Writing today in 2023 on the topic of how to care for your vinyl records at home, turntable mats and stylus brushes might seem an out-of-date obsession of an era of music centres and a pre-digital world.
Back to 1987 levels of popularity for vinyl sales in the US over CDriaa.com
Nevertheless, the endurance of the vinyl medium continues to grow and reaches a new music-loving audience against the backdrop of streaming and other digital formats.
Reported today, Vinyl record sales outperformed CDs in the US for the first time since 1987.
A number of factors have been cited as the reason for the continued strength of the vinyl sales market. Key has been the trend towards physical copies of music ( especially the album covers ) and time spent at home during the Covid-19 lockdown in 2020. COVID-19 was a subject we touched upon before at AQ.
Certainly as much as digital took over our working lives / school with zoom meetings and remote working, this time at home music lovers were looking to fill the void with enjoyment of music on vinyl.
The report highlights 16 years of continuous growth in the sales of vinyl. We can say that vinyl is not a fad but a return to listening to music on a physical medium. Perhaps more than anything the psychology connection to music and the sense of physically owning your music.
My late father was a major influence on me in the love of music and in the main we listened to quite a high-quality collection of music on vinyl at home or trips to the record library. Those were great days out. CD was never as engaging musically, but more importantly vinyl required care and that was the fun part as much as listening.
This endearing quality of vinyl has been explained by, RIAA Chairman and CEO Mitch Glazier in a post on medium.
“Music lovers clearly can’t get enough of the high-quality sound and tangible connection to artists vinyl delivers,” Glazier said, “and labels have squarely met that demand with a steady stream of exclusives, special reissues, and beautifully crafted packages and discs.”
New vinyl is not the full story or the only consideration.
Taking care of older and vintage vinyl
We must also factor in the abundance of used vinyl available from thrift stores, charity shops, and eBay. So much music is available to own and enjoy at a relatively low cost and a green way to buy music.
Used vinyl when cared for has all the sound qualities of a virgin vinyl and has an feeling of authenticity. Much like early copies of books. I have a preference for old vinyl, however it is important to care for the vinyl and your turntable whether new pressings or old.
The hype around new record sales is to be met with joy for those that believe in and love the medium. It is to some extent marketing driven by major artists and labels the sales success of vinyl over cd.
Once you delve into vinyl and buy a first decent quality turntable you will require decent electronics in the phono stage and this becomes the first path to critical listening and appreciation of how good audio can sound at home.
It is also a journey of care. To set-up a system correctly and the care of vinyl especially. This is a wide topic, including record cleaning machines, storage etc. However we will feature three very high-quality and exemplary products from, levin design Solingen, Germany.
We used the turntable mat, record brush and stylus brush for our recent report on the PTP Solid9 and think they deserve a spotlight as a perfect blend of design and craft that makes using vinyl records all the more enjoyable.
At AQ we ventured back into vinyl with the outstanding PTP Soild9 turntable. Created by Peter Reinders, an industrial designer by training, the turntable has a very cool slab of Corian as the plinth and carefully restored vintage Swiss-made Lenco motor. Creating a very modern reiteration of a turnable design. Modern and minimalist in looks. The PTP Solid9 is a work of art.
To complement the turntable with a new platter mat, research led us to the Paris-based dealer/online store, Ana Mighty Sound. We were delighted to discover the colourful levin design mats, which are an upgrade on the older vintage Lenco rubber mats.
Levin design a high-tech nappa-leather turntable mat
Levin design, based in Germany is led by an awarding winning industrial designer, Frank C. Levin. Levin design has some important and very beautiful high-end audio designs from turntables to speakers. Their audio cables have won German design council awards and throughout their designs a truly beautiful design aesthetic influenced by Bauhaus is ever-present. Frank is to be complimented on bringing design values to audio, thus creating a greater appeal to audio.
The beautifully crafted nature of the mat is especially pleasing and looks absolutely stunning.
Levin design, employing the design aesthetic of Bauhaus in the use of primary colours to create bold modern designs and the craft of, Nappa leather and carbon sandwich construction turntable mats, is a highly commendable design. The blue Nappa leather mat complimented the white Corian plinth of the PTP Soild9. Other colours are equally striking such as yellow and red.
It is very important in dealing with the care of dust and acoustic isolation for your vinyl. Those twin problems can become a plague that puts off vinyl use.
Users of vinyl old and new will soon discover that it takes just one side of a record for the dust to build up. This can be a chore or enjoyment depending on your mentality. However caring for your turntable and vinyl records has a certain satisfaction.
Ideal turntable mat solution
The record playing surface is an important last tool to maximise the sound quality of your vinyl records. The high-tech triple construction of the levin design turntable mat a success due to the careful use of materials.
The carbon platter mat is a common design idea due to its anti-static qualities ( dust is the main drawback of vinyl ). The Levin design platter mat is a triple construction however.
In construction, the carbon base and Nappa leather playing surface are sandwiched with a high-tech resonance-minimising material. All three properties combines to make an important upgrade to standard and vintage mats as supplied by manufacturers.
Fundamentally, in use we found the gentle Nappa-leather an ideal playing surface for vinyl, creating a soft bed to cradle the precious medium from scratches. More than just a cool design the nappa-leather had an upmarket feel. The levin platter mat requires no VTA adjustment to it is very easy to employ.
When we come to HiFi accessories there is always scepticism about the effectiveness and economic value against the standard or original specified accessories as supplied by the manufacturer. An often used phrase in audio circles, is the issue of diminishing returns for all the upgrades you might invest in your system.
We feel the Levin design turntable mat more than justifies the modest outlay, especially with medium to high-end turntables. Prefect for vintage turntables such as the Lenco.
Therefore, with the PTP Solid9 or any vintage-based turntable, the aged vintage mats can easily be upgraded by modern turntable mats such as the levin design platter mat.
Dual use for the platter mat as a dust cover
One bonus is that you can flip the mat over when not in use and the carbon site up acts as a dust repellent due to its anti-static properties. Highly useful when you don’t have a dust lid with older turntables and also the abundance of new turntables, especially high-mass designs that don’t have dust lids.
The levin design mat in use we found did bring improvements to the sound qualities. Carbon based turntable platter mats will make for more silent and dark backgrounds and improved stereo images. We especially found some added joy with not so great condition use vinyl with the levin design mat.
Particularly, the mat is recommended for second-hand or older-and-less and perfect vinyl. Thus ideal for large record collections.
In conclusion, the whole qualities of a more gentle playing surface, the management of dust and up to date modern aesthetic is a triumph of intelligent design and craft.
At AQ we don’t hand out awards as they become marketing gimmicks. We do highly recommend the Levin design turnable mat and at 250 to 295 Euros price mark, a very modest investment for the care and function of a record playing surface. The improvements were important enough to justify for the valuable investment you are in your vinyl collection.
The beautifully crafted nature of the mat is especially pleasing and looks absolutely stunning.
levin design record cleaning brush and stylus brush
We also sourced two additional products from levin design, the record cleaning brush and stylus brush. Both had a hand-made design boutique feel. This is joyous in use and feel with you investment on a special turntable.
The brushes come in combinations of beautiful hardwoods and metal casing. The bristles are natural and have natural anti-static qualities.
Our record cleaning brush was a combination of walnut and white goat hair. The stylus brush similar. The dry cleaning of the record and stylus was highly effective and felt very gentle in use.
It is important to not damage your vinyl send especially cartridges which can cost many thousands of pounds.
Both brushes are thoroughly recommended for reasonable prices given the materials and crafted qualities. The record cleaning brush is especially good.
The record cleaning brush is 99 to 145 euros and the stylus brush is 85 to 105 euros.
Vinyl is a highly evocative music medium. You need to invest time and money to bring the best out in your records. We throughly recommend and will continue to research for well made products that bring improvements to the joy of music at home.
Levin’s design is to be commended for the creation of record care products. And the turnable mat a super investment for the enjoyment of vinyl.
Next, you might start to think about a record cleaning machine and record storage. Well the journey never ends but that is the fun.
PTP Solid9 photo Ana Mighty Sound
Record cover: Classic late 80s pop. Revenge is the fifth studio album by British new wave duo Eurythmics. It was released on 30 June 1986 by RCA.
Manufacturer: levin design Soligan