Controlling turntable resonance is imperative if you want to achieve the best possible sound from your vinyl records. All turntables require damping to control external and mechanical resonance, and even modest setups can receive a significant performance improvement from just a little attention in this area.
Acrylic platters are revered across the hi-fi industry for helping to drastically reduce turntable resonance and deliver a tighter, more focused sound than metal or MDF platter options. The Achromat is a development born from the acrylic concept by the inventor of the acrylic platter himself, Arthur Khoubesserian. His company, The Funk Firm, deliver creative and innovative solutions to many common turntable resonance issues, while also producing some mighty fine turntables in their own right.
Traditional felt, leather, and cork slip mats go some way toward damping unwanted vibrations, but the Achromat claims to go further by effectively absorbing the vibrations transferred into the record during playback. Absorbing these record vibrations is important because, if left unchecked, this unwanted noise is later processed by the cartridge, resulting in less clarity.
How does Achromat absorb stylus vibration?
The Achromat claims to perfectly impedance match a vinyl record, which in simple terms means that the mat surface has similar if not the same characteristics as the record. When the material is very different (say felt, or even cork) the vibration energy released during playback cannot easily transfer from the record surface to the mat, and therefore, it cannot diffuse and may end up being processed by the cartridge. Achromat combines impedance matching with a complex internal construction of microscopic tunnels where vibration energy is rapidly diffused into tiny amounts of heat energy.
Does it work?
Yes, remarkably so. Even on a relatively humble setup, I noticed a significant improvement when swapping cork or felt for the Achromat. The bass is tighter, the mids and highs have greater separation, and overall, the result is more natural and spacious sounding. I could spend evening-after-evening rediscovering my record collection, each time enjoying the impressive level of new depth and detail. For the initial test, I span a copy of Counting Crows August and Everything After (a record I regard as having exceptionally good instrument space and separation). The Achromat helped to bring the subtle Fender Rhodes style organ out from the background, each chord clear and distinct.
For the best results, consider gently fixing the mat to your turntable platter using double-sided tape. This will prevent the mat from slipping and degrading the sound quality (a common issue when the material is similar to the record platter). My copy shipped with variable tack adhesive discs that leave no residue and allow you to remove the mat at a later date by gently lifting with a blunt knife.
A note on VTA (Vertical Tracking Angle)
The standard Achromat is 5mm thick. A 3mm version is available for turntables where the VTA is not adjustable. (Vertical Tracking Angle refers to the angle of the tonearm when viewed from the side). The thicker version will produce the best audible results, but be aware of raising the record too high to a point where VTA can start to affect the Stylus Raking Angle (SRA), which is the angle at which the stylus is raking the record grooves. In short, if this angle isn’t optimized, you may incur intermodulation distortion, but this is a topic for another day.
The Bottom Line
There’s real science and passion behind what The Funk Firm do, and it’s clear from the Achromat product that their commitment to sonic excellence continues to pay off with real results. Long after Arthur Khoubesserian first pioneered the acrylic platter back in 1979, his approach is now widely recognized and replicated by manufacturers across the industry. If that’s not a glowing endorsement of his engineering skill, I don’t know what else is. The Achromat is a continuation of this legacy, and it sounds awesome.