Picture Discs

This will be just a "getting the frustration out" ramble, but i bought my first picture disc at Record Store Day Saturday.  One on my favorite childhood albums, Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, "Pictures At An Exhibition".

The surface noise on this "thing" basically makes it unlistenable. Though it's a live album, it's relatively quiet in many places and just dreadful to listen to. It sounded like there was a big sticker covering the grooves.

Is this normal for picture discs? I've seen a lot of them on the shelves over the years, but never tempted to buy one until this weekend. I didn't clean it before play but i can't imagine that would make any difference.

Oh well....guess I now own a novelty item.


I have many colored discs that sound perfectly fine. The picture disc I bought should come with a disclaimer, "not to be played, only viewed". 

First you ask:


Is this normal for picture discs?

Then you state:

I have many colored discs that sound perfectly fine.

So you already have your answer.

IME, picture discs and colored discs are novelties. The few I've tried sounded awful.

Colored vinyl is not just a 'novelty' like picture discs are. Vinyl is clear to begin with, so black vinyl is colored vinyl, too, and colored vinyl does not sound inferior to clear just because it's colored. I don't like non-black colored vinyl, but that's another issue. Picture discs are a completely different process; some sound OK, some do not; apparently the ones today are a lot better than the ones from the 70's. Especially for RSD releases, I don't think they're intended to be somebody's only copy of a title that they own unless they just want to display it. 

Cleeds knows there's a huge difference in picture discs and colored vinyl.  Thanks, Larsman, for pointing this out. There just can't be a thread on here without some knowitallphile chiming in with "you've answered your own question".


Colored discs and picture discs are different in sound quality. Color disks are no compromise to non-color releases while picture discs will bring you rumble and surface noise.

Yeah, picture discs can be ok… but not much better. I’ve got multiple colored vinyl. Black chips are becoming harder to get. I like the fun factor and sound quality isn’t an issue if the pressing itself is worth anything.

Yeah…Picture discs do suck. I’m an ELP freak as well and I have the MFSL LP mint. I always steer clear of RSD stuff and wait until remaining stock is available the day/week after.

I once bought a Selena greatest hits dbl. disc picture set for my Wife. She’s hearing impaired and noticed something sounded “off”. Honestly, I’ve heard this music several times digitally both compressed (mp3) and on CD.

The LP was no better than it’s compressed counterparts !

But she appreciated the thought. Once in a while she’ll ask me to give it a spin for fun.

Colored discs in the other hand to my ears have no detrimental audible effects. Personally I’ll take a clear, black, or any solid colored pressings. The new DSOTM was pressed correctly in this regard. Honestly, to my ears and in my rig. It’s the cleanest, most open, and passes my Us and Them test when the track climax’s/crescendo’s during certain parts of the song. I actually prefer it now for two channel dedicated listening over my various CD’s and ripped LP versions.

Picture discs have always been known to be of poorer quality. I have only two of them out of over 2k albums and they are both noisy. It's just for the novelty of it and would be better displayed on your wall than played on your rig.

Another type of vinyl to stay away from, are transparent ones as they are much less resistant to wear. In the end, black vinyl still rules.

Most picture discs are made of plastic, not vinyl. Colored vinyl is just that-colored vinyl.

@baylinor - Black vinyl is just as colored as swirly paisley. Vinyl comes clear before it's colored. I don't know why you would want to stay away from those, often put out by Audiophile labels like Acoustic Sounds. 


Thanks for the clarification.

That would be correct, vinyl is originally clear, however carbon black is added to it to get the color black and that material adds structural strength to the vinyl. Hence black is best imo.

Vinyl record sales are booming and as production expands I suspect that we are going to see a quality decline especially for things like picture disks. I haven't ever bought a picture disk but it looks like one doesn't buy this stuff for the sound quality. This post made me realize that the only vinyl records I buy these days are audiophile pressings.