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Record Doctor Clamp

04-06-2021 | By Victor Chavira | Issue 114

Might this be the easiest review I have ever written? I'll cut to the chase and claim that the Record Doctor record clamp is a "no brainer" essential accessory for vinyl enthusiasts. Numerous similar products have been available for years, but I have never felt motivated to experiment with admirable performance of my Pioneer PLX1000 with LP Gear The Vessel A3SV mm cartridge.

The clamp is available in two versions, clear acrylic or black non-resonant phenolic material. The low-profile clamp measures 8cm in diameter by 3cm high. No gasket makes contact with the label. Note also that the bottom the clamp is not flat. Rather, a milled 5mm lip provides the interface with the outer edge of the record label. The clamp will add 153 grams of mass to your platter, which presented no challenge to the high torque direct drive PLX1000.

One is taught to tread lightly around LPs, turntables, tonearms, and cartridges. Nevertheless, the clamp requires one to apply downward pressure on the base of the clamp with one hand while giving the knob a firm twist with the other hand like tightening a bottle of ketchup. In some cases, the ferrule clamp may feel secured to the spindle and not achieve optimal interface with the record. Simply unscrew the knob and try again. I suggest you practice with a less than prizeworthy LP from your collection as the clamp exponentially increases the likelihood of clumsily damaging a precious LP after the consumption of adult beverages.

The LPs chosen for listening were new, near mint, or VG+ condition. A few recordings should be very familiar to most listeners. A couple LPs were listened to for deeply personal reasons. All of the recordings are highly enjoyable as is. Therefore, my observations refer to listening with the clamp in place.

If you are not aware of Melody Gardot's outstanding work, I urge you to seek out her recordings in any format. The list of sultry female jazz/pop singers that men in our hobby revere is lengthy. In my opinion, Melody Gardot stands out from the crowd. Her latest LP is called Sunset in Blue on Decca. Twelve velvety songs are spread over four sides and feature musicians such as Anthony Wilson, Vinnie Colaiuta, and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra with luscious arrangements by Vince Mendoza. The clamp noticeably enhanced Melody's image focus and depth of perception. The separation of elements in the soundstage—brushes on snare, a flourish of notes on harp were rendered with remarkable clarity. Bass response quickened and firmed.

The late Armando Anthony Corea's 2019 LP Antidote with the Spanish Heart Band is another well recorded double LP. The song "The Yellow Nimbus-Part 2" features superb interplay amongst the members of the band, and nuanced drumming from Marcus Gilmore. With the clamp in place, rhythmic palmas or hand claps created clear images in space, and bass connected with deeper foundation. End of song. I don't enjoy the next track from side B. Get up, unscrew clamp, remove LP, place side D on turntable, tighten clamp, and drop needle on "Admiration." The musical elements sounded more clearly delineated, more driven in the bass, and piano present in the room. The song ends with visceral zapateado foot work by dancer Nino de los Reyes whose repeated impacts felt like a drum roll with little hammers on my floor.

My pristine copy of Miles Davis Kind of Blue is a 2001 reissue by Classic Records. Of all the formats I have listened to over the decades, this version is my preference. The Record Doctor Clamp made this warhorse sound like a remaster. After the tone arm came into contact with vinyl, the proverbial bass introduction to "So What" played with improved pace and dynamic energy. Depth of sound field and transparency were noticeably improved. Cymbals lightly shimmered in the air before me. Naturally, the horns sounded more precise and responsive to the breath of their supremely talented musicians.

DG 410 824-1 is a 1984 reissue of a 1962 recording by Wilhelm Kempff performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto no. 5, Op. 73. I can’t recall when I last played side A because side B starts with the second movement Adagio un pocco mosso. This composition has been essential to restoring my emotional well-being throughout the global pandemic of the last year. Listening with the clamp allowed me to look further into the wonderful countermelodies masterfully woven into the broad orchestral fabric. The majestic grand piano superbly focused and present at center stage.

Amon Amarth was introduced to me through a trial subscription to Sirius XM that came with a vehicle purchased about two years ago. Berserker is the title of their studio LP from 2019. The bone crunching material is spread across four sides of marble colored vinyl. The band's brand of high energy melodic rage and story driven songs gets my old head banging hard. With the clamp locked in, leader Johan Hegg's growling vocals became significantly more understandable greatly increasing my enjoyment of the songs. The flourish of double bass drums sounded much more impactful, their starts and stops resonated with extreme speed and lighting quick responsiveness.

What about a warped record? That depends on the location and degree of warp. I have two copies of Steely Dan's Aja. The better sounding copy has a mild warp. The Record Doctor Clamp improved the interface between the rubber mat of PLX1000 and the LP resulting in the benefits I have described above. All American Alien Boy from 1976 by Ian Hunter has a greater degree of warp and yielded limited improvements in sound. The PLX 1000 also comes supplied with a felt mat but I chose not to introduce that variable because the rubber mat is my preference.

I would not be the person I am without my late parents love of music. The most cherished titles in my collection come from the family archive for the priceless memories they contain within their well-worn grooves. Time to switch to the Audio-Technica VM 610 mono cartridge. "Divina Ilusión" is lovely bolero by Mexican trio Los Tres Diamantes from 1958. The lyrics are set to the melody from Chopin’s Études, Op. 10: No. 3 in E Major. The emotional impact this LP has on me cannot be overstated. The record clamp set the level of image stability and depth perception to holographic time machine. In 1987, when The Beatles catalogue became available on CD, I bought them all for my father. This time I pulled out Help from the mono box set and played side 2 track 6 "Yesterday." The Record Doctor Clamp contributed to producing unparalleled image focus of the singer, his guitar, and absolute sensation of bows drawn across strings. I am a puddle of melancholy and awestruck by how profoundly rewarding analogue can be.

In closing, much like automotive seat belts, reusing water bottles, and wearing face masks, a small modification to behavior can yield excellent results. At first, I considered the Record Doctor Clamp to be too much trouble and an unnecessary step for enjoying my LPs. Now I cannot imagine spinning another side without clamping it down. Very highly recommended.

Record Doctor Clamp

Retail: $29.95

Pangea Audio Distributing