If you’re here, you probably already know just how important a good turntable mat is – the right turntable mat improves sound in so many fundamental and clearly obvious ways, and can even make your records and your needle last longer.
But if you’re here you have probably also noticed that there are about a gazillion different record mats on the market today, and except for the occasional bold graphics printed across their face (sometimes quite cool, sometimes a little creepy) they all pretty much look exactly the same.
So how can you find the right mat for your turntable and your budget? Well, I have tried a lot of them – really, more than I care to admit, and I have compiled this list of the best record mats on the market today.
This is a relatively short article, but still if you’d like to get the picks and get out here are my top three choices:
- Best Record Mat Overall Thorens High-Grade Leather Turntable Platter Mat:
- Best Turntable Mat – Mid-Priced Pro-Ject Audio Systems Cork & Rubber it Record Mat
- Best Turntable Mat – Budget Mobile Pro Shop Acrylic Turntable Mat
Why Should You Replace Your Turntable’s Mat?
Again, you probably already have at least a general idea of why an upgraded turntable mat is so important, and in what ways it can improve things, but let’s look at this in a bit more detail.
A good upgraded record mat will:
- Reduce Static
- Makes record playback quieter – less clicks and pops
- also keeps your records cleaner longer, as they won’t attract as much dust and other nasty stuff
- Improve Focus
- by improving the coupling between the record and platter, and reducing resonances (often quite dramatically), you will notice better, deeper and faster bass, increased detail, more air around the music, more open and precise stereo imaging, better dynamic energy and excitement, more palpable vocals, more realistic instrumental sounds and generally a more accurate and transparent sonic picture
- Reduce Noise
- The dampening provided by a good turntable mat not only reduces resonances, but also buffers the record, and the needle in the groove, from motor noise, mechanical noise and vibration from the ‘table’s mechanisms, the plinth (base) and the surface on which the turntable sits – this not only is a part of the improved focus, but can directly reduce mechanical noise
- Increase Needle Life
- By reducing feedback, vibration and resonance, not only is the needle much more able to track the often microscopic modulations in the record groove, but that needle itself will suffer less wear and tear, and will last – and sound better – longer
You might naturally expect that as you go up in price you will notice these things getting better and better, but here we have to be careful. I have played around with and tested a lot of different turntable mats, and in my experience the lowest priced turntable mats do everything very well – especially if you get the right one.
And almost all of the more expensive mats offer little or no additional improvement – especially if you get the wrong one!
So I am just going to offer a brief and pretty subjective summary of my experience, pointing to and recommending a couple of very inexpensive record mats that will make a huge difference to your vinyl playback experience and listening enjoyment.
And then I will talk about only three more (or five more, depending on how you count), which are the only ones I’ve found at higher price levels which offer significant improvements and are actually worth the increase in price – in each case, in fact, I have to say that if they are in your budget they are well worth the increase.
And make sure to stick around for the Bonus Section at the end of the article, where I talk about some of the least creepy and best sounding record mats with graphics.
The Best Record Mats for 2023
Best Turntable Mat – Budget
- Improve LP sound quality – The acrylic turntable slipmats helps to reduce pop and static through smooth, professional sound dampening, and...
- High-quality material – This platter slipmat is made of premium quality acrylic material so you can save your money by using it for a long...
- Less splashy sounds – Provides a premium quality listening experience with tighter bass response. It will reduce the amount of static on...
- Provides modern look – Get rid of dull & boring colors these acrylic slipmats will brighten your studio room with unique colors. More...
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For a long time I was really into the PRO SPIN Acrylic Antistatic Turntable Mat, and recommended it pretty frequently as an inexpensive way to make a big difference in a turntable’s sound – and in fact I still do think it’s one of the best values around, and a great product for the money.
But recently I have found the Mobile Pro Shop mat, and now use it instead on my secondary system. Ok, there isn’t an enormous difference between the two, but the MPS does seem to tighten up the bass even more, impart more focus to midrange vocals and instruments, give slightly more air to the soundstage and a bit more precise and stable placement in that soundstage, and maybe the tiniest increase in dynamics and musical energy overall.
But really, these are tiny differences, and it may be less of a sign of significant differences between these two excellent mats and more of a sign that I need to spend a bit more time outside.
Seriously, though, either way you go – Pro Spin or Mobile Pro – you’re going to see a big improvement in vinyl playback and listening on many levels, and these are probably the two best record mats on the market at this lowest price level.
Best Non-Vegan Alternative
I am a huge fan of Pro-Ject products, and find the company to be exceptionally focused on and in tune with all aspects of vinyl record playback – amazing turntables, amazing phono preamps, amazing accessories and a lot more.
And their Pro-Ject: Leather It Platter Mat is pretty amazing too, but I have to say that the Atrafen deer hide mat is better, offering a slight increase in most factors and a marked improvement in bass extension and stereo imaging.
I don’t even know who Atrafen is, but they do make a heck of a turntable mat, which is beautiful to look at and which improves focus pretty dramatically over even the excellent Pro Spin and Mobile Pro choices above.
In fact, with the Atrafen you can even upgrade the mat of a fairly expensive turntable and notice a big difference – I for instance tried it on my Rega P2 turntable, a unit that retails for nearly 800 dollars, and the Atrafen at least subtly improved deep bass focus and increased both musical energy and detail, as well as space and ease, especially in the high frequencies.
These were all very slight improvements over the Rega’s already excellent standard felt record mat, but with most turntables the differences will be much more dramatic, as will the difference between the Artafen record mat and the two less expensive choices above.
The Pro-Ject leather mat is a great choice for around 50 dollars, but the Atrafen deer hide turntable mat, for about 10 bucks less (get it? bucks?) is better, and a much better value.
The Next Level – Best Mid-Priced Turntable Mat
- Prevents electrostatic charge of the plates
- Reduces unwanted playing noise
- Fits any turntable
- Available in two different thicknesses: 3 mm 1 mm
- Choose the thick mat (3 mm) for light and thin metal plates or the thin mat (1 mm) for heavy and solid turntables.
But Pro-Ject shall have its day, and their cork and rubber turntable mat is a truly superior product.
I’m not sure why I didn’t click as much with the Pro-Ject leather mat – I did try, again and again, with a couple of different turntables and a few cartridges and with lots of different music, but it never took off for me.
But their Cork and Rubber It mat is different – a totally successful product and the next level in terms of audible improvements in record playback.
Bass suddenly had substantially more substance – and in that way that doesn’t come from false equalization, but from simply retrieving the information more accurately from the record groove. Similarly, if to a lesser degree, high frequency detail also increased, and suddenly had more air and space around it, more ease and more speed. Mids became the tiniest bit more present, emerging just a touch from the background, and overall imaging and soundstaging felt like it got laser-etched.
Even cheaper than their leather mat, and to me a much better choice, the Pro-Ject Cork & Rubber It turntable mat is the best value I’ve found, and would be my first choice overall – the Thorens and Music Hall mats, just below, are clearly better, but for half the price the Pro-Ject is self-recommending.
Best Record Mat Overall
- High quality platter mat of real leather.
- Exclusive platter mat made from high-quality leather.
- Thorens logo.
- Acoustically optimized turntable by resonance dampening.
I’ve written myself into a corner, as they say, because I just said that the Pro-Ject cork and rubber mat would be my first choice overall, and based on all factors, including price, this may be true.
But I have to say that the Thorens premium leather mat is significantly better, and lends the vinyl record listening session a particular kind of magic – this is perhaps only, or at least most especially, true with really high end equipment – good turntables in the, say, 500 dollar plus range and appropriate associated equipment.
But when you have the right gear, the Thorens leather record mat is amazing, with not just obvious and marked improvements in bass extension, energy and control, midrange palpability, treble extension, ease and tonal beauty, and an extraordinary opening up and clarifying of the soundstage, but with an indescribable… well, again the only word I can think of is magic.
Things are not just more solid and focused, but they are more alive, more actual and present, in that way that the highest of high end audiophile gear gets to. In fact, that’s what I kept thinking, that the improvements in my Rega P2, with the Thorens mat replacing the standard felt mat, were like the improvements we see in upgrading to a super-high-end top-tier phono preamplifier, or a new and extraordinarily synergetic new tonearm/cartridge combination.
I also really like the Music Hall Aztec blue cork mat, which is a smidge more expensive and has similarly dramatic benefits, but while the Music Hall beautifully clarifies and focuses literally everything, the Thorens leather mat brought the music to life all around me, and allowed me to fall into listening more than I have in some time – top recommendation!
Bonus Section: Creepy? Really? The Best Record Mats with Graphics
This is less a conclusion than a silly aside, but I did want to make sure and give love to a very nice company – TazStudios.
Taz only offers a handful of graphically emblazoned turntable mats, but they are really beautiful and very well made. I have seen three or four of them in person, and the quality of the printing as well as the feel of the mat itself are all first rate.
I also got to try one of them, and can report that they are not all just good looks – the one I tried was on a friend’s system, so I can’t give the most reliable or detailed report, but the TazStudios mat seemed to really open things up on about the same level as the Mobile Pro and Pro Spin mats I recommend above – perhaps not quite to the same extent, but quite noticeably, and much more so than with a lot of budget mats I’ve tried.
So if you like the look of their bold geometric / mandalish (I just made that word up) patterns, and don’t mind spending a very few dollars more, the TazStudios turntable mats are excellent choices, and you can check out the whole line on their Product Page.