Although it is one of the most durable physical music formats to exist, vinyl records are subject to the risk of surface noise, scratches and warping if not cared for properly. Dust and smudges can affect their playback sound quality quite easily and quickly. While thoroughly and regularly cleaning your records can help prevent that, improper storage is also an important aspect of maintaining your collection.
It is not just about protecting the record itself. It is also about preserving the colourful artwork, as well as protecting the informative sleeve notes from excessive wear and tear. Without any effective storage solutions, these can easily get creased, bent, scuffed or water damaged.
This is why it is important to invest in quality sleeves and covers for your vinyl records. Most people consider it more convenient to skip on these as it is a hassle to slip the records in and out during each use. However, this just damages them more quickly.
While inner sleeves are necessary as they come in direct contact with the records, many underestimate how essential outer sleeves are as well. Neo-Online explains below how cardboard sleeves, in particular, can help keep your record collection in mint condition.
Why You Need Outer Sleeves
While inner sleeves prevent dust from collecting on records and causing permanent damage, outer sleeves protect inner sleeves as well as the album art from getting worn out. Cheap outer sleeves can also let the covers get yellow or ripped over time. In some cases, thick plastic sleeves can stick to the covers in certain temperatures and actually pull the artwork right off. Hence, be sure to buy softer and bigger sleeves instead.
Advantages of Vinyl Record Jackets
Cardboard jackets are one of the most popular options for the outer protection of your records. They protect the artwork on the cover, preserving its sharp print quality, plus they prevent airborne dust from settling on the record. The material is quite sturdy and long-lasting, and the thick spine adds to the jacket’s durability (you can also write on the spine for labelling if you wish). You can even opt for customising a cardboard jacket, both on its front and back sides. Plus, records can snugly fit into these sleeves, and the records can be slid in and out smoothly and easily.
Cardboard jackets are not only an effective storage solution for your records, but they also provide an opportunity to aesthetically display them. Rows of colourful album covers propped up in display cases or hung up on walls can make them a statement piece in any room.
Types of Vinyl Record Jackets
Vinyl record jackets come in different shapes and sizes, accommodating 7, 10 and 12-inch discs. They can be made of a range of materials, including paperboard, game board, clear poly, chipboard etc. — but cardboard is the most widely used option. There are many types of cardboard record jackets, some of which are listed below:
- Single Jacket: One-pocket style; printed on the front and/or back
- 2-Disc Jacket: A single jacket that can hold two discs in one pocket
- Trifold Jacket: Can hold 1-3 discs; can either have open or closed end styles; can be folded down to the size of any standard single jacket
- Open Through Jacket (OTJ): Has one (or more) pocket open on the left and right sides
- Gatefold Jacket: Can be folded down to the size of any standard single record jacket; has printed panels on the inside; can have one or two pockets
- M-Pack Gatefold: gatefold-style jacket that can has several tipped-in sleeves; designed for multiple disc sets
In a Nutshell
While there are many options for outer sleeves in the market, cardboard jackets are the most commonly used. This is largely because their anti-static properties prevent dust and grit from settling in the grooves of records; they protect the inner sleeves from getting ripped; and they ensure that the cover art is not exposed to the risk of discoloration over time.
It is important to note that sleeves are not sufficient enough to maintain your record collection. Other factors can also play a major role in their longevity, including proper cleaning and storage.