This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

The Universal RSR: There are basically three means to make the cartridge see the groove differently and hopefully produce a purer signal. One is is to place a mat on the platter, be it rubber, felt, cork, metal or glass. The second is to clamp the record onto the platter and the third to use both. The Universal Record Stabilizing Ring is a kind of clamp but instead of pressing the record tighter onto the platter around the spindle, the ring pushes the record down at its periphery. The URSR is not a new product. Inventor Rudolf A Bruil from Soundfountain commercialized it as early as 2003. Similar rings have existed in the past, i.e. Kenwood had one which wasn't universal but designed specifically for their L-07D turntable.

The URSR is not just a simple steel ring. It runs a sandwich construction with layers of stainless steel and acrylic. As different materials have different properties (fundamental frequency, speed of propagation etc.), the key is to find balanced proportions of stainless steel and acrylic to achieve a desired combination of those properties. For example, the manufacturer explains that too much acrylic in relation to steel reduces midrange detail since the propagation of sound in acrylic, at different frequencies, differs from that of stainless steel. Of the four layers of the URSR, three are steel and one acrylic. The top steel layer is only 0.6mm thick while acrylic takes up 5mm of the total 7mm thickness.  

Another crucial factor in the ring is weight. Depending on the weight, a different frequency content of the sound gets emphasized. A very heavy or very light ring would not produce best overall results. As a good compromise, the URSR weighs 550 grams. According to Bruil, this weight should do justice to most combinations of turntable, tonearm and cartridge. The outer diameter of the URSR is 340mm, the inner 297mm. These dimensions help to keep the record rigidly in place. With most standard turntables, the size of the URSR won’t cause problems but it’s always advisable to check beforehand that the URSR will be copasetic with your TT. Vintage EMTs et al are out of question.

The URSR is said to be equally effective regardless of record mat type used or whether none is used. On the other hand, there seems to be some sort of consensus among URSR users that the ring requires a center clamp to prevent the record from bending up at the center and prevent fuzzy sound. Even a fraction of a millimeter may matter here. I used the Audio Replas OPS-1HR quartz clamp.

The sonic impact? The impact was an immediate change in the sound. I mean immediate. No question about it. It would have required enormous amounts of absentmindedness not to notice it. What’s more, the effect was clear also with records that at least to the eye looked straight. One of the advantages of the URSR is that it helps play records that are bent or warped but it’s not the only advantage.

What sort of change? Here’s what the manual says about the subject: "The acoustic properties of the peripheral ring and the center weight will not only alter the fundamental frequency of the record but will also have an effect on the audio band itself, its level and the frequency characteristic.” I’m afraid I cannot describe the change in those terms but there were some concrete examples.

Kenny Burrel's Stormy Monday [Fantasy Records F-9558] had the sound of the bass guitar improve to become more full bodied and tighter. The real winner however was the reproduction of the highest frequencies. The HF sounds including those not immediately related to the music itself were more predominant, louder and better defined. The sound was more transparent and the overall performance on a higher level. I had a feeling that this was how the record should sound.

Georg Friedrich Händel Italienische Kantaten with Emilia Petrescu [Musicaphon BM 30 SL 1343] and the Janacek Quartet’s Beethoven recordings on Hungarian Supraphon showed parallel but not equally audible effects. Contrary to what one might expect, classical music in general produced slimmer benefits. The only explanation I have is that with music whose frequency spectrum and dynamics are more varied, the effect of the ring grows more complex and less easily observable. When the number of variables was more restricted, the differences grew more discernable as with Duke Ellington’s The Ellington Suites [Pablo 2310 762]. With the URSR, all manner of information became more apparent. Despite the occasional metallic tinge in the treble, the whole was more likable and desirable than without the ring. And so with similar test samples - the effect was systematic.

A colleague of mine tried the URSR on a Rega P7 with Dynavector DV-20XL and Michell clamp. He wrote: "A big surprise followed when I placed the URSR on the platter. The HF reproduction improved significantly. Now all ripples, clinks etc. were clearly audible, pleasant and accurate. The lower bass and stereo imaging might have lost a little but the highest sounds were simply magnificent."

All clamps tend to crisp up the sound. With the URSR this and the increased transparency were so obvious that other benefits such as lower noise floor, improved stereo image including a more focused center image, better separation of instruments and higher subjective dynamics drew less attention. In my case this crisping effect was largely positive and based on my listening experiences, I recommend the URSR to all vinyl lovers. But that may not be the case in every instance. My DL-103 is a super musical cartridge especially with certain material but does not possess the most extended and extrovert treble. Hence with more modern cartridges, the effect of the ring over the top octaves could assume a different character. The only solution is to give the ring a try and see what the results will be.

The ring once sold direct for $300-400 plus freight but now the web page gives this note: "The URSR has been produced in small quantities only. For the moment production stopped until further notice. Yet,if you want to receive additional information about The Universal Record Stabilizing Ring, send an e-mail." I would have bought one had there not been a slight inconvenience. To place the URSR on top of a record is no big effort and succeeds even without the adjustment plate that comes along. But that is true only when the turntable is off. When I turn on the deck, I never stop the motor before I finish the day's listening session and there is no way the ring could be set on the platter while the latter is in motion.