How Vinyl Records Are Made: A Primer from 1956

The arrival of the com­pact disc was thought to be the death sen­tence for LPs. Vinyl was big, impre­cise, and stuck in the past: CDs were the wave of the future. Recent years, how­ev­er, have seen a sur­pris­ing trend. Vinyl col­lec­tors have man­aged to weath­er the dig­i­tal music storm of the ‘80s and ‘90s, while com­pact discs, hav­ing seen bet­ter days, have dropped in pop­u­lar­i­ty. In fact, accord­ing to The Tele­graph, LP sales are bet­ter than they’ve been at any point over the past 12 years. Although it is the hob­by­ist col­lec­tor and the DJ who have buoyed vinyl sales for many years, the recent surge in LP pop­u­lar­i­ty is, in part, due to younger fans who pre­fer the expe­ri­ence of lis­ten­ing to vinyl records over dig­i­tal down­loads. Daft Punk, Arc­tic Mon­keys, The Nation­al, and Vam­pire Week­end are just some of the A‑list bands tak­ing advan­tage of the trend.

But how are LPs man­u­fac­tured today? Pret­ty much the exact way they’ve been pro­duced through­out the past 50 years, actu­al­ly. Many of the LP press­ing plants use restored press­es, bought sec­ond-hand for about $25,000. The video above, made in 1956 by RCA Vic­tor, gives a detailed descrip­tion of the process. After the sound record­ing, the audio is trans­ferred to a lac­quer mas­ter disc.

The play­ing time of the music dic­tates the num­ber of grooves on the disc, and the sound dynam­ics deter­mine the dis­tance between them. As the video explains, the loud pas­sages need more room, while qui­et ones need less. A fine­ly ground and elec­tri­cal­ly heat­ed piece of sap­phire cuts the vinyl with pre­ci­sion. Once it is com­plete, the mas­ter disc is coat­ed in var­i­ous met­als, which, when sep­a­rat­ed, cre­ate a new, sil­ver-faced mas­ter copy. This metal­lic mas­ter can’t be played, and is used to cre­ate a mold, which must be checked for sound qual­i­ty. Final­ly, the mold is used to make a stam­per, which stamps the appro­pri­ate grooves on the records. The record press heats the plas­tic, turn­ing it into a warm, mold­able goo, press­es it, and cools its once the grooves have been stamped. If you got lost some­where along the way, don’t wor­ry. Visu­als help, and the video above should give you an idea of how things hap­pen.

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via Boing Boing

Ilia Blin­d­er­man is a Mon­tre­al-based cul­ture and sci­ence writer. Fol­low him at @iliablinderman.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

A Cel­e­bra­tion of Retro Media: Vinyl, Cas­settes, VHS, and Polaroid Too

Neil Young on the Trav­es­ty of MP3s

World Records: New Pho­to Exhib­it Pays Trib­ute to the Era of Vinyl Records & Turnta­bles

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