Record clamps are an important part of a good vinyl system. For most people, these take the form of center clamps or spindle clamps. I was keen to find a good, affordable peripheral or ring clamp that I could recommend. I have – read on.
A while back I was searching online for a peripheral or ring-type record clamp to review, and I stumbled across Sound Foundations, operating out of Mumbai, India. A quick email to their very friendly owner, Ali, and I was discussing the details of the peripheral clamp they sell. More on that in a bit, but first, let’s look at why record clamps are a good idea.
A theoretically perfect record will sit perfectly flat on a theoretically perfect platter. The entire record surface will make intimate contact with the platter and be damped by this contact. All great in theory, but real records, mats and platters are far from perfectly flat.
Irregularities may be small with high-end gear, where the mat and platter are manufactured to fine tolerances, but with cheaper gear, the mat and platter can be significantly out-of-flat. Add in the gross out-of-flat condition that even slightly warped records create, and you have reality, where records never sit perfectly flat, on anything.
As a record is played, the modulations in the groove cause the stylus and cantilever to vibrate. Some of this mechanical energy is transferred back into the record, muddying the sound. The other problem with out of flat records is warp-induced wow. As the stylus tracks the groove, up and down undulations cause the stylus to travel further than if it were perfectly flat, causing pitch changes. This is warp-induced wow. It also affects the vertical tracking angle of the cartridge, causing it to constantly change, with additional impacts on sound.
Record Stabilizing Ring Clamp
OK, so we want to clamp, at the center and at the edge. Both clamps are important in minimising the effects of record surface vibration and warp-induced wow.
I will state here that I paid full price for my record clamp. This review, like all my work, represents my honest evaluation. No fear or favour here.
The Record Stabilizing Ring Clamp, alternatively known as a ring clamp or peripheral clamp is sold by Sound Foundations. The clamp is manufactured from what they describe as a non-magnetic alloy. I figured it was a grade of stainless steel, which is a non-magnetic alloy, but I have no further details on the precise make-up of the clamp.
The clamp weighs around 775 g, or 27 ounces, and will fit many, but not all turntables. This is quite important, so chat to Ali if you are not sure whether the clamp will fit your deck. I can state with certainty that the clamp will work with the Kenwood KD-600 / 650, and the L-07D.
Be careful if you have a sprung chassis belt-drive deck, as the combined mass of ring and center clamps can cause these wobbly decks to crap-out. Most good direct-drive decks have the torque and solid chassis needed to easily support a ring clamp and center clamp, which I recommend you use together.
I purchased my clamp directly from Sound Foundations, after making contact with Ali.
Benefits of Peripheral Clamping
Sound Foundations lists the following benefits of their ring clamp. Note that I’ve edited the list a little.
- Optimum Coupling of Record to Turntable Platter / Mat
- Lowers Noise Floor Significantly
- Will make old worn vinyl sound 100% better
- Eliminates Resonances and Lowers Distortion
- Improves cartridge tracking and stabilizes the VTA of the Stylus
- Improves Stereo Image and Focus
- Superb instrument separation with wider sound-stage
- Will flatten most warped records
My clamp arrived very quickly for a delivery from India. Sound Foundations uses a quality shipper, which is a nice touch and means you get your record clamp quickly. The clamp also comes incredibly well-packed, in a special wooden shipping box. There is little chance of shipping damage with this arrangement – well done Sound Foundations.
There was a small manufacturing issue with my first clamp, causing it to run slightly out of flat. I contacted Ali and the service from Sound Foundations was faultless. They very quickly sent me a second clamp, which was perfect. If only all sellers operated this ethically!
Using the Sound Foundations Record Stabilizing Ring Clamp is a breeze. You just unpack it, give it a quick wipe down and set it very carefully down on your first record. You must of course be very careful to make sure the clamp does not foul the platter, mat or structures around the top surface of your record player.
The ring clamp fits my main deck comfortably and clears everything. You must check this first, to avoid problems later. Direct-drive helps of course, because you have a decent amount of torque to deal with the additional rotating mass and inertia of the system. The KD-600 barely even notices the extra 1.2kg ceramic mat, plus 1.5kg of center and edge clamps, what a deck!
Centering it is important and can be slightly tricky. I suggest nudging it slightly to get it as close to centered as you can. A centering tool would be handy, perhaps Sound Foundations can include one in future editions.
And the Sound..?
In a word, fantastic. The record clamp did an excellent job flattening warped records and reducing warp-induced wow. In combination with a centre clamp, as you see in these images, the peripheral clamp really helps couple the record to the mat, which is exactly what you want.
Some of the benefits in my system are reduced wow, reduced noise, cleaner mids and tighter bass. Mind you, these are all the things you would expect when you think about and understand the vinyl replay chain. This is the closest thing you can get to a vacuum platter turntable, without the associated hassle, expense and disadvantages.
Honestly, you can’t go wrong with this record clamp, as long as it fits your turntable. This is excellent value, well-made and will make a real difference to sound quality in most systems.
The Bottom Line
I paid USD$185 for my Record Stabilizing Ring Clamp, which is a bargain in terms of bang for your buck. There are very few options when it comes to peripheral clamps. VPI make one, but its super-expensive. I’m not keen on paying USD$1000 for a record clamp!
For the price, I think this is the best value in peripheral clamps available at this time. I highly recommend you try one!