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Millennium Audiotrade M-LP Record Mat and Silentor Record Weight
Millennium Audiotrade is a German company with an array of audio tweaks -- footers, damping products, a CD mat -- and a large selection of accessories for analog enthusiasts. I learned about this company indirectly. TW Acustic, another German audio maker, recommends the Millennium M-LP record mat for use with its turntables. Knowing this, I did a bit of research and then wrote Millennium about its products, arranging for review samples of a number of them. All were sent directly from Germany, but right before CES, Millennium Audiotrade brought on a US distributor, Brian Ackerman of Aaudio Imports, so you can now buy the company's products in the US.
One common thread through many of Millennium's products is the use of carbon fiber, a very light, very strong material whose self-damping properties are especially effective with analog playback, where small stray vibrations can cause big problems. The M-LP mat ($349 USD) is essentially a laminated carbon-fiber disc with a soft, fuzzy black coating on one side. This makes the M-LP actually two record mats in one; you can experiment with either the uncoated side up, as TW Acustic recommends, or the fuzzy side up, the way the mat was designed to be used, in which case there is a recessed area for the LP's label. The M-LP is so thin -- about half the thickness of a 120-gram record -- that if your platter has a recessed label area, the mat should give a bit at the label and adhere well to the vinyl.
A companion product for the M-LP is the Silentor ($349), a nicely machined chunk of stainless steel that fits over the spindle and whose sheer weight presses the LP to the mat. But much more than mass is at work with the Silentor. Machined into it are eight holes that are filled with granulated quartz to increase damping effectiveness. Over the holes is a layer of carbon fiber just like that used for the M-LP. Even the Silentor's spindle hole is damped -- with a rubber O-ring, which isolates the Silentor from any vibration that may travel up through the spindle.
Theories on the design and use of LP mats and weights vary. Some companies advocate the use of screw-down clamps for added force, while others tout the sonic properties of exotic woods or other materials. Vacuum-hold-down systems that suck LPs right down to the mat have been popular for decades, and they work on a number of levels.
Millennium's products rely on sound engineering and modern materials, and the effect was very easy to hear. In contrast to mats and clamps that aim purely at deadening vibration, often deadening the sound in the process, the M-LP and Silentor offer a lively presentation whose focus, the sense that instruments and performers are sharply defined and delineated from each other, is their most obvious contribution. With each LP, instrumental lines were easier to follow, and the recording's sonic thumbprint was more distinct.
A perfect example of all this occurred with Dexter Gordon's One Flight Up. With no mat or record weight, an original Blue Note stereo LP [Blue Note BST-84176] sounded incisive but tinny in the treble, while a Cisco reissue [Cisco Music/Blue Note 7051] sounded big, wide and somewhat congealed. With the M-LP and Silentor, the original's tinny treble was more apparent -- spot-lit even -- while the reissue opened up, sounding far more balanced and distinctly superior to the original.
The platter of the TW Acustic Raven AC has a copper top layer that acts as an integral record mat. Even so, I preferred the sound with the Millennium M-LP, and the Silentor proved to be its sonic mate. Interestingly, the non-fuzzy side of the M-LP, the side that you would naturally put against the platter, was the one that sounded better against the LP. The fuzzy side reduced the sharp focus a touch, leading to a slightly mushier sound that might work well with some turntables but is exactly what you don't want with a Raven AC.
While $698 for the Millennium M-LP and Silentor will raise some eyebrows, the price of neither product is out of line with the competition, some of which costs multiples more. Both the M-LP and Silentor are beautifully made, and they make you feel like you've gotten something substantial for your money, which isn't always the case with audio accessories.
I'll be writing about other Millennium Audiotrade products in the future, including the Protractor Set for cartridge alignment and the clever Anlegeblock for setting vertical tracking angle. For now, the M-LP and Silentor are the LP mat and weight against which I'll evaluate all others.
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