RTI Absolved: Shipping Snafu Caused These Abrasions

What caused the abrasions seen in the picture of the one of four abraded LPs in the Record Store Day Roy Orbison box set? Analogplanet asked the question and wondered whether it was industrial sabotage, sloppy handing or a shipping snafu. We now think we have an answer.

An astute reader suspected abrasion during shipping and he provided a scenario by which we could test the hypothesis: put some clean 180g LPs in the same packaging, then "shake and bake" as would happen during shipping. So that's what we did, using some "spare" 180s, the musical content of which will remain secret! Careful pre-examination revealed no abrasions.

After about five minutes of jostling the records were removed and examined and while the abrasions were not as grotesque as on the Orbison LPs, the formerly clean 180s all showed signs of abrasions running perpendicular to the grooves. The obvious conclusion is that rough shipping, not sloppy handling at RTI caused the abrasions.

Shipping is a serious problem as everyone reading this knows. 180g records are relatively heavy and when jostled they can damage even the highest quality jacket spines. Now there's evidence that multiple LPs packed tightly laterally in a heavy slipcase but with room to move "in and out" can produce serious vinyl abrasion. Would a different inner sleeve material make a difference? RTI has gone from rice paper to those pink plastic (?) inner sleeves that bind relatively tightly to the record but it's not certain that rice paper would make a difference in this kind of multi-LP box packing.

The bottom line is, this kind of box set requires packing that does not allow the records to slide to and fro within the box or abrading is possible. It's not guaranteed, because many readers have emailed to say theirs were fine.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

Was the state of the boxset brought to the attention of RTI. The only way a company can improve their product is to be informed of any problems that occur!

Personally, I have read about the horror stories with Classic, RTI and others and maybe I am just lucky, but I haven't had to return many LPs over the years, maybe half a dozen in the last five years.

James, Dublin, Ireland

Michael Fremer's picture

The box was not of RTI's design. It's important to remember that RTI pressed for Classic during the record company's early years but later began pressing elsewhere with less success and finally attempted to press its own records with even less success. I believe most of the complaints about Classic are from records pressed at places other than RTI. RTI currently presses Mobile Fidelity, ORG and ORG Music among others and quality is generally very high, though perfection in record pressing is impossible.

Bix's picture

I just got both of the ORG Music CTI reissues that came out in the last few months of 2013 and they both had "Pressed at Pallas" on the hype sticker as a selling point.

(Didn't listen to "Concierto" yet but "Red Clay" sounds incredible.  Wonder why they're following it up with a 45RPM cut so quickly?)

Michael Fremer's picture

ORG Music may very well be using Pallas. I suspect ORG will remain with RTI.

Bix's picture

Though on Amazon, one title is listed as ORG Music and the other as Original Recordings Group even though they're definitely both ORG Music.

One of these days you need to explain the whole story because even the logos are incredibly similar. :)

Michael Fremer's picture


Bix's picture

You didn't explain why they have such similar names AND logos to the point Amazon mixes them up. :)

thirtycenturyman's picture

I recently purchased a copy of Jeff Buckley's Grace, pressed at RTI. It was new, purchased from a local record shop, and looked like someone put it through the spin cycle. The sleeve was perfect so it was fairly obvious that damage came from being shifted and spun around within the inner sleeve. None of the scratches were deep and they are akin to a used record that has been pulled out of it's paper sleeve many times over the course of it's life. Anyway, it plays perfect, with no surface noise, but it's worth mentioning.

Regarding the pink sleeves... I can't say that I'm a fan. I have received a couple that seemed like they had some sort of residue and they just seem more abrasive to the touch vs. the rice paper mofi type sleeves. That said, I also should mention that I received a new mobile fidelity record last year that had some sort of white powdery type substance on the rice paper sleeve. I could run my finger across the sleeve and actually see it. I've ruled out the possibility of anthrax as I'm still alive. Maybe RTI is a front for a coke smuggling operation...

One last thing. I purchased all of the Paul Simon record store day remasters (they sound amazing, by the way). My copy of There Goes Rhymin Simon had a swirly abrasion, maybe 3/8" in diameter. Looks like a rogue piece of scrap vinyl made its way into the packaging. The blemish looks much worse than it sounds (some light ticking for a couple revolutions), but I'm not sure if there is any recourse for this one. I also bought a second copy of this same album for my dad.  That copy has no surface abrasions, but the label is not fully adhered on one side and is bubbled up a bit.  Also, at the very edge there is what looks like an area where the vinyl did not heat up enough or something. It is dull in sheen and covers about 1/4 of the raised outer ring.  Does not affect play. No big deal, but a little sloppy. The store where I purchased these from is out of town and I don't have the receipt anyway. Legacy didn't return my email. I think RTI pressed, but I'm not sure. They all had the pink inner sleeves.

Jim Tavegia's picture

It would appear that the particular inner sleeve paper used was the culprit.  I would doubt that poly sleeves or rice paper would have caused that.   What do you think?  

Michael Fremer's picture

Actually RTI's inner sleeve is a red tinted poly material not paper. I wasn't about to do the test again.... just wanted to repeat the circumstance as it happened. 

thirtycenturyman's picture

All of the records I mentioned came in the light pink (reddish) tinted poly inner sleeves.  I actually just compared the Buckley to the Simon inner sleeve and they are exactly the same.

Michael Fremer's picture

Those are what RTI uses as the "standard" inner sleeve. Mobile Fidelity, ORG and some other clients supply rice paper or other inner-sleeves.

gMRfk6LMHn's picture

My copy of Jeff Buckley's 'Grace' was visually bad as well but played perfectly!

James, Dublin, Ireland

jonny's picture

...even if in this particular case it was the packaging that caused the defect during shipping.

I have purchased so many titles pressed by RTI in the last year that talking about bad luck doesn't work any more - at all.

Each of the big pressing plants seems to come with their own set of problems. Based on my limited experience I can say that Pallas for instance has issues with warps and non-fill, QRP has issues with dish warps, only from Optimal I haven't gotten a single defective record as of yet (but I don't have that many). Issues are probably unavoidable in the vinyl world, but RTI's defect rate is beyond all such explanations.

It's such a shame with RTI that all this great work gets messed up at the very end of the production workflow, due to careless handling.

Besides the problem with the scratches, RTI manufactures great records. So I am really really hoping that RTI still takes action and betters the situation. It would be great not to feel like rolling the dice again whenever I open a record pressed by RTI.

(Just before writing these few lines I opened Blakey's Hard Bop issued by Impex and pressed by RTI and again got disappointed. What a bummer, what a waste of resources, including my time!)

Paul Boudreau's picture

Recently I've been selling off a few duplicate sealed or unplayed box sets.  The first two were unsealed/unplayed so I put some bubba wrap inside the LP boxes to ensure that the records wouldn't shift during shipping.  The next one (8LP Hendrix purple box) is sealed and the contents of the box can be felt to be shifting around quite a bit.  I've offered to the buyer to cut the shrink-wrap and stabilize the innards.  That would probably be the best approach for manufacturers, regardless of the type of inner sleeve used.

Update:  The buyer said no to cutting the shrink-wrap; so be it.  Since it has already been shipped at least twice (once from the manufacturer to the retailer & once again to me), who knows?

mikemoon's picture

I've rececieved numerous lps from RTI that have these abrasions and I've noticed it even more with the newer pink sleeves that are more clear versus the older one's that were a bit more opaque. They seemed to make this switch maybe 2 years ago? I noticed it first on RSD copy of Johnny Cash The Fabulous Johnny Cash. Honestly, when I opened it, it looked like a used lp I would put back and grade VG. Luckily, these marks were not audible but who wants scratched up brand new vinyl at premium prices. I typically look for these marks from any RTI vinyl in these newer pink sleeves. People made a fuss about the older opaque pink one's that came with the early Music Matters lps and even though I replaced those out of caution, I never had an issue I can think of. The new one's are just a bad choice and these scratches are caused by these sleeves and yes it likely happens during shipping as well but he sleeve is the beginning of the problem.

In saying all this, RTI is still a great pressing plant and one of my preferred but they have fallen behind the likes of Pallas, Optimal, Record Industry, Gotta Groove and QRP. Things are worse with places like Rainbo and United who have about a 15-20% defect rate.

Hopefully, RTI corrects this problem. I've thought this for a while but have rarely been vocal about it.

martinjohnbutler's picture

Funny you should be writing about this. I noticed only last week that my Robert Plant/Alison Krauss LP, "Raising Sand" had the same abrasions you're refering to. I started to look for them as I played other records, and noticed this on a few other albums, so it's not only RTI whose packaging is at fault. 

I thought it was a manufacturing defect, but that didn't seem likely. There must be some solution to this shipping dilemma. At least I now know what's causing the abrasions, thanks.

thirtycenturyman's picture

another one that had issues. A few months back, I picked up a new copy of the New Pornographers Electric Version. I know it was pressed by RTI because it said so on the wrapper. Anyway, it had a big swirly gash, about 3/8" in diameter. Most likely from a stray piece of vinyl making its way into the inner sleeve before shipping. This is the same issue I've had on a few new records, from RTI and Pallas as well. One of the records in a Zeppelin Celebration Day set had the infamous swirly mark. I know I'm beating a dead horse at this point, but it sucks to spend $30 or $40 on something, just to have it be defective. I would gladly pay an extra dollar to eliminate the shipping issue.