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Styrene vs Vinyl, How To Tell (with Pics)

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Styrene vs Vinyl, How To Tell (with Pics)

Postby eddie edirol » 25 Oct 2013 03:15

I battled this on Ebay trying to avoid the Styrene records, and could only depend on pics. The sellers don't always know the difference when you ask them. So I wanted to show other 45 diggers that might not know how to tell online, or in person, when you're looking at a styrene copy. Styrene is an injection mold process, injecting polystyrene into the stampers, the labels were glued on afterward. This process was used because the stampers lasted longer (More profits), as they didnt go through the tough heating process that vinyl did. Vinyl is crushed plastic biscuits and heated into a flat record, including the label. I highlighted the telltale areas in pink circles.

I bring as exhibit A, my two copies of "Heaven on The 7th Floor".
Image
Notice the difference in the print above. On styrene records, (the left one) the print is usually heavy block lettering. Its not often they dont have this kind of font, but it happens.

Image
When you look at pictures online especially, the styrene records have an edge to the label. Sometimes you can see this in an ebay pic, if the sleeve doesnt cover the edge of the label.

____________________________________________________

The vinyl copies have a smooth flush edge from the press, as seen below.
1.) Notice rounded off edge
2.) Notice indent in center of the disc, from the stamper pressing.
ImageImage

Styrene records have a thick non-polished edge, as seen below. You can feel it in your hand, it doesnt feel right.
Image

Notice on the styrene record, the label looks like you can peel it off, it has an edge. In the hole of the record, you can see the label lifting by my finger. You can feel the edge of the label with your finger. As seen below.
Image

Paul McCartneys "Take It Away" on styrene with block lettering as evident below.
Image

"Grease" by Frankie Valli styrene copy, as seen below, does NOT have the telltale block lettering. Can fool you in pictures if you're not careful. The only thing to go by is the sharp edge of the label.
Image

"Hocus Pocus" by Focus. This one fooled me once. This also is styrene without the telltale block lettering. This particular one is showing the label peeling away.
Image

Some styrene records like this one, the labels were painted on! Careful with these! I used to have this.
Image

Its hard to avoid Styrene if you buy in the US, which is why I now buy much of my vinyl from Canada. For the most part, they usually only used styrene in the USA. They had their own pressing plants in Canada, and those copies are usually pressed on high grade vinyl, and done very well. Same in the UK, and usually everyplace else except the US.

What bugs me is, I cant find any pictures of the injection molding process, no info, no videos, as these records stopped being made I guess in the early 90's. Its disappointing because I really want to see what it looks like, but all that equipment is probably torn down and scrapped.


Hope this helps! :byebye:

And just for fun, heres video of them pressing up Jack Whites 7 inch records on colored vinyl.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMX_KJf5lvg
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Re: Styrene vs Vinyl, How To Tell (with Pics)

Postby BMRR » 25 Oct 2013 17:19

VERY helpful! Thanks for taking the time to post the pictures and descriptions.

Do you clean your styrene records the same way you clean your vinyl records, or do you clean them differently?
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Re: Styrene vs Vinyl, How To Tell (with Pics)

Postby Coffee Phil » 25 Oct 2013 17:51

Hi Eddie,

Thanks! That is a great tutorial on the styrene / vinyl thing.

What drove the more bold font on some styrene records?

I have never seen one of those 45s with the label directly printed onto the styrene. I'm guessing that the process is similar to the process of printing labels on CDs. Next time I'm crate digging for 45s I'll watch for one.

Thanks again,

Phil

eddie edirol wrote:I battled this on Ebay trying to avoid the Styrene records, and could only depend on pics. The sellers don't always know the difference when you ask them. So I wanted to show other 45 diggers that might not know how to tell online, or in person, when you're looking at a styrene copy. Styrene is an injection mold process, injecting polystyrene into the stampers, the labels were glued on afterward. This process was used because the stampers lasted longer (More profits), as they didnt go through the tough heating process that vinyl did. Vinyl is crushed plastic biscuits and heated into a flat record, including the label. I highlighted the telltale areas in pink circles.

I bring as exhibit A, my two copies of "Heaven on The 7th Floor".
Image
Notice the difference in the print above. On styrene records, (the left one) the print is usually heavy block lettering. Its not often they dont have this kind of font, but it happens.

Image
When you look at pictures online especially, the styrene records have an edge to the label. Sometimes you can see this in an ebay pic, if the sleeve doesnt cover the edge of the label.

____________________________________________________

The vinyl copies have a smooth flush edge from the press, as seen below.
1.) Notice rounded off edge
2.) Notice indent in center of the disc, from the stamper pressing.
ImageImage

Styrene records have a thick non-polished edge, as seen below. You can feel it in your hand, it doesnt feel right.
Image

Notice on the styrene record, the label looks like you can peel it off, it has an edge. In the hole of the record, you can see the label lifting by my finger. You can feel the edge of the label with your finger. As seen below.
Image

Paul McCartneys "Take It Away" on styrene with block lettering as evident below.
Image

"Grease" by Frankie Valli styrene copy, as seen below, does NOT have the telltale block lettering. Can fool you in pictures if you're not careful. The only thing to go by is the sharp edge of the label.
Image

"Hocus Pocus" by Focus. This one fooled me once. This also is styrene without the telltale block lettering. This particular one is showing the label peeling away.
Image

Some styrene records like this one, the labels were painted on! Careful with these! I used to have this.
Image

Its hard to avoid Styrene if you buy in the US, which is why I now buy much of my vinyl from Canada. For the most part, they usually only used styrene in the USA. They had their own pressing plants in Canada, and those copies are usually pressed on high grade vinyl, and done very well. Same in the UK, and usually everyplace else except the US.

What bugs me is, I cant find any pictures of the injection molding process, no info, no videos, as these records stopped being made I guess in the early 90's. Its disappointing because I really want to see what it looks like, but all that equipment is probably torn down and scrapped.


Hope this helps! :byebye:

And just for fun, heres video of them pressing up Jack Whites 7 inch records on colored vinyl.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMX_KJf5lvg
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Re: Styrene vs Vinyl, How To Tell (with Pics)

Postby eddie edirol » 26 Oct 2013 01:11

Hey guys,
I cLean all my records the same way. Soapy paintbrush, rinse and vacuum. Works well with styrene. Doesnt help cue burn though.

I imagine the only reason the bold print changes because of the distributor. I supposed it depended on how the labels were made when the labels were needed. There werent computers back then, so someone had to physically make each batch of labels. Funny enough, i have both vinyl and styrene copies of shining star by earth wind and fire on columbia, and they both have the heavy bold font on the labels. I cant find any info kn the styrene manufacturing plant, so all the juicy details are lost for now. Either that or imlooking for the wrong name.
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Re: Styrene vs Vinyl, How To Tell (with Pics)

Postby HiFi Punker » 06 Nov 2013 17:24

Wood glue works on styrene. Tried and tested, many times.
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Re: Styrene vs Vinyl, How To Tell (with Pics)

Postby eddie edirol » 08 Nov 2013 17:29

HiFi Punker wrote:Wood glue works on styrene. Tried and tested, many times.


Damn straight. Th wood glue worked wonders on my styrene copy of "Lively up yourself" by Bob Marley. And this record looked decrepit. Noisy as hell. Between the wood glue, soapy paintbrush and vacuum, cleaned right up. (Only because I couldnt find a vinyl copy to buy at the time).
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Re: Styrene vs Vinyl, How To Tell (with Pics)

Postby tubewade » 11 Nov 2013 23:02

Another way to tell styrene is hold them up to bright light and try to look through them. Styrene records are actually dark red rather than black.
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Re: Styrene vs Vinyl, How To Tell (with Pics)

Postby eddie edirol » 12 Nov 2013 00:51

tubewade wrote:Another way to tell styrene is hold them up to bright light and try to look through them. Styrene records are actually dark red rather than black.


Yep, just found out about this from a friend of mine after I wrote this thread and forgot about it. Also, Styrene records feel lighter, more brittle and you cant really bend them.

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Re: Styrene vs Vinyl, How To Tell (with Pics)

Postby spittenkittens » 22 Dec 2013 04:19

Very helpful, I never new there was anything but vinyl. I have noticed mostly on older 45's they crack at the edge. Not to hard to fix but annoying. I like rca idea at first to make different colors for each type like children's, western etc. To bad they did not stick with it.
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Re: Styrene vs Vinyl, How To Tell (with Pics)

Postby sp1068 » 30 Dec 2013 04:11

Certain labels have worse life with styrene than others. Columbia 45's are among the worst, imho. They scratch very easily. Same way with a lot of Chrysalis and RCA records, but all CBS records in general. Best to avoid these used at all costs.
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Re: Styrene vs Vinyl, How To Tell (with Pics)

Postby eddie edirol » 30 Dec 2013 16:33

sp1068 wrote:Certain labels have worse life with styrene than others. Columbia 45's are among the worst, imho. They scratch very easily. Same way with a lot of Chrysalis and RCA records, but all CBS records in general. Best to avoid these used at all costs.


Not necessarily, many CBS Columbia, and RCA records are pressed on vinyl. Thats why you have to look carefully at the labels to make sure. The ones that are pressed on vinyl are great copies.
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Re: Styrene vs Vinyl, How To Tell (with Pics)

Postby jwspicer1 » 30 Dec 2013 17:56

From experience when you bought those at K-mart, not eBay. Styrene was used because it was cheaper than vinyl. Not just because of the molds (which really didn't last that much longer). By the 70s, oil prices had reached a point where the cost of vinyl was such that a LOT of singles were styrene. The vinyl was saved for LPs. And singles were considered throw-away items. So then, it didn't matter. As for the machines, if you ever seen pictures of plastic model making (think "How It's Made" on TV) that is the idea. The tricky part was the tool (the molds) for most styrene products are machined. For singles, they had to do all the steps they would for making vinyl stampers, but instead use a soft metal and die cast the two halves of the mold from the nickel mother disc. If that material (usually aluminum) got too hot, then there would be deformities caused by distorting the mother in the die casting process. Styrene CAN be okay if the proper care was taken. But alas, often it wasn't.

Styrene could be (sort of) stamped too. But in those cases, a side of the record was on the bottom and a press on the top forming a flat side. Think the way Laserdiscs were made later on. Then the two sides were bonded together. Tell-tale way to figure those out - look for the shiny vertical sides, but a fine line exactly down the middle of the edge. And sometimes if these were dropped, they would chip off on one side, but the other one would be intact. Have actually seen one delaminate. Actually pretty cool.

Finally the labels were printed on the same way modern pre-painted plastic toys and diecasts are done, with a stamped-on ink image. But usually (remember these are toss-offs) they were just paper and stuck on (sometimes less than elegantly).

As for the typeface, it was producer driven. Lettering (block or otherwise) had nothing to do with the material of the single. MGM for example used multiple typefaces on their labels (even in the same run of a single and between the two sides of the same single) and nearly all theirs had to be styrene. One more good test, thunk the edge. Styrene has a harder clanking sound. Vinyl tends to have a softer resonance. Also, if you hear a really obvious resonance from the tracking stylus (it's unmistakable) that's styrene.
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Re: Styrene vs Vinyl, How To Tell (with Pics)

Postby eddie edirol » 31 Dec 2013 17:41

SO the only thing that was cheaper for making styrene records was the oil used to inject into the molds, the molds didnt last any longer?

JW I have to disagree with the typeface, most of the styrene records I know have the exact same block lettering, even if from different record companies. And from what I read, most of the styrene was manufactured in the same place in a plant in NJ. The block lettering was used across all these different labels, with few exceptions, that block lettering cant be producer driven on every single record label. Of course I dont know because I wasnt there, maybe you were part of the process. But I have quite a few instances of block lettering on the styrene, and non block lettering on the same vinyl copies, would a producer really be the one to pick 2 different fonts, or is it a plant & distribution choice? I realize some records had specific logos printed on them for the namesake of the band, but Im talking the general selection of styrene records.
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Re: Styrene vs Vinyl, How To Tell (with Pics)

Postby brens » 01 Jan 2014 02:53

Helpful thread here :) Just curious if there is any noticeable difference in sound quality between the two?
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Re: Styrene vs Vinyl, How To Tell (with Pics)

Postby eddie edirol » 01 Jan 2014 20:18

brens wrote:Helpful thread here :) Just curious if there is any noticeable difference in sound quality between the two?


I would think it depends on the cartridge and your state of mind.

I used to have a Grado Prestige Gold, and didnt hear a difference. But once I got a Ortofon Rondo red, I think on many of the styrene records Im hearing a slight buzzing quality. I could be hearing things, but to avoid hearing that and the deterioration of the records, I just swap them out for vinyl. They are so soft, I dont want to take the chance.
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