Vinyl vs Styrene

What are singles made of?


7” singles are not always made of vinyl. A lot of them are actually made of something called Styrene. Styrene singles are not pressed like vinyl, but injection molded. This method was exclusively used by US pressing plants and was a cheap way to get those 45s out on the market.


Styrene singles are lighter and not as durable as vinyl. Styrene singles will wear out faster than vinyl and one should take care playing them. There are also a lot of discussions about what types of styluses that are good or bad for styrene, but that is a rabbit hole we won’t get into here. I advise you to do some research before playing those precious and rare styrene 45s.


How do I know if it’s a vinyl or styrene single?


There are a few ways to tell the difference and here they are.


The Label


Labels on vinyl singles are added during the pressing process. The label on a vinyl single will have a smooth, non edgy transition to the runout area.


Labels on styrene singles are glued on after the styrene has been injection molded. You can feel and see an edge where the label starts. Styrene labels also tend to peel off or start bubbling. There are styrene singles with painted on labels, but you won’t find those on ZappaFrenzy.


The Outer Edge


Vinyl singles will have a sharp edge whereas the styrene singles will have flat edge. You will also see a thin line were the stamper molds was  connected. Similar to lines found on molded plastic toys.


The Magic Sound


Tapping the outer edge of a vinyl single will make a dull thud. A styrene single will produce a brighter and thinner sound.


The Scanner Trick


This is something I noticed when scanning labels for the ZappaFrenzy website. If you scan a styrene single the grooves will appear gray, a vinyl single will appear black.