What Are Vinyl Weights?
The word “weight” can have two different meanings when it comes to vinyl – and both are worth knowing. In one context, vinyl weight refers to the literal heaviness of a record. Measured in grams, the weight of a vinyl record can tell you a bit about its quality and durability. More on that later in this post!
In another context, a vinyl weight is a round object that looks a bit like a hockey puck. This little tool is used to hold a record in place as it spins on your turntable. Some vinyl fans prefer to use a clamp instead of a weight, which locks the record onto the spindle of your turntable. In this post, we’ll discuss the different vinyl-securing mechanisms, as well as the varying weights and sizes of records.
Why does all of this info matter? As a record collector, using a vinyl weight (or a clamp) can help you get the best possible sound out of your records and even prevent warping. As for the physical weight of your LPs, there’s a strong case to be made that heavier records sound better. We’ll discuss all of that and more in the paragraphs below.
The Purpose of a Record Weight
Using a weight or a clamp to hold a record in place serves a few unique purposes:
A record can become warped in response to extreme temperatures, changes in humidity, improper storage, and poor handling. In addition, a wobbly, low-quality turntable can warp your records over time – just one of the many reasons why getting a good record player is worth the investment!
One of the best ways to avoid warping is to use a record weight. The weight holds the record flush against the plate of your turntable, allowing your stylus to ride steadily in the grooves in the vinyl. When your stylus skips and jumps due to warping, you’ll get distortion, crackling, and even skipping in some cases. A flat, stable record is far less likely to suffer from these problems!
One term that you’ll hear thrown around a lot in the record-collecting community is the signal-to-noise ratio. This refers to the amount of music you’re getting from a record as it spins on your turntable versus the sound of distortion. This distortion can come from all directions – damage to the record itself, a low-quality cartridge, and a faulty turntable can all increase the noise that you hear and lower the sound quality that you get from your records.
By increasing the stability of a record, a vinyl weight can improve your signal-to-noise ratio in some cases. While that might sound a bit nitpicky, it can make a big difference in how your records sound, and it might be enough to convince you to get a vinyl weight.
What About Vinyl Clamps?
A clamp acts similar to a vinyl weight, working to hold the record in place and prevent warping and noise. However, unlike a weight, a clamp locks the record in place, preventing it from moving at all. In addition, clamps typically swap more weight for added stability and security.
While there are plenty of perks to securing a record with a clamp, there is one drawback to consider – it’s more high-maintenance. For each record you play, you’ll need to fasten the clamp in place, which can add in some extra time and effort. It’s not a big difference, but it does make the weight the simpler option.
Choosing between weights and clamps is definitely a matter of preference, and it’s up to you to determine which one is best for your turntable.
How Much Does a Record Weight Help?
Overall, the sound quality changes that you’ll get from a vinyl weight are usually very subtle. If you’re trying to take your sound from decent to great, there are probably better investments out there. Below are a few surefire ways to level up your turntable setup!
Get a Better Cartridge
Of all of the many components of your turntable, the cartridge is one of the most important. The cartridge is the tiny mechanism that holds your turntable’s stylus, or needle. The stylus generates vibrations at specific frequencies as a record spins on your turntable, and these vibrations are then turned into an electrical signal by the cartridge. The signal is then carried to your preamp via the tonearm, and the preamp sends the signal to your speakers – and that’s how a turntable makes sound!
Without a high-quality cartridge, it can be tough to make your records sound good. Factors like the shape of the stylus, the level of stability that the cartridge gives the stylus, and more can all make or break your listening experience. So, before you opt to drop some money on a vinyl weight, take a look at your cartridge and see if it might be time for an upgrade.
In most cases, cartridges are modular, which makes them easy to install and uninstall. If you’re nervous about adding a new cartridge to your turntable or taking your current one off, you can always stop by a record store for a professional installation.
Balance Your Tonearm
The tonearm is attached to the cartridge, and it’s the component in your record player that carries the electrical signal from the cartridge to the preamp. In addition, the tonearm acts as a source of balance and stability for the cartridge and stylus, keeping them from rocking and wobbling while your records spin.
Balancing your tonearm is a lengthy process, but it can be a game-changer for sound quality. Tonearm balancing involves adjusting parameters on the weights that hold the arm in place, finding the ideal setting for your turntable and cartridge.
We’ve got an entire article dedicated to balancing the tonearm and why it matters, so feel free to head over there for some helpful tips!
Let’s Talk About the Heaviness of Records
Time to tackle the other type of vinyl weight.
In our post, “Does Vinyl Weight Actually Matter,” we cover the various sizes, speeds, and weights that have been used throughout the history of vinyl. There are quite a few, but the most popular configuration for modern records is the 12” LP. This type of record spins at 33 ⅓ revolutions per minute (RPM) and typically weighs between 100 and 180 grams.
Is 180g Best?
180g LPs are often labeled “audiophile-grade” or “heavyweight” because of their characteristic heftiness. These records are made to last as long as possible, and they can also help your stylus travel with more stability as it reads the grooves on a record.
However, the difference between heavyweight records and lighter ones is pretty subtle. You’ll probably immediately notice how substantial a 180g record feels in your hand, but it might sound the same to you as lighter LPs.
As is the case with so many aspects of record-collecting, it’s up to you to decide whether heavyweight vinyl is worth it. You can opt for lower-weighted records and still get great sound, so you’ll never have to live by a “heavyweight only” policy. However, because of the added stability and durability, 180g records are definitely worth your attention!
Want to Learn More About All Things Vinyl?
If you’ve got questions about collecting, maintaining, and enjoying records, Sound of Vinyl has the answers. Check out our blog for more informative and helpful articles about everything from the best turntables to fixing up broken records.