Listening to music on vinyl is not just for audiophiles anymore. Vinyl LPs are becoming a best seller in mainstream retail stores and smaller record stores. Any wishlist for vinyl album additions will include remastered classics as well as limited edition reissues by classic artists like the Beatles. When you add to your album compilation for your record player, you are likely to see stickers on the album cover that read “180 gram vinyl.” What does this sticker indicate?
What is 180 Gram Vinyl?
180 gram vinyl is a type of record that uses more polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pellets so that it’s heavier than typical vinyl records. For the most part, modern records weigh anywhere between 120 and 160 grams, but as the name indicates, 180 gram vinyl records are slightly heavier. As a result, these are less likely to warp and will rest more securely on the turntable. Outside of the weight difference, stamping 180g vinyl records requires the same manufacturing processes used in producing other types of recordings. Still, the additional weight attribute affects the look, feel, and lastingness of the record.
Does it Create Better Sound Quality?
Inherently, this type of record doesn’t necessarily produce a high-quality audio experience. As mentioned, this vinyl is less likely to warp over time. This means, in the long term, a record that weighs 120 grams may have a greater chance to lose audio quality due to warping than a heavier grade record. Typically, several attributes are more likely to affect the quality of sound coming from a record.
These include, at least in the short term, the materials used in the cutting, quality control, and the essential sound quality of the original recording’s vocals and instruments. Even when using heavier vinyl, if any of these aspects are substandard, you’re going to end up with a substandard-sounding record.
What Other Benefits Does 180 Gram Vinyl Provide?
Even though 180g vinyl does not create better quality sound, there are several other reasons that you may prefer to play this heavier vinyl on your turntable. Let’s explore some of the reasons that this heavyweight vinyl is preferred by many DJs and other music enthusiasts.
Overall, 180 gram vinyl records are more durable than standard vinyl, which means it has more resistance to wear and tear over the years. The grooves are the same, so the stylus wear will be virtually the same. However, it will be more robust in general, preventing scratches and cracks from occurring and providing more resistance to the records breaking.
Another major plus of these heavier records is that they will be less prone to warping, even if they are stacked or stored improperly. This means that you’ll be able to think less about the process of storing records in your home. Warped and bent records tend to create distorted music during playback that could be a turnoff for genuine music enthusiasts who love listening to vinyl as it’s meant to be heard.
Heavier vinyl records are likely to move around less on the turntable platter. This added stability is likely to keep the needle and the tonearm from bouncing on the vinyl because of unwanted vibrations. This creates better conditions for the stylus to read the grooves with a higher level of precision.
With this better isolation of sound, you will be able to enjoy the hi-fi vinyl releases that you prefer to listen to without purchasing additional gear to minimize and absorb excess vibrations. When the turntable stylus and the cantilever suspension have more stability, the sound degradation that occurs will no longer need to be a worry.
Changes the Vertical Tracking Angle (VTA) of the Stylus
Because the vinyl is thicker than standard vinyl, the vertical tracking angle of the cartridge and the stylus will be higher on the surface of the record. This is not necessarily a good or a bad thing during playback – it all depends on your setup.
Since it’s raised higher above the record’s surface, you may need to consider cartridge alignment to make sure that the needle fits in the record grooves properly. If the alignment of the cartridge is off, you are likely to hear tracking errors and distortion during playback. Also, thicker records tend to generate more static, and the extra material makes this static hard to disipate compared to standard vinyl.
Streamlined Record Labels
Whether creating black vinyl or colored vinyl, some record labels developed UHQR (Ultra High-Quality Record) pressing techniques for this heavyweight vinyl at pressing plants. During this process, the lacquer and the dies are pressed into the vinyl so that the records became flatter than it would with standard vinyl pressings.
These records vary a bit from press to press, but in general, most record labels began using this method to create heavyweight vinyl and make it more standardized. This helped create better overall sound quality, which is appealing to audiophiles. When pressing vinyl became standardized, the price of 180 gram vinyl was no longer prohibitive for getting the raw materials for the records.
180 Gram Vinyl Records Add Quality to Your Collection
180 gram vinyl records are certainly a compelling option for anyone looking for quality. Several record producers aim specifically to create records using this form factor in their vinyl pressings to promote the concept of craftsmanship. As a result, the source material is well-recorded and will sound better for a longer period, thanks to this thicker vinyl medium’s stability and warp resistance.
180 gram vinyl records aren’t the weightiest options; there are even heavier records that weigh up to 220 grams in total. Still, these records are more substantive than many other record types, and they actually feel better in the hands as you select your next piece of music.
It’s still important to understand that not all 180 gram records are inherently high-quality. There are several examples out there of this record type being used as a marketing ploy. Some studios create the 180 gram record and produce flimsy and often photocopied “Scorpio press” jackets and cheap paper sleeves. While there is no correlation between this corner-cutting and the final audio performance, more inexpensive packaging materials often detract from the feel of the pressing itself. For this reason, check the quality of every vinyl you purchase, even if it has the 180 gram label.