While some people love coloured vinyl records, others see them as nothing more than a cheap gimmick and there are also questions over whether coloured vinyl can also affect the sound quality of the record.
Coloured records have existed since as early as the 1910s, but they really took off around the 1970s, with famous examples since then including The Ramones’ Road to Ruin in yellow, various glow-in-the-dark records such as Kraftwerk’s Neon Lights and the Foo Fighters’ debut, This is a Call and transparent records like Queen’s The Invisible Man.
We’re going to try and set the record straight by looking at whether there really are any differences between coloured vinyl records and good old classic black.
Probably the most talked-about issue with coloured vinyl is whether or not it has any noticeable impact upon the sound quality of the record.
This article from Reverb LP has consulted a number of industry experts on the issue and the conclusion seems to be that while no two records are going to sound the same, there are plenty more factors which affect the sound quality more than colour.
However, that’s not to say that colour doesn’t have an impact. For example, the article highlights that glow-in-the-dark records (such as Ray Parker Jr.’s Ghostbusters and Kraftwerk’s Pocket Calculator) generally don’t sound great due to the use of phosphorous to achieve the desired effect.
It also points out that there can be issues with records that use more than one colour, with the listener sometimes hearing a soft thud as the needle crosses across them, but on the whole, the consensus is that colour isn’t a huge factor in a record’s sound quality.
One of the most obvious differences between black and coloured vinyl is in their rarity (and subsequently, their value).
With a few rare exceptions, coloured vinyl will usually be a lot harder to find than their black counterparts.
While certain albums have many more coloured versions produced than others, they’re still usually rarer and are still highly collectable either way.
Especially these days when music can so easily be accessed through streaming services, the aesthetics of the vinyl itself have become much more important to collectors.
Another theory is that black records are more durable than their coloured equivalents due to their higher carbon content.
This means that they’ll hold up to more plays over the years, while a coloured disc will degrade quicker.
It’s a whole other story when you take into account picture discs, which are made with layers of vinyl and paper, with a very thin layer of vinyl on the outside with a shallow groove which will wear out quicker than normal vinyl.
There’s certainly something of a split between those who love coloured vinyl and actively seek it out (often spending well over the odds to do so) and those who treat it with disdain, whether do you a perceived tackiness, lack of sound quality, or both.
However, it seems that the truth is that there isn’t actually quite as much of a difference than we might have been led to believe.
If you love filling your record collection with vibrant and unique designs, then, by all means, feel free to as it certainly doesn’t guarantee that you’re receiving an inferior product, but on the other hand, there’s nothing wrong with sticking with a good old classic black pressing either!