Mats, clamps, and feet

It is debated whether the original rubber mats are any good. Some purists of the original turntable state believe that if the mat is in good condition it shouldn’t be replaced. In the past I had replaced the original rubber mat with a very thin antistatic felt mat. Felt is appreciated for its ability to avoid the record to be electrostatically charged during the playback’s “rubbing”. But it is really thin and it can be a problem in Thorens turntables for setting the right tonearm height.

Later, I purchased the expensive Funk Firm Achromat from England, after an enthusiastic review by Geoff Husband of TNT-Audio. The stuff it is made of is a kind of foamed acrylic/vinyl compound (similar to PVC, therefore similar to vinyl), and it is used for high-end platters. The idea is distributing the natural vibrations of a record in a larger volume (record + mat). Having replaced the felt mat with the Achromat I was convinced I obtained a sound improvement in both bass extension and general detail. Being 5 mm thick, the Achromat raised the height of the record so I had to adjust the tonearm height again, but this time from a better starting point (the felt mat was actually too thin).

I also added a 300 g graphite clamp to hold the disk tight and dampened during playback. It is usually a good idea since clamps improve the contact between record and platter (mat). One should pay attention at the clamp’s weight: Thorens turntables, like all suspended tables, require a re-adjustment of the suspension in order to reset the correct platter height following the added weight. After having purchased the Achromat I stopped using the clamp.

After a while the Achromat became a little warped and I was rather pissed at the very expensive “upgrade”. I just couldn’t stand the platter wobbling while it was rotating. So I tried a thick felt mat I had as a spare – no clues of differences. So I went back to a couple of original rubber mats and guess what? No differences! Therefore my Thorens is now back to the rubber mat he was designed with in the 70s, the old type with more than two rings on it – true vintage looks! Now a clamp has also come back on top of it.

The original small rubber feet can also be replaced. Again, some purists prefer to avoid that. Some also get rid of the flimsy wooded bottom board. Some leave the plinth open, like I did for years: very comfortable for further suspension adjustments. Then I followed some others’ example and I bought a 18 mm thick MDF board. I drilled three 2-cm holes under the suspension springs and another one on the back edge to let the cables out. Then I painted the board with black acrylic paint, in the attempt to further dampen it. For the same reason, I glued some tar sheet patches in the board’s inner face. Not a back look in the end. it is similar to what Thorens itself did for their TD-160 Super. But later I went back even to using the original thin bottom board, but only after having dampened it with a good tar sheet.

For years I had replaced the original small feet with larger rubber door blocks, easily found in any hardware store (see picture at top right).Then I thought that larger plastic feet with rubber base could give the Thorens a better HiFi look. I bought a few and dampened them by filling them with the same “white tac” I’m using inside the plinth. I screwed them to the plinth at almost the same place where the original ones were.