The Benefits of 180-Gram Vinyl
Vinyl Weight Explained
Vinyl records range in weight from 40 grams to 180 grams, with each record’s weight depending on the speed at which it was designed to be played. This speed is measured in revolutions per minute (RPM) and ranges between 33 ⅓ and 78. The faster the record, the less recorded sound can be held on each side.
Below is a description of each of the types of records, as well as how their speed corresponds with their weight.
33s: The Biggest, Slowest and Heaviest Records
The heaviest vinyl records are made to be played at 33 and ⅓ revolutions per minute (RPM) and can hold an album’s worth of recorded music. 33⅓ RPM records are often called “33s.” These records, which weigh 180 grams, are often labeled with attributes like “audiophile-grade” and “heavyweight.”
Because 33s play at a slower rate of revolutions per minute, they can hold more recorded audio on each side. However, there is a compromise involved in the trade-off of speed for size – faster records have better sound quality, but they can only hold one or two songs worth of recorded music. Likewise, lighter records are less durable, while the heavier 33s have more resistance against scratches and other forms of wear.
The gap in sound quality between 33s and faster, lighter records is relatively nominal. In addition, 78s, the fastest forms of vinyl records, are nearly obsolete due to the incredibly limited amount of music that can be stored on each side. In lieu of faster, lighter records, the 33 RPM LP has become the most common form of vinyl on the market today. Thanks to the ability of a 33 to hold numerous songs on each side, the music industry was changed forever, leaning for the first time towards full-length albums rather than singles.
45s and 78s: Lighter and Faster with Less Songs on Each Side
In addition to 180g 33s, there are several other types of records that are classified by their RPM – 78s and 45s. 45s are the smallest and lightest types of records. They weigh 40g, measure only 7 inches, and can only be played on certain turntables. Early on in the history of the turntable, 45 RPM records typically contained one song on each side, leading to the coining of the term “single.” Singles had a primary track – known as the “A-Side” – and a secondary track – called the “B-Side,” and there was no room for any more than a few minutes of recorded music on each side of the record.
78s, on the other hand, measure ten inches wide and can hold even less recorded music on each side than 45s. These records typically weigh 100 grams and are only a few inches smaller than 12-inch 33s. However, in contrast to 33s, 78s can only hold a few songs on each side. In the early days of the record player, these records were made not from vinyl but from shellac. 78s are no longer available new, but they can be found at many pre-owned record stores and thrift shops.
So, what makes a 180g, 33 RPM record special? Keep reading to find out.
Heavier Vinyl May Yield Better Sound Quality
While it’s still up for debate whether 180g vinyl has noticeably better sound quality than lighter records, there are several unique characteristics of the heaviest records that can contribute to a great listening experience. Below are just a few.
A Heavier Record Keeps Your Turntable’s Stylus More Stable.
As a record spins on your turntable, the process of getting it to produce sound starts with your stylus. The stylus, often referred to as the needle, of the record player is a small piece of unrefined diamond that rides in the grooves of a record as it spins. The stylus is attached to the cartridge, which translates the vibrations produced by the stylus into an electrical current. This current is then carried by your turntable’s tonearm to your preamp, which amplifies the signal and makes it audible.
The weight of a 180g record allows it to keep itself stable and steady as it spins. The result? Less noise and distortion picked up by the cartridge in your turntable. The heaviness of a 180g vinyl can improve your signal-to-noise ratio – the amount of music you hear compared to the amount of distortion and static your turntable produces – allowing you to get the best possible listening experience from each record.
Heavier Records Are More Resistant to Wear and Tear
Because vinyl records are a tangible, physical form of recorded music, they have the potential to get scratched, warped, and cracked. All of the different forms of damage that a vinyl record can undergo can majorly detract from sound quality, and some more serious forms of wear and tear can render a record unplayable.
One of the biggest benefits of heavier records is their ability to resist damage. The weight of an audiophile-grade LP gives it an inherent durability, which means it is more likely to keep sounding good for a long, long time.
However, the high quality of heavy records does not mean you don’t need to carefully store and maintain them. Just like all vinyl, 180g records need routine upkeep and proper storage to stay in good shape. The best way to keep any record sounding great for as long as possible is to store them horizontally in a temperature-controlled space, using protective sleeves and other specialized gear to keep them safe from scratches.
Are Heavier Records Worth It?
One consideration that every record collector needs to make is how much they want to invest in vinyl. 180g records tend to be more expensive than their lighter counterparts, which may discourage some collectors from shelling out the extra cash. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide the extent of your devotion to vinyl records and determine from there whether 180g vinyl is worth it to you.
While lighter vinyl records may not be as durable or steady as 180g 33s, you can still get great sound from a lighter record. In addition, LPs typically do not weigh less than 150g, which means you don’t have to worry about massive gaps in sound quality or durability when you opt for a lighter record.
What Else Makes Records Sound Great?
While vinyl weight can play a role in overall sound quality, there are plenty of other factors that come into play while you’re on your journey to get great sound. If you’re looking to take practical steps to improve your listening experience, make sure to examine the quality of these two things.
To learn more about the secrets of getting great sound from your records, make sure to check out The Sound of Vinyl blog.