Does vinyl have a sound?

Other than great resolution, timbre, and soundstage, can one recognize a sound that vinyl has?

Sometimes I think I hear a "plastic" sound, especially on percussion. Does this make sense to anyone? If so, does this go away with proper choice of table, arm, and cartridge?
All media IMHO have some signature or byproduct sonics and vinyl is no exception. Thus 1 vote in agreement with you
Categorically, yes, meaning in many cases a trained listener will be able to detect if its a record that is playing.

The distinction can be made based on the fact that vinyl and digital for example tend to exhibit distinctly different kinds of noise and distortion artifacts.

The thing is I find that in cases where both digital and record and playback quality of both is top notch and tuned/tweaked to a similar reference standard, it can be very hard or even not possible to accurately distinguish good records from good CDs.
I agree vinyl has a sound (coloration). If you ever have the opportunity listen to a master tape and compare it to vinyl. Also, vinyl goes through its equalization process (RIAA) to reduce noise which adds to the coloration.
And vinyl does not have nearly the dynamic range and frequency response of even the cheapest digital playback devices - not even close. Digital has a much quieter background and can reproduce the transients much more fully than can vinyl.

Funny, it's rarely described in this way, but I too used to have a sensation of vinyl as having a "plastic" coloration. It disappeared through improvements to TT and tonearm.
I think a better question would be 'does analogue have a sound.' My answer would be yes. Skipping over some of the comments made on vinyl, and its limits as a media for carrying sound, I have many analogue reel to reel, two track tapes, and many versions of the source music and the other media, cd/sacd etec. Analogue does have a natural sound, not to be found on the other media.
I think you are setting yourself up for the inevitable answer "vinyl sounds like pop - click - tick - pop - crackle" :-)

But that aside, I have had most people say that they can;t understand how my vinyl can sound so clean. No surface noise and few minor tic's. Clean records and a good stylus play a major role in resolving those issues.

But that aside, vinyl just souonds more musical than digital to my ears. How to quantify that? I really can't, but I know what I hear. It's just more fluid. Colored? Maybe. More musically enjoyable? Usually.
I think it's not a great question. There are too many variables in the analog chain that impart their own colorations for one to say per se that "vinyl" has a sound of its own. On the other hand, tape definitely has a sound of its own, which makes it hard to know whether the ability to distinguish one from the other is due to the "sound" of vinyl or the sound of tape.

A poor turntable that blurs rhythm and pitch, a tonearm that is poorly aligned and adjusted, a badly tracking cartridge, a poor tonearm/cartridge match that results in bass distortion, bad or damaged LPs with ticks, pops, crackles: are these (some of) the sounds of vinyl? Since they all can be eliminated or significantly ameliorated, I would say not.
A lot of information and misinformation in the answers. Let's see if we can sort it out.

First, the misinformation. Yes, all formats have some artifact but artifact of LP is not 'plastic' by any means. It has greater dynamic range of the best digital and tape, although it is rarely expressed (the limit is on the playback side, not the record side BTW). The RIAA curve is not a cause of phase shift. In fact the media has the least phase shift as it has the greatest bandwidth, often extending out past 50KHz.

If your setup is poorly done, you will encounter all sorts of artifacts. A good cartridge is key but it need not be expensive if the arm can make it track correctly. What this means is that the arm is far more important than the cartridge. The platter can affect soundstage; if it is varying its pitch even slightly the arm will jog back and forth over the stylus which will impart a shimmer to the soundstage that tape and CD lack.

The choice of phono preamp can affect how much you hear in the way of ticks and pops; this has nothing to do with bandwidth and everything to do with the stability of the phono section!

If you have a poor setup the cheapest CD player may sound better; if you have good gear with good setup you will find the performance hard to beat with any other media. The truth of this last statement is why you see such variable responses.
I have read reviews where they describe 'cardboardy' sound on poorer set ups. I think you may mean this when you describe plasticky. In this instances the sound is very two dimensional- no depth perception at all. The record noise is major contributor in addition to not having proper coupling with the platter. I personally have found this when there is not enough center clamp force or the right clamp material. just my 2 cents.
I think its reasonable to say that there is a lot that has to go into vinyl playback both in terms of setup and cost in order for it not to have a recognizable sound. Also, you have to have very good source material in very good condition.

This is the exception found only in a small % of all vinyl setups out there, these mostly owned by dedicated vinyl audiophiles with the significant knowledge needed to get there (or the $$$s needed to pay someone else with the needed knowledge to help get them there).

The rule, is most vinyl on most tables out there will be less than optimal setups and easily recognizable as vinyl as a result ie have a distinct sound.

Back to my earlier statement that the sound of good vinyl and good CDs tuned to the same reference standard can be hard to distinguish. But in practice, this is the exception not the rule.

I think these days one must be willing to put $2000-$3000 dollars minimum (plus significant time and expertise to set up and maintain properly, including record cleaning) into a vinyl rig to have a chance of accomplishing this.

The cost for similar digital is much less. It can be done very well for < $1000. Plus setup and maintenance with CDs is minimal once you get the right gear. Music servers are more complex, but not a big deal if one is already computer literate, a good skill to have in general these days (an added bonus).

I am a vinyl fan, but I will not sugar coat what it takes these days to get the results that many expect based on the hype. Its much easier and cheaper to get there and stay there with digital these days.
Saying vinyl has a plastic sound really has no meaning at all. When mastering we would compare the metal stamper with an acetate with the vinyl pressing. If we did a good job they would all sound the same. The metal stamper did not sound mettalic. This is like say silver wire is brighter than copper because it looks brighter. Simply not true
Nil, In connection with the recent passing of Dave Brubeck, I took out some of my old Columbia LP recordings of the DBQ. Gone With the Wind is a 6-eye that I have owned since new (i.e., >40 years), played it on any and every rig I have ever owned, good and bad. The LP is full of ticks and pops, but the dynamics and sense of depth are completely intact, still thrilling in fact, if you can listen past the surface noise. Paul Desmond's solos are still to die for. So, this one example would lead me to say that the sense of depth and 3D-ness that are so characteristic of the best in vinyl are not an inverse function of surface noise at all. On the other side of the same coin, some of the recent re-issues of classic LPs are disappointing in these same areas compared to the originals, yet they are dead quiet.
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Lewm, I don't doubt your claim at all, I was merely pointing out to OPs experience that sometime he hears plastic sound on percussion - is due to poorer set ups and vinyl up keeps, not Vinyl medium as a whole. On optimum or best set ups and equipment this should not exist is what I was trying to say. (Map said it better). This from my own experiences and climbing my learning curve.
Sometimes I hear a diamond sound from my stylus, an aluminum sound from my tonearm, a wood sound from my shelf, and a plastic sound from my cartridge body.

OK, I'm not serious. The point I'm trying to make is that if you only think you hear it sometimes, it's probably just the recording. It may or may not be able to be minimized with different components. If vinyl had a plastic sound, every record would have that characteristic.
@ Atmasphere you say the arm is critical for good tracking and good sound given other good quality elements of a set up. I wondered how would I know if an arm was good or bad. I have been told that the JMW 9 arm on my VPI Scout is not good. I can't express how much I like the set up I have with this "poor" arm. I only own one other good table an MMF-5 that also came with an arm and a cartridge to boot. The VPI had a package price but the cart was installed by my dealer. So my question is what makes an arm good or bad at tracking and why do I really like the Scout as it is.
"Saying vinyl has a plastic sound really has no meaning at all. "

Ever hear great vinyl on an old ceramic cart Soundesign compact stereo?

Or I would expect on a newer vintage styled Crosly player?

99% of the vinyl world is not high end. Never has been! Well, maybe briefly in the late 50's when hifi stereo recordings were new, prior to mass market.

You have to look at the reality and not the theory or top % of performers when talking about these things because a novice will face a challenge in many ways to get to the promised land.
Mechans, I was careful how I made my comment. I said
it need not be expensive if the arm can make it track correctly.

What this means is you can get a Grado Gold to beat the best digital out there if the arm gets it to track right. What often amazes me is how well you can do with a stock Technics 1200 with the stock arm, if you are careful about setup and the choice of cartridge. It will beat any cheap digital made.

I don't know about the VPI arm but it just might be that it works really well with your cartridge.

But Mapman is right, the same gear can sound dreadful if poorly set up. I saw a speaker manufacturer at RMAF using a Technics 1200 and his room was the poster for this phenom. The setup was bad- he did nothing about VTA or loading. It sounded very bright and I could not stay in the room.
In 1978, a common $200 Japanese or European table + $10 vendor cost cart, like a basic Grado of the day or similar, could do quite well if set up properly or sound horrid otherwise.

Things have progressed since then but factor in inflation and I would expect much better results today in that all the supported and related technologies have progressed, although so have the costs due mainly to inflation.
Yes Vinyl has a sound. It sounds REAL and Correct. Unlike digital that is so remixed and amped up and tweeked with. Of course i'm speaking of music that was made during vinyl's reign. I am so glad I can still find used records that sound fantastic and when this happens it really takes you back. If your not getting the goose bump effect listing to vinyl, you need to change your rig or speakers or electronics.

Matt M
Austin TX
Thanks for the responses -- while my question makes sense to some and not to others,I'm satisfied that I got my answer -- whatever I'm trying to describe as "plastic" can be eliminated.
Ralph (if I may be informal) I meant no arguement. I am sure you are correct. My problem is understanding what an arm must have to track well. The VPI's performance puzzles me as I have heard this negative comment in several posts (not you). So I was wondering why it sounds good to me.
I guess given the logic this thread has conveyed, it must have been set up correctly. I know it is actually pretty good. I have heard a number of fine set ups from my audio group, several of them own Walkers Black Diamond rig. including his personal set up!
Mechans, no argument taken!

An arm will track a cartridge well if it and the cartridge together have an effective mass that allows the two to have a low frequency mechanical resonance between about 7-12Hz. If the mechanical resonance falls outside of this range you can have all sorts of mistracking problems.

Additional factors are the 'sticktion' of the arm bearings, any play that the bearings might have, and uncontrolled resonances in the arm tube that might cause the arm to editorialize.

In addition arm bearings can be fragile! This can result in really variable results. But if all these factors come together in a good way then the arm does not have to be particularly expensive and things will work fine. If OTOH something is a little off the results can be dreadful.

Sounds like things are working better for you than bad :)

Have a good holiday!
Vinyl has a sound: noise (noise: swoosh, ticks, pops). However, the sound of the music is "colored" because most phono cartridges do not have a flat frequency response. So... I believe people like (or don't like) the sound of records because of the "built in" eq of the gear used during playback. Phono stages have a profound effect on the tone of the music too. Completely neutral (ie flat frequency response) phono gear is extremely rare and when it is heard, can sound boring or practically identical to a cd with the same mastering.
The advantage of vinyl IMO, is the unique mastering (often superior to CD) of the pressing, and is the real advantage over digital in terms of audio quality.
That being said, I prefer listening to records because they have a more engaging experience.
Vinyl from the 70's / 80's have this special Soundstage depth, vinyl from Y2k+5 have tics, pops and high prices

Thank you for the responses -- I have a center clamp on the way -- was not using one.
This might seem conservative but my record collection is somewhat restricted to mid or late 1950's mono classical pressings. The platters typically weigh about 200 grams and the sound engineering is primarily based on the make of instruments and the halls acoustics.
Funny but sound engineering done for classical CD's in the 21st century is primarily based on the make of the instruments and the halls acoustics.
I really never listen to either vinyl or CD and then expect to have an experience that would compare aesthetically with that of a live concert recital though I find live radio and live recordings thrilling in there own right.
Fortunately, I have a hi fidelity digital to analogue playback system which makes hearing CD's pleasurable. Vinyl does present its own qualities but for the way I listen, these idiosyncrasies are dependent upon things like microphone placement, acoustic shells, the size of the venue and how it was built, how close the woodwinds are sitting to the viola's, etc... as well as the cartridge, tonearm, turntable, phono stage, amplifier, speakers and whatever else on my end.
Mono vinyl is fun to listen to and through it I hear different things both subjectively and objectively. For me this topic is akin to asking for 100 people to imagine the color red and then somehow quantifying everyones shade of red for comparison. If I'm correct, there are at least over 200 different shades of red. There are just countless variables whenever it comes to playing vinyl and it could be that with digital playback, the spectrum of possibilities diminishes inconspicuously?
A lot of really good things said here and thanks for letting me chime in late.
Vinyl most certainly does have "a sound":  which may win...when it comes to comparing it to an entirely different domain in the realm of digital (consisting, now, predominantly of endlessly reissued material with 40-60 years' age on the master source of dubious lineage made to sound good on any $60 - $6000 cd player) *BUT* vinyl to SOMETHING ELSE ANALOG higher on the food chain (reel tape: 1/4" and running 7 1/2ips or faster, NO amateur cassette or waxing poetic over 8-track) AND: vinyl, absolutely, will come across "cardboardy" with an immediately noticeable narrowed stereo image and a phasey bloated sheen to the midbass.

Someone insisting that $12k cartridges and $20k turntables are required to solve that inherent flaw (of a format whose media was all but $5.98 in its heyday) is such a bullshit salesman, they might as well be selling "pre-owned" 1984 Ford Escorts claiming to be turbocharged and trick'd out for $25,000.
Also, you have to have very good source material in very good condition.

I've spent the better part of 45 years collecting, cleaning, curating and upgrading my record collection. Much more time and money than my system itself.

I'm constantly on the lookout for better copies or earlier pressings of what I already have in my collection.  Also, pressings from other countries such as the UK, Germany, Russia ,(classical especially), Japan, etc. 

Most modern pressings pale in comparison to a good early pressing, but the search for quiet copies in NM condition can be frustrating.

Find the right pressing with decent equipment and there is no "sound", just the music.
@mechans , the negative comments on unipivot arms come mainly from me I think. Let me try to explain it carefully so you understand the issue and what to listen for. Cartridges are designed to "read" lateral and vertical information translating it into two channels. Normal pivoted arms allow movement in only two directions, lateral and vertical. There is a resonance frequency associated with both directions depending on effective mass and the compliance of the cartridge. In an effort to simplify construction and limit friction tonearm designers came up with the concept of a single needle pivot. There are several problems with this design. First is durability. All the weight of the tonearm and cartridge rest directly on that single point instead of distributing it. Consequently the bearing wears out faster. VPI owners frequently have to change "needles." Next and more important unipivot arms allow for a third degree of movement and that is torsional which changes azimuth but worse adds an additional resonance point. Because the effective mass in the torsional direction is much lower the resonance point tends to be at a higher frequency, into the audio band. This is going to effect bass and there is where you have to listen. I think if you compare a record to it's high res digital copy you will hear it. High end manufacturer's of unipivot arms have gone out of their way to solve the problem. Graham uses an opposing magnet stabilization system and Basis uses what is essentially a second bearing that the tonearm leans against. Johnathan Carr, designer of Lyra Cartridges recommends specifically against unipivot designs. 
If you are happy with the sound of your system then there is no need to change. If you want to make an improvement then this is a good place to do it. VPI makes a gimbal pivot are that is a drop in replacement.
I am not trying to anger people but I think truth is important also. 
To answer your question - YES.  I was at a presentation by the owner of Genesis Speakers - Gary Leonard Koh owner brought six records to listen to all made out of different material.  Each had a sound.  Very easy to hear the differences.  He is a fanatic so reach out to him and ask him all the questions you have on the subject.

Happy Listening.