From the 60s to the 80s to today, colored vinyl records have fascinated collectors across a huge array of genres. Recently, artists as diverse as Steven Colbert, the White Stripes, Tom Jones, and ICP have embraced the colored vinyl trend.
But, do colored vinyl albums provide the same level of sound quality as traditional black records? Does the dying process reduce the integrity of the product?
Colored Vinyl Pressing Process
Just like your plumbing fixtures, “vinyl” records are made of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). This compound has very little color in its natural state – it’s something of a clear, smoky color.
Clear Vinyl Records – Manufacturers use no dyes in the creation of clear vinyl records. To keep the color clear, they can include only a very few stiffening agents (and no dyes, of course). For this reason, clear records can have tracking issues and produce more static. Certain needles/cartridges can help resolve these issues. Clear Colored
Vinyl Records – When making see-through colored discs, record pressers use just a tiny amount of dye. These hybrid dyed/clear records have fewer tracking/static problems than clear discs. However, they don’t match the audio quality of their solid-colored cousins.
White Vinyl Records – Record manufacturers typically add titanium dioxide (a common pigment in oil/acrylic paints) to PVC records to create a solid white color.
Solid Colored Vinyl Records – After making a record solid white, record companies add other dyes to create a wide variety of colors (and combinations).
Picture Discs – These collectors’ items sandwich images between plastic sheets. Because this material is softer and thinner than PVC, these discs have poor audio quality. Compared to other records, picture discs have a smaller dynamic range – and greater levels of static/noise.
Black Vinyl Pressing Process
Black vinyl records contain more than just dye. Manufacturers add black carbon to a titanium oxide mixture (the white color creates opacity) before pressing. This carbon additive makes black vinyl records harder than all other types – and less prone to static.
The quality difference between black and white/colored records are 99% negligible. But sometimes mistakes are made by pressing plant’s when mixing the formula. This can result in colored vinyl sometimes sounding a little less than their black counterpart. This doesn’t happen often and may not be audible depending on your equipment
Colored Vinyl Sound Quality
In general, colored records provide slightly lower audio quality than black records. However, experts consider this a slight (1%) difference, at best. With the right needles and cartridges, most colored records provide excellent sound – and relatively low static/tracking issues.
Black Vinyl Sound Quality
Black vinyl records represent the gold standard of vinyl record technology. Though collectors and fans love rare colored records, nothing beats the sound of black carbon PVC records. For audiophiles, every little bit of audio quality adds up to an unforgettable experience.
Colored Vinyl for Collectors
Even though music sales have trended downward in recent years, vinyl records have risen in popularity. As collector’s items and physical symbols of true fandom, colored PVC records have people lining up in droves to purchase limited editions.
With the advent of multi-colored and “swirl” discs, colored vinyl records are here to stay – and selling big among collectors!