I’ve recently got back in to playing records after a 30+ year break. My old records have been cleaned and most show signs of wear and/or abuse. That is fair enough given my lack of care back then.
However, when buying new records I naively assumed they would be flat and without defect. Well, sometimes they are flat, but mostly they have some degree of warp. As for noise, again, most have at least a few crackles. I’ve bought a couple which are without defect.
So to the question in the title, how much is too much? At what point do I send them back for replacement/refund? Or do I just need an expectation adjustment?
Hi Graeme. It’s a good question I’m quite tolerant in the knowledge that vinyl will mostly have some defects mainly minor. Disappointing though it should be perfect or near perfect in this day and age.
Thanks LyndsayM. I guess I thought if I’m paying for a new thing it should be in good condition. In fairness to the retailers, they have exchanged the record or refunded me without objection. Looks like they are well used to it. As you say, it is disappointing.
I’m not overly concerned about the appearance of the vinyl but if there are defects noticeable during play back then I return it. Any non-fill, load pops or crackles or high levels of back ground noise then it goes back. I’m of the opinion that if we accept it then it will only get worse and at the end of the day these are new records which we often have to pay a premium for.
I err on the side of not sending them back unless they are wibbly. (It’s a technical term, honest.) Those I can’t send back I’ve had a go at very gently heating and flattening, which created a bit of a storm in a thread about the topic, of which the remnants can be found here:
I cannot recall which, nor find it at the minute, but have a so called audiophile repress where the inner liner says the occasional pop or click is unavoidable. Needless to say the original first pressing sounded better.
Then a recent double album got returned without playing, one disc had visible air bubbles and the other no centre hole.
I have found that the choice of phono cartridge seems to have an effect, discs that sound noisy on a Rega 3 with an Ortofon cartridge are perfectly playable on another Rega 3 with a Dynavector 10X5.
I have found that only Record Industry pressings can be pretty much guaranteed to be perfectly flat. Others often have a very slight shallow wave or ripple to the edge in places. So long as it’s not extreme, it’s acceptable, otherwise you’ll be returning most LPs regularly. However, a major warp or dishing is definitely a fault worthy of return.
Age advice as usual. I’m learning to accept a small wobble. I did have one record which was exchanged due to a large wobble, not that it caused any playing problems I could detect.
What about crackles? I’m trying to judge where my tolerance level should be. Naively I thought a new record would be pristine, but I’m learning that is not so. So now I need to figure out what is acceptable.
Crackles can often just be a combination of static and any minor detritus or grease that may have made its way to the grooves during production, packaging or shipping. A good clean on an RCM should do wonders.
However, there is something called non-fill where the vinyl hasn’t formed the grooves properly and this can’t be fixed or improved at all. There’s sometimes a tiny bit of this (Of the better pressing companies, Optimal seem particularly prone to this at times) which is likely fine, but if it’s really bad then you can sometimes see it as a form of “stitching” within the vinyl and that would likely be grounds for a return.
Almost all pressings have some degree of warp and not always the same amount on both sides. Any switchback discs need to be returned due to potential cantilever damage. A lot of LPs suffer from a bit of surface noise on tracks I and 2. The better the record player the lower the hash. In the pressing process there is often a release agent and an RCM can remove some of this. Short scratches are just about acceptable-big ones are a no-no.
Some on-line suppliers with defects have given me a partial credit or sent another copy FOC.
Do not expect this as the norm!
@Richard.Dane i am still fine tuning my cleaning regime and likely being a bit too gentle. Not seen non-fill, but will now keep an eye open for it. Thank you.
@Douglas i am seeing the very things you speak of and find it disappointing. With regard to returning things, I have had a good experience with major retail stores, online stores and just today, my local used record store. Their willingness to accept returns without question suggests to me that faults are widespread.
Yes I know what you mean. I buy a lot of vinyl and probably return about 10% of them. Things seem to have got worse recently. The Covid situation meant some pressing plants either stopped or significantly reduced their output. This has lead to a big backlog and I suspect as part of attempting to catch up quality control has suffered.
I’m extremely intolerant of poor vinyl pressings, but that said, I’m not prepared to spend £50 or so for the more specialist labels (e.g. Mobile Fidelity). One of the benefits of buying from Amazon is that you can order a replacement before returning the faulty item, so if the replacement has a creased sleeve, for example, you can mix and match to keep the best of both vinyl and sleeve. Additionally, I find it’s worth waiting a while before registering the defective product in order not to get a repeat from the same batch, which often has the same fault. I always run new albums through the Okki Nokki before play.
If I get two defective items, I go for refund and, assuming it’s available, buy the CD instead, which is nearly always reliable and usually sounds better too. This I rip to my NS01 and play through my streamer.
I bought an album today and ran it through the Okki Nokki before playing it. Side A was acceptable but it got worse with each side. On side D the crackle was so loud and incessant that it broke through the music and was unlistenable. It’s going back tomorrow and I’ll get the cd. @Clive, I think I am rapidly coming to the same way of thinking as you. Thanks for the tip re: Amazon.
The problems you’re talking about is the reason I left vinyl for good in the late 80s. For me it seemed the more I’d spend on turntables cartridges and cleaning products the more crack and pop I’d hear. Often the vinyl was damaged before you even got to play it. Drove me mad, while I agree (with hindsight) that digital wasn’t as good as vinyl in the early days I’m convinced there’s not much between them now. I’ll go and hide now.