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Marja & Henk
Financial Interests: click here
Source:CEC TL5100, Audio Note tube DAC; Philips DVP 5500S SACD/DVD player; iPod Video; Thorens TD 104; 2x Thorens TD 160; Thorens TD124
Preamp/Integrated:Audio Note Meishu with WE 300B (or AVVT, JJ, KR Audio 300B output tubes); Tri TRV EQ3SE phono stage; Trends Audio TA-10; KingRex T20U and Slap; Yarland FV 34 CIIISA; Qables iQube; RSA Predator

Speakers: Avantgarde Acoustic Duo Omega; Avantgarde Acoustic Solo in HT 2.0 setting; Podium Sound Podium 1 [on loan]
Cables:Audio Note AN/Vx interconnects; Siltech Paris interconnects; Gizmo silver interconnect; full loom of Crystal Cable interconnects, power cables and loudspeaker cables and cable accessories; Audio Note AN-L; Gizmo silver LS cable. Nanotec Golden Strada #79 nano 3; Nanotec Golden Strada #79; Nanotec Golden Strada #201 nano3; full ASI LiveLine set; LessLoss DFPC [in for review]]

Equipment racks: Two double sets of Solid Tech Radius; Acoustic System amplifier shelves
Powerline conditioning: LessLoss Firewall [in for review]
Sundry accessories
: IAR carbon CD damper; Boston Audio graphite CD damper and Mat, Denson demagnetizer CD; Furutech DeMag; Nanotec Nespa #1; Machina Dynamica Magic Box; wood, brass and aluminum cones and pyramids; Manley Skipjack; Boston Audio Design TuneBlocks; ASI TopLine
Room treatment: Full apartment treatment by ASI  with Acoustic System Resonators, diffusers and Sugar Cubes; Gizmo's Harley Davidson cap
Room size: ca. 8.0 x 4.70m with open extension to a 2.20 x 2.40m A/V bay and open kitchen. Ceiling height is 2.50m, reinforced concrete walls of 45cm, reinforced concrete floors and roof of 30cm. Room has on one side a large glass bay.
Review component retail: €120

The purpose of a turntable mat is to couple the vinyl LP to the turntable’s platter such that any potential for slippage is eliminated. With a decent mat, neither LP nor mat should be able to slip. Additionally, a mat should conserve and preferably enhance the musical characteristics of whatever turntable the mat is put on. Since a mat has definite effects on the sound characteristics of a turntable, myriad such products are on the market. Turntable designers and manufacturers do their utmost to create a turntable that is as good as they can make it for a given price yet some other company comes along to improve their tables with a fancy—or very simple—mat.

As each mat material has its own sound, each will also reflect on the turntable’s own overall sound. Hence we have seen mats made from copper, hard rubber, soft rubber, sticky rubber, metal-reinforced rubber, acrylic, cork, wood, felt, carbon fiber, carbon graphite, sorbothane, glass, shale and of course, any mix of the above or other composite materials. Each and every mat has merits and weaknesses in combination with a given turntable, arm and cartridge.

In the mid 70s of the past century, Jean Hiraga conducted some research on the matter of turntable mats and published the results in La Revue du Son, the French magazine he was chief editor of. Some 30 years later now, Mr. Hiraga finally markets his own version of a turntable mat. And guess what? It is not made of any of the above materials. Instead it is made of 100% pig buckskin, a material heretofore seen in a turntable mat only by Acoustic Solid. The Hiraga mat comes in a stylish brown/green autumn color and is adorned with the JH logo. Only the top side of the mat is rough, the underside is smooth. By the looks of it, the leather mat has not been treated with anything so it will be susceptible to stains of finger grease as the most obvious source.

On the packaging, Hiraga claims that the mat takes care of a better definition of the music, a more accurate 3D (!) reproduction of stereophonic recordings, better dynamics and transient response, deeper bass without boomy effects, optimal mechanical damping of the turntable without loss of micro information and a smoother amplitude/frequency response with less subjective distortion. Jean offered us a review sample during this year’s Munich High End.

Not long ago we were lucky to acquire a trio of Thorens turntables, one of which is now fully operational. A TD 160 with SME III and TD124 with a TP16 are still works in progress. The TD 160BC MKII with an SME III arm fitted with a pristine Dynavector 20B2 cartridge meanwhile has become the platform for our growing vinyl collection. The turntable sits on an Acacia wood shelf made by Franck Tchang’s Acoustic System International.

While the turntable mechanics are fine, the original mat is quite hard. An LP merely contacts the rubber mat’s three concentric rings, each of which is just one centimeter wide. This results in the LP having two fairly large hollow sections beneath its surface. These hollows are of course acting as resonant chambers to be sonically detrimental. We  tried other mats but then had to readjust VTA accordingly - which with an SME III is not the easiest of tasks. Phew.

With a thickness of just one millimeter, the Hiraga mat adds no height to warrant any VTA adjustment in our book. Installation was thus as simple as can be. First we played Frank Zappa’s Roxy and Elsewhere without the TTM-P01, then with it in place. Our conclusion was fast and furious. The mat would stay on the turntable. Compared to the original rubber mat, the combination with the leather skin matched all the claims Jean makes about his product. The overall sound was more liquid and grounded. It seemed as though the turntable had gotten heavier to form a more solid platform for arm and cartridge. Each album we played created the same with/without impressions. Another welcome mat effect is its slip prevention during handling. Sometimes a record would slip on the rubber mat when the Mobile Fidelity record brush was pushed down on the record a little too hard. With the leather mat in place, the record/platter interface has enough friction to prevent any slippage. In conclusion, while this Hiraga mat might be the simplest solution imaginable to affront all the hi-tech mavens, it does work exactly as advertised. Sometimes simple really does it.

Quality of packing: The mat comes in a record sleeve that sits in a plastic sleeve.
Reusability of packing: Yes.
Website comments: Website needs some work.
Pricing: €120 is a lot of money for a small circle of pigskin but the results are undeniably worth it.
Final comments & suggestions: This mat isn’t going anywhere but staying on our turntable.

Jean Hiraga website