If you understand how to record playback works, you also understand that there is perhaps nothing more important in getting the very best sound than turntable isolation – OK, clean and saic-free records are pretty important too, but it’s amazing just how much detriment excess – or even a little – vibration or resonance can have on the sound.
Keeping your turntable free from vibration improves every aspect of listening, and can make a much more dramatic difference to fidelity and the beauty of sound than upgrading a cartridge or even the turntable itself.
One of the best ways to do this – to keep your turntable steady and solid in all kinds of conditions – is with a good isolation platform, and in this article, I’m going to recommend a few of the best turntable isolation bases you can get, as well as talking about a couple of other things you can do to improve physical isolation.
If you’re in a hurry and don’t want to go through the whole article, I won’t take it personally – heck, I’ll even be glad to send you my top two recommendations!
- Best Turntable Isolation Base Overall – IsoAcoustics zaZen II Isolation Platform
- Best Turntable Isolation Base – Budget – Auralex ISO-Tone Turntable Isolation Platform
Do You Need a Good Turntable Isolation Base?
Well, at the risk of sounding glib, I would say that if you want to hear your records to their full advantage, then yes, absolutely.
That is, to really find the last levels of that incredibly alive, warm, and present musicality that only records can offer, and get at all of the detail and nuance hidden away in those vinyl grooves, you need to at least try a high-quality turntable base – I say ‘try,’ but I’m pretty sure you’ll never let it go.
Keeping your turntable stable and vibration free improves everything – detail and resolution, bass response, warmth and musicality, focus and solidity of sound, imaging, well, the list just goes on and on…
If a turntable is shaken by footfalls or other movements, or especially by the acoustical energy coming from speakers and subwoofers, the needle is shaken in the groove and is unable to accurately and completely track those modulations – and so, not keeping your turntable stable and vibration free has exactly the opposite effect, and all of those desirable qualities, which can take our music listening to the next level, spiral down in the opposite direction faster than you can say “medium density fiberboard.”
I should say that this is true whether you are a true audiophile, always seeking more accuracy, more resolution, more dynamic energy, lower noise, and all of that good stuff, or if you are a true music lover, always seeking more, well, music.
It’s also true whether you have a super-cheap record player from JC Penny (is JC Penny even a thing anymore?) or a top-tier premium turntable – even the best ‘tables, the design of which often gives priority to acoustical/physical isolation and damping above all else, can benefit from a stable, inert isolation base.
The best isolation bases are often quite cheap, and even the most expensive of them are remarkably affordable, and they are, again, often called the least expensive way to better sound and one of the best and most cost-effective upgrades you can possibly make to your system.
So let’s have a look at a handful of the best isolation platforms for turntables you can get, listed here from least to most expensive. At the end of the article, in the Bonus Section, I will very briefly talk about other things you can do to further improve your turntable or record player’s physical isolation.
But first let’s lay a proper foundation, with the best isolation bases for turntables available today.
The 6 Best Turntable Isolation Bases in 2023
- MADE IN USA VETERAN OWNED & OPERATED
- ANTI-VIBRATION & ANTI-SLIP: Prevents all...
- AUDIOPHILE APPROVED: Good Vibrations was...
- SAFE FOR ALL APPLICATIONS: Natural rubber...
- CUSTOM SIZES: For sizes other than listed,...
It is amazing that anything so simple and so inexpensive can make such an enormous difference in sound, but I have used this simple, acoustically dead mat in a couple of different systems/environments and with both a moderately priced turntable and a much more high-end animal, and in both cases the difference was dramatic.
The Good Vibrations is a simple single-piece base (actually a ¼-inch thick three-layer mat, with softer natural rubber on the top and bottom and very stiff, dead felt in the middle), and is most effective on surfaces that are already pretty stable – which is where you want your turntable to be anyway. But on a solid and stable table, the Good Vibrations mat offers the next level of acoustic decoupling.
The main differences I notice when using a Good Vibrations mat are substantial improvements in the focus and detail of bass and deep bass, the amount of detail overall, and the solidity and consistency of imaging, which opens up in a very pleasing way.
Besides a good record cleaner, I cannot think of a single accessory at this very low price that can improve the sound of records this much – and while the cleaner is perhaps more important, the Good Vibrations base makes a bigger, more obvious, and more immediate difference to the sound, and really does bring everything to a new level.
- Acoustically decoupling
- Decouples the turntable from the footprint...
- Insulates a turntable
- Versatile use
And speaking of the next level, the Auralex ISO-Tone turntable base is even a little better than the Good Vibrations just above – of course, it’s a little more expensive too, but the Auralex will offer a slightly higher resolution of detail, a bit more focus in notes and their transient attack and decay, and a very slight improvement in imaging over the cheaper choice.
That said, these differences are pretty small, and the differences between either of them and a turntable without an isolation base are gigantic – if you’ve been in the desert for a few days without water, the less expensive Good Vibrations is like a glass of tap water, which will have a dramatic effect and may even save your life, while the Auralex is like a glass of Evian, which will taste a little better.
To be clear, neither of them and no turntable base in existence, in any but the most bizarre circumstances, will save your life.
All of my odd disclaimers and rambling metaphors aside, the Auralex is a bit better at isolating a turntable, using both dense foam and high-density particleboard, and I would say that even if the difference is slight in equal conditions, this ISOTone would be better choice if you have a subwoofer, if your turntable is on a slightly less stable surface or if you play music really, really loud.
And, comparisons aside, let me be clear that the Auralex ISO-Tone is a fantastic product, which works amazingly well for the price and is a well-made and well-finished piece. It will make such a difference in sound quality that, even if it is a few dollars more than the Good Vibrations, you will consider it an amazing value.
Which of the two is a better value? Well, for audiophiles that are not nearly as big of a concern as even the smallest improvements those few dollars can afford.
- Wood Species: Rock Hard Sugar Maple
- Lamination: Edge-grain
- Edge type: Square | Finish: Durakryl 102
- Includes Integrated Threaded Brass Inserts -...
- Includes Iso-Feet - 13/16” Tall x 1” Dia...
I can confidently say that, even if there is a small difference between the least expensive and the second least expensive products on this list of best turntable bases, when we move to the third level the improvement increases are much greater – way out of proportion, in fact, to the price increase.
If you are able to place your turntable on a solid and stable surface, and also use this heavy Butcher Block Acoustics platform – which is a solid hardwood plinth set on four excellent ISO-Feet, you are approaching the very highest level of acoustic isolation and will notice an even much more dramatic increase in so many sonic elements.
One of the most striking effects is the marked increase in acoustic energy and dynamic impact – both strong shifts in volume and level and subtle dynamic inflections come through more effectively. You will also hear a substantial increase in focus on the low end, with the kind of deep bass speed, tone, and decay we expect from top-tier audiophile turntables – often the biggest difference between a several hundred dollars ‘ tables and a several thousand dollars one is related to mechanical/acoustic isolation.
Any kind of feedback or noise you might have experienced will likely drop to inaudible levels, or even be completely eliminated, and imaging, timing, and presence will improve, with tiny spatial-temporal cues suddenly appearing and the sense of ensemble and of musical flow greatly increasing.
If you have a fairly stable stereo equipment rack, floor mount, table, or cabinet for your turntable, and are in an average to larger space, this Butcher Blocks Acoustics turntable isolation platform will make an enormous difference, revealing so much of what audiophiles spend so much time – and often a lot more money – pursuing.
If you are in a smaller space, have a powerful subwoofer, and/or play music at extreme volumes pretty regularly, one of the below choices may be better, but at this price, nothing compares to the Butcher Block Acoustics.
- Support platform for many turntables or other...
- Prevents the transmission of vibrations
- Heavy weight MDF
- Conical feet with damping ring
- Height adjustable
Pro-Ject makes some of the most amazing affordable turntables on the market today, and the company’s engineers clearly know what is involved in getting the most out of any vinyl record.
And this one idea – getting the most out of vinyl record playback – is the reason we’re here today, looking at the best turntable isolation platforms, and is also what the Pro-Ject Ground It E base does so very well.
Compared even to the wonderful Butcher Block Acoustics base just above, the Ground It reveals significantly more detail, and shows a remarkable increase in timing and musical energy. I cannot stress enough that these qualities are relative – that is, the more expensive Pro-Ject is clearly better than even the Butcher Block, but both are almost unbelievably better than a turntable without a good base.
I have to believe that the main difference is in materials – this may seem a little counter-intuitive, but fiberboard – especially specially engineered and prepared fiberboard – is much more acoustically inert than even the finest hardwoods, and can avoid the unfortunate resonances or ringing you might get in a solid wood platform – or, for that matter, a solid wood speaker cabinet, which is why even the most expensive speakers may have exotic wood veneers, but the cabinets themselves will often be made of the highest quality and most inert compressed wood materials.
And so it is with the superb MDF this Pro-Ject Ground It turntable base is made of, which eliminates so much acoustical interference from speakers, footsteps, other equipment (yes, even subtle electric or electronic resonances and vibrations), and any other potential disruptors, and makes record playback clean, clear and extraordinarily vivid.
Really, with the still quite affordable Pro-Ject Ground It turntable platform, we are at the level where I stop talking about dynamics and micro-dynamics, bass attack and decay, even imaging and presence, and start talking about the beautiful musical bloom, the sense of a musical event actually occurring in your space, the way the music and the musicians come alive.
Suitable for even the highest of high-end turntables, the Pro-Ject Ground It turntable platform transforms any turntable, and allows any audiophile or music lover, at any level, to get closer to the music, in all its living and breathing beauty – very highly recommended!
- 17” (432mm) Wide x 15” (381mm) Depth....
- zaZen II from IsoAcoustics is a stable...
- LOW NOISE FLOOR: The combination of the mass...
- PATENTED ISOACOUSTICS ISOLATION: Tested at...
- REVEAL THE FINER DETAILS FROM YOUR RECORDS:...
I absolutely love the Pro-Ject Ground It turntable base, and am a huge fan of the company and all its products, but – though it pains me to admit it – this IsoAcoustics zaZen isolation platform is better.
It doesn’t actually pain me to say that, and really I think either one is about as good as it gets in most ways, keeping the needle as stable and effective as possible in the record’s groove and extracting the maximum detail and musical information from any record.
But the zaZen base is very slightly better at the enormously important job of decoupling the turntable from the surface on which it sits – the Pro-Ject does this extraordinarily well, but the specially designed feet of the zaZen, with their slightly yielding middle layer (made of some mysterious, unidentified red matter) makes it a very slightly better turntable base for people in smaller spaces, or with slightly less stable tables, shelves or equipment racks, with big powerful subwoofers or with a penchant for playing music very, very loud – or, of course, all of the above.
All of the improvements we expect in a top-tier isolation system are here in spades, including a very obvious clarification of detail, dynamics, transient attack and natural decay, imaging and soundstage, tonal accuracy and tonal beauty, and those less definable qualities of timing, ensemble, and presence.
And more than probably any turntable base I’ve ever used, the IsoAcoustics zaZen turntable isolation platform maintains all of this focus, coherence, speed, detail, energy, life, and beauty even as the volume rises and the acoustical energy reaches intense levels – and again, even in smaller spaces, with less stable surfaces and with immense deep bass.
Ok, not more than any base I’ve ever used – I’ve witnessed the effects of turntable platforms that are far more expensive than my turntable – and one, a strange hand-made contraption which cost more to put together than my whole system – and yes, they were even more amazing.
But seriously, more than my turntable, which is not a cheap one…
But for a still very affordable price – just over 200 dollars, in fact – you can make a bigger difference to your sound system than you can with any accessory I can think of, especially if you play a lot of records.
And, if you’re like me, the more records you play, the more you play records – I will always, or at least until there is a demonstrably quantum increase in the musicality of digital audio, maintain that records are more beautiful and more real than even the highest res of music files or streams, and with the right base this has never been more evident.
And for the money, for the quality, and for the amazing improvements it affords, the IsoAcoustics zaZen is definitely the right base, and for my money the best isolation platform for turntables overall.
Bonus Section: What Else Can You Do to Improve Record Playback?
I am really going to just quickly mention a few things you can do to increase your turntable’s physical/acoustic isolation, little tips, and hints that can have some of the same effects of getting the best isolation base for turntables, if to a lesser degree, and which if used with such a base will improve things even more.
But first, I have to stress, to maintain a clear conscience, that there is one thing even more important than a good turntable isolation base, and that is a good record cleaner, especially when used in combination with a good anti-static product.
And for me, there are a couple of really stand-out choices. For record cleaners, I would strongly recommend the Big Fudge Professional Series Vinyl Record Cleaning Kit, which is cheap and enormously effective. If you are a serious record collector, or a true audiophile looking for the highest level of record playback, look instead at the superb, if a bit pricey, Vinyl Doctor Vacuum Record Cleaning Machine.
For static, which will just draw all that dirt back into our precious records’ grooves, and can cause all kinds of other problems, I myself would never be without the Zerostat 3 Antistatic Gun, and always store my records in Big Fudge Master Sleeves or something similar.
That out of the way, I can offer a few basic tips for making increasing the stability and acoustic isolation of your turntable, and so to close this article on the best turntable isolation platforms I will list them here:
A good turntable isolation base – I forget, did we talk about this already? Seriously, the main thing.
A solid foundation – whatever shelves, table, or rack you place your turntable on should be solid and stable, and if it is a shelf or thinner table top you can greatly increase its stability by placing large books or other heavy objects on the same surface.
Similarly, whenever possible, place your turntable, your equipment rack, really your whole system, on a stable, not-flexing, not-shaking, non-moving floor. This may not be possible, and a good equipment rack – even inexpensive ones like the rock-solid Pangea Audio Vulcan can make a big difference, but whichever you choose, remember that open racks are always better – and not just for reduced vibration and resonance – than closed cabinets.
The dreaded dust cover – I would not play a record, even at lower volumes, with the turntable’s dust cover in place. When it’s on the turntable – and especially if it is open – even the best dustcover can vibrate and resonate and greatly degrade the sound. Luckily, almost any turntable allows you to easily remove the cover, although you should replace it and keep it down between uses.
Couple the record – even if we are working so hard to ensure the acoustic isolation of your turntable, we shouldn’t forget that the record can also be subject to vibration and, especially, resonance, and this can have just as serious of a negative effect on detail, dynamics, deep bass, imaging and so forth, which is the idea behind record weights and record mats.
Good record mats, like my favorite PRO SPIN Acrylic, can be really cheap, and will hugely decrease or even eliminate this type of resonance and vibration, and can also reduce static electricity buildup. Even an audiophile-grade record mat, like the superb Pro-Ject Leather-It platter mat, isn’t expensive and makes a huge difference. For a good record weight, which greatly increases the effect of a mat, look no further than the wonderful and inexpensive Viborg LP628B Record Weight.
No subwoofer – actually, I love subwoofers, and recommend you get as many as your room can hold – ok, probably one or two are enough… But you should never, ever put your turntable on a subwoofer, no matter how good of an isolation base you have. In fact, I would never put my turntable less than maybe ten feet from my subwoofer, and an even more, distance is preferable.
In fact, a turntable will always sound better as far away as possible from any and all of your speakers. Even tweeters can cause if not gross vibrations, certain resonances which can mess with the sound, and midranges and small woofers can have a big negative effect.
Weight and skate – the main adjustments of a high-quality turntable – tracking weight and anti-skating – are crucial to better sound and longer record life, and can even make a difference in reducing vibrations, and reducing the effects of vibrations. Even if you’re sure it’s all good, check these crucial settings regularly just to make sure.