Everything you wanted to know about vinyl, but were afraid to ask.

Any community, hobby, or activity will have its shibboleths. Those words and jargon that those on the inside knowingly bandy around, but which leave those on the outside utterly bewildered. Or those bits of knowledge which you assume everyone else knows, but you somehow missed.

But everyone was a beginner once, and the only way to progress is by asking questions. So, whether you are an absolute beginner or even a long-standing vinyl aficionado ashamed of a gap in their knowledge, here are some of the questions we get asked most often.

 

Why do listings talk about record weight?

It is, simply, the weight of the record. Generally speaking, heavier records are considered to be higher quality. Historically, LPs tended to be in the 120-140g range. Nowadays, production tends to be standard 140g, 180g heavyweight, or 200g audiophile releases.

Essentially, the heavier the record the more vinyl there is, and the more vinyl there is, the more durable it is. High-end listeners may find heavier weights offer better sound, but for most people the issue is durability. In practice, the quality of modern pressing means weight is not an issue for most people, unless they plan to never stop playing the record.

 

Should I worry about having a coloured pressing?

Coloured vinyl is worth a topic in its own right, but unless you have a vintage pressing from the 70s or 80s, then the only reason to worry about a coloured LP is if you don’t like the colour.

Coloured vinyl was once commonly seen as being of inferior quality. A consequence of incredibly busy presses shifting between colours, standards not being maintained, and a lower quality of vinyl.

Black vinyl was seen as better because presses knew exactly what they were doing making black vinyl, so the manufacturing processes were better. And the carbon used to make them black also helped strengthen the LP.

Today’s processes mean there is little difference between black and coloured vinyl, except coloured vinyl can be worth more, depending on the release.

It has, however, become even more of a marketing gimmick. Led Zeppelin’s 1979 In Through The Out Door came in brown paper wrapping, so people didn’t know what colour disk they would get until it was opened. Today, artists will release in a rainbow of colours, knowing that some fans will buy one of each!

 

Are 45rpm records better than 33rpm?

The RPM, revolutions per minute, simply reflects the number of times the turntable rotates each minute. Traditionally, the rates were 33rpm for albums, and 45rpm for singles.

Albums pressed at 45rpm, sometimes called half-speed masterings, are intended to have better audio quality. Essentially, each second the needle will travel about 25% further at 45rpm, picking up more data to pack into each second of audio.

The downside is that it means there’s less music on each side, so you’ll be flipping 45rpm records more often. Although, for many, that isn’t a downside at all.

 

How should I clean my records?

Vinyl records are fairly robust, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need any care. But exactly how much attention you lavish them will probably depend on you.

For most people, using an antistatic brush and some vinyl cleaning fluid will be more than enough. Even better, you can get it direct from your favourite vinyl subscription service!

If you are an audiophile looking for something to provide an extra bit of sheen, you can invest in a record cleaning machine. Machines like the Project VC-S or the Okki Nokki will set you back several hundred pounds, but your records will never look or sound clearer. Indeed, those with these machines will frequently clean records straight out of the shrink-wrap.

 

Do you really think that’s everything I wanted to know?

Sorry, the title oversold the article a bit. These are some of the questions we are asked a lot, but we know there are many more questions waiting to be answered. How do they get the labels central (there’s more to it than you might think)? What, exactly, is the problem with static? Who is Blake Sleeves?

Whether you have one LP, or one thousand, whatever it is you’ve been wondering, curious about, or just itching to know, get in touch, and we’ll answer next time.

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