About Marigo Lab
Marigo Audio Lab was established in 1989 to design and manufacture custom audiophile components. The designer, Ron Hedrich, has combined a love of music with thirty years of experience as an audiophile and a rigorous technical background in physics, research and development, and aerospace engineering to create a perfectionist’s line of cables and resonance control products that redefine the state of the art in audio performance. Their first CD Mat was released around 1993.
First a little background of my CD Mat experience. A natural sceptic, I started with a StatMat (single layer very thin plastic film printed with a conductive pattern) and was pleasantly surprised with the benefit it gave. A few years later I then changed that to a StatMat Blue (a three layer version of the standard StatMat) which was obviously better, although they both had the problem that, being so thin, they were easy to damage, and sometimes the CD player kept the mat inside while it ejected the CD.
I then found the Mario Lab SIGNATURE 3-D v2 mat which as well as being better sounding than the StatMats was also thicker and more robust being made from Carbon Fibre and Kevlar with an embedded silver wire matrix. I have used that in my system for many years now liking what it does (put simply, it makes the music more musical)
The CD player I currently use (and have owned for the last 14 years) is the Consonance Ref 2.2 Linear mk1 which has been upgraded by the UK importer to beyond mk2 specification and performance. Also the filtered IEC socket has been replaced with an unfiltered one and Russ Andrews Superfuses have been fitted both internally and externally throughout the system.
The Aida CD Mat.
The Aida mat is supplied in a nice solid box, lined with foam in a similar way to how some jewellery is presented.
Marigo Labs state that, excepting the 'slot loading' type, it is suitable for all CD transports including those using Magnetic Pucks, and will also fit transports that use 3 small balls at centre to grab the disc. It is only 0.009”/0.25mm thick (about the same as 180gsm card) and weighs about 4.5 gm. For reference a "Red Book" CD is 0.047"/1.2 mm thick and weighs 0.58oz/16.5 gm
Its a lot thicker than a StatMat and a lot thinner than a SIGNATURE 3-D. Flexible (in the way a 'wobble board' is flexible) translucent 'plastic' that looks woven (although it feels smooth to the touch) with two triangular apertures as well as the obvious centre hole to locate with the CD drive mechanism. Treated with the same care as a CD it should last 'forever'.
You can not tell what it is made from just by looking at it, so from the website:-
No, I don't know either, but what its made from is far less important than what it does, so onto the listening.The Aida CD Mat incorporates unique hand laid-up polarizing filaments creating tremendously rapid vibrational energy decay and a new semi-transparent coating which dissipates static build-up in real time– while the disc is spinning.
Firstly, and most importantly, you must orientate the Aida Mat correctly
but being translucent it is really easy to do. Feeling in a mean mood I thought I would start with Spem in Alium by Thomas Tallis from the LINN recording CKD 075.. Its a recording I know well full of complex vocal harmonies, overlayering and swirling voices. Playing the CD without the mat gives a nice pleasant performance albeit constrained within the loudspeakers. The only real criticism is that at times the voices become a little harsh.
- Load CD in drawer. Turn CD in drawer until CD label reads evenly to you, left to right.
- Set Aida CD Mat on top of CD. Rotate the mat so that the clear stripe with 2 triangular holes is
perpendicular (at right angle) to the writing on the CD label. Alignment accuracy of the stripe is
not hyper-critical. It should visually simply look perpendicular to the writing on the CD label.
Placing the mat onto the disc and re starting the track was (dare I say it) a revelation. No really it was. Not in a jaw wide open I can't believe my ears way, but a revelation none the less. Harshness? What harshness? Low level detail that was not there before has suddenly appeared from nowhere. I swapped back and forth a couple of times, and each time the music followed the Aida Mat. Its easier to follow all the voices, the 'jumble' that can occur in the complex passages has reduced in much the same way that a better (name HiFi component here) does.
Next up was the Live recording of Black Horse and the Cherry Tree (the one that was taken from the Later with Jools BBC TV show) by KT Tunstall on CDREL06, a recording I know exceptionally well. For those who don't know it is just KT her Guitar and Tambourine and an AKAI Loop pedal. So its similar to the Spem in Alium in that its multi layered, but totally different in that its all digital loops.
Done in the same way as the first test, I switched back and forth a couple of times, and asked my wife to assess the second 'pair' without her knowing which was which. Her comments this time. The 'without mat' playback sounded as she expected albeit slightly muddy. With the mat was clearer, easier to follow, better. She could not believe it. Oh, and her assessment agrees with mine. With the Mat the whole acoustic presentation is better.
Lets go pure Electronic for the next one. Radiation by Battery Operated Orchestra (BOO) Its a self release, burned to CD by BOO in their home studio. Again, its better with the Aida Mat. Clearer and better acoustic, easier to follow (sounds familiar?) Notes start and stop faster, 'drum' strikes are firmer, its just a better recording.
I have also noticed that the CD player 'reads' the CD in about half the time with the mat than without it. Not significant in it self but it shows that the Aida mat is doing something tangible.
Just as a check as its a new day and I have got a bit more understanding of the mats effect, I'll go back to Spem in Alium for a re check.
... not that I really needed to. I think its all in the acoustic. The Aida CD Mat just allows the music to flow so much easily and clearly. Its just 'better'.
Did I try the Aida mat in the 'wrong' orientation? Of course I did. Having the mat 90 degrees 'wrong' the soundstage seemed to collapse. Everything was inbetween the speakers in an 'compressed' way. I asked my wife to listen while I adjusted the Aria Mat through 90 degrees without her knowing what I was changing. Her response was the correct orientation sounded better. (Agnus Dei by The Dunedin Consort on LINN CKD 117)
Well, I think you can guess my conclusion. I love it. It allows more music to escape from a humble CD, which is what its all about after all. $200 for a circle of plastic? Pricey. $200 for more music (and more enjoyable music)? Bargain. Remember, at $200 its less than most of us would spend on an interconnect or mains power lead.
It is available direct from Marigo lab @ $200 plus carriage and whatever import taxes you may have to pay. It is also available from a few on line retailers. Rod has also agreed a special HiFi Kabin Members Only deal, please contact me for details.
The Marigo Lab Aida CD Mat was kindly supplied to me by Marigo Lab for review purposes, for which I give grateful thanks. All photos are © Marigo Lab