What's the deal with "180 gram" vinyl, anyway?

What's the deal with "180 gram" vinyl, anyway?

On our site and elsewhere, you might notice a lot of records listed as "180-gram vinyl" like it's a perk. But is it actually a plus? And if so, why? Let's dig in.

The weight of a record is usually measured in grams. Most vintage vinyl weighs in around 110-140 grams. Many of the best-sounding records of all time came from the 60s-80s, so obviously that's a perfectly fine weight. 

There are two benefits to a thicker (and thus heavier) record: 

1) Durability. Records can warp if exposed to too much direct sun or humidity, and dropping a record can damage it. A thicker record is less likely to warp and usually holds up a little better to rough handling. 

2) The potential for higher sound quality. The image at the top of this post is a close-up of what the ridges in a record. They're literally sound waves carved into the vinyl. The more detailed the waveform is, the wider and deeper it needs to be cut. This is also why some albums split across two discs—they're carving as much detail as possible into the vinyl, meaning each song takes up more room. If a record is thicker, you can cut deeper, and that would mean better sound quality.

Now, nothing about 180 gram vinyl guarantees that the pressing will have that extra detail; like I said, it's only the potential for higher sound quality. But it does help make it possible. That's why most of the very best modern pressings will be on 180-gram vinyl. 

Now, what about downsides? There's only one, and it only applies to folks with a smaller suitcase-style turntable (like a Crosley). On suitcase turntables, the records hang off the edge of the turntable. Heavier vinyl is more likely to wobble, which means it could skip on the first few songs. 

If you have a suitcase turntable, my strong recommendation is not to avoid 180-gram vinyl but to upgrade to a record player with a full size platter. That will ensure you can play the best music with the least trouble. 

I tend to prefer 180-gram vinyl, but it's not a requirement. At the end of the day, it's about what's carved into the vinyl more than the vinyl itself. So prioritize details like "remastered from the analog tapes" or albums split across multiple discs. Those are surefire signs that the quality will be top notch.

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