When using a turntable, rarely do you see it without a slip mat. In this guide to turntable slipmats, I’ll tell you what a turntable slipmat is, the various materials slipmats are made of ,and if using a turntable slipmat makes a difference.
Do turntable slipmats make a difference? Turntable slipmats can make a tremendous difference. The inclusion of a slipmat will keep the vinyl record steadier, which enhances sound quality and lessens friction.
What Is a Turntable Slipmat?
If you’re only just making the jump from record players to turntables or CDs to vinyl records, you might have no idea what I’m talking about when I refer to a turntable mat aka a slipmat.
A slipmat is a platter-sized piece of material that goes on the platter of the turntable. The slipmat replaces the standard rubber mat that’s used to keep the record in place as the platter rotates.
A slipmat is allowed to well, slip a little on the platter, hence the name. The original purpose of slipmats was to give a DJ the freedom to turn, scratch, and spin a record on a turntable.
The platter could rotate uninterrupted all the while thanks in part to the slipmat.
Slipmats allowed for DJs to begin slip-cueing, a technique used when beatmatching.
Grandmaster Flash, a huge name in hip-hop, is credited with innovating the turntable mat.
He wanted a vinyl solution that would allow him to move a record counterclockwise without generating friction and drag.
Today, turntable slipmats are used by far more than only DJs, but also audio purists who care about the quality of their turntable and their records as well as people who want to customize the look of their turntable.
What Do Turntable Slipmats Do?
Using a turntable slipmat can be highly advantageous as I talked about in the intro.
Let’s go over the benefits now.
Protects the Turntable
Some slipmats will lessen vibrations when using the turntable and can even limit the buildup of static electricity. All this keeps your turntable in usable shape for longer.
Protects the Record
It’s not only your turntable you have to worry about when a record slips, but your record as well.
When a record slips out of place, that can damage the fine grooves that allow your turntable to read what’s on the record and play sound.
You can always try to buff out a wrecked record, but depending on the extent of the damage, the scratches and gouges could be permanent.
You’d have to replace the record if you wanted to continue listening to it, and that can be quite a costly purchase depending on the rarity of the vinyl.
Keeps the Vinyl Steady
A wobbling record is none too fun. Audiophiles might notice that the pitch or quality of their record is off since the vinyl is not spinning steadily in the turntable.
With a quality turntable mat, a vinyl record will rotate steady and sure as its spinning.
Friction is not a word you want to hear when it comes to your vinyl record collection.
If there’s any friction between the components of your turntable and the record itself, that can lead to premature wear.
Improves Sound Quality
When you take the above benefits and add them all together, you get what is an overall boost in sound quality. As turntable slipmats hold your records in place and steady, it allows the stylus to smoothly glide through the micro grooves of the record.
When the tonearm, the stylus and the record are all working in harmony the stylus is able to pick up sounds that otherwise would’ve been missed.
An Overview of Slipmat Materials and the Differences Between Them
Turntable slipmats are available in a variety of materials. You might choose one based on availability, pricing, or appeal, but you should consider the sound quality as well.
That’s right, each slipmat material has its own influence on how your vinyl records will sound when using the mat with your turntable.
Let’s go over the various materials and the sonic qualities of each.
Rubber is admittedly a more old-school slipmat material.
A rubber slipmat is often built thick, so it feels anything but cheap and flimsy.
A good rubber mat will have a recessed middle so you can easily get your vinyl records to sit flat when playing them on the turntable.
Rubber is excellent at dampening and absorbing vibrations so they never reach your record. A rubber slipmat will also lessen dust on the turntable, which is always a good thing.
Plus, with the kind of material that rubber is, you never have to worry about record slippage that could damage both your vinyl and possibly your turntable as well.
Another great perk of a rubber slipmat is that if yours is getting a little dingy, it’s very easy to clean the mat. You don’t even need specialty products to do it.
A rubber slipmat could easily last you for years, especially if yours is a high-quality mat and you take good care of it.
Next is silicone, aka polysiloxane.
This polymer is like rubber but isn’t quite. If you’ve ever used cooking utensils, lubricants, adhesives, or sealants, then you know exactly what I’m talking about, as those are all made from silicone.
Silicone slipmats, since they share enough commonality with rubber, offer many of the same benefits.
Most audiophiles who choose a silicone slipmat for their turntable favor the material since it’s got great vibration decoupling.
The sound of your records will often sound especially clear and crisp, almost transparent when using a silicone slipmat.
A high-quality slipmat material, leather is quite popular for both its looks and its functionality.
The average thickness of a leather slipmat is between two and three millimeters.
The leather used to make a turntable mat is not like the leather jacket hanging in your closet. It’s a suede-based leather that’s nice and soft.
When choosing a leather slipmat, it should be completely smooth all over without any nicks or defects. It should have quite a high-quality feel as well.
So what does a leather slipmat do? Like rubber, leather is great at repelling dust.
Static won’t accumulate as readily with a leather slipmat, and excess noise while spinning your favorite records is less likely too.
Any resonances in the music get dampened exceptionally well, so you can take the sound quality of your favorite records up a few notches when you use a leather slipmat.
Next is acrylic.
Some music lovers recommend an acrylic turntable surface and foregoing the slipmat altogether, but acrylic mats are indeed an option, and they’re a pretty fantastic one at that.
The lows of the music are tight and sharp while the highs sound brighter than ever.
If you’re listening to metal, rock, and newer music, an acrylic turntable mat can really bring out all the best qualities in the songs.
If you’re in a region that not known for its humidity, you might also consider a cork mat for your turntable. Cork dampens resonances, which is one of its top qualities. Cork Vibrations lessen as well.
Plus, a cork mat can also prevent static and dust buildup.
While many people I know use the cork mat for their turntable, depending on the stylus your using the cork mats have been known to dull the highs when used in combination with certain cartridge and stylus combos.
The last turntable mat material is the felt mat. Historically, the felt mats or “slip mats” were considered great for DJ’s since they made it extremely easy to move the record backward and forward without the grip other materials would have on the records.
The average felt slipmat is two millimeters thick and perhaps a little coarse, but that all depends on the manufacturer.
Felt is an economical choice but it does have its downsides. When felt is spun upon, that static cling can build up in a hurry unless you’re using an anti-static felt slipmat like the one’s Pro-Ject makes.
Particles in the air, hair, dust, it all comes your way thanks to the accumulation of static from a felt mat.
Touching your turntable could lead to static shocks. These aren’t serious, but they’re not fun either.
If you don’t mind using an anti-static gun before you play a record on your turntable, then a felt slipmat can be fine.
The versatility of felt is a strong point, and it’s certainly better to have a felt mat than no mat at all.
Do I Need a Turntable Slipmat for a Record Player?
What if you have a record player instead of a turntable? You’re wondering if you’d still need a slipmat.
Although it’s more optional with a record player than a turntable, I would still say yes, investing in upgrading your slipmat can be done reasonably cheap and the results you get can often be noticed immediately the next time you’re spinning a record.
Most record players come equipped with at least a cheap, thin felt mat. Maybe don’t use that one and treat yourself (and your record player, not to mention your vinyl collection) to a higher-quality slipmat.
You can use the recommendations from the last section to help you choose!