Product: MayRecords Cork Mat
Manufacturer: MayRecords - China
Availability: Company's website, Aliexpress, other web commerce sites
Approx. price: ±10$/€, shipping included!
Reviewer: Lucio Cadeddu - TNT Italy
Reviewed: June, 2021
It is not a mystery that cork is an excellent material for building good turntable mats. Starting from our TNT Janus DIY design, made of a sheet of cork glued to a sheet of damping material, and considering the original Ringmat and all the plethora of high-end cork mats now available, it is clear that this natural material - which comes from the cortex of the Quercus suber tree - has conquered the hearts of die-hard analogue lovers.
Why? Oh well, that's easy to explain: cork is extremely lightweight, antistatic and has good damping properties as well. Moreover, it does not attract dust, like felt and some kinds of rubber do. Hence, it is simply perfect as a mechanical interface between the turntable platter and the vinyl surface. It is also quite inexpensive, though HiFi Companies tend to skyrocket selling prices, as usual.
The DIY route has been already published here on TNT-Audio (and that was in 1998!) but nowadays cutting and glueing might be no longer necessary, as cork mats can be found for peanuts.
I've made some market research to find out the one which seems, to me, the best bargain out there. Let me introduce the MayRecords Cork Mat, an extremely well made pure cork mat that can be purchased for less than 10$/€, shipping included. MayRecords is a Chinese company which specializes in analogue accessories: cleaning devices, turntable mats, LP storage shelves etc. I paid 7€ (seven) for my Cork Mat, and that included shipping costs! Shipping wasn't lightning fast, but still reasonable. At this precise moment (June, 2021) the Cork Mat can be found on Aliexpress for 6.81€ + 1.68€ for a 10-days shipping option. Your costs may vary, of course, depending on special offers/sales and shipping methods.
First of all, unlike many other claimed cork mats (which are a mix of rubber and cork instead) this is 100% pure cork! It has a diameter of 296 mm and a thickness of 3mm, more or less like your usual felt mat. The felt-made Slipmat I reviewed last year was slightly smaller in diameter and thinner, by a negligible amount. In any case, you won't need to adjust the arm height (VTA) if you use the Cork Mat as a substitute for a standard felt mat (or thin rubber mat).
The Cork Mat is slightly heavier than the Slipmat (55 grams instead of 31) but nothing that can interfere with the subchassis resonance frequency. It is a plug&play substitution, indeed.
It is extremely well made and cut, and the record label area (see pic) is slightly thinner, so to offer a better record interface. Even the center hole is just perfect. The sample under review has been anonymously purchased by me so to be sure to get a standard run of the mill unit, not a selected for the reviewer mat. Hence, this mat under review is exactly like the one you'll purchase.
It does everything is expected from a cork mat: first of all is is anti-static, though in certain conditions a small static build-up might occour, as it depends on many factors. Then it does not attract dust and can be easily cleaned with a soft microfiber cloth. Moreover, it is soft and has some nice damping property.
Soundwise, it is more detailed and precise than the felt Slipmat I reviewed one year ago. Bass articulation is on a higher level, too. Generally, the sound is tighter and the 3D scene is better focused.
Of course, as any other analogue accessory, the final result highly depends on the turntable and on the combination of platter/tonearm/cartridge. Last, but not least, the tonal balance of your analogue replay set-up might be already on the bright side, and hence a felt mat might be a better choice. Given the ridiculously low price, it might be a good idea to give this mat a try. Just check the diameter of your platter carefully, as some might be smaller than this mat. And a mat larger than the platter is a no-no, at least aesthetically!
The company makes a slightly more expensive cork/rubber mix mat as well, but I haven't tried it.
This mat is probably the least expensive cork mat on the market (I've have considered other similar mats) which is so nicely cut and built. Hence, it is an almost mandatory choice for anyone willing to test a cork mat on his turntable. It might be - in any case - a revealing experience, as turntables are generally highly sensitive to any change/tweak.
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