• brunorepublic over 5 years ago

    A large number of US 7" singles that are currently listed in the db as "vinyl" aren't actually vinyl at all, but styrene. How or where should one indicate this? Notes? FTF? It's not just that "vinyl" isn't an accurate description (although I can accept that "vinyl" means "vinyl or styrene") but there have been cases where a record exists in both styrene and vinyl pressings (although presumably these would be made at different plants and have other visual differences to distinguish them). I think styrene should be indicated when known in the name of accuracy, completeness, etc.

    I'd suggest that styrene be added to the format/description list, although we would likely run into problems where many submitters wouldn't be able to tell the difference. It's not as obvious as it is with vinyl vs shellac, and some countries didn't have styrene pressings at all.

    I know this is being rather detail-obsessed, but hey, isn't that what we're all about? :)
  • djmushroom over 5 years ago

    i keep hearing about styrene being the inferior material but i haven't quite figured out how to identify it.
  • brunorepublic over 5 years ago

    brunorepublic edited over 5 years ago
    Styrene is...

    - lighter than vinyl
    - labels are glued on, not pressed into the record (styrene records are injection-moulded, not pressed like vinyl)
    - has a flat outer edge, instead of the sharp one you usually see with vinyl
    - doesn't warp like vinyl, but breaks much easier, feels more brittle
    - if you tap the edge, it makes a different sound, rings a bit unlike with vinyl which gives a dull thud (this is hard to describe)
    - often takes on a "matte" look

    In practice, the main difference is that styrene wears out *very* quickly! A styrene record played many times will develop a steady "shhhhhh" noise throughout. Slip-cueing will give "cue-burn" much faster than with vinyl. Elliptical and micro-line styluses, which give the best sound on vinyl, are particularly harsh on styrene and wear them down even faster.

    Most US Columbia 7" singles are styrene, lots of A&M ones too.

    It took me a while before I could easily spot the difference. There are no Canadian styrene 45s to the best of my knowledge, and I didn't start seeing them until I had a few US 45s in my collection.
  • brunorepublic over 5 years ago

  • zevulon over 5 years ago

    interesting - had no clue about this.

    Is it more of a US phenomenon, or is it "worldwide"?

    Is it predominantly 7"s, or is it just as many LPs/12"s?
  • djmushroom over 5 years ago

    thanks for your infos, brunorepublic, although i still wouldn't be able to identify styrene without having the direct comparison with vinyl. i mean, even vinyl can vary a lot in terms of thickness or fragility etc. and aren't the labels on vinyl glued on too? this is the first time i hear about labels being pressed into the vinyl...
    anyway, was the use of styrene limited to US releases of the 50s & 60s?
  • brunorepublic over 5 years ago

    Styrene is predominantly -- perhaps exclusively? -- found on US releases, mostly 7"s. I'm told that there are a few styrene 12" or LPs, but they are rare. I've never seen a styrene LP, but I have a few dozen styrene 7"s, all US releases.

    I would expect that a styrene LP would cause too many consumer complaints given how quickly they would wear out. However, the 7" single was treated as a throwaway format by most labels in North America from the early 70s onward, so durability was not as much of a concern.
  • brunorepublic over 5 years ago

    brunorepublic edited over 5 years ago
    and aren't the labels on vinyl glued on too?

    No, they are pressed in. Ever get a record where the label is off-center and goes into the run-out groove (or worse, the actual playing area)? The groove is still there, pressed into the paper. It's impossible to remove the label from a vinyl record. On a styrene one, you'll often find the edges folding, tearing, or peeling away.

    anyway, was the use of styrene limited to US releases of the 50s & 60s?

    No, it went much later than that. I have very few releases earlier than 1974 but I have styrene 45s all through the 70s.

  • hermanito over 5 years ago

    I've read that forum thread and it was indeed a very interesting read :)
    After reading that I think I will be able to tell the difference but it's definitely not something for the ordinary submitter I guess.
  • HM-2 over 5 years ago

    styrene records are injection moulded? that would also mean the "stampers" would be made completely differently. Are you really sure about this?
  • brunorepublic over 5 years ago

    Yes. Check the thread I linked to; that forum is frequented by several mastering professionals and gives quite a bit of detail, e.g. the actual material was about the same cost as vinyl, but styrene records could be made much faster and the stampers didn't wear out and need regular replacement like vinyl.

    Google "styrene 45" and lots more info comes up.
  • Staff 2.8k

    nik over 5 years ago

    For our formats, 'vinyl' is a kind of shorthand, it is not only for vinyl releases, but just a way of differentiating from the shellac type format.

    It is fine to add 'Styrene' to the notes, or to the free text field where it needs differentiated from other vinyl versions.
  • djmushroom over 5 years ago

    i wonder where there any releases that came out on styrene only? from what i've heard there were often both variants manufactured.
  • brunorepublic over 5 years ago

    i wonder where there any releases that came out on styrene only?

    Probably quite a few. I think in that linked thread it was mentioned that Columbia was particularly stubborn about not providing vinyl 7" singles for radio.

    Having said that, I just added these two releases, both US promos. The first was aimed at radio, the second one at club DJs. Both are styrene:


    from what i've heard there were often both variants manufactured.

    Indeed. In which case, the vinyl is likely to be more desirable.

    I've been adding "pressed on styrene" to the notes for now (although styrene records aren't pressed at all, per se) because I have no way to know if there are corresponding releases on proper vinyl, in which case I would put it in FTF.

    I realize most people aren't going to be able to easily tell the difference, but it's also something I think more people should know about. A styrene 7" can look NM but have massive levels of noise just because it's been played a couple dozen times. Granted, that can also happen with proper vinyl, but it's much less likely.
  • PabloPlato over 5 years ago

    bruno - would you be willing to put together a list of styrene records, maybe a list for each decade? being in canada i dont know of any in my collection, but i will have to test all my american ones for a distinct dull thud. in which era was styrene predominantly used?
  • brunorepublic over 5 years ago

    For 7"s, the bulk of my collection is from '74 - '80, so I couldn't say how predominant they are outside of those years. But based on what I have in my collection and what I've received for audio restoration jobs, I'd say at least half of all US 45s from this period are styrene.

    I'm reasonably certain that there are no Canadian styrene 45s. I suspect we just didn't have the volume by which styrene would've provided any cost savings. As indicated in the linked thread, the main advantage wasn't cheaper raw materials, but faster manufacturing and eliminating the need to continually re-cut and replace worn stampers for popular titles. Those factors would not be as substantial in a market like ours that only did 1/10th the volume of the US.

    As for Europe, most labels there seemed to actually give a damn about quality regarding singles (notice how they often got picture sleeves when we did not?), plus records tended to be more expensive there. I'm thinking disposable records probably would've caused major PR problems for labels there.

    Japanese releases, of course, are usually made of the highest quality materials to be found.

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