RINGMAT 330 Mk2 XLR

 

 

 

Bjarne B. Jensen
High Fidelity (Denmark) Number 3
2002

Superb support from Ringmat
Ringmat specialize in making enhancements for Vinyl, CD and DVD


When CD was introduced 20 years ago, the demise of the LP was deemed to be very soon. The rumours were greatly exaggerated, and still are, for although many have said goodbye to vinyl, new supporters are still coming in, which can be seen by the many new record players and pick-ups that still constantly pop up. Yes, within the last year, both the sale and production of LPs have increased, and although the numbers are small, it’s still very interesting.

I am one of those who have stuck with my old record player and albums through the years, although I must admit that there have been very long gaps in between playing my records. This has changed radically in recent months, during which I have played more LPs than CDs.

Ringmat Support System
My renewed interest in albums is due to the fact that I have acquired a Ringmat Support System, which has changed the sound of my records in such a positive way that I have to admit that, in many ways, LPs now sound better than CDs.

The System requires some effort from the user, so let me start with the simplest aspect, the Ringmat, which is placed on top of the platter. It is available in several versions, all made from cork rings, and a paper-like substance. I have had the opportunity to sample two versions, the former top model, called Ringmat MkII XLR, and the new Anniversary Ringmat 330, which was introduced recently when the Ringmat firm held the 10th anniversary of the product’s design. Both Ringmats make a big improvement over all other forms of record mat I have tried through the years. With Ringmat, the background gets darker, the bass faster and the top more open.

The new Anniversary version underscores this in an obvious way when you switch directly from the old XLR model. One notices a much broader and deeper perspective, with more height. This is very surprising, as the two mats look very similar. The difference is in the cut-outs and the gluing. The sound improvements are obvious, and even dynamics improve, so the extra money is well spent. As with many of the Ringmat products, the price can seem high if you look at the products and the materials used, ignoring the improvements in sound. In fact, one has to consider that these hand-crafted products demand a lot of skill and time and are much more demanding to make than they look. At this stage, there is already a big improvement in the sound of my albums, but the subsequent stages improve the sound even further.

LP Blue Statmat

The next stage is to introduce the LP Blue Statmat, which is an improved version of the LP Statmat. It now has three layers, which makes it much more powerful. It is simply placed below the Ringmat and doesn’t require any height adjustment of your pick-up arm. The LP Blue Statmat comes with a Statcap, which is placed on top of the record and remains there during play. Do the voodoo-like pieces of plastic work? Yes, definitely. All the usual noise associated with vinyl disappears, though not, of course, the scratches. There is more air between performers and the acoustics of the recording venues are easier to hear. The dynamics also improve. One extra plus is that the vinyl no longer retains static anymore, attracting the dust.

The next step is more demanding and the lazy can stop here. This also goes for those with a pick-up arm without height adjustment. But there is much more to gain if you take the full step and use all the modules of the Ringmat Support System. This last step takes some effort from the user. It takes time and is not without difficulties, but it is amply rewarded many times over with even better sound.

All Ringmat products are developed by John Rogers. To get some insight into the thinking behind the products you can start by reading the booklets that accompany the Ringmat Support System. The booklets are: “How to set up and fine tune a turntable” and the instructions for the “Ringmat Support System”. Everything is very thoroughly explained but let me nevertheless go through the stages one by one.

The System consists of a black latex mat that is placed upon the turntable platter, where it almost sucks itself into a firm position. On top of this are placed the so-called Ringmat Spacers of different thickness and colour. These are put on top of each other until you are left with the 4 or 5 thinnest. On top of these are placed the LP Blue Statmat and the Ringmat, with an LP on top. After this you adjust the tonearm until it is 2-2.5 mm lower at the back than the front. After this you can fine-tune the height with the Spacers according to the original cutting angle and adjust for the best sound.

Now comes the difficult part, which is the adjustment of tracking weight, as it is not always the recommended tracking weight from the manufacturer that gives the best sound. You start with a recording you know well, put it on the record player and start with a lower tracking weight than usual. You listen and try to find the tracking pressure where the sound snap into focus. This means all the instruments and voices have their own space and there is ample soundstage in height, depth and width. You might have to try a few times but in the end you will probably find a tracking pressure that is lower than the one you are using now.

Once you have found the right tracking pressure, you stick to it. After doing this, you can adjust the sound with the Spacers, which you can take off or put on according to the cutting angle of the record and the thickness of the vinyl. After a time you find a sort of average height, which you can then stick to, or use as a starting point if your listening becomes more critical.

The Result
But what is the result of all this effort? Before I get to this, I will tell about one of my friends who has heard the result. He is a hi-fi professional and left vinyl years ago. At first he was sceptical, but we ended up digging out old vinyl and playing for the next four hours. He has heard a multitude of vinyl-based systems, and found this was amongst the best he has heard, irrespective of price. And here you have to know that my system is based on a 25 year old STD record player, a Mørch UP-4 tonearm and an eight year old Denon 304. This is a long way from ’state of the art’, though I must admit that the RIAA in my Holfi Pre 1 definitely is. Nevertheless, it is amazing that the Ringmat Support System can bring these old components up to this level of performance. So what is the collective result sound-wise?

Let me start with an example from my vinyl collection. One of my trophies is an eight album Beatles box set, the records having been pressed by Toshiba in Japan. They have very silent surfaces and better dynamics than the European pressings. Nevertheless, it is only now that, for the first time, I have been able to resolve who is singing in the choruses and things like that. My admiration for Paul McCartney’s bass playing has also grown, and it is now heard with more detail and much better dynamics. Another example is Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess”, with Lorin Maazel. It starts out with a very large soundstage, where a lot of things are going on. Here is a very large orchestra, chorus, soloists and a piano, whilst in the middle of it all they’re playing the dice game “craps”. All the details of the sound of this game are there in the middle of this very large soundstage, which I have never before heard in this classic recording.

I could go on like this for a long time but let me end up with a general impression. The sound-stage is more focused and the background much quieter, so the noise you thought was a part of vinyl replay disappears. The height grows. The bass goes deeper and the top cleaner. The sound gets warmer but without masking detail, which becomes more obvious but as a part of the whole picture. All in all, the transformation of my vinyl sound is astounding, and though the price is more than 2,200kr, you get a lot for your money. You can easily spend a whole lot more on pick-up or tonearm without getting this kind of result. I have tried the System on much more expensive record players, where the result was just as good. It is whole-heartedly recommended.


Statmat for CD and DVD

While we are talking about Ringmat products, I must not forget the new edition of Statmat, which is called CDi Blue. It is in three layers, with two layers of the active material and a thicker piece in the middle. Unlike earlier upgradings of Statmat, there is a very big improvement in sound, as the bottom-end gets more solid and you get a larger and more precise soundstage, which is very easy to hear when you switch from an older version to the new.

The new version is also easier to use. It also works on DVDs, and this goes for both sound and picture. The picture is sharper and achieves greater depth and all this from a super-discount DVD player. In short, there is every reason to upgrade to the new CDi Blue.

 

 

 

 

 

Sam Tellig
Stereophile Vol. 19 No.11
November 1996

"For me, this is the only mat that has mattered on my AR ES-1 turntable. . I can tell you that the new mat is superior to the old. I heard greater clarity, focus, slightly tighter bass, and a deeper, wider soundstage. Dynamics improved, too."

 

 

 

 

 

Dominic Todd
Hi-Fi World
August 1996

"With a Van Morrison album, recorded at Ronnie Scott's, vocals had a touch more body to them, and seemed to be slightly better projected. The saxophone had a more natural timbre and, again, seemed better separated from the rest of the mix. There was also an improvement in the decay of cymbals. The scale of the music was heightened, helped by a more focused bass line . . . in my opinion the Ringmat is still the best turntable accessory under £50."

 

 

 

 

 

Christopher Breunig
Hi-Fi News & Record Review
April 1996

"It was evident that the XLR realised more low register and ambient information (thus the increased focus within textures). On the ASM/Argo recording, the Andantino of Rossini's Second String Sonata begins with a very powerful tutti. With the XLR a whole layer of hazy near-congestion was removed, the acoustic was clearer and support lines more apparent, such as quiet bass accompaniment figures. You wanted to go on listening indefinitely; also you could still listen comfortably at higher replay levels...An essential replacement for the l2in felt or rubber mat for any critical listener, the MkII remains very satisfactory, but the XLR at £47.50 is even better."

 

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL REVIEW

 

 

 

 

 

 

Robert Specht
Hörerlebnisforum
Issue 35

“The Hour of Truth”

A good message for all vinyl friends: the Ringmat has a German distributor again. Peak Audio, the very well known manufacturer of high quality analogue turntables and Acoustic Signature electronics, has taken over the distribution of the Ringmat Developments range of products after a long time when they were without any representation on the German market.

The English mother company, Quality Records Group, designs hi-fi products in order to correct the reproduction of CDs and LPs. The Ringmat, under the guiding hand of John Rogers, head of the design team, marks a new standard in the quality of reproduction of the long playing record because it gives a precise and distortion free signal. It is available in three thicknesses (models 200, 250 and 330) so that it can be used with all standard turntables. There are two cork rings on the top side of the beige paper and three cork rings beneath. The distance between each ring is the result of the time consuming method of “trial and error”. The mat comes with easy to understand instructions.

Over the past years I have been able to try out many turntable mats. The improvements promised by the manufacturers did not always materialise, which led to me becoming increasingly sceptical. For me, an acceptable tonal improvement means more than only a small improvement which is bought with disadvantages in other areas.

However I was informed that the Ringmat would be different and that without doubt I would discover the “hour of truth”! In my case, this was not reached simply by putting the mat over the central spindle on the turntable platter. The height of the Ringmat required an adjustment of the tonearm (pay attention, owners of standard Rega tonearms). With an SME V there are only two bolts to loosen. The adjustment takes only a few minutes when you have had a little practice. Therefore, I love this arm so much. With some other, mostly extremely sensitive tonearms, there is greater difficulty and often very time consuming fine tuning to be done. I have seen them come and go and will never torture myself in this way again.

All said and done: the Ringmat and record were in position on the turntable and......?

I did not trust my own ears! The sound becomes very much cleaner through the entire frequency response. It is not a question of marginal differences. A whole new world opens up.

However, there is a lesson that I have learnt which is very important for me in my hi-fi life: after introducing new components to my own system, with which I am very familiar, there are many modifications to the sound which are not easy to explain, and one wonders if one must first become accustomed to the new way sound is being reproduced before being in a position to recognise any improvement.

However, in the case of the Ringmat, I did not have this concern, which always occupies my thoughts before deciding whether or not to argue the case for a new product.

At first, the depth of sound seems thinner and not so full. The voices have lost their unrealistic expansion, and the deep frequencies have somehow become more purified. However, the time consuming process of becoming accustomed to the sound was unnecessary, because of the increased naturalness of sound coming from the turntable immediately wipes away any doubts. Reproduction is more realistic because there is no excessive bloom. Whilst the tonal qualities are no longer so rich, they retain their attraction, as if one had lost 20 kilograms of weight and rediscovered the flat stomach from one’s youth.

Now you may think that the Ringmat only works with special pickup/tonearm combinations but nothing is further from the truth. This whole pleasant experience has confirmed my personal opinion that up to now I have heard nothing which is as good in comparison to the Ringmat. Considering the cost of a good turntable, I would be absolutely crazy not to buy it.

Unfortunately, my earnings do not make it possible for me to own every important turntable. The only possible reason for me not to buy the Ringmat is if I had a turntable with a very shallow bass output, but there are not many of those on the market. Apart from this situation, the Ringmat is a universal recommendation. Anyone who listens without a Ringmat is loosing his audiophile happiness.

 

 

 

Back to the top of the page

 

© Copyright Ringmat Developments 2012, web design by Mark Wilson