Phono Stages

PS Audio GCPH (Gain Cell Phono Stage)

ARTICLE INDEX

I left the MAT1 in place and enjoyed many records that led to the opinions expressed above. When it came time to finish this review, I picked a well recorded piece of overly priced, 180 gram, virgin vinyl to do some comparisons with: David Gilmour's On an Island. Portland, Oregon is blessed with several still-going-strong independent record stores. However, the strongest, Music Millennium, recently had to close one of its two stores. This seemed to have more to do with the landlord getting dollar signs in his eyes during the recent real-estate bubble than a lack of business in the store. The bright side for local vinyl junkies was the 40% off closeout sale. So, Mr. Gilmour's latest offering cost me 'only' 24 dollars. At this price at least, it was worth it. As long as I'm playing it on the MAT1 I should say. With the standard foam the sound was congested and closed in, and I kept looking at my turntable trying to think of ways to better isolate it from vibrations because there must be something that needs fixing over there. When I put the MAT1 back on, instruments had proper attack again, the steady strummed bass in the opening track "Castellorizon" had texture again, the top end was open again, and voices, instruments, and drums were all separate. Rhythm and pace were also improved.

What should the material be? What did they use when they engraved the record? Metal backing wax I suppose. Is that somehow equivalent to felt or foam or solid carbon underneath vinyl? Where's a mechanical engineer when you need one? I suspect, as the MAT1 web site points out, the choice made by turntable manufactures has more to do with economics than engineering. It's interesting to note that Nottingham ships a graphite mat standard on its higher end turntables.

Note by Editor: The reason that reducing the low frequency rumble that some turntables have is so important is that it can interact with other frequencies and cause IM distortion, which can make things sound mushy.

Conclusions

Everything you've read about above is now mine, I'm buying it, they can't have it back. In fact, I have to get a second MAT1 because I tried it in my second system, with the Denon DP-62L which is a direct drive turntable. Here I was thinking that I would have to replace this lovely old-school table because the grain from the direct drive system defeated the purpose of recording from vinyl. Turns out the problem was the rubber mat. The second song on the second side of Radiohead's "In Rainbows" sounds like Radiohead meets Low meets Sigor Ros. Through headphones without the MAT1, I was waiting for it to be over, I switched to the MAT1, and the haunting vocals are still in my head a week later.

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