This is What "Non-Fill" Looks Like

"Non-fill" refers to a pressing defect that occurs when the molten vinyl does not flow fully to produce a well-formed groove. It occurs most often on a 180g record's outer edge and is caused by the vinyl's beginning to harden prematurely.

The sound produced is noise—a "shsssshing" sound that we've all heard too often. This was the problem that plagued Classic's early 200g Quiex SV-P "flat profile" pressings. Eventually the problem was solved.

You can see "non-fill" as a "pearl necklace" like effect if you hold in just the right light a record so afflicted.

It's difficult to photograph but I think you can catch glimpses of it in the above photograph. If not, think "string of pearls."

This shot is of Rush's new album Clockwork Angels sent to me by a reader who was disgusted by the sound quality and wanted my opinion.

When I inspected the records I was appalled by the low quality pressing. You could see the "non-fill" and there were the kind of small scratches that indicate poor handling out of the press. Someone just didn't care.

But as bad as the physical quality was, the sound was even worse—and this from a band once known for superb sounding records! The sound was flat, dynamically squashed and lacking in anything that might appeal to one's ears. What a disgrace!

While Brian Gardner (at Bernie Grundman Mastering) got mastering credit, I doubt the lacquers were cut there and I don't blame Brian for the sonics. I suspect the crimes were committed in the mix before he got to the files. Couple that with the mediocre pressing quality that has all of the "hallmarks" of United Record Pressing in Nashville, and you have one big mess.

The only saving grace is that the recording was so squashed, there were no open sonic spaces where you could hear the "shushing" sound of "non-fill."

If you're buying used records at a store and can inspect the vinyl, stay away from records exhibiting the "string of pearl" syndrome.

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COMMENTS
Smafdy Assmilk's picture

I wish there was an ongoing list of records URP presses so I would know to avoid them.

Chad Kasem suspects many of their noise issues are due to them overheating the vinyl while pressing. I'm glad many labels have started using other pressing facilities.

And I'm surprised someone like Michael Fremer even listens to URP cuts since they don't have the ability to do an all-analog laquer.

Michael Fremer's picture

 URP can process an all analog lacquer. If a mastering house cuts it from an analog source. However, I'm not a "purist" in that way. Not all of their pressings are terrible, just many of them, particularly the 180g ones. They really aren't good at that at all.<p>

I like Jack White's music and that's where he presses since he's in Nashville. Apparently his label has an office at URP. I follow the music, not the pressing plant!<p>

Jody's picture

I'm no genius, but I don't think a plating facility can tell the difference between an analog or digitally cut lacquer.

 

And btw, the Miles Davis Bitches Brew reissue was cut AAA, and pressed at United, and sounds great.

indieguy's picture

 

I was analog born-again two years ago. As my name would suggest, I buy a lot of new music on vinyl if it can be helped. Luckily for my ears and soul, (not my wallet), I live within walking distance of some of the best record stores in the Bay Area. (Not to mention an awesome high end dealer, VERY DANGEROUS.) 

I can't tell you how many times what I now know as "non-fill" has happened to me with new indie pressings. I'd say 1 in10. No joke. In fact, I just pulled out 5 known stinkers from my collection and sonufabitch! Every one of them has a string of pearls. I could never figure this out and it was maddening. Even after a cycle on the VPI, still this terrible noise. How was this possible, this record is NEW!? 

Most of the time I take it back, and stores like Amoeba are extremely cool about vinyl returns, no questions asked. But more often than not, with a steady pile of new records coming through the door, I might not get around to something until weeks or months later and the receipt is long gone or I've forgotten where I got it. 

Even though it doesn't solve the root problem, you've just solved a mystery that has plagued me ever since I started buying records and given me an easy way to check for possible uglies right away.

THANK YOU!

Michael Fremer's picture

I bet I know where most were pressed. They really don't care.

bkelley3rd's picture

A number of the Friday Music vinyl stamped at the Rainbo Record Plant in Conoga Park, Ca continues have issues with Non-Filled on its 180g LPs. You can hear the scratchy noise mostly on the outer tracks of the LPs. I've never found it to be a problem on both sides of a vinyl. The other side is clean and quiet.

Michael Fremer's picture

I vote Rainbo as the "most improved" of the commercial pressers. I buy and get promos of many LPs pressed at Rainbo and over the past two years or so, the records have gotten noticeably quieter. I will keep tabs on future Rainbo releases.

Smafdy Assmilk's picture

I've had problems with Rainbo presings in the past. The worst one being Close To The Edge from Friday Music.

But, recent pressings from them have been fantastic. They pressed the Hollies mono LPs for Sundazed and they rival $50 audiophile records for quiet surfaces. You could barely detect any surface noise.

mraudioguru's picture

Weird.  I have probably 60-70 Friday Music reissues and NONE of them have this problem or any problem.  They are quiet and sound wonderful.  I must be lucky, I guess.

Krondo_jd's picture

My copy sounds better if I flip the phase/polarity switches on my amp (Spectron MIII Mk2). Still not a great sounding recording though. My original copies of Power Windows and Moving Pictures are FAR superior.

Jeff

Purgerificus's picture

I've been mostly lucky with my new vinyl purchases. I listened to Neil Young's "Live at Massey Hall" last night and I wish every LP sounded like that, just perfect.

On the other hand, I can not seem to find a quiet copy of one of my favorites, M Ward's "End of Amnesia". I've bought three copies new, all have serious pressing issues/surface noise problems. I have no idea where it was pressed but it's a terrible shame. You'd think that if they went to the trouble to make it a double 45, they'd press it well.

indieguy's picture

And I have the same issues. It's one of the worst. It's become furniture. I always keep an eye out for it to try another copy, but maybe I shouldn't.

Purgerificus's picture

You pick up "Duet for Guitars #2" and "Transfiguration of Vincent" on the Jealous Butcher label. Those sound wonderful. TOV is hard to find and $$$, though.

Still trying to find a reasonly priced copy of "Transistor Radio".

thebambino's picture

Shame all of Ryan Adams Lost Highway work was pressed at URP (I suspect), some of those records sound terrible. Although I picked up a 2nd press of Cold Roses that is lights out:)

Michael Fremer's picture

That is correct!

madoco's picture

Hi, Love to hear about the tech side of pressing. I worked as a vinyl pressman for MCA records in Gloversville, New York  in the late 70's. We had Lened press's sometimes you would get what they called (Pressure) which was like a hiss that resulted from improper heating cooling cycle.  

Michael Fremer's picture

I visited that factory with Sundazed's Bob Irwin some years ago and it was clear that Bob had fine tuned that place into a very good pressing plant. The MCA "Heavy Vinyl" series for which I wrote the liner notes, were pressed there and those 180s sounded very good.<p>

I begged MCA not to close the plant. "In a few years," I told them, "though you won't believe me, you will regret closing it and you'll find yourself having to outsource all of your future vinyl releases and they will be many."<p>

I was right of course! Ironically many of the presses ended up at United in Nashville and they still haven't really figured out how to reliably press 180g LPs.<p>

I am going to look for the pictures and if I can find them I'll post them on this site.<p>

Jvalvano's picture

I love the new Rush album. Musically. In the latest stereophile they were to kind to the mastering. They should have called it like it is. It sucks.  I just don't understand how a musicians who will spend countless hours tweaking tone etc. will allow the final product to be squashed to hell. My vinyl copy was fine and plays clean and quiet. While not as brick walled as the CD it still leaves a lot to be desired. Very frustrating for a Rush fan. Great music with $#%# sonics.

eugeneharrington's picture

JoeM's picture

I've also had this issue with Close to the Edge and Tales from Topographic Oceans by Yes. Both Friday Music releases. I'm glad I know the problem now. I can see the pearl string effect on the outer ege of the vinyl. What a shame. At least I can retun the TFTO. I might be staying away fom this company until they step up their quality control -- or switch where they press their records. 

Avalon's picture

My copy of Friday´s Close to the edge is quite good!
By then again is my second copy, as the first one is got had a huge mark across side B.
Any way to get rid of non-fill once it´s there???
I guess not!!

BUT!!!

I wish! becoures my Classic Dylan live 66 suffers from it! I have the 150 gram version. Anybody had this issue with the 200 gram?? It´s on the accustic part of the concert:(

MusicNut612's picture

Add EKS to the non-fill problematic pressing plants. Almost every Fat Beats (Hip-Hop Label) LP I have suffers from this problem. One of the main reasons I stopped collecting hip-hop vinyl being all of it I want is done by Fat Beats. Wish more people cared about QC rather than the almighty dollar.

SimonSlacks's picture

I can say with 100% certainty that Clockwork Angels was NOT pressed at United and for what it's worth the domestic Universal version of Nick Drake's Pink Moon was.  Just sayin.

Brenda815's picture

It looks great! Very smooth and clean from the outside. A nice music material, I must say. - Brenda Lee Reed

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