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This review first appeared in the March 2007 issue of and can be read in its original German version here. It is herewith translated and presented to an English-only audience through a mutual syndication arrangement with As is customary for our own reviews, the writer's signature at review's end has a link below it to his e-mail should you have questions or feedback you wish to send. All images contained in this review are the property of - Ed.

Reviewer: Ralph Werner
Source: Analog - Acoustic Solid MPX, Phonotools Vivid-Two, Denon DL-103, Ortofon MC Rondo Bronce, Shelter 501 II, Zu Audio DL-103 mod; digital - audiolab 8000CD
Amplification: integrated - Magnat RV-1, Myryad MXI 2080; preamp - bel canto PRe 3, Funk LAP-2; power amp - bel canto M300 monos
Loudspeakers: Volent Paragon VL-2, Zu Audio Druid mk4
Cables: low-level - Ecosse Baton + Symphony, fis Audio Studioline, fis Audio Livetime, Funk BS-2, van den Hul Integration Hybrid, Zaolla Reinsilber NF – high-level - Ecosse SMS2.3, fis Audio Livetime, Ixos 6006 Gamma, Zu Audio Libtec
Power distribution: fis Audio Livetime
Rack: Creactiv & Taoc AS-3
Review component retail: €199

I wasn't planning on this report. I hit upon this subject which won't interest everyone by chance. But since I find the improvements obvious and positive; and since more than a few people are willing to fork over 5-figure amounts for homeopathic band aids of dubious efficacy; a brief alert seemed called for - on a shale disc to be placed atop a turntable.

So yes, this encounter was coincidental. Cue up moi. I check whether my Acoustic Solid MPX runs squared off. My small bubble level falls on the bare platter and then off to roll underneath the couch. The resultant sound woulda done a tuning fork proud. Hmph. Ringing isn't exactly what you expect from a record platter. Which explains why the MPX is delivered with a 6mm thick acrylic decoupling disc, atop which I place a leather mat and only then the black gold.

How to tell though how many worthwhile materials might be placed atop a metal platter? Enter the Google and the Internets. They led me to the webpage of Frank Landmesser who claimed a slate disc graced his Fat Bob to good effect. This called for a personal experiment...

The black disc goes by the name of Shale Damping Mat and is built by Musical Life whose owner Michael Stolz likes to employ slate in strategic places also for his own turntables. Slate's amorphous structure is said to exhibit an excellent balance of self damping and transmissive qualities whereas Herr Stolz finds acrylic less than ideal, being predominantly a damper. The Damping Mat is crafted to order from 6mm thickness up to 8 and 10mm. I wanted the thinnest to see my platter's shaft protrude sufficiently. What's ultimately appropriate depends on your table and shaft height. A few measurements and a brief el consulto with Herr Stolz will have you set.

The sliver o' slate is planed perfectly flat to make for a flawless surface coupler. There's even a shallow recess for the record label. So what gives sonically? Your HighEnd DJ spent two days swapping discs: acrylic and slate - plus leather. Sometimes this gig just cracks me up...

With suspended tables, solid slate for a full platter seems prohibitive due to weight. Springs would compress unnecessarily or require beastly counter force. It'll be more useful for high-mass non-suspended getups and platters that are not fully optimized for resonance attenuation. Seeing that fully machined metal platters aren't exactly rare, I can envision their ilk as particular beneficiaries of today's tweak.

In my digs, the Slate Damping Mat had two effects. One was obvious and in hindsight easily rationalized, namely better bass. The other wasn't as easily nailed down -- I'd hint at it with altogether more relaxed playback -- and spread out over various nuances.

Let's deal with the bass first. I was admittedly a bit surprised, having figured that if this gizmo indeed attenuated self resonance in the aluminum platter, I'd hear the obvious improvements in the presence region and higher. Instead, I was led into the basement. No complaints. I'll not claim a full extra octave of extension but things did go rather louder than with the acrylic disc.

Curiously, it might at very first blush seem like less bass but that's illusory. The slate disc simply linearizes the lower band, compared to which the acrylic seemed to roll of steeper and incur a small boost in the upper bass. The shale flattened things out and there was clearly less amplitude in the upper bass but more down below. The bottom octaves gained in class and the bass register was more finely differentiated, runs articulated better and music more grounded without degenerating into boomy vulgarity. Were this the only upshot, it'd be well worth the acquisition. Verra nice indeedie.

But there was more - perhaps all nuances but pointing in the right direction, with their sum the difference. The common denominator was that playback calmed down and cleared up. Say what? Take soundstaging. The far recesses of the stage plainly lit up more for a deeper experience. Localization focus improved too, ex negative since not only did the stage expand but also the space between the performers. Cue up the infamous black backgrounds. With shale, those darkened further by two or three clicks to increase contrast ratio. Music clarified not just spatially but also during dense polyrhythmic passages. My present fave LP is Cat Power's latest, Jukebox. Halfway through "Metal Heart", center stage (particularly for Cat Power standards) grew louder and fuller. Where the acrylic mat sounded like a pleasing mélange, the slate mat didn't outright parcel-ize but everything organized more finely for more data at the ear.

No sooner kicked off "Silver Stallion" than I had to reach for the note pad again. Guitar opens the song, Cat Power vocals follow for quintessentially simple fare. Alas, the presentation between shale and acrylic was quite different. With the acrylic, the guitar was bigger - or more to the point, wider. Swapping in the slate, one suspected that wider meant 'bigger than live'. Which I could live with.

But the stone mat didn't merely shrink the instrument back to more realistic proportions, it also gained a bit of body, a bit extra 3D. Put drastically, a pancake entered the third dimension. The guitar now exhibited greater plasticity. Better yet, the same held true for voices. I strained 'til blood showed to hear any tonal shifts in the mid/upper band. Not. Okay, perhaps a tad but not much - a mite darker and fuller but just a mite. But something else happened which I'd circle with words like more tactile, tangible, embodied and authentic. Personally, definitely the right direction.

Dynamically? No macro gains for Sturm & Drang excesses, rather a slight linearization if anything. It's the micro domain and intelligibility of small stuff that became noticeably better. Once again, consider greater calm. Calm or silence are prerequisites to make out minimal amplitude shifts which otherwise are stifled in the noise floor.

Every deck will respond differently to render generalized predictions silly - which wasn't my aim in the first place, just to issue a note about a personal experiment. Still, I'm compelled to make a recommendation of Musical Life's Slate Damping Mat if
  • Your high-mass deck employs a full-metal platter.
  • You suspect less than maximal bass recovery from your table as is.
  • You desire better musical organization and structure during playback.

What began as a semi amused order for the analog play pen 'when you have nothing else to do' ended in a solid conviction. This stone won't roll to elsewhere. It's been bought and stays.

My reasons:
  • The Shale Damping Mat extends the response downward for more bass solidity. The upper bass linearizes and leans out. The low end is better balanced, differentiated and goes lower.
  • Soundstaging improves especially in the depth with deeper clearer layering.
  • Sounds and instruments are localized more precisely.
  • Voices and instruments gain in corporeality for higher realism.
  • Microdynamics improve.
  • Dense passages are better sorted and individual lines more intelligible.


  • MSRP: €199 Euro
  • Dimensions: To order, starting at 6mm thickness
  • Trim: Magoc shale, planed and polished with label recess
  • Distribution: retail and direct
  • Other: If not customized (required for Transrotor), returns are possible - discuss first.
  • Website:
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