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observations & Qs about latex mattresses 26 Sep 2011 15:01 #1

  • MikeM
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I visited custom comfort mattress in Los Angeles this weekend. They had two all latex mattresses I really liked. Both had a 6" blended latex core at 32 ILD. One mattress added a 1" 19 ILD latex pad on both sides of the mattress. The other mattress added a 2" latex pad to each side (same ILD). The mattresses were finished in a bamboo cover with cotton batting underneath. Both were very comfortable. All said, I think I preferred the one with 1" of 19 ILD a little better although it is a close call. These mattresses renewed my interest in latex. I was surprised that they use such a low ILD in comparison to what other internet retailers use (22 or 24). They had one other bed with a 6" 36 ILD base and a 2" 19 ILD topper. It was also comfortable, but I think I preferred the 32" ILD core mattresses better. All mattresses use blended Talalay. They did offer the exact same 3 mattresses in all natural talalay with a unbleached cotton cover over 1" or so of wool, all hand tufted. Totally different feel. There is not as much elasticity in the cotton/wool combo (versus bamboo/cotton) and the beds were not as soft nor lively (i.e. bouncy).

Phoenix, I could use your feedback as I don't plan to buy from custom comfort because they are just overpriced. If I were to go with a single sided mattress, what construction would approximate a 1" 19 ILD - 6" 32 ILD - 1" 19 ILD?

Are there reputable and affordable vendors who make "double sided" latex mattresses?

Do you have any experience with Brooklyn Bedding (latexmattressshop.com). They offer dunlop latex mattresses at ridiculous prices. They have a 10" but don't specify the ILDs. Mattresses.net offer talalay latex with the bamboo which is $1595 for a King...still an excellent price although not as good as brooklyn bedding.

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Re: observations & Qs about latex mattresses 26 Sep 2011 18:32 #2

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Hi Mike,

I personally agree with you that many people or even manufacturers will neglect the softer versions of latex comfort layers (under 20 ILD) which have a different feel and which often is much closer to what they may be used to (bearing in mind that most of the polyfoam which is on top of mattresses and memory foam is all under 15 ILD and often much less than this). I also recognize the impact that quilting and different construction methods can have on the feel of a mattress and this too is often not taken into account when trying to "duplicate" a mattress. Tufting in particular can make a big difference and is part of the "art" that is not as commonly used today. It was especially necessary in the days of cotton, wool, horsehair and other natural fiber mattresses where the fiber would bunch up and shift but with the advent of foam it is not used nearly as much ... even though it can significantly change how a mattress feels and responds. Wool or other quilting materials on top of a mattress as you noted will also reduce the "point elasticity" of the latex underneath it and create a firmer mattress.

Pure Latex Bliss is doing a good job of increasing awareness of the use of softer latex in the comfort layers with just a thick stretchy circular weave fabric over it (no quilting at all so people are sleeping right on the latex). Their mattresses use 19 ILD on top and the toppers that are an option to go over them are all 14 ILD. Of course they are owned by latex international so the increase in awareness of the use of softer latex either in other mattresses or in their own helps to increase the awareness of the "feel" of softer latex right on top of the mattress and they are hoping will increase the use of soft latex over soft polyfoam in the industry in general. This "soft feel" which is very popular these days is the reason so many manufacturers who cater more to mass marketing put poly on top of their "latex" mattresses.

While Custom Comfort certainly manufactures high quality mattresses ... I also know that their prices are higher than other independent manufacturers. They are great value when compared to anything similar in the larger market ... but on the high side when compared to other independents. Part of this of course is because of the cost of finishing a mattress on both sides (a quality ticking is a significant part of the cost of a mattress), part of it is the construction methods, and part of it is all the many factors involved in their business structure and strategies (target market, marketing, infrastructure etc).

www.mygreenmattress.com Is a member here and makes several 2 sided latex mattresses that he ships across the country (at reduced shipping costs that makes a comfort exchange more reasonable if it is necessary).

www.themattressfactory.com/ also makes two sided latex mattresses and can customize them with any ILD and layer thickness you wish (this is where I had my own personally deigned mattress built) but the shipping costs need to be taken into account.

Non DIY mattresses require truck shipping so the higher cost of shipping (over UPS shipping of layers) needs to be included in the mattress cost for those who go in this direction. It is also important in these cases to know for sure exactly what layering you want as the higher cost of shipping a whole mattress back makes it more expensive and in many cases not practical to make any comfort exchanges. Mattresses that require truck shipping are usually better for local "in person" purchases.

I had several great discussions with John at latex mattress shop as I liked the mattresses he had available. Over the last few months however I have not been able to reach him (he was busy for a time with prototyping mattresses) and now someone else is answering the phone and he stopped replying to my emails or returning phone calls. Their Brooklyn Bedding site is also way behind so I don't know if John is no longer involved or what is happening there. Their mattresses use blended Dunlop latex. 100% Dunlop and Talalay are more expensive materials and this is of course reflected in the prices of mattresses that use them including at mattresses.net.

Duplicating a mattress with a 1" comfort layer would have to take into account exactly what was in the quilting (in this case cotton batting) and any tufting in the mattress (both of which can significantly change the firmness). Sometimes seemingly small changes can make a big difference in how a mattress feels and performs.

electropedicbeds.com/High-Profile.html in LA makes a 2 sided talalay latex mattress with 1.1" on both sides and the support core and the 1" comfort layer can both be adjusted in firmness. They have other options as well. Testing these may help you know how much of what you were feeling was from the quilting and/or construction and how much from the latex. It would be much easier to duplicate a mattress online that had different different thickness layers if you had several reference points that were more "basic" constructions instead of just the Custom Comfort which may have created part of its feel through the quilting/ticking and/or contruction. If you have a chance to go there ... it would certainly help with suggestions or "translations". It would also help to know your weight, overall shape, and sleeping positions.

Did you get a chance to try the NuForm at Custom Comfort?

Phoenix
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Re: observations & Qs about latex mattresses 30 Sep 2011 01:52 #3

  • MikeM
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As it turns out two of the five mattresses I tried at Custom Comfort have nuform; the two more expensive mattresses with the cotton/wool cover. So instead of the 1 or 2" of 19ILD latex, these had the same thickness of nuform instead. Impossible for me to know if the added tautness/firmness (more similar to a conventional mattress?) was due to the difference in covers (cotton over wool versus bamboo over cotton) or due to the nuform, or perhaps both. One thing is for certain, the nuform mattress did not feel anything like the MyEssentia mattresses (slow recovery latex based foam) in the top layer.

I face two challenges: (a) being able to discern the quality, tautness and comfort of covers used by the various vendors and (b) going with any latex layers in thickness and ILDs that differ from those which I have tested. The cover/ticking is still a "black box" to me...I have no way of discerning (based on my ignorance) whether a bamboo/cotton cover offered by one vendor would be of the same quality/feel as a bamboo/cotton or cotton/wool offered by a different vendor.

On latex layer construction, based simply on researching latex mattress construction online I would have said:
- a 1" comfort layer is too thin
- 19 ILD comfort layer is to low an ILD
- 32 ILD core layer is to low an ILD

But the mattress I tried of this construction was very comfortable. I do think that 2" of 19 ILD seemed perhaps a little to squishy and most vendors offer a 2" comfort layer...does that mean 22-24 ILD would be perfect? I don't know. A big risk?

I've tried to find Pure Latex Bliss in L.A. to no avail. I'll try to electropedic this weekend. The other two vendors you mention are in my price range. Paying $100-200 more on a double sided mattress does seem like a good value so long as the cover is of adequate quality.

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Re: observations & Qs about latex mattresses 30 Sep 2011 13:28 #4

  • soreback
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Mike, It's not LA, but less than an hour away:

www.cgmattress.com/mattress/pure-latexbliss/nature-mattress/

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Re: observations & Qs about latex mattresses 01 Oct 2011 03:38 #5

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Hi MikeM,

The essentia has a much thinner ticking and the cotton/wool quilting would certainly change the feel of lying right on the NuForm so it would be tough to know for sure. It would be interesting to lie on a few inches of NuForm directly (on foam or latex of course not on the floor) and see how it felt in comparison.

Quilting can certainly change how a mattress feels ... as can certain contsruction methods like inner tufting which "firms up" the layers that are tufted. Wool quilting is like having a firmer layer close to you and will reduce the ability of the latex to both conform to your body and reduce the amount you sink in to softer latex. It is certainly important to take the quilting into account as an active layer. For example ... if you had a latex layer that was slightly too thick or too soft ... then wool quilting could be a benefit. If you had a latex layer that was "just right" with a very stretchy circular weave over it ... then wool could make it too firm. There are even tickings that are tighter in the middle to help hold up the hips and looser in other areas to allow them to sink in more deeply. It's amazing how complex all the interactions can be. Most of the "standard" wool quiltings with cotton or cotton wool however are fairly similar (although some of the more expensive models do use more wool).

The good news though is that it is not that difficult to get "very close" which is a lot better than mot people do ... even though they may not realize what they "could have had" and will usually compare what they buy to a mattress that has worn out which of course makes any new mattresses seem great ... for a while.

I would certainly try to test latex with a stretchy cover as that will give you the best sense of layering and ILD. In post #63 here in the other thread ... there are a few outlets at the bottom of the list which carry Pure Latex Bliss besides the one that soreback posted in this thread (thanks soreback) as well as a "few" other LA options. Once you know this ... then it's easier to think in terms of how a quilting will factor in (firmer with less sinking in).

I was looking back at your posts and didn't see your weight/sleeping position stats (I might have missed them) which may be helpful. I'm assuming from your preference of comfort layers that you are probably not a side sleeper? That would help me in terms of ideas about layer thickness.

With a thin comfort layer ... there is a lot more room for a softer support core because it will be soft with a little bit of compression (helping the comfort layers) but firmer as compression increases (because of the progressive compression qualities of latex). Latex also tends to keep people in better alignment even in the softer versions for the same reason. Sometimes too ... some people prefer softer latex because they will sink in deeper which they like and as long as the position where they "come to rest" is in alignment (which is far more likely with latex) ... the depth of the cradle beyond the minimum required for pressure relief is more a matter of preference.

I and my other half are both fairly evenly proportioned (I'm 195 and 6'5" and she's 5'7" hourglass and much lighter) ... and our core layer is Talalay 28 ILD.

So with some "stats" and hopefully a test with PLB ... it should point in a direction which is fairly close ... at least in terms of latex.

Phoenix
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Re: observations & Qs about latex mattresses 02 Oct 2011 14:00 #6

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Our stats:
- 5' 7" 170 lbs - back and slde sleeper
- 5' 7" 120 lbs - side sleeper; occasionally on stomach

I visited electropedic beds (aka latexpedic.com) in Burbank. They've been in business 47 years. Good value. I tried 5 beds:

- 5.6" 36 ILD single layer with double sided bamboo cover with poly fill ticking)
- 5.6" 32 ILD single layer with the same
- 5.6" 36 ILD sandwiched by 1.1" 19 ILD comfort layers (same cover)
- 5.6" 32 ILD sandwiched by 1.1" 19 ILD comfort layers (same cover)
- 5.6" 24? ILD sandwiched by 1.1" 14 ILD comfort layers (same cover)

The 24 ILD mattress was way to soft; like a hammock.
Both the 36 ILD core mattresses were a little firm.

The 32 ILD single layer mattress was pretty good.

The 32 ILD core sandwiched with the 1.1" 19 ILD layers was very nice. This construction is less firm and more comfortable than our current Simmons mattress. This one is identical in layers (thicknesses and ILD) to the one I tried at custom comfort.

The bamboo cover at latex pedic is very nice, the one at custom comfort is better (cotton ticking vs. poly fill).
They did not have a mattress with a 2" comfort layer to compare it to. I did try a 2" 19 ILD custom layer over 32 ILD
at custom comfort and it was very nice...but maybe I sunk in a bit too much. I haven't been able to try 22 or 24 ILD comfort layers yet. So we are getting close.

The value is pretty good for these beds. $2,200 for the 3-layer in eastern king. I wish it were $1,800ish.

One area I would like to understand a little better is the mattress cover (the fabric that encases the latex layers) in combination with the mattress pad/protector.

I've read that some people just use a terry cloth mattress cover with no quilting. This won't protect the mattress at all but it does seem like it would be comfortable. The ticking I see is generally wool, cotton, or poly. From a comfort and longevity standpoint should a poly fill cover not be considered? What other than wool is considered high quality and durable for ticking?

If possible, I would prefer to not add another variable to the equation when dialing in the comfort (i.e. mattress pad/protector). Our key objective in using a mattress pad is to protect the mattress from liquid spills (we have 3 year old twins). I see many mattress pad that have similar construction (cotton / wool) to the mattress cover. Isn't this redundant? Is there a good mattress protector that is impermeable to liquid but does not change the feel of the mattress too much? Any recommendations?

I am still considering purchasing the latex layers and cover as individual items. I note that SLAB has several zippered covers that are high quality and expensive. What other vendors offer high quality mattress covers? We are leaning towards a double sided mattress and would want a double sided cover. Thanks

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Re: observations & Qs about latex mattresses 02 Oct 2011 21:20 #7

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Hi MikeM,

The Electropedic mattresses are IMO certainly better value than something similar from many retail outlets but are not in the same "value range" as many independent manufacturers or online purchases (including some on the Los Angeles list in post #63 here). They are however 2 sided latex mattresses which are much less common (partly because latex is very durable even in a one sided mattress) and which adds to their value compared to one sided mattresses.

Your testing here certainly helps to "point to" the best construction for you though.

It seems that you have been somewhat happy with thinner comfort layers than is "typical" for side sleeping which leads me to the sense that you are not as sensitive to pressure issues and/or are more evenly proportioned. I would tend however to a slightly thicker comfort layer only because if a layer this thin has a soft enough support core underneath it to contribute to pressure relief needs ... then it will likely be too soft for correct alignment (as in the 24 ILD support core being too soft). The 32 would certainly seem closer but in side sleeping ... the thinness of the comfort layer and the transition into a firmer support core may well create pressure issues over the course of the night. The fact that the 36 felt too firm (under 1") also points to this as it is not a great deal firmer than the 32 (4 ILD is about the amount that people will feel a difference).

The fact that you were OK on 32 ILD latex also point to the fact that you are not as sensitive to pressure issues and also that you prefer a more "on the mattress" feel.

With the 2" 19 ILD over the 32 ILD at custom comfort ... I doubt that you would have sunk in too much for alignment even though you may have sunk in more than your "preference". The amount you "sink down" (alignment) is more determined by the support layer than the comfort layer. The amount you "sink in" (pressure relief) is more determined by the comfort layer. Choosing a higher ILD in the comfort layer will have a greater effect on pressure relief and overall feel (on vs in) than it will in how far you "sink down" for alignment although they are of course interconnected. As long as the pressure relieving cradle is deep enough for you however based on your sensitivity to pressure (over the course of the night) and your weight distribution and as long as the "gaps" in your sleeping profile are "filled in" (difficult to slide your hand under your waist when on your side) ... then a shallower cradle is fine.

My sense though is that 2" may work better. A good value reference point for a 2 sided mattress with 2" of latex over a 5" core (9" of latex in total) and a natural cotton ticking quilted with wool (which is softer than cotton quilting because wool isn't as dense as cotton and is more resilient) is here www.mygreenmattress.com
In terms of the ticking material (without any quilting) ... the less stretchy it is and the tighter it is ... the more effect it will have on the latex below it. While a good terry cover will be fine in terms of protecting the latex from oxidation, ozone, and ultraviolet light (what makes latex break down), it will not protect the mattress from spills and any stain will void a warranty. A thicker looser circular weave ticking material or a material that is more stretchy (such as that used in the Pure Latex Bliss) is probably better yet than terry in terms of having less effect on the latex. It is also usually more durable than a thinner lower quality ticking material. This adds to the price however since ticking materials can add significantly to the cost of the mattress ... especially if it is finished on both sides.

This is why all mattresses should have a protective cover over them ... regardless of the ticking material. The very thin covers that are both breathable and waterproof (a breathable membrane with a thinner cotton or blended material) are usually chosen when there is a desire to have the least effect on the mattress.

Other people will choose a wool mattress pad/protector as wool is water resistant (not waterproof) and is also very breathable. While it will affect the feel and performance of the latex more than a thinner protector ... this is also a very popular tradeoff as long as the wool doesn't create pressure issues with a mattress that is otherwise "on the edge" of what is needed in the comfort layers in terms of thickness and ILD. Cotton quilted mattress pads/protectors are sometimes also chosen for their breathability and feel but they are the least waterproof of all and you would have less time to remove everything over the mattress in the case of a spill before it soaked through to the mattress.

When a mattress ticking includes wool or another quilting fiber or foam ... then a thinner mattress protector is usually best as having wool in the mattress quilting (or some other fiber or foam) and wool in the protector will often be too much fiber over the latex. Overall ... the thinnest protector that has the level of water resistance and breathability that you want will have the least effect on the feel and properties of the mattress. I agree that wool quilting in the mattress under a wool protector is both redundant and probably "negative" in its effect ... moreso even as the wool (or other quilting material) compresses over time.

While there are several zip covers/tickings available beides SLAB however none of them are quilted on two sides. Of course the layers inside can be removed and flipped but this is a pain. There are also mattress tickings that are not quilted at all which of course could be used on both sides.

Quilted ....

sleeplikeabear.com/mattress_cover
www.foamorder.com/latex.php#organicpillowtop
www.sleepez.com/mattresscomponents.htm
www.supremequilting.com/home.php (In Canada. Have both a natural wool quilted cotton over and terry cover)

Some cheaper additional non quilted choices

www.foamforyou.com/terry_cloth_covers.htm
www.foambymail.com/TERC-/terrycloth-cover.html

Hope I managed to answer most of your questions :)

Phoenix
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Re: observations & Qs about latex mattresses 03 Oct 2011 01:20 #8

  • MikeM
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Hi Phoenix,

I'm still digesting your terrific post above on cover/ticking. I do suspect your intuition is correct about a 2" comfort layering being better for side sleepers relative to 1". It has been an interesting but sometimes confusing search. Today, I revisited the OMI mattresses and Essentia as well. The one positive about today's experimentation is that my faith has been renewed in cotton cover and wool quilting (OMI). These were much softer and less taught than the custom comfort cotton/wool covers. So I don't have to be as concerned about that aspect, especially considering that wool has so many good properties. So cotton/wool or bamboo/wool would both seem OK in the cover.

I tried the OMI lago, duo, terra and another that had a 7" core plus 2" topper. The terra was too soft and squishy for my taste. Of the others, the lago was the medium firmness and closest to what I've been liking. It is 6" 40 ILD under 3.5" 24 ILD. I think this is overkill for us(9.5" of latex) and our preference has been in a less stiff core (i.e. 32") which is why I think we are able to get away with a thinner comfort layer. Ultimately, something slightly softer than the Lago would have been ideal. The 24 ILD comfort layer is probably a tad to stiff, particularly over the 40 ILD base. How much difference a 22 ILD comfort layer would have been...I don't know. Maybe 2" 22 ILD over 32 ILD would be the way to go since 2" 19 ILD over 32 ILD might have been a tad too soft.

The Essentia mattress line is really very interesting and way out of my budget. I tried it again today. It is solidly in the memory foam camp. Very different from latex although the comfort layers are made out of rubber tree sap (i.e. latex). They are 5.25 and 6.25 lbs density foams. The sales staff said that comparable tempur foams (density) take 40 seconds to recover whereas these take just 7 seconds. This is consistent with my sense that they don't create the same cavity impression as tempur foam. For those who are close to one of their few North American outlets, I suggest you test it out. The NuForm beds at custom comfort were nothing similar to these. Totally different feel! I've ruled out trying to replicate an Esstentia bed.

I'm still thinking about what my next step should be...there's just so much to consider. Thanks for all your help thus far.

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Re: observations & Qs about latex mattresses 04 Oct 2011 02:38 #9

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Hi MikeM,

Just to add a few thoughts to the mix.

I find its easier to think of the wool as an interactive layer rather than a part of the ticking. Wool is a fiber that has some resilience (more than some and less than other animal fibers like horse hair or pig hair).

When the quilted wool is over soft latex like 19 ILD or less ... then it will tend to "firm up" the latex because its not as soft or elastic as the latex. When it's over firmer latex (like 24 - 28 ILD or more) then it will often create a feeling of being softer because it doesn't "interfere" with the compression of the firmer latex as much and has its own "softness" and resilience. So the effect of wool depends to some degree on the firmness of the latex that is under it. Some people even like to sleep directly on firm latex like 32 or 36 ILD (shudder) and for them the wool would make the latex feel softer. Strangely enough ... tall and thin people are often at the extremes of liking either really soft latex on top (to create a deeper cradle with their lighter weight) or really firm latex on top (because they like to be more on top of the mattress and don't need as deep a cradle with their lighter weight for pressure relief).

The transition between layers is often a big part of what gives a mattress its properties. With a 2" comfort layer ... the layer underneath become more noticeable and if the transition from soft to firm is too big, this can often be felt as uncomfortable. With a 2" layer ... it's usually better (certainly for side sleeping) if the ILD's are closer together. 19 over 28 or 24 over 32 would give a smoother transition and when the lower layer is "needed" as part of the comfort layer ... then this transition can play as big a role as the ILD's themselves. If all of it is blended Talalay which has average ILD ranges of 19, 24, 28, 32, 36 ... you would be looking at a transition of approximately 8-9 or 12 ILD. I would choose 8 over 12. To get ILD's in between these ... you would need to go to natural rather than blended.

No latex core is an "exact" ILD and the rating is an average of testing in 9 places in the core. The range from softest to firmest on the same core is usually in the range of 3 or 4 ILD. An ILD difference of about 4 is usually about the least that most people will even feel although it may make a difference over a longer time like overnight in terms of pressure relief and the overall performance of the mattress.

BTW ... I talked with Chuck at Brooklyn Bedding a few days ago and asked him to pass a message on to John that I'd love to talk with him. We talked a fair bit and he told me that they are no longer using the quiltable latex but that they are now giving people the choice to use Talalay or natural Dunlop latex in their mattresses and you can choose the ILD's. They are in a transitional phase and working on some stuff and this may be part of why I haven't had the chance to talk with John. This was good news to hear.

Thought I'd add a few things to the mix that hopefully simplifies things a bit rather than makes them more complicated.

Phoenix
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Re: observations & Qs about latex mattresses 08 Oct 2011 23:27 #10

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I had a "breakthrough" type experience today. I visited a store that carries savvy rest latex mattresses. The savvy rest mattress consists of 3, 3" layers of latex. The layers the store carried were firm, medium and soft in both Talalay and Dunlop. Consider the number of combinations that are possible. I was able to test out a myriad of combos and really feel the difference between Dunlop and Talalay.

For anyone interested in a latex mattress, try to find a savvy rest dealer. Even if you don't buy one it will be a very rewarding experience. Phoenix's biggest contribution to this forum--among MANY--is his urging prospective mattress customers to go out and test, test, test. There are simply to many permutations (dunlop, latex, soft, firm, medium) and even slight differences in construction feel very different. So I offer a big "thank you" to Phoenix for his suggestion to test many different constructions to understand the differences.

To me, dunlop is more bouyant and lively than talalay. To me, with dunlop, you sleep "on" the mattress whereas with talalay it is a little more of a sleep "in" feel. This seemed to be exagerated when there was a more radical transition between layers or when the bottom layer was firm (instead of medium). This was counterintuitive to me because med/med/soft or even med/soft/soft did not feel as squishy (sleep "in") as much as firm/med/soft.

I did like (from bottom to top):
- firm (dunlop), medium (dunlop), soft (dunlop)
- firm (talalay), medium (talalay), soft (talalay)
- medium (dunlop), medium (dunlop), soft (talalay)

I did not like:
- firm (dunlop), medium (dunlop), soft (talalay) - sank into the mattress too much
- firm (dunlop), medium (dunlop), medium (dunlop)

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