Acetate Example
Acetates & Testpressings
Yeah, so what the hell is an acetate anyway? Isn't it that stuff that smells and tastes like paint thinner? Yes, I suppose that may be true, but when you mention the word 'acetate' in the record collecting community, you mean a different thing entirely. As the Vinyl Newsgroups FAQ describes it, an acetate is usually a reference cut that is made on ultra high-grade methyl cellulose sprayed onto thick aluminum discs. Reference acetates are primarily to make certain the record will sound somewhat like the tape. Often they are also made to allow a club or radio disc-jockey to play the music on turntables before it has been pressed as a normal record. It's interesting to point out that 'acetate' is a misnomer. The records should actually be called 'lacquers', but does it really matter?

Although acetates look and act like vinyl records, they weren't really meant to be played on a standard record player. For this reason, many of these rarities only have a life of a few plays before you start to notice deterioration in the sound quality. Acetates usually have hand-written labels, and most are one-sided. Since they were never really intended to leave the factory, many acetates are one-of-a-kind items. If you own one, consider yourself lucky and special. If you don't, expect to pay in the $50 range (at least) to acquire one.

The acetate's close cousin is the test-pressing, often referred to as a 'white-label promo'. While a true test pressing is a record that is sent back to the cutting engineer, producer, and sometimes the perfomer, to confirm that the pressings will sound as intended, most test-pressings are really just early pressings, frequently without artwork of any kind, and they are serviced to whoever as early promos. In many cases, this was done to rush the record out to radio stations to try and get immediate airplay before the complete label could be finished. These test issues are generally easier to find than acetates, but they certainly aren't common. Most of them sell for upwards of $15.

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