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I remember back in the days of my youth when everything was released on vinyl, you'd sometimes hear about "audiophile" vinyl or vinyl with a specific weight (which I think was 180g).

What's the difference in this vinyl? Why is the weight of vinyl important to the sound of it? Was it made of some product that standard vinyl wasn't?

  • I think it's an even more relevant issue these days - it seems to me that new vinyl releases are often the expensive version! – user16 Apr 20 '15 at 15:52
  • In general, if the release is stamped with the term 'audiophile' on it, assume there's more marketing involved than attention to production detail. :) – DA. Apr 22 '15 at 0:27
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I feel I have to put an opinion on this - & opinion it is, because there are too many factors influencing vinyl quality.

Factors.

  • Attention to detail in the cut.
    Will affect every pressing of any weight.

  • Attention to detail at the plant.
    Do they run each stamper 100 times before cleaning & 1000 before replacing, or do they run 10,000 before cleaning & replace after 250,000 pressings?
    A third, more cost-conscious alternative - do they run the heavy-weight audiophile pressing for only the first few copies of each stamper's life, then swap the process line to regular pressings?

  • Recycled vinyl content.
    Every pressing leaves waste to be cut from the edges. In the old days when everything was on vinyl, there would also be old recycled over-pressings & even ex-jukebox rejects to add to that. Does your copy contain only virgin vinyl or mainly recycled swarf?

  • Weight.
    Weight is really just 'thickness', nothing more. They used a bigger glob when pressing the audiophile copy than the old HMV bargain bucket compilations.
    Yes, it is more inherently stable, though if warped it will warp badly - but that may be down to transportation & storage and out of the hands of the pressing plant.
    ...but the weight itself is simply the end of a long line of areas where your expensive audiophile pressing received greater attention.

So…
your expensive audiophile vinyl - you would hope - is prepared for you with high attention to detail in all the above factors.

I feel that is what makes the real difference, not just an extra 50g of plastic.

One last point…
Is heavier vinyl 'more durable' than lightweight.
Of course not!
It's exactly the same groove you have your stylus in, however much extra plastic is between you & the B-Side.

But that takes us back to how much ex-jukebox dust & other extraneous floor-sweepings are in your nice shiny black stuff.

Virgin vinyl lasts longer because the contaminants are lower. Dust doesn't wear at the same rate as vinyl, so it generates pops & clicks where each softer [or even harder] contaminant is passed over by the needle & changes the erosion rate of that portion of the groove..

Late Edit
I sometimes download dodgy flacs of albums I may buy
[shoot me, I'm not rich - if I don't like it I bin it, if I do like it I buy it]

I have just been listening to the audiophile vinyl (as FLAC 96k) of the last Bowie album, The Next Day… until I got so irritated by the sound quality I just went & bought it on AAC directly from iTunes - the difference is stunning...

…mainly because whoever uploaded the dodgy version had possibly the dullest record player I've heard in years. Missing high-mids & top, wooly low-mids, over-emphasised bass. The AAC is a whole polished glass window clearer than the dull, listless vinyl I'd been listening to.

So, word of warning - vinyl is not inherently better, if you don't have a player to match your expectations. Good turntables are really not cheap. They demand a whole lot better throughput than a couple of Burr-Browns & need more care & attention.

Of course, the downside to my knee-jerk reaction to buy an album I was testing to see if I liked it means I now bought an album I don't really like, just to see what it really sounded like :-(

  • 1
    Though opinion (as I imagine it's all we can expect with this topic) I think this is very well reasoned. I like the idea that thicker, itself, isn't necessarily a sign of quality, but could be a sign of overall better attention-to-detail throughout the entire production process. (Sadly, if that's true, that means vinyl manufacturers who don't care about quality can simply press thicker records even with sub-par production line equiptment to fool the public that they're higher quality) – DA. Apr 22 '15 at 0:26
  • The heavier vinyl just feels more durable. but that is just a perception. It's like the feel of clay poker chips vs plastic poker chips, one of them feels stronger, and that may or may not have anything to do with any functional advantages. – stephenbayer Apr 29 '15 at 22:53
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As with many issues around vinyl, there are differing opinions out there:

Let us explain: 150 grams is considered a "heavy" weight because it's heavier than a standard 120 gram weight record. All records degrade the more you play them, but a heavier record is more durable and will generally sound better for a longer time. Although some might disagree, we feel that the difference in sound quality between a standard and heavier weight is negligible. To us, it's all about durability and quality.

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I have Norah Jones' "Come Away With Me" on standard and 200g. I can safely say, without question, that I could walk into the room and tell you which one was playing (and yes, the 200g is the better sounding of the two).

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This is a voodoo-science question, IMO. Myself, I think anything over 140 grams can be counter productive. Thicker records when warped are warped higher, bad-ddd! I only buy 180 + gram records if they're offered no other way and I want them really badly. I think heavy records are just an excuse to charge considerably more. I see no sonic benefits.

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So, the concensus seems to be

  1. Heavier weights are more durable - which makes perfect sense
  2. There is some debate as to whether audio quality increases with weight. Some people say yes, others no.

Having said that, just before CDs came in in the 80's, you could buy really cheap, very light vinyl albums on budget labels and even to the untrained ear (mine!) you could tell they were lower quality so I'd say that, to a certain point, record weight makes a difference. The only way to make sure is to get the same record at different weights and compare them !

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    Is it fair to assume the 'really cheap/very light budget albums" sounded poorer do to the weight or could it have been due to other factors involved with making it a cheaper release to begin with (such as using a die well beyond the typical number of pressings recommended, etc.)? – DA. Apr 22 '15 at 0:23
2

The weight is completely arbitrary. Marketing hype. If the record is thick enough to keep the groove on side A from smashing through to the groove on side B during the pressing process, then the record is thick enough.

Of far more importance is, how many records have these stampers stamped? How much care was given to the mastering and manufacturing process? How pure is the vinyl? Did they reduce dynamic range, or reduce the recording level (signal-to-noise) to increase playing time?

Back in the late '60s and early '70s, RCA Records produced "Dynaflex" records. These records were so thin, they would flex when handled. The idea might have been to reduce the amount of vinyl needed to produce a record, saving money and keeping cost down. I still have a couple of albums from that era, and they sound fantastic: Nilsson Schmilsson, and Son of Schmilsson, by Harry Nilsson.

I think there is a lot to say in favor of using less vinyl. Less vinyl means less petroleum needed to make it. Less vinyl means less temptation for the record manufacturers to augment their virgin vinyl with center punches and rim trim leftovers.

I would take a Dynaflex of carefully pressed, super quiet, high quality vinyl from new stampers, over a heavy record made from recycled floor sweepings any day. In the end, that's the only meaningful difference.

  • KarIU there is one possible advantage in heavier disks, which is that they are less prone to warp. Granted, if one stores the records carefully, warping is less probable to happen, but over the years I've had that happen. This may have had to do with defective manufacturing and not the fact itself that they were thinner disks, but it's harder to happen with thicker disks. I agree that it would preferable that vendors promoted quality of materials and manufacturing and not weight. – José David Jun 15 '16 at 23:48
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A good discussion of the true benefits of 180 and 200 gram vinyl pressings is provided in the article by Vinyl Gourmet at http://blog.vinylgourmet.com/2015/10/180-gram-vinyl-what-are-the-benefits-heavyweight-vinyl-records-explained.html

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    Please don't just give a link without giving more details about what the link says... if the link dies, your post would be useless. – Bebs Dec 30 '16 at 7:35
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I would argue that only a lacquer that has been cut at half speed can carry the label of 'audiophile' quality.

Therefore any lacquer that has been cut at normal speed and then pressed to a heavier vinyl stock does NOT make it audiophile...

Weight of the vinyl is a totally separate discussion (as discussed here, at length!), but again, would argue that it is the mastering process that distinguishes one from the other, not the vinyl weight alone. Perhaps the 'Audiophile' label can be defined as something that has been mastered at half speed and pressed on heavyweight vinyl?!:

http://shop.abbeyroad.com/Music/Vinyl/Solid-Air/4ZB80CAC0KX

For the most part, I think it's a very misused term for albums that are pressed to heavier vinyl. Who knows!!

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