WHICH VINYL RECORD HAS THE BEST QUALITY?
If you’ve ever made a vinyl record before, you’ll probably be aware that there are numerous choices to tempt you. Standard black, lots of colours in solid, transparent or even semi-transparent. You can mix colours to create wow-factor patterns like a splatter effect or even add a picture to cover the whole record.
But once you’ve mulled over the choices and made your selection, how do you know if you have made the right choice? Well, here’s a quick run-down on quality and style in vinyl pressing.
Black is the most common colour you’ll find in shops or online. It’s generally accepted as the standard format, but actually it’s not pure. Pure vinyl compound has no colour and looks milky-clear, however, this pure version isn’t the best quality you can get. In order to make it play better, black graphite is added. Graphite acts as a lubricant during pressing to create a smoother surface and it allows the needle to make a better connection when playing. It also helps reduce static and improves the overall sound quality.
It’s possible to create a whole spectrum of coloured vinyl by adding pigments to the base vinyl compound, or by using pre-mixed coloured granules. However, adding different colours and levels of transparency can have small effect on sound quality, introducing more static and clicks, especially in run-in and run-out grooves. As a general rule, solid colours contain more impurities than translucent colours.
On the style side, one thing that can’t be debated is how beautiful coloured vinyl can be. While there are some trade-offs in terms of audio quality, coloured discs can be pressed to compliment album artwork, creating a great package for fans and collectors.
There are many options to choose from when mixing colours together. However, as with coloured vinyl, the audio quality on multicoloured vinyl won’t match black vinyl. At any point where two colours meet, there’s a risk of small imperfections which can result in audio and occasionally, visual impurities. The process of creating multicolour vinyl is usually manual, hand-pressed, rather than automated, resulting in a higher reject-rate on press. This is the main reason why the price of multicoloured vinyl is more expensive. The trade-off though, can be worth it if you’re looking to create something extra-special.
Styles of multicolour vinyl
You can use up to 3 colours to create loads of effects. The base colour can either be solid or transparent and the best effects are when you contrast a transparent base with a solid splatter.
Half & Half
Again, 2 solid colours, or a combination of solid and transparent colours, can make great contrasts with half and half.
Three colour striped
These are made from 3 colours and can be a combination of solid and transparent colours.
The Quad effect has 4 segments using a maximum of 3 colours, Any combination can be used and the use of a third colour gives a splatter effect.
Three colour segment
Using 3 colours, each section can be a combination of both solid and transparent colours. NOTE: some colour combinations can react differently when mixed, so do your research before deciding.
A side / B side effect
Usually made from solid colours, these give great results when using contrasting colours to get the best effects. Both sides of the record are different.
Colour in Colour
Colour in colour vinyl is made up of 1 colour pressed “inside” another, but it cannot be guaranteed that the smaller central colour will always be visible on both sides of the record, so choose high contrasting colours will give the best possible effect.
Cornetto effect creates up to 6 spokes made from 2 different colours, either 2 solid colours, or a combination of solid and transparent colours.
Using what’s available at the pressing plant at the time you place an order, you have no actual control over the final colour you will get. This random effect is created by mixing various colour compounds and every record can be significantly different. This process uses left over granules and therefore is slightly better for the planet!
Glow in the dark
Glow in the dark records do just what they say. Turn the lights out and see how they glow. They are made by using a special red, green or blue pigment mixed with the vinyl compound.
These are at the back of the queue when it comes to quality as they are made in a different way to black or coloured vinyl records. A vinyl puck is placed in between two record sized paper labels, then two sheets of heat-resistant PVC foil are placed on top of the labels and when the record is pressed, the grooves are formed in to the foil. Because the playing surface is a pvc sheet instead of vinyl, they tend to suffer from increased surface noise and the overall sound quality is not as good as black or coloured vinyl. New ways of pressing picture discs means that by using heavier vinyl, considered to be around 180gms rather than a standard record of around 130gms, means the sound quality has been improved, but still not to the standard of colour or black vinyl.
So there you have it! So many choices and some fantastic effects to play with. If you buy vinyl you will see that lots of artists choose colours to complement their artwork or to accentuate the overall design. We’ve pointed out that they are not quite as good in sound quality as black, but in general, the difference in fidelity is so slight, it’s not always that noticeable unless you are looking for a difference.
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