What Exactly Is *Virgin* Vinyl?


Better not have anything to do with Richard Branson.

Thrill Jockey has a couple of up coming releases that are apparently both being pressed on virgin vinyl.

In Plain Speech by Circuit des Yeux

LP pressed on virgin vinyl and packaged in an old style tip-on jacket with artworked inner sleeve and free download coupon. A very limited amount of vinyl will be available on a cream color vinyl. CD version in 4 panel mini-LP style gatefold package. This is a pre-order for May 19th street date. All orders containing In Plain Speech will be held to ship by the May 19th street date.

Everybodys Boogie by Dommengang

LP mastered and cut to vinyl by Josh Bonati at Bonati Mastering and pressed on virgin vinyl with free download card.

  • What exactly is virgin vinyl?


Posted 2015-05-14T09:14:19.853

Reputation: 410

Vinyl that doesn't count the first 5-10 some other guy wore it. – None – 2015-05-14T16:27:19.780



Back when vinyl records were the most popular form of recorded music, unsold albums and singles in record stores were returned to the manufacturers and credit for unsold product was refunded to the stores. Manufacturers shredded and melted down the unsold records and recycled the vinyl for use in pressing newly released albums and singles.

Most all LPs and singles were made of a mixture of old recycled vinyl and newly created vinyl.

Occasionally a record label would put out a special audiophile limited edition of a best-selling album and advertise that it was being pressed onto 100% new vinyl, also called virgin vinyl.

The point is that a record pressed on virgin vinyl could reproduce higher audio quality with lower noise than a record pressed onto a blend of recycled vinyl and new vinyl.


Posted 2015-05-14T09:14:19.853


2Is there a citation anywhere that states why recycled vinyl would have more noise? I see it mentioned a few times in my searching, but I can't find a definitive explanation. – DA. – 2015-05-16T05:17:07.990

@DA. possibly because it could have accumulated dust on the way to the stores and back. Now if it was a noise big enough to be perceived by human ears, that's an entirely different question. It was possibly just marketing. – Rodrigo – 2016-03-09T15:44:52.473

I never worked in a pressing plant, but I've been to several. The bins that old vinyl went into before recycling were not exactly spotless, records would be spilled on the dirty concrete floor, any kind of contaminant could be in there. The method of gathering them up to have the paper centres punched out wasn't too clinical either. – Tetsujin – 2016-08-21T12:57:11.527


Some explanations as provided by these forum posts:

Virgin vinyl is non recycled higher quality vinyl.


Pure vinyl which isn't recycled or adulterated with filler. Quieter as a rule surface wise.


Posted 2015-05-14T09:14:19.853

Reputation: 2 474

It makes sense, but I also can't find any hard citations that point out that recycled vinyl is 'less pure' in any way. – DA. – 2015-05-16T05:16:19.157


In the early 80's when I bought the majority of my vinyl, it was generally understood that albums and 12 inch singles were made of "fresh" vinyl and that 7-inch singles were generally recycled vinyl. I imagine that I or one of my friends got this nugget of information from one of the hi-fi magazines that were very snooty about such things as they probably still are.

If you look at most 7-inch singles from that time you can see that the vinyl has quite a dull, grey appearance when compared to the very shiny vinyl of 12-inch singles and albums. 7-inch singles were always known to be much lower sound quality than the others - although there are other differences that no-doubt contribute, like the groove density. I think the industry had the general opinion that 7-inch-singles were "disposable" and would not be listened to on serious equipment anyway.

I actually visited a vinyl record production facility at that time and saw that the process involves squeezing a blob of vinyl between the 2 masters until it exudes out to a random shape larger than the required size. An automated blade then sweeps-in and trims the excess to produce the final disk. This is only an assumption, but I took it to be that the excess was kept aside for use in the 7-inch singles.

As @Wheat Williams has stated, record companies also used to get many records returned; either because they were faulty or because the shop returned them under the "5% returns" scheme. That was a form of sale-or-return agreement trying to encourage shops to order records in the HOPE of selling them rather than the expectation. Again, all these records would have been recycled.

I don't know WHY recycled vinyl produces lower sound quality but I imagine that repeated heating to melting point and then cooling may well have a detrimental effect. 7-inch singles do always appear to be more "brittle" than fresh vinyl when you handle them. It's plausible that maybe the vinyl oxidises in some way as it cools, creating a chemically different material than the fresh vinyl. It is interesting that the aforementioned 35-year-old 12-inch singles and albums in my attic are STILL black, shiny and flexible in a way that their 7-inch counterparts never were.


Posted 2015-05-14T09:14:19.853

Reputation: 617

I currently own 9 7” singles. Of them, 5 seem to be made out of styrene instead of vinyl. – LnxPrgr3 – 2018-03-01T04:07:57.407

@LnxPrgr3 How can you tell styrene from vinyl? I assume they're singles from some decades ago...? – Lefty – 2018-03-01T23:02:05.983

The clearest consistent difference is probably the label, which in the case of styrene is glued on (or apparently sometimes painted on). There are other clues, like the sound it makes when you tap on it (vinyl is duller), but there's enough variation with the same material that I find it hard to judge. Of course there's also the distortion on playback if it's worn, which is a lot of background noise and distortion in the louder sections that almost sounds like clipping, and can be severe. But I imagine you could do that to vinyl too if you tried hard enough. – LnxPrgr3 – 2018-03-03T03:16:31.777