There are numbers of limited and special editions of vinyl LPs nowadays, and a lot of them differ from standard edition by vinyl colour: transparent, white, red, splattered… Is there any difference in terms of sound quality between a black 180g vinyl and a coloured vinyl?

I have read somewhere that white vinyl has the best quality between all the coloured ones, but not as the black one.

Is that true? And based on what parameters?

  • 2
    Wouldn't it be the material that could affect the sound, and not the color of light it reflects? – Matthew Read Feb 25 '15 at 22:29
  • Yes, I agree. So (probably I didn't ask a clear question...) are there any differencies in material used in different colour vinyl that affect audio quality? – Spaceman Feb 25 '15 at 22:33
  • If two materials reflect colour differently, isn't it because one has a different chemical composition? So they would be different materials. – user16 Feb 25 '15 at 22:34
  • @topomorto A hundred thousand different materials can be the same color. They're not going to all be moldable the same way, resist wear the same way, etc. – Matthew Read Feb 25 '15 at 22:36
  • @MatthewRead Isn't the fact that different materials have different properties the whole point of the question? What if different colour pigments affect the grain size of the vinyl substrate, for example? – user16 Feb 25 '15 at 22:50
up vote 12 down vote accepted

If you're asking about the difference between "180gr vinyl and a [regular weight] coloured vinyl", then 180g usually has better sound quality when compared with the regular 120-140g vinyls.

If you're comparing black and coloured vinyls, there is a small noticeable difference in sound quality.

Let's look at the production of coloured vinyl

[in order to create vinyl records] little vinyl pellets are poured into a hopper, or chute, which feeds them into an extruder. The extruder melts the vinyl down into thick hockey puck-esque patties often called cakes or biscuits. Typically those pellets are black, but different chemical compounds can produce unique colors (like Pepto Bismol pink) or even transparent vinyl. Solid colors or pellet mixes can be tossed into a hopper and extruded into biscuits just like black vinyl.

Sounds good so far. However:

Despite its collectibility and cool factor, coloring vinyl involves a minor trade-off in sound quality that vinyl newcomers may not know about. The chemical properties of pigmented vinyl just don't sound quite as good as "virgin" black. Blackwell estimates the sound quality is somewhere between 90 and 95 percent of that of a black record--a small enough variation for the average listener to never notice, but enough to turn off serious audiophiles (who are probably the only ones with expensive enough sound systems to hear the difference). The Carl Sagan "Cosmos" pressing, for example, sounded noisier whenever a record player's needle hit a glow in the dark spot.

As you can see it's a tiny trade-off, but it might be noticeable by audiophiles. However properly mastered and pressed coloured vinyls are often better than average pressed black vinyl records.

  • Following the link you provided I found a very interesting article. That was what I was looking for! – Spaceman Feb 26 '15 at 21:17
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    Anecdotal evidence (my own) shows that coloured vinyl (popular in the 70's punk era) and more so, picture discs had an inferior sound quality. They were also much more prone to warping for some reason. I'm not an "audiophile by any means, an nor were my friends, but we could hear the differences. Coloured vinyl was bought as a novelty or to "complete a set" (we would by all 7" and 12" pressings of certain songs or bands) and normally not get played, preferring the regular black discs to listen to. – Roger Mellie Feb 27 '15 at 22:18

Any components of the materials used in making a phonograph disk could make a difference. The material used for coloring is just one of them.

Understanding this would require detailed information regarding the production process.

However, as mentioned in Unusual types of gramophone records coloring as a factor in audio quality was likely not a parameter in any decision to produce colored records. It was mainly economic (for promotional purposes and to increase sales).

The german "Intro"-magazine states, that transparent vinyl is theoretical the one with the best sound, but in reality the black one is, because the pressing machines are always held on working temperature. It also says, that most records are only black, because shellac records were.

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