The Lifespan of an LP?


How many times can one play a new vinyl lp before the sound noticeably degrades? For the purpose of the exercise, assume one takes decent care of the record and has a properly set up and maintained, good quality deck and stylus. My system has been taking quantum leaps in quality over the last three years and I find myself buying more mint and near-mint vintage  records on Discogs and audiophile remastered records from MoFi etc. Thanks!
heilbron
I doubt someone has played an LP to it's death to find out,  but playing a record with a nice setup will outlast you.

There are members here who have purchased an album 40-50... 60 years ago and it plays fine now.




Not sure but i have lp's from early 70's played them in all of my cartridge arm tt changes and still sound great. 

G
When you have a lot of albums it is never a problem. We get bored playing the same record over and over. Say you average listening to two records a day. That is just over 700 records a year. Many of us have 5,000 plus records. A record might get played once every six years. Records that you really like might get played a total of 10 times. With a good system and the best care a record will last indefinitely. The problem is most people do not take the best care of records. I personally do not buy used records. If I was at an estate sale I would consider buying a single large collection. The bigger the collection the less the records were played. Then you sell off the records you don't like.
Under the best conditions a record can probably be played 50 times or more. Time is not the issue. It is the number of plays. Also remember old records were played with either spherical or elliptical styli. Our modern fine line styli produce less record wear. 
I bought my first album in 1967 and like many albums I own from the 60s, 70s and 80s, played the hell out of it. I always took good care of my vinyl. But the grooves on my favorite albums (many of which have been played over 100 times) appear noticeably worn.
Up until the 1990s, I used the likes of a Shure V15Type lll with elliptical stylus at 1 gram in a modest system. Starting in around the year 1995, I started to get into high end audio with much more expensive and revealing gear. I switched to cartridges like the Dynavector XV1-s and the Atlas line. To this day, all of my albums sound as good as new and almost always sound better than reissues off of the master tape. Is it because a line contact stylus hits a different point in the groove and only the top of the groove is actually compromised? Is the top of the groove compromised merely because it looks worn? I don’t know--but in any event, all of my records sound great today and will sound great long after I’m gone.
It's been a while for me, but the first three plays were the best. 
The ARSC Guide to Audio Preservation, 2015 (https://www.clir.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/pub164.pdf) commissioned for and sponsored by the National Recording Preservation Board of the Library of Congress, states: “Vinyl discs are the most stable physical sound recording format developed to date; they can last 100 years in a controlled environment.”  History will probably show >100 years.

The RCA record composition developed (early 1970's) for quadrasonic play with a Shibata stylus (RCA Engineer Magazine, 1976, Issue
02-03, Development of Compound for Quadradiscs, by G.A. Bogantz S.K. Khanna 1976-02-03.pdf (worldradiohistory.com)) at 1.5 gram after 100 plays showed little or no wear. They did show clean-narrow trenching with a Conical stylus at 4.5 grams after 100 plays, but a Shibata or equivalent stylus shape would bridge the trench and playback with full fidelity. 

We should hope that current record compositions follow what RCA developed which is open source info they detailed in their patent - RCA Patent 3,960,790, June 1, 1976, DISC RECORD AND METHOD OF COMPOUNDING DISC RECORD COMPOSITION  1498409551006799538-03960790 (storage.googleapis.com)
That’s what she said, Russ.
@lewm

ROFLOL!

@tablejockey

I doubt someone has played an LP to it’s death to find out
You haven’t seen my 1st press Zeppelin & Sabbath albums. Many took care of their albums in the 60’s & 70’s but we had cheap TT’s with a heavy tracking weight. Line Contact stylus MAY wake them back up. I don’t know. I fell for "Perfect Sound Forever" hype in the 80’s and purged the system. Oh well. i have 4k to play now but I’ll never know about those albums.

@gpgr4blu

Is it because a line contact stylus hits a different point

When I got back into vinyl, (1990’s) I purchased about 3.5K used albums. I got pretty good a knowing Goldmine and knowing what an album sounded. I don’t play anything under VG+. But anyway, I purchased about 5 or 10 from one guy who had taken very good care of them and the looked very good, most NM. I got them home and had very bad surface noise that would not clean out. I had a pretty good setup then. VPI & Dyna 20 XL (I think) but still surface noise. Wish I could remember which they were now that I have a Zyx with LC stylus. BTW, 1st thing I noticed was better bass, I suspect where it was digging deeper. Cartridge before was a Benz Ebony L. No slouch, but not LC.


Life span of a record is longer than your life. 
artemus-

I know what you're talking about. My post should have mentioned those of us who owned the "all in one", Crosley and Close and Plays did shorten LP lifespan. I hammered quite few in my youth.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tYysz-ifznI

Surprisingly, some LP's with visible groove wear and scuffs clean up well and sound good.
Must be the fact those LP's are bring played for the first time with a stylus contacting the surface an inexpensive spherical normally misses?
Don’t know but safe to say they only get worse over time not better. 
Thank you for sharing your experience and research. I have discovered that wear is not always evident in a visual inspection. I have purchased records from the sixties and seventies that are stated by the seller to be  “NM”.  They look really great — shiny, black, no scratches etc. But they don’t all play the way they look. Some have excessive surface noise or pops. When this happens  I do not assume that  the seller has deliberately misstated the condition. Instead, I assume that the seller cleaned and made a visual inspection before listing, without actually playing it. So now, especially with older records, I eiher try to buy from a bricks and mortar vintage store that lets you play before buying and only buy online if the seller in the listing provides notes that clearly indicate that he/she has played it and that it plays NM, as well as looking NM. Is this a common experience?
Been playing Muddy Waters live at Mr Kellys for 50 years and it still sounds great.
@heilbron 


Goldmine  standard is a good standard if used properly. Unfortunately, too many of those who have just entered into the fray from the vinyl resurgence are unfamiliar with the standards, etc, that us who grew up with vinyl, are accustomed. I've bought 3500 used albums from 1998-2006 using Goldmine grading. I have been fooled by 7. With the line contact stylus, they might play NM too. There are too many who don't know how to grade and too many who are merely collectors who think a VG record "plays fine" It doesn't. Besides that, what kind of system are they using? I don't want them playing an album I want to buy.

Yet many newbies  talk about NOT depending on, or replacing Goldmine as if we need to reinvent the wheel. IOW, Too much market and too many newbies make a poor mix. FWIW, I don't trust play grading. Why? Because too many of those people believe that surface noise, pops and ticks are normal. So they say a VG record plays fine. The key is to clean records with a machine using good chemicals. Put them in NEW sleeves, Keep your fingers off the grooves. A good setup goes a long ways. The phono preamp has a lot to do with dealing with SN. Don't cheap out on it. 
Even though it'll soon be of vintage age, one of the reasons I stick with my line contact Lyra cartridge is that, whatever is actually going on, it can play the dreaded inner grooves of 33's & 45's that I'm pretty sure I butchered with misaligned or just plain poor-tracking cartridges 'way back when.  
@artemus_5 

Thanks for drawing my attention to the Goldmine standard. I've now taken a look at the Goldmine site. Extremely helpful!
Thank you for sharing your experience and research. I have discovered that wear is not always evident in a visual inspection. I have purchased records from the sixties and seventies that are stated by the seller to be “NM”. They look really great — shiny, black, no scratches etc.

You have stumbled upon the reality that you cannot see sound quality. The only way to know if a record is good or not is to play it. Then depending on all the little details of how this is done the record may be one and done, or play beautifully long after you are dead and buried.

No one knows anything about how good a record will sound until it is played. A couple months ago while waiting for Tom Port to find me a White Hot Year of the Cat I decided to take a chance on a "good deal" on Discogs. The cover was damaged so it was cheap but the vinyl was supposed to be NM so I took a chance. This copy was Mobile Fidelity and the vinyl did look to be NM, maybe even unplayed. It was dead quiet. Not a tick, not a pop. Not much else, either. Easily one of the worst sounding records I have ever heard! Plus it had a warp, that thanks to my clamping system flattened out enough to play, but was bad enough the seller refunded me and never even asked for this POC back.

It was such a POC that I sent it along to Tom to get a good laugh. Tom makes his living finding records that sound unusually, incredibly, unbelievably good. You cannot tell by looking. He has to play each and every one. This MoFi was such crap, sort of wish I kept it just to show the few who come by just how awful a reissue can be. Even from MoFi.

All the really important information on a record is captured in groove modulations so small they are on the order of the size of a large organic molecule. On this scale even the tiniest barely visible speck of dust is huge and will make a pop or crackle when hit. No way anyone is going to see this. Even with a microscope, you would need an electron microscope to see the sort of damage that can be heard easily.

So just play em. That’s what I do. Play em. And don’t worry. The magic, when it’s there, never really goes away.
Thanks, millercarbon. It's all a lot more complicated than it looks, isn't it? With each incremental improvement in my system over the last few years, the quality of the source has become increasingly important. And as you have observed quality really begins with the quality of the original recording itself and then continues in a chain through mastering and pressing and finally, in the case of vintage records, the last link is how much care previous owners have exercised in handling the record. If there is a single weak link in that chain, the result can be a disappointment. When each link is strong the result is magical -- the listening experience that for me more than justify all the time and money I've been investing. But I have also discovered that as my system has improved, it also seems to draw my attention to any flaws in that chain. I've become a much more critical listener -- for better and for worse.
Many good responses. Take them all and you have an answer.

Except for the most of the not-so-subtle advertisement placed two posts above.
I have vinyl that is 40 years old that i have played many times and my father has vinyl from the early 60s that still sounds like the day he bought it so i would say if you take care of it it will outlast you.
Was it advertising, or was it genuine enthusiasm for an excellent service and products?

Frank
I started collecting records from the early 50s to date. I have a lot of records. 

I'll bet that I've played my promo copy of Brubeck's "Jazz Impressions of The U.S.A." several hundred times. It is one of my MONO demo records that I use, not only for my own enjoyment but to initiate the uninitiated on just how good MONO records sound. I found the promo version in a used record store back in the late 70s, It was still sealed. Paid six bucks for it, an astronomical amount at the time for a used record. 

It still sounds great today. Paul Desmond was such a great alto player. That's music right there. 

Frank
No link MC...?? I thought there would be a link...
"...my father has vinyl from the early 60s that still sounds like the day he bought it..."

How do you know?
There is a huge factor over which we have no control -- the vinyl compound itself. Most of the plastic today used in records for the US comes from Thailand, I believe, and like a custom butcher that sells to restaurants, can make a proprietary compound that is a "secret." You won’t to my knowledge get the exact details and what could you do with the information anyway? In terms or residual noise, consistency of materials, there are a lot of other variables too.
That old MoFi JVC Supervinyl was the bomb. I played some of those records to death, and while in many cases not my preferred pressing now, those copies, which I had from the ’80s, are still quiet, tick or noise free and no apparent degradation over a more than "good" system.
Luck of the draw in some cases-- certainly today when you see what comes out of places that I’ll refrain from naming. (Rainbo-- stuff was horrible, even though they could make a good record; now out of business).
People swung to Japanese vinyl during the oil crisis and through the death of vinyl in part because of the quality coming from there- safety copy or different EQ be damned (On some music it's very neutral but that’s a subjective factor too).
Old vinyl- all over the place. I’m more interested in what it was played on than how many times it was played. But, don’t know that either in most cases in the used market. I have old records that play great and have seen some play here over the years- copies I know I’ve had for a long time. In some cases, the stylus may be in contact with a different part of the groove, and that may make a difference too, as would how your entire phono section works together. See @Atmasphere re noise and phono stages, loading, etc.
And some vinyl is just inherently noisy from the get go- and also very immediate in its sound, like you get one with the other, but that’s not a consistent truth either. It’s pretty much case by case, and every copy of every record has a history.
I had new copies of one record that played clean the first time, but afterwards had ticks and pops. Record had been effectively cleaned to beyond archival standards. I think it was just a soft compound, but I don’t remember cueing individual tracks, which I certainly did back in the day on records I’ve had for years, and they still sound great-- fresh cartridge, high end table, etc.
Short answer: depends.
Still have the first album I ever bought. I think it was in '69 or '70, has definitely lost some of its fidelity but I still enjoy listening to it.
These are all great stories. Thanks for sharing your experiences! I never thought records could endure like this. I always thought over the years, regardless how wel maintained they were, something would be lost. This discussion has prompted another question for me but I save it for a separate topic. 
I just purchased an LP from 1959 Porgy and Bess ( Lena Horne and Harry Belafonte) as it was recommended to me by my good friend Steve Guttenberg and it’s phenomenal. 62 year old used vinyl in stereophonic sound and it sounds like these two two brilliant singers are in my living room. Literally once you hear this, you will understand why digital is meaningless. 
I have many LP's I bought from 1964 onwards, 57 years, still sound great.
If you pay attention to cleaning and if your tonearm and cartridge is set up good they should not wear.
I am not guessing about this, it is my experience. In fact as I upgrade they are sounding better than when I first bought.

i've heard examples of records that sounded trashed even played with a line contact, but on an ELP, with the tracking laser point carefully dialed in, it was often possible to find a spot with less wear than the rest of the groove, and the record's audible grade improved to VG or better. for those here rich enough to get an ELP, as finicky and impractical as they are, i have not heard any better reproduction of trashed records than on that miracle machine. just make sure the record is lab-grade clean before you put it on, or you and your tweeters will be sorry. 
I have many albums from the mid fifties onwards still sound great and no warped edges. Some have been played weekly to monthly or very seldom. No difference.. Take care of them and they will outlast you. Mine surely will ! 😃
Shure answered all of this debate, definitively, hands down, with its record wear/stylus wear study in 1954.

Go read it. It has never been disproven. It’s only been proven true and it’s findings reinforced over the last 67 years.

Duh!!!
Thanks, millercarbon. It's all a lot more complicated than it looks, isn't it? With each incremental improvement in my system over the last few years, the quality of the source has become increasingly important. And as you have observed quality really begins with the quality of the original recording itself and then continues in a chain through mastering and pressing and finally, in the case of vintage records, the last link is how much care previous owners have exercised in handling the record. If there is a single weak link in that chain, the result can be a disappointment. When each link is strong the result is magical -- the listening experience that for me more than justify all the time and money I've been investing. But I have also discovered that as my system has improved, it also seems to draw my attention to any flaws in that chain. I've become a much more critical listener -- for better and for worse.


I went through a phase like that lasted several years, back in the late 1990's I think it was. Around that time I had done a few complete systems for friends, family and co-workers, all of them budget oriented the most expensive being $2500. They all sounded so good they were all thrilled and wondering why anyone would spend any more. I was starting to wonder myself. These systems were all just so much fun! One of them I burned in at home and found myself listening to it every night not even turning mine on for two whole weeks! 

I was honestly pretty well convinced there was a point where the system is so revealing all you are hearing is flaws elsewhere and it was kind of depressing and making me question the whole thing. This was no flash in the pan, this feeling lasted a good several years. 

That all changed a few years ago. Now I can say it is bunk. The problem is not that your system is "too good". If it really is good then there is no such thing. What happens now is every record no matter what sounds so good it is just crazy. Back when I thought the system was maybe "too good" I was careful to play certain "good recordings" for people. Now I honestly do not care. No longer matters. Anything I put on sounds so freaking good you cannot believe it.

Do they all sound like wonderful recordings? No. Of course not. They all sound different. Completely different. No two sound anywhere near the same. People talk about how some recordings sound different than others. Let me tell you, get your system at this level no two records sound the same. Nevermind recordings, they are all completely different. No two copies of the same record even sound the same. That much detail is revealed. It is insane. Yet it is not in the least big analytical, quite the opposite. Detailed as can be- but in a very full smooth relaxed and natural way. 

As with the system, so with the listening. There are stages people seem to have to go through in getting here. They have their reference disk, their listening rituals, the volume must be this, the seating must be that, on and on. These things serve their purpose. Like fielding grounders, practicing your serve, putting in the office. You go through a phase where you have to break it down to master each piece. Ultimately the goal is synthesis. To have mastered the swing to where it happens automatically in every situation every time. 

Get your system like that. Get your ears like that. You never hear me talking about flawed recordings. Instead what I talk about is how many I used to think were flawed, now come to life. Hate to tell you, it is not easy to get here. But totally worth the fare.
The Shure article is good read. Everything one needs to know about the topic is there and seldom talked about these days.
@wolfie- The "Shure" study that you are referring to is likely Harold Weiler’s "The Wear and Care of Records and Styli" published as a book(let) by Climax in 1954. Mike Bodell used it as a starting point for a more recent article on Stylus Wear-- questioning the long lives claimed by some cartridge manufacturers for stylus life. Although some readers were skeptical that Weiler’s findings- using a conical stylus and heavy tracking force--were still relevant, Mike did a good job in pointing out the comprehensive approach Weiler took, including evaluating stylus wear at certain early intervals that were noticeable to people who QC’d records at pressing plants. (Yes, they really did do that once upon a time). One of the folks who helped Mike with the macrophotography did his own running experiment on stylus wear and was able to look at the results at different intervals up to around a thousand hours, when he stopped. (It wasn’t a formal study, but the person did put some controls in place and shared his findings-- very little wear, surprisingly, at much lower tracking forces, lower than those I use currently with modern high end cartridges).
One of Weiler’s postulates-- I’m not sure if it was proven in the paper, I’d have to go back and re-read it-- was that diamond dust from the stylus left an abrasive residue on the record that exacerbated wear of both the record and stylus. As far as I know, there is no scientifically vetted study establishing this, but it raises an interesting point about record cleanliness and stylus wear.
And at a certain point, the worn stylus may damage the grooves. Too many variables to say when with any precision. Chances are once you begin to hear audible degradation, you are at that point-- whether to continue playing records without damage is a question.
The problem is also one of incremental degradation-- you think the thing still sounds fine after 6 years of constant use, but one person who questioned the applicability of Weiler’s work to the modern era with advanced stylus shapes, good tone arms and care decided to send his Decca back to the UK to be gone over despite the fact that he heard no degradation. Turned out the stylus was quite worn, the cartridge rebuilt by the factory and sounded considerably better on its return.
All of this is obviously interrelated to the question of record wear, including proper set up of the cartridge in the first instance.

Post removed 
@glupson, a laser turntable manufacturer in Japan called Edison Laser Player.  One notable disadvantage of the laser technology used is that it will not play clear or colored vinyl, which is sometimes used for novelty singles and promotional material. Another is that while the technology allows for superior sound pickup, it also “reads” all dust and dirt in the grooves rather than pushing it aside, so clicks and pops can become much more pronounced. A thorough and frequent cleaning of the vinyl is therefore required

"Not to be confused with Emerson, Lake & Palmer."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ELP_Japan
allenf1963,

Thanks for explanation.

Sure, I did think Emerson, Lake & Palmer first.
Never say never.

"You never hear me talking about flawed recordings. Instead what I talk about is how many I used to think were flawed, now come to life."

"That is why I have avoided buying Springsteen and the Stones, it is just too well known that their recording values suck."

"Which speaking of, a little birdie tells me there are some outstanding quality Rolling Stones albums, and Led Zeppelin. So I stand corrected on that. But not Bruce. Springsteen remains the King of Great Song, Bad Recording."

Better Records White Hot Stampers: Now the Story Can Be Told! | Audiogon Discussion Forum

"Year of the Cat on MoFi is so stepped on, so devoid of life and presence and detail I sent it off to Tom for entertainment value. Some clown on discogs thought it was worth $20! Pure crap, even compared to my random average beat up played a million times copy."
Early Stones recording quality on original Decca doesn't suck.  I wish I had bought them all, as the Stones had turned to c**p by 1975 (46 years of c**p from these geriatrics and counting).
My copy of 'Aftermath' still sounds great after 55 years and there is ~30 minutes of music crammed onto each side.  I must have played it quite a bit as well.

My original mono 'Blonde on Blonde' did wear out a long time ago but I was playing it on my father's primitive Collaro that set tracking weight with a spring and must have been running at 5 grammes or something.  You will know if they wear out; there was extraneous white noise.

What’s the opinion of “Last” record preservative?
Vinyl record is the best media format in the last 100 years.

Micro Groove records are the best, what is the reason to ask about lifespan if amazing records from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s ... can be found in MINT condition or even sealed? Vintage records are the best sounding records, and believe me, they will last longer that all of us!

Used records from the 70’s are still amazing, they are 50 y.o. , so what ? 
Buy yourself a cartridge with advanced stylus profile and record wear will be minimum. 

No simple answer for this question. All depends on tt setup, pressure, adjustments factors  your way of spinning, storing and care of the records. Record’s production quality is factor too. 
I’ve bought some pretty beat up Lps and cleaned them well. When I used a micro line stylus the record sounded pretty darn good. I guess my point is that even if you “wore a record out” there are ways to access more of the groove. 
Those same records sounded siblent and distorted with an elliptical stylus. 
I only have about 300 records.  They have been played quite a bit and I can't tell if the sound has changed.  I play them on this beautiful piece of Americana:  http://www.victor-victrola.com/VIII.htm

Quite fun to listen to the original "Take the A Train" on the Vic and then follow it with a modern digital version on "the big rig"!  Fun is what it's all about.

To the OP:  Some of those records are nearly 100 years old and they still sound pretty crappy but engaging.  Oh yeah, I change styli (needle) frequently and if I see a little corrosion...some warm water and brillo takes care of that. I must have about 150 "needles" and yes they are sharp as a needle. Almost.

Regards,
barts 
I still listen to LP's that I bought 50 years ago. I did damage a few with cheap turntables and cartridges, but with good equipment and care, they may outlast you.
I use Last record preservative. Don't know about vinyl wear but records sound a touch better after treatment. Last has been proven to be a good stuff, I heard.
A long long time.
I stole my dad's collection when I moved out in 1975.  I remember he playing them on a Magnavox phono console in the late 50's.  I played them till 2010ish.  Those records saw a bunch of systems  Always sounded good.  Even when played before or after newer pressings.   
Chakster is right and practical for life. Unless you listen to the same for ever, they easily outlast us as I have vinyl from others lives that are still mint even though played dozens of times.