Component Review: Riverstone Audio Jazz 380 Record Weight
Review period: 3 weeks
Weight: 380 grams
Dimensions: Diameter at largest perimeter: Ø80 mm (3.15 inches)
Dimensions: height overall: 34.5mm (1.358 (inches)
Method of manufacture: CNC Lathe-turned
Material: Aluminum 7071 - T6 (an aerospace grade aluminum used largely for milled structural components in commercial and military aircraft)
Finish Aluminum: Anodized plating in Ocean Blue shade. Surface preparation prior to plating appears to be glass bead shot blasted
Material: damping pad: EVA foam 1mm thick adhered to the bottom of the weight to contact the record label.
Photos of the review sample:
Note: the Jazz 380 Record weight comes with its own custom foam-packed wood case to protect it while not in use. A nice touch!
Record weights, by design, use their mass to push the record downward into the record mat on the platter. Ideally this results in a more intimate area of contact between record and mat. These (record weights) are not to be confused with other similar devices such as record clamps. Record clamps come in two popular configurations, a screw-down clamp or a compression clamp. The screw-down clamp requires that the platter spindle has machine screw threads to match the threads within the clamp and then the clamp screws down over the record putting it (the record) into a more intimate close contact with the platter mat beneath it than it would be if not clamped. The compression clamp does not require a threaded spindle, rather it has a compression joint within its center hole designed to grip the smooth spindle pin while being fitted over the record, and this also is meant to result in a more intimate fit between record and mat. Personally, I really like the screw-down type of clamp .... but very few turntables offer a threaded spindle pin, so this is frequently not an option and then we are left with the options of using record weight, a compression clamp or no weight or clamp at all.
Additionally, there will be some instances where no discernible difference can be heard while playing the same record with weight or without weight. Still other times the difference will be plainly evident. Different turntables with different platter mats will respond differently, or not at all, and the owner of this product is left to trust his/her own senses as to its effectiveness. Welcome to the world of record playback and all the little 'white rabbit' holes one can crawl down into.
Record weights have a somewhat controversial reputation about them. Some folks embrace the idea of a record weight, while others will decry them, stating that the weight merely adds mass directly over the thrust pad of the main platter bearing and therefore accelerates wear at the bearing thrust. Still others may note that their particular turntable bearing is robust enough to not suffer any increase in rate of wear, while others note that their particular turntable has a bearing that allows for routine maintenance to replace thrust pads as well as bushing sleeves, and therefore those individuals are not troubled by the idea of adding another 380 grams of mass over the tip of the thrust.
For myself, I find that some turntables do warrant concern about wear at the bearing thrust due to the fact that some of those bearings do not allow for thrust pad replacement and this is indeed a valid concern. Especially on the lighter, less robust bearing designs. Still other turntables that I currently own, or have owned in the past, do allow for bearing maintenance and with those I am not overly concerned about adding mass over the thrust. In this instance the turntable I am testing this record weight does allow bearing maintenance as well as replacement of the thrust pad, bearing thrust ball and also the bushing sleeves within the bearing housing, so I'm happy to give this a go. And...this is not the first record weight I have evaluated on the turntable. Bearing maintenance is carried out periodically in my situation.
Something to keep in mind; The record itself has mass, and we load them onto the platter without a second thought. Anyone ever own a record changer? Back in the day it would be common to see as many as a stack of three or four records having been dropped down onto the platter. Figure a normal record weighs around 100 to 130 grams each. Today we see audiophile records that weigh between 180 to 200 grams each. And now here we have a record weight that weighs 380 grams. So what! Let's keep some perspective and not get too panicky about details that have not been fully thought through. Of course the turntable designers were careful to consider how much load their platter bearings could handle.
I received this accessory for evaluation from a client for whom I am working on a turntable. So I am happy to evaluate the product and publish my impressions and observations within this review. When his turntable project is done this record weight will return home with its owner.
Impressions: This item is popularly priced (at the time of this writing) around the web at approximately ~$39.99. When you consider that a suitable length and diameter of round bar in aircraft grade aluminum was used on modern cnc machine tooling it does indeed seem like a bargain. Certainly nothing of the sort could be produced within the United States that would; pay the manufacturer, pay the intermediaries within the dealer/distributor network , turn a profit for the entire chain and still be sold at this price,..... not in the United States, anyway. There is no indication as to where this piece was made so that question will go unanswered. We don't know what country this was manufactured in. What I can note, however, is that the level of fit and finish quality is impressive. I see no visual evidence of off-axis run-out while the weight spins about the bearing axis on the turntable. I can note that with the combination of turntable and mat there is an audible benefit to using a record weight. I keep a few of my own record weight and clamp designs around and take note of what differences in sound I do or don't notice. But just how much difference does it make -- audibly? Hardly anything at all. Just a subtle sense of greater silence in the background. Perhaps just a tad more definition on the inner details. Nothing huge. A tiny improvement if at all.
When we think of the process of playing a record, with the stylus in the groove, riding over the microscopic-sized chiseled patterns of sharp little steps spaced just so that at a given set speed these create sound waves we discern as music. Apart form the music we hear through our speakers, what we have is a lot of microscopic vibration going on between stylus and groove, and it should come as no surprise that not only does the stylus and cantilever vibrate while doing this, so too does the record itself vibrate while undergoing this process. Different types of platter mats will dampen record vibes more or less effectively than do others. And in fact a record weight or clamp can also serve to help damp record vibrations. What we can hope for is that record vibration is reduced/damped by the combination of record weight and platter mat working together to dampen the record from these parasitic vibrations. And when record vibrations are in fact reduced the audible benefits can be anticipated as a cleaner less noisy pick-up at the stylus groove interface. We might hear a subtle improvement in clarity. It could mean an improvement in a particular sound frequency approximate to that being tracked by the stylus. Expect a sense of improved clarity in a frequency specific to the music being played.
At $40 clams for a nicely machined bit of anodized aluminum, you won't be out much if you don't hear any improvements. Even if you buy this but don't really hear an improvement; hang onto it and the next platter mat you try may make an audible difference and in combination with that platter mat, you might think you heard another improvement while using the Jazz 380 clamp. An accessory that won't break the bank and you may actually like it for more than just decoration. Recommended for those already inclined.
You can read more about this record weight at the Riverstone Audio website, from where this product is marketed.
Here's a link: https://www.riverstoneaudio.com
equipment used in this review:
Thorens TD124 turntable fitted with an Infinity Black Widown tonearm, with a Sonus Blue cartridge mounted. Overhang alignment per Stevenson.
Classe' CAP 151 integrated amplifier with built-in phono stage at 47 k input.
Phono cable/interconnect: Custom silver wire built by Garth Phillipe at Incognito (circa 2005)
NHT 2.9 tower loudspeakers