Grading Tips

Grading Tips Part I: Lighting

This is the first on a series of posts I’ll be doing on grading to help give some of the tricks and tips I’ve learned over the years to help you help your customers help us all!

Today’s subject is light sources. I generally recommend that a higher lumen desk lamp, preferably halogen or compact fluorescent is used. Generally, the closer the source of the light, the better the results. I find that I see the most damage in the reflection of the lightbulb itself. Direct natural sunlight is also a tried and tested form of looking for tiny scratches.


Grading records


What might look like a paper scuff might turn out to be a deep scratch under a brighter light. Look closely over the surface for anything that might be able to be felt with a fingernail tip. If it can be felt, it will be heard.

Other issues to look out for are cloudiness from outgassing of inner plastic sleeves and whitish streaks in the grooves from damage from bad needles. These will produce significant amount of noise, even if the disc looks undamaged otherwise. Manufacturing defects like bubbles, folds or bits of paper label or other impurities will have a significant effect on the playback of the disc.

Grading Tips

Above all, these are all just part of a larger process in grading that should also include cleaning, play testing and smell-testing. I hope you find this useful and will gladly incorporate any more advice given in the comments below into the next in the series!

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  • Aug 11,2015 at 14:36

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  • Mar 18,2013 at 14:55

    smell-testing? surely you’re making that one up?

  • Jan 29,2013 at 13:53

    Excellent work. What you say makes great sense. I was especially interested in the comment about the cloudiness caused by inner sleeves. Saw this many times.

    Perhaps you will cover it in your next post about examining vinyl in store. You often don’t have good light sources and the best way is to try to use natural light – and importantly get your reading spectacles on!

  • Jan 29,2013 at 12:12

    Did you say “smell-testing?”

    I cannot WAIT.

  • Jan 28,2013 at 00:40

    I find that an open flame works best – added bonus: the heat will sometimes make slight scuffs and scratches disappear. right before my eyes! MAGIC!

  • Jan 26,2013 at 07:08

    I’ve found that my natural light fluorescent bulb (on my desk lamp), sometimes along with my magnifying glass, works wonders for finding anything. This combo also helps me read labels.

  • Jan 26,2013 at 04:33

    Make all new sellers read this!

  • Jan 25,2013 at 16:26

    Hmm, agree on the halogen lamp, but a fluorescent lamp is about the opposite. It’s a sharp light source (halogen) vs a soft one. (Ofcourse both can be manipulated by lenses & fixture design, although it’s far more easier making a sharp light soft than a soft light sharp)
    Apart from that, halogen has a very complete light spectrum, while fluorescent & TL have a fragmented light spectrum. So I’d never advice fluorescent lighting, except if very strong and of a very good quality. Halogen is still the best light source known to man, apart from the sun. (I mean the light itself, not talking about ecology or heat here)

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