We’ve all seen the 180gm stickers emblazoned across records in the vinyl stands at JB, but what does it mean, and does it make a difference to the playback?
From the 1950s through to late ‘60s/early ‘70s, vinyl weight was generally between 120 and 140grams. However, an oil crisis in 1973 put pressure on record production through the lack of raw materials and consequently, vinyl weight was further reduced.
By the late ’80s, record companies – entranced by the increase of popularity and convenience of CDs – sought to reduce the cost of producing vinyl, and the records became even thinner (STACK’s got vinyl from that period which comes in close to 90grams).
Along with limited edition coloured pressings, a subject we covered last month, 180gram vinyl is often the go-to for reissues now.
There’s a misconception that a 180gm record will sound better. Without getting bogged down with the technical details, the standard used to cut grooves on the record surface remains the same on 180gm vinyl as it does on 120gm vinyl; it isn’t dictated by vinyl thickness. Any significant variation in sound quality will depend on who mastered it and where, what audio source was used, and where it was pressed.
However, there are benefits to 180gm vinyl. They are more durable with greater resistance to damage. Being a more heavy-duty thickness means records pressed at 180 grams are more resistant to warping than more conventional weights. Heavier vinyl will also help protect your stylus from vibrations, and lastly, they just feel so much better in the hand.
Overall, the quality of a reissue is down to the quality of the pressing. If the album you’re chasing happens to be 180 grams, consider it a bonus.