1980s Lin Sondek LP12, a Fons CQ30 and an SP-10MKII. Using the same quality arms and cartridges, it became apparent that while all, when properly set up, were fine turntables, the SP-10MKII really stood out from the rest. I’m not saying we conducted tests worth of the National Research Council, but we made a point of comparing apples to apples. Both the VPI and the Linn, contributed by two friends, were rapidly sold in favour of buying and refurbishing (mostly new caps) used SP-10MKIIs.
    It was only much later that I discovered Andrew Porter’s extensive posts on the SP-10MKII and MKIII and learned why he thought it appropriate to sell his $25K Walker Proscenium in favour of the Technics. Oh, almost forgot: one thing most of the radio stations didn’t do was mount their SP-10s in suitable massive plinths. I’ve made better plinths since, but mounted on a 20 kg birch plywood plinth, that first SP-10MKII I had was, in addition to the quality of its sound reproduction, was also by far the most immune to external vibrations, both footfalls and high volume music. Again, everyone is entitled to their opinion, but at the same time I think it makes a great deal of difference how that opinion was reached. Happy listening all!

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