Does Colored Vinyl Sound Worse? Black vs Colored Vinyl

Does Colored Vinyl Sound Worse? Black vs Colored Vinyl

Posted by House of Marley on May 21st 2024

When you close your eyes and visualize a vinyl record, what comes to mind? Probably a black disc spinning on a turntable, or something similar. And while the color black may be synonymous with vinyl, records can come in practically any color.

The question is, is this merely a matter of aesthetics, or are there differences in sound quality that music fans need to be aware of? Does colored vinyl sound worse? Let’s take a look.

Understanding the Basics of Vinyl Record Production

So, how are vinyl records made, exactly? The manufacturing of vinyl records has not changed much since vinyl replaced shellac as the primary material, though technological advancements have led to improvements in precision and efficiency.

What is PVC, and How is it Used in Vinyl Records?

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a type of plastic material. It is versatile, durable, and affordable, which makes it suitable for a variety of applications. It is also used to make vinyl records. In fact, PVC comprises about 80 percent of the material in an average vinyl record. The remaining 20 percent are components like stabilizers, lubricants, and carbon black pigment.[1]

The Process of Creating Vinyl Records

The process of vinyl record production begins when an artist is done recording an album. The second step is mixing and mastering. After that’s done, a master disc, or a lacquer master, is created—an aluminum plate coated with lacquer. Once shipped to a record manufacturing plant, the master disc is used to make a "stamper" disc, which is then used literally as a stamper to press vinyl records.[2]

The Classic Appeal of Black Vinyl

If you were to comb through a random collector's vinyl records, the vast majority of them would most likely be black. It can be argued that vinyl has managed to maintain its appeal partially because it hasn't really changed much since the early days, at least in terms of visual appearance.

Why Black Vinyl is the Standard

PVC is naturally transparent, so vinyl records are deliberately made black by adding black carbon into the mix during the production process. Why black carbon? Because it increases the strength and durability of PVC. In other words, the first vinyl records were black for practical, not aesthetic, reasons.

Benefits of Black Carbon in Vinyl Records

Aside from strength and durability, there may be other benefits to adding black carbon to PVC in vinyl records. Carbon reduces friction within the grooves, preventing dust buildup and minimizing static. Additionally, adding other types of dye to PVC during manufacturing could potentially reduce overall audio quality.

Quality Control and Production Costs

To determine if a black vinyl record is scratched, all you have to do is inspect it visually—when you hold a black record to a bright light, the damage, if there is any, is visible immediately. This is not always the case with colored vinyl records, which are also more expensive to produce as they require specialized materials and additional quality controls.[3]

Regardless of the color, if you have a scratched record, check out our blog to learn how you can try to fix it.

The Rise of Colored Vinyl

Colored vinyl is not a new concept, it's virtually as old as the vinyl format itself. In the 1950s, Tops, a subsidiary of Mayfair Records, exclusively used colored vinyl.[1]

Throughout the 1960s, artists across different genres used colored vinyl records for singles, in an effort to stand out and capture the attention of radio DJs. The trend peaked in the 1970s, when rock acts started releasing albums on colored vinyl.[2]

Aesthetic Appeal and Collector's Interest

The physical and visual aspects are a huge part of the vinyl experience. Vinyl enthusiasts care about the visuals almost as much as they care about the music itself.

Colored vinyl records are not that rare these days, but they still stand out, which makes them interesting to collectors. Besides that, they are more expensive and typically have a higher resale value than black records.[3]

If these unique pieces speak to you personally, you might consider starting your own collection. Dive into the vibrant world of vinyl with our guide on how to start collecting vinyl records.

Variety and Creativity in Colored Vinyl Designs

Colored vinyl records come in a variety of hues. This can provide an additional layer of engagement for fans because colors affect mood: blue and green are soothing, while bright colors can be energizing.[4]

For example, if an artist releases a melancholic, introspective record, they might choose to press the vinyl in a cool and dark tone. This allows artists and record labels to experiment and express their creativity through the look and feel of the vinyl.


Sound Quality: Black vs Colored Vinyl

The question of sound quality often comes up in black vs colored vinyl discussions, but it cannot be answered with a simple "yes" or "no." Several variables need to be taken into consideration, and the impact of each can vary depending on a number of factors.

How Ingredients Affect Sound Quality

As explained above, black carbon is added into the PVC mix during the making of a vinyl record for very good reasons. Any additional dyes are purely an aesthetic choice and do not contribute to sound quality, but they can theoretically take away from it. (Or at least, they could in the past, when vinyl record production wasn't nearly as good as it is today.)

There are special cases and exceptions to this rule, but more on that later.

The Impact of Production Techniques and Age

If you get your hands on a colored record that was pressed a couple of decades ago, there's a slight possibility it sounds worse than its black vinyl counterpart from the same era. Again, this is either due to the dominant production techniques at the time or simply a function of age.

When it comes to new vinyl releases, it's not outside the realm of possibility to come across a colored vinyl record with worse sound quality than the black vinyl record of the same album. However, this is very rare and often a result of mistakes made during the production process, not a direct consequence of adding dye.[1]

Special Cases: Splatter and Multi-colored Vinyl

Splatter and multi-colored vinyl records are more likely to exhibit variations in sound quality compared to colored and black records—adding more dye into the mixture increases the potential for inconsistencies. With that being said, it should be noted that most people wouldn't notice the difference, but a committed audiophile with a pair of high-quality headphones might.[2]

Picture Discs – A Unique Category

Picture discs are vinyl records that feature a printed image or design on their surface. One example of a picture disc is The Beatles' Abbey Road Anniversary Edition that came out in 2019—that iconic photograph of George, Paul, Ringo, and John crossing the street is printed directly onto the vinyl.[3] Picture discs are collector's items, and in a category of their own.

The Production Process of Picture Discs

Picture discs are produced differently than colored or black vinyl records. The production process is more complex, with images being sandwiched between two layers of vinyl, so that the grooves are not engraved on the image.

Sound Quality and Durability Concerns

Which version of Abbey Road do you think sounds better: the simple, black vinyl record, or the limited edition with an image of George, Paul, Ringo, and John crossing the street? Initially, the difference might be difficult to notice, but the latter would wear out more quickly over time.

Making the Choice: Colored or Black Vinyl?

If you're an experienced record collector, you probably already have a good idea of where your preferences lie. But if you're new to vinyl, you might be wondering if black or colored records are the right choice.

Factors to Consider for Audiophiles and Collectors

Whether you're an (aspiring) collector or an audiophile, some factors need to be considered when contemplating black vs colored vinyl.

It all boils down to the following:

  • No collection is complete without colored, splattered, and pictured vinyl records
  • Colored vinyls inject a dose of charm and character, and are valuable collector’s items
  • You might not get the same level of audio quality with a pictured, splattered, or colored vinyl as you would with a standard black vinyl record

The bottom line is that the appeal of colored, splattered, and pictured vinyl records is undeniable if you see vinyl as more than just another way to consume music. However, you may have to accept a degree of compromise on audio quality.

Personal Preferences and Sound Quality Perceptions

Every detail, including the color of the vinyl itself, plays a role in shaping the experience of listening to a record. The technical differences between black and colored vinyl records are real, even if they might not be discernible to an untrained ear most of the time. However, some listeners might perceive the sound differently due to the emotional and psychological impact of color and other visuals.

House of Marley's Commitment to Quality and Sustainability

Whether you’re a purist for the look of timeless black vinyl or an aspiring collector of colored musical treasures, you’ll need a worthy throne to set your sounds upon.

With House of Marley, you can spin your favorite records with tons of style and a clear conscience. Offering a wide selection of record players (including this gorgeous wireless turntable), and high-quality portable speakers, House of Marley is socially responsible and deeply committed to bringing listeners their favorite music, sustainably.


Pspatial Audio. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and other stuff...What are records made of?


Atlas Records. So, Why are Vinyl Records Black in Colour?

Amoeba. A Brief History of Colored Vinyl.

The Sound of Vinyl. Are Colored Vinyl Records Rare? Here's Why You Should Collect Them. 

Mental Health America. How do colors in my home change my mood? Color psychology explained. 

Discogs. What to Know About Black vs. Color Vinyl.

Vinyl Chapters. Do Colored Vinyl Records Sound Worse? 

The Beatles. Abbey Road Anniversary Edition (Ltd. 1LP Picture Disc).