Marigo Audio Signature
3-D Stabilizer Mat
by John Sunier
The last word in tweaks to go on top of or around your optical discs!
The Marigo Labs Signature 3-D Mat is the result of an effort to develop a new level of enhancement for digital replay, and its price reflects the seriousness of that effort. The new technologies involved in the mat include a carbon fiber and Kevlar composite matrix to control damping, embedded ultrafine silver wire for stray field suppression, proprietary coatings on both sides of the mat for damping, draining of charges, and spectra-modified light absorption, plus other original proprietary technologies developer Ron Hedrich chooses not to reveal to us. The mat is thin enough that it should not be a problem in most players, but if it does slip off the CD when the drawer is opened or closed, Ron provides some little rubber bumpers with the disc, which are affixed to the drawer and which prevent the mat moving around. The mat has a green side, which should be up for audio replay, including hi-res discs. The other side of the mat is gold.
I tried the mat on both video and audio sources, including my Dan Wright modified Sony S9000 ES two-channel SACD/CD player, my DW-modified Sony CE-775 SACD/CD changer, and the Pioneer DV-59AVi universal player I was reviewing. I began with one of my tried-and-true test CDs, an Opus 3 gold sampler titled “Test records 1, 2 & 3”, on which I frequently use the second track – a classical guitar quartet playing Telemann, and the third track – a traditional jazz ensemble. This disc has also had the thorough green pen treatment. Played straight thru my Sunfire preamp with the Source Direct option bypassing all digital processing, it sounded great without the mat. (The 9000 analog output feeds thru a Taddeo Digital Antidote processor prior to the preamp.)
Then I open the disc drawer and slipped on the Marigo Signature mat. The sounds of the guitars now had more pronounced plucking of the strings, there was more ambiance in the recorded space, the soundstage was wider and deeper, there were increased dynamics, deeper bass end, and the attack on emphasized notes was stronger. With the mat off the four guitars sounded perfectly on pitch and almost like clones of one another; with the mat in place one could hear minute pitch/timbre differences between the guitars that actually added another degree of musical interest.
On the trad jazz track the piano which opens on the left channel sounded rather distant and a bit dull without the mat, and the banjo solo which shortly comes up was a bit mild and reticent-sounding. With the mat the piano sounded closer and more realistic and the string tone and plucking of the banjo stood out with gusto. About the middle of this track is a loud centered soprano sax solo. Without the mat that was an attention-getter and sounded like my center channel speaker was operating when it wasn’t. However, with the Marigo mat it nearly knocked me over with its presence, solidity and impact. I noticed similar improvements on both of these tracks with all four of the players at hand, including my Rotel RDV-1050.
The second standard CD I tried was a new band disc from Bill Cunliffe titled Imaginación on Tori. The second track (Do it Again) opens with a section of various Latin-type percussion instruments – guiros, scratchers etc. While they were clearly laid out across the soundstage both with and without the mat, the mat gave all the instruments more crispness of delivery and subtle overtones that were not noticed before. I have a few discs in duplicate for comparisons, and one is an excellent BIS CD of Ernesto Lecuona’s piano music, Vol. 2. I put both discs (also green-penned) into my Sony changer with the mat on top of the second one so I could skip back and forth using my remote. The orchestral introduction on track 1 has a flute against a string section and the mat-less disc showed some edginess in the sound. The disc with the mat lost the edginess and sounded sweeter. On the solo piano pieces on the CD, the mat resulted in more upper harmonics, a crisper piano sound, and generally more life in the entire performance. I believe that with less solid and resonance-prone transports the mat could provide even more improvement.
I moved next to two-channel SACD playback, starting with a new CPO disc, Harpsichord Concertos of Benda. The mat brought increased low bass support, made the string tone more silky and achieved much improved soundstage depth. Without the disc the passages when the solo harpsichord came to the fore sounded as thought there was a partial lute stop in operation. With the mat on there were added harmonics to fill out the sonic picture of the harpsichord and it no longer sounded slightly muffled. I play and own a harpsichord so I’m familiar with what it should sound like.
The Water Lily Acoustics stereo SACD of Scriabin’s Divine Poem with Alexander Dmitriev conducting was next. This lush and sensual symphony opens with extremely low, murky-sounding rumbling involving tubas, trombones and string basses. Then over this background is heard higher-pitched strings. About this time, being a live concert, one hears a loud cough on the left channel. Without the mat the music sounded fairly impressive, illustrating the mid-audience acoustic viewpoint achieved by Water Lily with their single stereo mike for the entire orchestra. Adding the mat caused the higher string figurations to stand out in bolder relief against the rumbling underpinnings. And when the cough comes, one realizes before it was clearly spaced on the left side but nothing more; now there is the sense that it is a real person at a particular spot in the hall, and the reflections of the cough off the walls of the concert hall are clearly discerned.
When I compared the DTS 5.1 audio option on the new Image Entertainment DVD of Bernstein’s operetta Candide, I heard a major enhancement in sonics with the 3-D mat. The sparkling overture to the work sounded good without the mat but the mat immediately widened and deepened the soundstage, gave more bass support and in general more spark to the whole sonic picture. Using the mat resulted in an upgrading of the inner details, soundstage and ambient information.
So the bottom line here is that the Marigo Labs Signature 3-D Stabilizer Mat does work and very well too.