Does 180gram vinyl sound better?
The technical standard for cutting grooves to vinyl master discs are exactly the same for all vinyl records regardless of weight. Therefore, the weight of a vinyl record has little to no impact on sound quality. Also, the stylus tip in the groove is only capable of reading a limited depth anyway, and thus anything below a certain point is missed.
The Sound quality of a given record is mostly determined by the quality of the source material and the mastering process — alongside to pressing process, of course.
So what’s all the fuss about 180g?
The benefits of thicker weight vinyl are mostly twofold:
1) They’re more satisfying to handle — more substantial
2) They’re more resilient to damage over time, including breakage and warping.
In addition, many argue heavier grade vinyl provides a more stable platform for your stylus and cantilever whilst also better isolating the stylus from unwanted vibration.
What is Half-Speed Mastering?
Half-Speed Mastering is a highly skilled job performed by a talented mastering engineer. Here’s the “skinny” on the whole process. To produce a master record, a lacquer disc is placed on the cutting machine, known as a mastering lathe. The lathe cutting head engraves the source waveform into the lacquer.
In the case of half-speed mastering, the whole process is slowed down to, you guessed it, half of the original speed. In other words, a typical 33rpm record is cut at 16 2/3rpm. The source material is also slowed down (reducing the pitch in the process) meaning the final record will still sound normal when played back. The whole process can have huge sonic benefits.
Are vinyl records better when sourced from the original master tapes?
This is a BIG question. But in essence, it’s the mastering process and the quality of source material that matters most. The deficiencies attributed to digital may have had some relevance in the early days, but not now. Almost everything these days is recorded and mixed digitally, and so long as digital files are handled with care, there is no reason why digital source files pressed to vinyl can’t shine through. There is, however, a lot of valid criticism in vinyl records cut from heavily compressed digital masters, which just sound diminished on vinyl rather than open, dynamic, and loud.