Why are records still warped?


This is more of a grouse than anything because I know the molding process won't ever be perfect. Still, here we are in the 21st century in the midst of a vinyl revival. Artists get it and are trying to satisfy us geeks with tasty pressings.

Cases in point are Bennett & Gaga's "Cheek to Cheek" and Lennox' "Nostalgia." Ordered both of them in (live in the sticks so no local source) and one dished, the other warped. Neither are unplayable, but both conditions are audible. Disappointing to say the least on such outstanding efforts.

The same week they arrived, I got copies of Hampton's "Silver Vibes" (mono) and Mendes' "Look Around" used at a swap meet. Perfectly flat with outstanding fidelity, especially considering their age.

Many of my "not" Golden-era pressings from the mid-70s through late-80s also lived up to expectations when I got them home. Many more did not, and that's why I ended up jumping on the CD bandwagon with a Sony CDP-101 in 1983.

In 2015, my digital playback deck is about 1000% better, CDs are better, SACDs are even better still, HD downloads can be superb, but still none of them best vinyl at its best. Unless it's warped.

We have the technology, know better and can better control the process. So, what is up with the warp thing? Is it laziness, budget or what?!?
effischer
After reading this I thought I would try to contact someone really smart for the answer,so I emailed Stephen Hawking.He graciously offered a prompt reply..."If I would not have wasted so much time on all that "black hole" stuff I would have answered this question long ago.All I can surmise is that it is heat that warps records" Well,there you go.
"Many of my "not" Golden-era pressings from the mid-70s through late-80s also lived up to expectations when I got them home. Many more did not, and that's why I ended up jumping on the CD bandwagon with a Sony CDP-101 in 1983."

For me, those are some of the best records I own. Just regular ones that were lightly used, and just sitting on someone shelf and just listed the whole lot on ebay.

Getting back to your original question, the records may not be warped from the factory. It could have been neglect from some point after they left. I don't know what kind of TT you have, but my VPI has a screw on clamp that works very well. If its something you can get for yours, I would say its definitely worth the money.
New LPs are warped either because they were removed from the LP stamper before they had cooled sufficiently, or because they were not transported and stored properly after they left the pressing plant, or both. But what you are really asking is why, when everyone knows the above is the case, are the measured necessary to prevent warps from developing not taken? Good question. Chad?
03-30-15: Zd542
"Many of my "not" Golden-era pressings from the mid-70s through late-80s also lived up to expectations when I got them home. Many more did not, and that's why I ended up jumping on the CD bandwagon with a Sony CDP-101 in 1983."

Me too, back in the late 70's early 80's I would have the record store open the LP and put in on their turntable before it paid.
Why is the sky blue???
About 50 to 65 percent of the new vinyl I purchase is either warped, dished or has some sort of serious flaw. I buy a lot of vinyl and find it disconcerting at best. This seems to be the trend and increasing of the past 3 years. I've been buying vinyl for over 45 years.

I now only buy from a vendor which accepts returns because of this problem.
Because records are one of the most inherently flawed yet still loved inventions of all time.

Next time you are on a rollercoaster, pretend the track is the groove and that you are the stylus trying to track it.

See what I mean? :^)

Actually riding a rollercoaster is nothing compared to what a stylus has to do to track a record, especially when the modulations associated with big dynamics and good transients start to hit. And in stereo none the less.

No wonder we love the things. Its amazing that they work as well as they do, warps and all.
Well, I guess they made roller coaster better back in the day. Of course it is a system that is plagued with potential issues.....we all know that....but it is not an excuse for the poor quality control that is being pushed out today when compared with years past.

The biggest frustration is that taking warps, dish issues and at times poor pressings a side today's pressing would sound significantly better than yesterday's records. Sometimes it just takes returning a bad copy over and over again until a clean copy is found.

If consumers are as diligent as I am it won't take long before the pressing plants are force to improve their QC...or else they will be losing money.

My fear is that they will abandon it due profit margins, as well as the consumer due to frustration with bad sound.

BTW.....now is the time to buy used cd s. ...they can be had for a dollar...or so.
I think most records are warped, more or less. Take a "non" warped record and observe a reflection of a light on its surface as it turns and you'll see. IMHO we should all use ring weights and center weights when our TT allows. Improves a lot of things.
Effischer,
I share your frustration. Bdp24 explained it in a nutshell.
I think the criminal lack of quality control at pressing plants is to a large degree caused by the huge jump in vinyl popularity in recent years and everyone jumping on the bandwagon trying to capitalize on it. I know for a fact that RTI can't keep up with with orders so they probably rush the process as Bdp24 explained. And as much as I admire and am grateful to people like Kassem for doing great things for analog enthusiasts, Acoustic Sounds doesn't fare much better in comparison to the rest of the market in my experience, which is inexplicable to me. I had to exchange an AS Norah Jones record, which was not only warped and noisy but also pressed off-center. My Stevie Ray Vaughan 33.3 box has pretty much each of the six records warped to a degree, at least on one side. Fremer is all over AS and how perfect the pressings are, probably to keep those test pressings coming his way. If Kassem can't get it right, the future for new vinyl is rather grim, the amazing resurgence of vinyl in general notwithstanding.
Spot-on, Bdp24. We know better, spend the bucks, know how to be squeaky wheels when quality is poor, so why?

For those interested, I use a Sota Reflex clamp. Works well but ca't fix ripples or a dish. My Graham/DV combo tracks warps superbly, but that doesn't make them disappear. A vacuum table can address some of that stuff, but at price of noise, cube and cost.

Better just to make flat records to begin with. Especially with so-called "audiophile" pressings. Also helps newbies acquire the addiction. I'm fairly sure that warp largely starts at the manufacturing end, too. Otherwise, how could so many used records ranging from played-out junk to still-sealed Holy Grails be perfectly flat?

Case in point: A NOS RCA reissue copy of a Broadway play originally recorded in 1964 and pressed in 1974, wafer thin and flexible, purchased from Georgia and delivered to Ohio during the deepest of February's deep-freezes, flat. Still had the original price sticker from whatever out-of-business retailer and has gone through who-knows-how-many hands.

Storage, methinks, is as much of a much. Especially considering the Hampton pressing I mentioned before. Owned at one point by a frat guy according to the hand-written note on the back cover and was purchased out of a basement vintage shop under a bar in the dead of winter.

I am resolved to squeak more when new vinyl is warped. Right after I get a Vinyl Flat to try and fix the ones that can't be sent back.
Edit above: "Storage, methinks, is not as much of a much." Sorry, proof-reading is not my strongest suit.
I hope quality of new vinyl improves but I would not bet on it.

Maybe there are some labels/sources brands that are less problematic than others, perhaps for more of a premium price.

Most common retail records I bought back in the day had various flaws to some degree as well. I had to have a table good enough to be able to play many well. You could exchange often if you were not satisfied but no guarantee the next one is any better.

Like I said, its a highly flawed format and system. Always has been and not likely to change despite all the nostalgia and romanticism surrounding "vinyl" or records as I used to call 'em.
Every medium has it's pluses and minuses. Nothing is perfect.
There are no propitious winds blowing for new vinyl.A recent purchase of a half dozen Music Matters Blue Note 45 rpm lps found one of the six warped,unacceptable and unplayable.The return process is a well known PITA.Exchange of emails,reason for return,repack and ship back with insurance and return authorization number prominently visible on the box.You really end up like feeling like the criminal,not the victim after dealing with these people.
Here is the best part...three weeks after it arrived back to them I had to contact them AGAIN,and guess what?
I get the "oh that" attitude and they had not even opened the box.The heartbreak of the warped records,and yes,i will be taking my vinyl dollars elsewhere.Schmucks!
Barnes and Noble now carries vinyl. Yes, they have limited stock but you can order any label from them and return it for an exchange if not satisfied.
"03-31-15: Ebm
Why is the sky blue???"

Because you have blue eyes, maybe. You really need someone to explain that to you?
Re: Fremer and perfect Lps

I'd bet that certain reviewers get individually selected copies. You'd be crazy not to make sure MF gets a good one.
Case in point: A NOS RCA reissue copy of a Broadway play originally recorded in 1964 and pressed in 1974, wafer thin and flexible, purchased from Georgia and delivered to Ohio during the deepest of February's deep-freezes, flat. Still had the original price sticker from whatever out-of-business retailer and has gone through who-knows-how-many hands.

A good example of the the golden age of record pressing. Records did not come from the plant warped as they do today. LPs weren't always perfect, but the quality control was tight and the Cutters and line workers were craftsmen.

It's true that today's record plants are backed up with heavy volume, but I also believe this is a new generation of worker who can't quickly spot a defect on the vinyl before it is shipped out.
Oops! It should read "are the measures necessary", not measured.
180 gm vinyl sux.

From Record Industries Europe's largest pressing plant.

The records are transported by an assembly-line to a robotised storage system (the collator) where they will cool down for approximately 3 hours for 125 grams records and a overnight (at least 8 hours) for 180 grams records. After the cooling down period the records are ready for packaging

http://www.recordindustry.com/about-us/plant/pressfloor

A lot of the pressing plants QC is terrible and do not allow the required cooling time.

Almost every one of my 100gm UK pressings from the 80's are perfect and zero dishing or warps.

180gm vinyl is a POS and has nothing to do with better sound quality.
Just bought two new vinyl albums yesterday. Nora Jones and Diana Krall. Nora's album is an 180 gram album and slightly warped with some pressing, surface noise but not too bad. The other is my second try at Diana Krall's Wall Flower, which sounds fantastic......very quiet.....but terribly dished and some surface noise on side 4. I can make them playable with my center and ring clamp but not completely flat and it requires extra work from my cartridge. This was the same issue as my first copy, however, side 4 of the first copy was unlistenable.

So, 2 albums and both were not at the standard they should be. Back in the 70's and 80's I never had this type of consistent problems with albums. I'll keep these albums instead of returning them, since I bought them while visiting a city 75 miles away. If they were purchased locally they would be returned....yet again.

Because of this posting I think I might actually start making a spread sheet indicating where the albums were pressed, problems with the vinyl and return rate. To say the least, I find all this a very sad commentary on the state of affairs of new vinyl.
NEw vinyl is a big cash grab IMHO. I don't understand why people would subject themselves to it, especially those who remember the golden days of vinyl.
Downunder, I too think that 180 g is the culprit. The thinner stuff would be flexible and spring back and the heavy stuff assumes a warp
04-01-15: Mapman
NEw vinyl is a big cash grab IMHO. I don't understand why people would subject themselves to it, especially those who remember the golden days of vinyl.

There are many re-releases that are very desirable for analog audiophiles, especially the younger ones like myself. I see many re-issues done by Kevin Gray or Steve Hoffman using the analog tapes as the source, which are hard to resist. For example, Kevin Gray's remastering of Kate Bush "The Sensual World" is simply superb, much better than the already great-sounding original. It's a must-have for any Kate Bush fan. Too bad that such tremendous efforts are wasted by the shoddy pressing jobs.
I have plenty of 180's and 200's that are flat. That is not to say that there is an advantage of heavy over thin but the real issue is poor QC.
It is an unfortunate truth that many records are warped but there is one undeniable solution:

Click the 25 second video and see how to play all warped records

http://www.ttweights.com/home.html
Don't these companies notice the high rate of defective returns? Or is it factored into the cost of doing business.
Clearly, they're not going to change their process.

Does anybody know what Steve Hoffman has to say regarding the high number of poor quality vinyl being released?
Great question lowrider.
You guys must live under a cloud. I don't buy a whole lot of new vinyl, but I cannot recall receiving a warped or dished LP in the last 5-10 years. So, first of all, may I posit that the problem is exaggerated as regards frequency? At least that's the way it seems. BUT, if I did receive a warped or dished LP, I would immediately wrap it back up, contact the vendor, and inform him that I was returning the LP for refund or replacement. Send it back, guys! Don't try to make it work with weights and such; you should not have to do that. You paid for a NEW LP. Sheesh.
I am not making up anything and speak the truth from my experience. Also, if you read my post....I do return them but then I get another with issues. This is a problem I've noticed 5 hat has increased with frequency over the past 16 months, or so.

BTW.....I use a Michell clamp and a TTW ring.
Cool Raymonda, The ring will work with any center clamp and please note that you cannot flatten a record (on both sides) with a reflex clamp, it will do one side that the warp raises in the center but flip the record and it cannot work so well.

Get an outer ring one time and every record will sound better new or old a great investment, especially with the price of high end vinyl.
Cheers
Apologies to Raymonda, I certainly did not mean to imply that you were making things up. Sorry you've had a problem with warps. My only point is that I have not had such problems. I purchase about 10 "new" LPs per year; maybe you buy many more than I do. Last year I bought the Beatles set. That's 14 LPs, I think, in one purchase. I have some beefs around sound quality, but no warps.
Is it laziness, budget or what?!?

-> Empty Brain Manufacturing
I bought the "White album" and it had the most extreme dish of any album I have ever purchased. Out side of that, however, it played well.
Most records sound 100% better when you are able to stop the record from vibrating and the stylus will have a much better chance of reading the groove details.

A record is too light to damp itself and does resonate, sound stage and openness is created from a well read record groove and nothing else.

Warped or not, records should be held flat and damped to sound superb, does not matter what table you have.
Damped vs undamped is a Pandora's box.
The best (only?) way to action TTW's suggestion is to own a vacuum T/T which clamps the disc over it's entire surface area. This effectively rules out 99.999% of turntable owners.
Decades ago the major argument against clamping was that it actively stresses the vinyl during play.

FWIW with my current mass damped T/T, I'm firmly a member of the undamped brigade.

Here's a heartening story for the OP : I often accumulate new LPs but don't play them with the intention of getting them cleaned first. Yesterday I took a chance and played one that had been stored, uncleaned from new since 2013. Opening it for the first time, it was "ruler flat", no discernible warps. Hole and label registration were very good. The LP played as if it had just been scrupulously cleaned. Noise floor was inky black. Transient peaks tracked perfectly and cleanly throughout the entire record. This 180g was a triumph of LP manufacture that harked back to the halcyon days of the 70s & 80s when no one had even heard of MRA and uncleaned LPs bought new still sound perfect today.
so even slightly warped vinyl (really thought that it's ok) won't match sacd while perfectly straight one is better?
Is that an Analogue vs Digital question? That's an even bigger Pandora's Box ;^)

Personally I don't pay any attention to whether the LP is warped or not. It's very uncommon for warps to be troublesome. The last time I saw such an occurrence was in a demo featuring an SME V. When it reached the middle of the playing side the edge of the warp clipped the arm, throwing it up in the air to land with an Armaggedon like impact that sent shockwaves through the room. I thought we were under attack! Then it re-enacted that impact repeatedly as if in a locked groove...

Also recall Bob Graham had a trick which involved placing a stack of cards under one edge of the LP during play to prove that unipivots can indeed track severely warped discs without de-stabilising.
Quite impressive!
Warped records used to be a problem for me with various Japanese and European tables until I started with the Linn Axis back in the mid-80s. It tracks almost everything silently. Have had no casue for concern though I know my records cannot be any less warped now then they were 30 years ago. Probably more. Its part of the record aging process. Some are better preserved and age better than others, like Jim Palmer. :^)
There are products on the market to eliminate warp in vinyl such as Vinyl Flat, Furutech and Air Tight. All do a great job at eliminating warps. So if your favorite record is warped there is a solution.

As stated in the beginning of this thread, there is always going to be warped records because of the molding process but there is a way to fix the defect.
It's certainly factored into the cost of doing business. A standard royalty deduction of up to 20% (called "breakage fees") comes out of the artist's pocket.
Lowrider: From my experience in trying to return, dealers like Acoustic Sounds would tell me that they have to "eat" those costs. That's why they won't allow a "second" return for the same item, which is often necessary. (This is after the fact that, we, the consumer, have to pay return shipping!) This is one reason I have shifted my lp buying to Amazon quite a bit, (Also, I own a Vinyl Flat)... no hassle/paid returns. If I could only own a company where the consumer, on an ongoing basis, is more than willing to buy defective merchandise and pay for it's return, only to have the return come in defective! No, wait, I wouldn't feel right about that. That's why. I have a conscious.
I've also been told that venders have to pay for the cost of a return in this new vinyl world. I'll bet a company with the "buying power" of Amazon doesn't eat these costs and returns them to their distributor.

In the good old vinyl days, you would return an LP to a store and usually get an apology. Then the owner/employee would inspect another copy to make sure it didn't have the same defect.
Oh, the good old days.
If you really want to know:

An inherent outgrowth of the polymerization process is that each individual polymer chain has a different molecular weight (chain length). When the PVC pucks are formed (before the record stamping) they are created from small plastic pellets which are melted with heat to form the disk.

When the plastic melts it expands. When the plastic re-solidifies it shrinks an-isotropiclally (different amounts in different directions) due to the viscosity variations caused by the molecular weight (polymer chain legth) differences. This variation in shrink by direction causes warp. Some of the warp occurs initially but some will occur over time as the record sees elevated temperatures that cause the internal stresses (caused by the variation in shrink in different directions) to relieve themselves.

Even though the record business is run on antiquated equipment, all of the above challenges are faced by the highest precision plastics companies in the world. While improvements could be made through more modern equipment, longer cycle times, etc., no one will ever be able to make a perfectly flat record that stays flat it's entire life until constant molecular weights are achieved in the initial polymerization process.
WPC- Thanks for the information which explains this issue very well.
OP here - + 1 to WPC. A thorough and exact explanation of why it still happens with such alarming regularity. Thank you.

Also, I appreciate Lowrider's input. I knew there also had to be a business philosophy behind the bad attitude. Losing money sure makes folks cranky.
Perhaps I'm missing something, but I own many, many a flat record, some decades' old. Unless the polymerization process is a brand new phenomenon, which it shouldn't be, the thread question still stands and WPC's explanation is an interesting piece of information, but not much more than that. I think Bdp24 hit the nail on the head 2 months ago.
I did not mean to imply that very flat records aren't possible, in fact, by far the majority of records produced now and back in the day are flat. I was trying to explain the challenges involved. Molecular weight distribution at the end of the bell curve create the problem. As said, longer cycles and modern machines will improve the odds. In addition, using well maintained older machines and processing techniques that minimize oxidation and hydrolysis (which break molecular chains further exacerbating molecular weight variation) can improve the likelihood of a precision outcome. Finally, a 100% QC inspection process will obviously eliminate those warped records which occur when initially produced (but those aren't the problem)

I am certain some record suppliers do a better job than others but zero defect production is much more difficult than Bdp24 implies. Some records still warp even when left in the press long enough to come out flat and when packaged and stored properly . A small percentage will warp down the road because the molecules in that particular shot of material happened to all have lengths at one end of the distribution range (be it long or short) which completely changes the rheology of the flow of the material which changes the internal stresses. They go into a sleeve perfectly flat and change in the days and weeks to come.

This is an entirely different challenge than faced by manufacturers in the metals businesses (machining, casting, edm, etc.).
Bdp24
New LPs are warped either because they were removed from the LP stamper before they had cooled sufficiently, or because they were not transported and stored properly after they left the pressing plant, or both.

The record labels and the pressing plants all say that demand is so high for manufacturing vinyl that their orders are backed up. There was a thread on Steve Hoffman, I believe, where somebody stated that the cooling stage had been shortened as one way to speed up the process. I'm sure there are other areas where vinyl production specs don't measure up to the original days of record cutting. Especially quality control as previously mentioned.

On a personal note, I returned "Mothership" 3 times to Amazon all with the same problem...a clicking sound thruout side one. It would seem an entire batch of product was shipped out w/o being checked.

" A small percentage will warp down the road because the molecules in that particular shot of material happened to all have lengths at one end of the distribution range (be it long or short) which completely changes the rheology of the flow of the material which changes the internal stresses."

Makes a lot of sense as far as new vinyl or the original cutting days.