180 Grams – What Does It Really Mean?

I don’t buy a lot of new vinyl, so I was curious when I got my first 180 gram record (Harrow Fair – Call to Arms).  First – what did it really weigh?  Was it like the Quarter Pounder that is weighed before cooking?  It was almost 180 grams – 173 to be precise.  I assume the missing 7 grams was removed during the trimming process.  So, kind of like the Quarter Pounder.  It was a pressing from a Viryl Technologies WarmTone press at Microforum.  The disc was flat and played very well.  I was impressed with the audio quality, but was left wondering if there are any real advantages to these heavier weight pressings.  so I reached out to some Facebook groups for their opinions.  And there was no shortage of opinions.

The general consensus is no real audio advantage.

Now the challenge is how does one compare without having identical masters and stampers to press a 180 versus a 100 gram disc?  This gets to the point that many raised – the quality of the masters, engineering,  and stampers used all factor into the audio quality.  In fact, what goes into the record production long before pressing will have a much greater impact than the amount of vinyl used.  A poorly mastered album is going sound crappy regardless of the weight.

This was Rob Rice’s (Kaneshii Records) perspective.  “There are many factors involved and every album is different.”

There are some who have stated that a heavier weight pressing can have deeper grooves.  While physically this is true, it will have no impact on sound quality.  There are standards that dictate groove and stylus dimensions.  These standards are necessary to ensure that any album can be played on any turntable providing both adhere to the standards.  Any album that is 100 grams or more will have the physical qualities for sufficient groove depth on both sides of the album.  A deeper groove could theoretically contain more undulations but a standard stylus couldn’t read it.

Are there any other advantages?

Seems the answer is yes – durability.  Not so much from a playback perspective but from a handling and storage perspective.  A bit less chance of damage if dropped and potentially less risk of warping.

With regard to warping, a poorly pressed and thus warped 180 gram record will be more difficult to flatten with a disc weight.   So again, what goes into the pressing is more important than the actual weight of the vinyl.

Now from an industry and marketing perspective, the feel of a heavier disc is seen as desirable.  Consumers seem to still believe 180 grams is better and this may justify some higher retail prices.

I’m a sucker for it.  I like the added weight and I’m quite confident that reducing the weight to 100 grams isn’t going to result in any reduction in retail prices.