Buying Vinyl? What to Look for in the Vinyl Itself

One of the reasons we were so anxious to dump vinyl in favour of CDs was because the quality of vinyl in the early 80s sucked.  After the oil shock of the 1970s, there was a steady deterioration in the raw materials–the petrochemical derivatives–that went into making records.

Records became thinner, meaning that the grooves couldn’t be cut as deep.  Shallower grooves = less ability to store information = inferior sound, especially on the low end.  These records were also easier to damage. A slight scratch could ruin everything.  Hell, I remember returning dozens of records to the shop because they skipped right out of the shrinkwrap.

And they weren’t using pure vinyl back then.  Old records were melted down and recycled, creating an inferior product filled with impurities.  Impurities = impure sound.

Like I said, these records sucked.  And to be honest, a lot of turntables weren’t very good, either.  No wonder we stampeded towards CDs.

Today, though, you can get an excellent turntable for $450, one that’s far, far better than a $2,000 machine from back in the day.  And when we buy new vinyl, we’re almost always getting virgin vinyl (no recycled crap) that’s sold in weights of 180, 200 or even 220 grams.  Compare that to the 80 gram weight of a typical record released in 1981.

If you’re back into old-school records, you should read this article from Digital Music News which explains the whole record-making process.  You’ll be wiser for it.



Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

3 thoughts on “Buying Vinyl? What to Look for in the Vinyl Itself

  • June 12, 2014 at 9:48 am

    Couldn’t agree more. Digitizing my collection of over 5000 pieces is time consuming; having to re-eq each recording to maximize sound quality, leaving in the pops naturally.

  • June 12, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    I’ve also encoded my collection to digital and that 80s vinyl is very wobbly (wobble wobble). Was quite happy that Sweet Dreams (are made of this) on vinyl sounded better than any of the CD versions I had heard.

  • June 13, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    Just picked up my first turntable last weekend … a 1968 Dual from Around Again Records on Baldwin St. in Toronto. (Wonderful shop + owners!)

    It sounds lovely, and the cartridge provides surprisingly full bass, compared to what I’ve heard from my friends’ turntables.

    I’m pleased with how good it sounds, but I’m not convinced it’s “better”, “warmer” or even much different from my CDs. That may be a factor of the digital receiver I’m playing it through though, I suppose. One more thing to upgrade…


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