VinylFlat and GroovyPouch leaves me flat- and that’s a good thing.

VinylFlat and GroovyPouch leaves me flat- and that’s a good thing.

With a couple of hard-to-find records and various hard to come by new releases that have warps and waves that remind me of Pringles, and a few of the new presses that were dished like bowls, I had to make a decision. My options were to return the new pressings (mostly of which I did if easily replaced) and chase down another copy (hopefully without issues), but for the harder to find records, limited edition pressing, and those pressings currently commanding very big premiums, could there be another option?

At $139, the VinylFlat isn’t particularly cheap- and if you add the GroovyPouch heating sleeve you’re at $220. Not chump change.

Luckily, I know this guy in a red suit that likes to drop by my neighborhood in late December, and I’ve been a very good boy. Maybe.

The first record chosen was a nicely priced European pressing, a test record that I wasn’t fretting about if things went poorly. Note that if you overheat the record you can screw up the grooves by introducing patches of unplayable areas. There are examples of this- but in defense of the VinylFlat, it seems to occur mostly by being impatient and trying to rush the process, or utilizing an oven as your heat source vs the GroovyPouch and overheating the record. The oven requires a metaphorical hands-on approach and demands your attention, where the GroovyPouch is a set-and-almost-forget affair. I will strongly suggest you add the GroovyPouch to your purchase.

Well, this test record I used was an extremely dished Etta James At Last! pressing, WaxTime or DOL or one of those lower priced represses. The dishing left the record severely bowled with the edges close to a half inch off the platter at the outer edge, when flat on the spindle in the center. It was almost comical to me that a record in this condition would get through any semblance of quality control and out to a consumer. It was so severe I considered using it for my morning cornflakes.

Anyhow, with little to lose but a $16 pressing, I set to work on the task at hand. Following the very simple instructions- basically preheating the GroovyPouch and assembling the VinylFlat- two very heavy steel plates, a few felt rings, and a bolt and wing nut to sandwich the record, I followed the rules of starting low (heat) and slow (short time)- about a two hour session and a 30-45 minute cool-down.

Initial results showed progress, but there was still significant dishing. Again, following instructions, I added a half hour to the heating cycle.

Round two showed further progress but still a dishing that I was uncomfortable with. Off to round three.

Round three I added another half hour at the same temperature- three hours total now for the heat cycle, and after the cooling period, the record was more than acceptable. I could have left it as it was without much concern, but this was a test, after all, and I really wanted to see if I could get this record ruler flat. I felt comfortable at the three hour heat cycle, and decided a fourth round was warranted for the sake of this experiment.

So in goes the record again, and after another 3 hour heat session plus the 30-45 minute cool off period, the record came out…

Flat. So flat as to catch the attention of some conspiracy theory driven record hosts in tinfoil hats. This record was perfectly flat. Little house on the prairie flat. Stack of pancakes IHOP flat. Coca Cola with the cap off overnight flat. I was impressed.

But the big test- did the record play, and sound right after these heat cycles? Was any residual damage introduced during this process?

The dished record wasn’t particularly playable across most of its surface with the severe dish it had in it- azimuth, tracking- everything would be thrown off . Playing closer to the center at it’s flattest section before the heating cycles, the record had audible distortion and an overpowering, bass-rich thickness to the sound. The tracking error and forced azimuth angle played at least some role in this, but I wasn’t sure if the recording itself was also to fault, as these pressings are public domain reissues from Europe and the sources aren’t specified (and are frequently rumored to be borrowed from CD and re-tweaked for vinyl). I wasn’t really sure what was the cause, or causes of the lackluster sound, and thought it could be a combination of a mediocre pressing and all these variables introduced with the dishing of this record.

Post-flattening, the sound was very clean, clear, evenhanded and enjoyable. Even if sourced from CD- a very likely scenario- the transfer by these labels are, if not top shelf, decent and respectable, and the VinylFlat let me finally hear it. Highs were restored, mids dounded correct, the boomy overpowering lower registers were replaced with an accurate sound. The flattening did the trick. This laughable condition unplayable bowl of black vinyl was saved, and sounded great. I was convinced.

There’s over-a-thousand and multi-thousand dollar record flatteners available from companies like Orb and Furutech and I bet they’re great, and possibly faster. But $220 and a little patience, and an adherence to following the supplied instructions, the VinylFlat and GroovyPouch combo is, for me, an essential and vital tool for any fan of the vinyl format and I’m pleased as punch with how this first “impossibly” dished record turned out. It’s inherent you follow directions to achieve these results and avoid or at least minimize burning and ruining the disk, and each record is going to present variables- from custom colored vinyl to different vinyl blends like Quiex, Dynagroove, etc. Play it on the safe side with time and heat and I feel comfortable your success rate will be high.

With a decent handful of older records picked up over a period approaching 5 decades sporting warps and some newer hard to get pressings that I kept with minor warps but annoying warps nonetheless, I’d easily have spent the $220, if not much more, replacing these records. Now I can address these records while doing other chores or projects, only investing a bit of time, as during the heat cycle process the setup is pretty much left alone to do it’s job. Other positives? I’ll be flattening lots of warped records for my friends, and any special records I come across in the thrifts, if warped, I have a very good chance I can save them.

I highly recommend the VinylFlat and the GroovyPouch and consider it a wise investment for the avid vinyl fan.

Below- a picture of the VinylFlat unit.AC41C22B-7999-44ED-9726-AE37201B42ED.jpeg
 
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Thermionics

Post Whore In Training
Site Supporter
Gee, you aren't anywhere near Seattle, are you? I have a few 'Pringles' LPs I'd love to salvage... ;)
 

Thermionics

Post Whore In Training
Site Supporter
Other side of the country. What records do you have that are no bueno?
Public Enemy - Fear of a Black Planet, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - Polygondwanaland (Fuzz Club pressing), and a few others I can't recall at this moment.

I do have a birthday coming up in April, maybe I can convince my wife to hook me up with the VinylFlat+GroovyPouch combo. :)
 
Public Enemy - Fear of a Black Planet, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard - Polygondwanaland (Fuzz Club pressing), and a few others I can't recall at this moment.

I do have a birthday coming up in April, maybe I can convince my wife to hook me up with the VinylFlat+GroovyPouch combo. :)
I’m going to strongly suggest you do, but if it doesn’t work out, we can talk.

But really- it’s invaluable to me as are my RCMs. I really think, if you’re in it for the long run regarding vinyl, it’s an indispensable tool to have.
 

Thermionics

Post Whore In Training
Site Supporter
I’m going to strongly suggest you do, but if it doesn’t work out, we can talk.

But really- it’s invaluable to me as are my RCMs. I really think, if you’re in it for the long run regarding vinyl, it’s an indispensable tool to have.
Well, I already have a Okki Nokki for cleaning, so this seems like a logical next step. :)

Thanks for the review @Deli!
 

Fran604g

Just Call Me Junior
Site Supporter
Very cool Deli, thanks for the review! Maybe it's time for me to retire the warmed, tempered glass method I've used for both my shellac and vinyl. This product and process sounds like the results can be eminently predictable, as opposed to "not-so-much" with the former.
 

Wntrmute2

Not So Mediocre Member
Site Supporter
I have the original VF with the hard inserts. Works well on most records. I've cooked records for 48 hours with positive results. I found that cooling for as long as the heating time was beneficial as I believe the stress relief aspect is important but I may be imagining that.
I also found that clamping the circumference with a row of binder clips helped some really warped stuff that didn't want to relax turn out flat.
My most difficult was a West album of Lucinda Williams. Tried 5 copies before I gave up and ran it through the VF. After an entire weekend cooking and 48 hours cooling - ruler flat👍.
 
…I've cooked records for 48 hours with positive results…
Wow! 48 hours!

I dunno if there’s something different to it with the newer version but 3 or 4 passes at 2 1/2 to 3 hours each (with 30-45 minute cooling period) worked well as per the instructions. You obviously like to live dangerously!😂

You can order the soft inserts for not much money through them now. Maybe your older unit can be retrofitted with them? They protect the record from scratches and I assume the grooves from damage.
 

Fran604g

Just Call Me Junior
Site Supporter
Wow! 48 hours!

I dunno if there’s something different to it with the newer version but 3 or 4 passes at 2 1/2 to 3 hours each (with 30-45 minute cooling period) worked well as per the instructions. You obviously like to live dangerously!😂

You can order the soft inserts for not much money through them now. Maybe your older unit can be retrofitted with them? They protect the record from scratches and I assume the grooves from damage.
Deli, do you have any sense if it would be safe to use for "shellac" records? I looked on their website but didn't see anything specific.
 

JoeThePop

Known member
VinylFlat and GroovyPouch. At first reading of the thread title I thought these may be band names.
What do you expect from a non-vinyl music listener?
 
Deli, do you have any sense if it would be safe to use for "shellac" records? I looked on their website but didn't see anything specific.
Shellac seems a fragile substrate compared to vinyl- which in reality is a pretty malleable substance. I’d contact them and see what they think. If they don’t have a firm stance on it, maybe you could send me a test mule- something not particularly valuable- and we can see what happens. But my gut is telling me success is going to be questionable if it’s not vinyl.
 

Fran604g

Just Call Me Junior
Site Supporter
Shellac seems a fragile substrate compared to vinyl- which in reality is a pretty malleable substance. I’d contact them and see what they think. If they don’t have a firm stance on it, maybe you could send me a test mule- something not particularly valuable- and we can see what happens. But my gut is telling me success is going to be questionable if it’s not vinyl.
Contact them, I shall. Mostly I'm concerned about the possibility of chemical interaction between the composite "shellac" and whatever material their "soft synthetic fabric rings" might be made of. Do you think they might be silicone?
 
Contact them, I shall. Mostly I'm concerned about the possibility of chemical interaction between the composite "shellac" and whatever material their "soft synthetic fabric rings" might be made of. Do you think they might be silicone?
The newest version rings are a coarse felt-like material. Yeah, possibility of things getting sticky.

I had a collection of classical and cowboy 78s way back. The classical was easy enough to find on vinyl, the cowboy songs not so much, but it was just too much for me to try and manage at the time so off they went to my collector friend. Probably not long after the huge 8-track purge.
 

Fran604g

Just Call Me Junior
Site Supporter
The newest version rings are a coarse felt-like material. Yeah, possibility of things getting sticky.

I had a collection of classical and cowboy 78s way back. The classical was easy enough to find on vinyl, the cowboy songs not so much, but it was just too much for me to try and manage at the time so off they went to my collector friend. Probably not long after the huge 8-track purge.
Thanks! That pretty much answers my concern. Yeah, I'd bet that would glue itself to shellac like, well, shellac.😲
 

JP

Junior Member
I've been trying to resist buying one of these. You're not helping. Neither is the quality of what's being produced recently.
 
I've been trying to resist buying one of these. You're not helping. Neither is the quality of what's being produced recently.
I resisted for a long, long time.

But now owning it, I have no regrets. Simple to use, a fraction the cost of the units made by Orb and Furutech, easy to store out of the way when not in use.

Now, it may not save all records, but by being patient and following directions my results are stellar.

I assume there’s a chance some records may get lunched but if the majority of them turn out well, then it’s a go for me.
 
I have these dished 120 y/o Zon-O-Phone records...I think I'll just stay with the warm plate glass solution.
For anything not vinyl, that may be the better choice. That, or a combo of stacking/time/weight. I’ve read that takes a month to many months though.
 
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