Play-Grading: The (Not So) Silent Killer

I made a new post that covers this with new samples and more information! Check it out!

Today I am continuing last week’s discussion on grading with something a little more in depth that’s nearly guaranteed to be open to interpretation: Play Grading.

This is generally the most accurate method of grading a record and should be used in combination with visual grading to provide the best and most accurately listed product for your buyers.

MINT: In order for a mint record to be considered mint by Goldmine standards, it can not ever be played, therefore, a mint record cannot be play graded.

NEAR MINT and VG+: A VG+ record should sound the same as a near mint record. There should be no surface noise whatsoever in either grade. The difference between Near Mint and VG+ is extremely minor cosmetic defects that do not affect play. A Near Mint or VG+ record should sound like this:

VG: A VG record should have minor surface noise that does not overpower the music and will mostly be noticable in soft passages or in the intro and outro of a disc. A VG record should sound like this:

GOOD: This is a record that will at best play through without skipping. It will be in rough condition and very noisy. A Good record should sound like this:

FAIR / POOR: Cracked, Warped or skips. If it skips, it’s this. Even if the rest of the record looks okay. This is the sound of my needle crying in pain:

In closing, I hope this is found useful and hope it opens up discussion on the subject!

Note: You may have to upgrade your Quicktime plugin to make this work. Please let me know if you know of any better embed codes

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47 Comments
  • Jun 1,2018 at 7:52 pm

    I have a hard time reconciling myself with the declarations found in this article. I’m no expert on the topic but then most people that collect vinyl aren’t either, so shouldn’t this be more user friendly? I’ve repeatedly gone over the goldmine grading system while evaluating records I have acquired. It seems that there is a great deal of ambiguity in the descriptions and interpretations. This article only seems to add to that.

    First of all you just can’t have two different categories (NM & VG+) and say they are the same thing. If that were the case you should only have one category! Also, records are about the sound so play-grading seems to me to be the only valid way to evaluate record quality. I could care less if the vinyl shows surface wear if it plays clean and I could care less if the vinyl looks pristine if there is a skip or pop when it is played. I’ve encountered both.

    Here is my best and I think most user friendly interpretation of the grading system.

    1. Mint – sealed (who knows if their might be some pressing defects but it is brand new)
    2. Near Mint – Play it through and there are no surface noises, crackles, or pops. (it has been played but miraculously has no defects) I don’t think many records fit this category and those that do have little chance of staying that way for long, unless you never play them. This is overused / misused all the time.
    3. Very Good Plus – Play it through and there are a few very minor crackles or pops. If you weren’t listening for them you probably wouldn’t even notice.
    4. Very Good – Play it and you hear some crackles and/or pops, some surface noise, but the listening experience is enjoyable despite them.
    5. Good – Play it and surface noise, crackles, & pops overpower the recording. The listening experience is significantly affected.
    6. Poor – The record can’t be played through without skipping or repeating. Use it as a coaster, art project or conversation piece if it is important to you. (Would you throw away a Robert Johnson 78 because it skipped?)

    or

    1. Mint – “I can’t wait to hear this for the first time!”
    2. Near Mint – “Man that sounds perfect!”
    3. Very Good Plus – “Man that sounds good!”
    4. Very Good – “That sounds pretty good.”
    5. Good – “Somebody really has enjoyed this record over the years.”
    6. Poor – “Dang, I wish somebody had taken better care of that record, oh well.”

  • […] Phase two is filling in missing information, updating collection notes, or purging records. This effort has been going on for more than a decade. Those earliest entries are where I am beginning. Ten years ago, I was a terrible grader and that hurt me in the long run. So many items in my record Collection I had marked as VG+ or NM that are actually VG or worse. I’ve missed out on a lot of upgrade opportunities because of this. Grading by sight does not work well. You can ballpark with it, but actually playing back the record is the best method of accurate grading. […]

  • Nov 6,2015 at 1:45 pm

    IS NEARMINT VINYL

  • Nov 6,2015 at 1:45 pm

    IS ONE PERFECT VINYL

  • Oct 19,2015 at 7:04 am

    This seems a very useful post except the direct links don’t work (404 Not Found). Am using an Apple running Yosemite.

  • Oct 13,2015 at 8:59 pm

    Fair to Poor NEVER means cracked or broken. Good never means bad.

  • Oct 13,2015 at 8:58 pm

    Regarding Discogs grading function, for LPs, shouldn’t there be a seperate window for Cover or Jacket?

  • Oct 13,2015 at 8:57 pm

    I don’t know anyone who really grades in this manner. This is practically nonsensical. Everything means either Mint or Poor by this reckoning. Not exactly true to the Goldmine system you quote.

  • Oct 11,2015 at 11:06 am

    The links to the audio files are dead; as a discogs newb I’d love to hear them! Anyone have unbroken links?

  • Sep 17,2015 at 6:30 am

    I had to jump off board the instant I read the description of VG+ in first sentence. Let me tell you what I think is wrong with this “standard.”

    1. It makes the sound of the record subordinate to how the record looks.
    2. Realistically, there are only three grades: NM, VG+, and VG.

    As for number one, why bother to play grade anything if your feeling is that “VG+ should sound identical to NM?” That is just stupid. We have lost our way when we forget that the purpose of vinyl is to convey sound accurately to the listener. This is not an art show. A person without sight should be able to grade records and probably even better than I. Yet the standard outlined here would not allow that.

    As for number two, record condition is a continuum, not three buckets. When it costs the buyer five bucks postage, how willing are they going to be to buy “G” or lower records? For the most part, they aren’t. So an album with lots of surface noise or one skip becomes totally unsellable in this system. No offense to the author but that is nuts.

    Loyal

  • Sep 6,2015 at 11:17 am

    I really think you should take another look at your statement that NM and VG+ ought to sound exactly the same? Why are there two separate grades, if they are supposed to sound the same. And if you are play-grading records, then a visual defect shouldn’t be the factor that makes the difference, because these shouldn’t be visually graded, they are play-graded. I think everything else that you’ve included in this post is right-on, but placing NM and VG+ in the exact same sound grading is deceptive tot buyers, it’d be great, if you’d separate the two. I think a VG+ can have some light-crackles here and there, where NM shouldn’t have much of anything at all.

  • Aug 11,2015 at 2:54 pm

    The direct links don’t work, nor does the player. The links give 345-byte files (bytes, not kb!)

    As for the player – Quicktime??? I don’t think I’ve had that installed in the last 5 years and this is the first site I’ve found where my QT-substitutes don’t work. I am seeing VLC players on this page so I guess that’s my substitute.

    If you open the direct-link files with notepad this is what you see:

    404 – Not Found

    404 – Not Found

  • Aug 9,2015 at 1:15 am

    The sound files are not working…

  • Jul 16,2015 at 3:20 am

    Having read all the above comments I must agree with 90% of what’s been said and don’t strongly disagree with the other 10. As a seller I always play before listing and when its bought play again. None of my records are listed NM or Mint as I can’t see the value in the grade. If its Mint it must be factory sealed, its still mint if it clicks, jumps,warps etc as it is as the factory produced it. We can’t invent a grade called Never Played to take care of this so we have to use a bit of common sense,after all we wouldn’t even know if the title of the track matched that of the audio track would we?
    Therefore its impossible to make a declaration of sound quality on a ‘Mint’ record and that means we could say the grading is meaningless to seller and buyer! Unfortunately we can’t explain this within the confines of the Discogs grading so you have 2 options as a seller, play test or ‘Mint’ it. As already explained putting Mint doesn’t ensure the accuracy of either audio track accuracy or quality so that isn’t an option really and its not Mint if we play it is it?
    The second option and the more preferable is to play test it, alright it becomes Nm but surely that is better than not knowing what we have within the grooves. Some sellers may not like this advice but at least we’d know they’d played the track before sending it out to the most important person in the transaction……THE BUYER.
    As for me and my listings I’m only using VG+ and downwards as I can be confident within that grade,alright prices are affected but you don’t get any comebacks as the grades are right for all.

  • Mar 19,2015 at 12:17 pm

    Does anyone know what’s the Fair/Poor sample?

  • Jan 20,2015 at 11:26 am

    Regarding arguments – that it’s not possible to listen to all records if someone is selling many of them. Generally – if someone is selling record for 30 EUR and more in VG+ or higher condition, he should be responsible enough to listen to such record. For records under 15 EUR – visual grading is enough for me and I can forgive some light noise on VG+ or NM record in such case.

  • Jan 12,2015 at 9:43 am

    Thanks for this was just checking standards having just purchased 3 albums rated VG+ that turned out to be unplayable. I think some sellers do not even examine the vinyl let alone play it!!!!

  • Jan 3,2015 at 5:52 pm

    and just for comments like the one of 9228289. i bought thousands of records in stores. and yes there are pressings that are bad from the factory cause the mastering is poor. but thats not very much ones , often bootlegs. so sure some might have some crackling than or surface noise. but we are talking bout the general sound quality. sure different from factory to factory. but a brandnew record is pumping in sound and the loudness is good. thats just it. so if you buy a vg+ listed record that lacks absolutely in sound so that it only sounds still pleasant if you would turn up all eqs on a pioneer clubmixer for example ,it can never ever be listed as vg+. no discussing in my sight! for example lots of sellers even rate records mint and comment them with -looks unplayed?? hello- it must be unplayed. and they say they cant listen to every record and so…. blabla- that says it all!! looks unplayed? so! i call that betray, nothing else. so when unsure why not grading g? and buyers shouldnt be too picky too, thats right. sure vg+ records were played and can have surface noise and so. but they must play through without problems and they should still have “A CLUBPLAYABLE AND PLEASANT SOUNDSHAPE WITH PUNCH AND LOUDNESS THAT MUST NOT BE TWEAKED BY A EQUALIZER ON MIXERS. ” if played too often, it might play through but there is no sound on the record anymore- you ALL KNOW WHAT i mean ;-)
    aaaaahh ,thanks for letting that go!!

  • Jan 3,2015 at 5:35 pm

    Unfortunately a lot of sellers rate just visually. And poorly i often see why. Like my last buy. Good value but just on the first look. Just 10 out of fifty had a good sound and are still useable in clubs or so. the others lack heavy in sound quality. said no bass ,highs, and tops anymore as the overall loudness. no eqs can help here. thats kinda rippoff and makes the buying very confusing cause you dont know which sellers to trust. i wished you could drag them to rate the media also through playing. so every buyer should inform about a seller with this unserious business. the sellers tell me i should read the goldmine standards but i do often. better they do it?? but i see that they want ( some seem to have!!! ) to sell. poor!!
    and i dont mind to pay a buck more or so, but i want to play them at clubs and so on- im not collecting- i like to mix with vinyl- so i need them in good shape. i rebuy them sometimes, means i got them in bad quality myself, haha. so if i just want to listen to it i could use digital-media like mp3. so what can we buyers do ? maybe someone who is familiar with all discogs can put up a list or so for buyers where good/serious/bad sellers or buys can be posted. so you can at least decide if you buy from those- or if one gets lots of complaints it must be kinda true for some reason- no one should be blamed for 1 or 2 bad comments. myself got some although im a honest and serious buyer. Thanks for listening ;-) hope this discussion will reach more buyers ( and sellers) and hopefully will change something!!!!
    Funkface- Record and Musiclover

  • Jan 3,2015 at 12:35 am

    LOL “A VG+ record should sound the same as a near mint record.”
    Do you really ever buy and listen new vinyl records? Then please tell me how a new vinyl record sounds. There is no quality control when a new record leaves the factory so it may have surface noise from the very beginning. Just imagine a fresh pressed record is often stored in a stack of 100-200 pieces. Also some noise may come from the stamper.
    Vinyl records have no polished plate coins (Coin collectors).

  • Jan 3,2015 at 12:14 am

    Beside the grading we have the item description. There are many different ways to read such descriptions. Just imagine “”small tear” (vinyl center label) or how to describe certain pressing faults?
    A thesaurus or dictionary with images could be attached to the grading info-section so you can accurately describe the condition and sellers and buyers will see what it is about.

  • Dec 2,2014 at 12:57 pm

    Excellent resource. I don’t tend to trust a “visual” grade, other then mint of course. How can one tell if a record has been played once?

  • Dec 1,2014 at 12:05 pm

    Really usefull, I think I am over grading my records. What do you do with very old items, I have some very late 50`s early 60`s recordings that did not meet the mint or nearly mint conditions when they left the factory let alone now? Many Thanks Peter

  • Nov 14,2014 at 11:49 pm

    I wish we could plaster this on the front page. Give thanks.

  • Oct 28,2014 at 4:09 pm

    Can you do a similar post for sleeves?

  • Sep 10,2014 at 3:35 pm

    For me, my buyer experience and for what i am selling here, a VG+ record is definitively not as good as a NM record. VG+ will always have some backgrounds clicks in some places but not all the time. VG for me is the last audible condition a lp have before skipping. That is how i rate my albums here and it will not change.

  • Jul 22,2013 at 10:15 pm

    i definitely have played many brand new records with scuffs that were there before you open the record that would rate less than VG+ by this definition. also, depending on how many records someone is selling, etc. they wouldn’t have time to play grade and visual grading seems to be more forgiving than this, at least on the top end of the scale.

  • Jun 23,2013 at 5:34 pm

    Thanks for this. I’ve been complaining to some sellers about their NM and VG+ coming in with noticeable crackle and other audible signs of wear. It seems to me that a lot of vinyl sellers choose to ignore the audio grading scale and just list most things at VG+ or NM when they are in fact VG or sometimes even a G+. I can take the odd click and pop etc (they are RECORDS after all) but I was beginning to think I was the only one who interpreted the grading system in this way. I will certainly send anyone who disagrees to this article, the soundclips are very useful guidelines about what play-grading ACTUALLY means.

  • Apr 17,2013 at 1:54 pm

    I love that last “fair/poor” snippet.

  • Feb 17,2013 at 11:48 am

    not sure why, but the song clips all start playing at once automatically when the page loads. very irritating, especially when i am checking for another blog post and this starts blasting out my speakers. don’t know if auto-play can be disabled from your end or not but if it could i would appreciate it.

  • Feb 15,2013 at 12:41 pm

    spin33.3: Bad pressings are bad pressings. Even if it looks minty. Some records leave the factory in VG condition, unfortunately.

    G.Monk_Collection: Yes. I agree with you completely in practice. I am nowhere near as strict as the wording of the goldmine standard, which dictates that anything listed as VG+ should sound NM, but have minor cosmetic defects. When grading records myself, my VG+ has some wiggle room. This is also why I made the follow up post about communication.

  • Feb 13,2013 at 3:43 am

    I don’t agree with that a VG+ should have no surface noise or light crackling. Everyone that has been being records knows that a lot of VG+ records won’t sound the same as NM records. There’s a difference if the record is close to NM or close to VG.

    And another thing: there’s a difference between equipment and needles you use when playing records. In the past I used cheap needles. When I bought ortofon concordes I already heard a difference between the sound before and after.

    I also checked the sound of the sound of the record in “Good” condition. If I would hear that in the whole record I would rather grade it with fair or poor.

    For example. I graded this record with Fair: http://www.stimmenfieber.nl/D-Mob.mp3

  • Feb 12,2013 at 6:48 am

    With your interpretation of the play-grade scale does this mean that a brand new record that presents inherent surface noise upon the very first playing cannot have a play-grade of even VG+? And if so, how would you balance that with the visual grade in order to arrive at an overall grade. In my experience, brand new records with at least some inherent noise are as much the rule as the exception these days.

  • Feb 8,2013 at 9:12 am

    jayamero: Yes, sorry. I was editing the code. You must have clicked on the page during the brief period of time when I had it misconfigured.

    consort : I’ll try and look for a truely NM disc to replace that sample with. It’s really hard finding something that plays with absolutely zero surface noise in a jam.

  • Feb 8,2013 at 1:42 am

    Near mint post!!!

  • Feb 7,2013 at 2:07 pm

    Also when you first enter this page, all of the links automatically play at the very same time. If you have the volume cranked you are in for quite a scare

  • Feb 7,2013 at 2:06 pm

    Is the Fair/Poor record Johnny Cash? Which song? I like that little piece

  • Feb 5,2013 at 8:51 am

    Very suitable, imo the sounds matches exactly with the gradings, thanks++++++++++++++++

  • Feb 4,2013 at 8:10 am

    Great generally, but the near mint / vg+ sample is too noisy.

  • Feb 3,2013 at 2:32 pm

    VG+ means literally NO surface noise whatsoever at any point during play? In theory, maybe, but in practice, this has not at all been my experience. Once a record is down to VG, I expect a fairly noticeable (but not overwhelming) level of noise.

    Not criticizing the post, just wondering if I’m alone in this?

  • Feb 3,2013 at 4:45 am

    Dreadmeat: My apologies, I am working to fix the issue. I put in direct links to the audio for now until I can find a better solution.

  • Feb 2,2013 at 12:38 pm

    Scrambling to find a Quicktime add-on now… which apparently doesn’t exist.
    You’re an Apple user and I’m a Linux user, insert sarcastic comment here [***]

    http://support.mozilla.org/en-US/kb/quicktime-plugin-play-audio-and-video

  • Feb 2,2013 at 10:46 am

    @loukash Works great on my end. Safari 6.0.2 (OSX 10.8.2). I had that issue when I first posted. It worked after I refreshed the page a few times for some reason.

  • Feb 2,2013 at 8:44 am

    ^^ P.S. the “embed” tag is obviously broken

  • Feb 2,2013 at 8:42 am

    Technical note: the NM/VG+ file does not appear in Safari 5.1.7 (OS X 10.6.8). All I see is a QuickTime logo with a question mark. I can see the link http://s.pixogs.com/image/u258-nmvgplus.mp3 in the page source though, so there’s possibly something wrong with the audio tag?

  • Feb 2,2013 at 7:47 am

    excellent, thanks! all sellers & buyers should read/hear this.

  • Feb 1,2013 at 12:27 pm

    As a new member today, and uploading my collection (having a great time doing it too!!) your information for grading is just what I needed for your discogs grading standard. Thanks much!

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