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In a world dominated by digital music, vinyl record sales are rising and have re-emerged as a cherished format for music enthusiasts and audiophiles.
What is the process of making a vinyl record?
Vinyl production is a fascinating blend of art and science that allows musicians to bring their creations to life in a classic physical format.
Choosing the size and weight
The journey of making a vinyl record begins with understanding the varying size and weight of the disc. The most common sizes are 12” LPs (long-playing) and 7” singles. LPs provide ample space for full albums, while singles typically feature one song per side.
Additionally, the weight of the vinyl can vary, with 140 grams and 180 grams being the standard options. Heavier records can offer better sound quality and increased durability.
Making the master disc
The first step in the vinyl record production process is creating the master disc. A master disc, also known as a lacquer, serves as the template for reproducing the audio on vinyl. The lacquer is made of aluminum coated with a layer of lacquer material, which is soft and can be easily engraved.
Inspecting the master disc
Before the music can be cut into the master, the master disc must be inspected for flaws. Any flaw in the finish, large or small, will make the master unusable. Once the master passes inspection, a hole is punched into the center, and it’s now ready for cutting.
Cutting the disc
To cut the disc, a cutting engineer uses a piece of equipment called a lathe, which is equipped with a cutting stylus. The audio signal is fed into the lathe, and the cutting stylus cuts the grooves of the audio, creating a continuous spiral groove on the lacquer. This process, which is controlled by a computer, converts the music’s waveform into physical movements, capturing the nuances of the sound.
Creating a stamper
Once the lacquer is cut, it undergoes a series of metallization processes to create a metal stamper. The stamper is a negative impression of the original lacquer and acts as a mold for pressing vinyl records. The stamper is made of durable material — nickel or silver — and is capable of withstanding the pressure and heat involved in the pressing process.
Pressing the vinyl
The pressing stage is where the magic happens. Polyvinyl Chloride pellets are melted and formed into a puck-like shape, also known as a biscuit. Before the biscuit can be pressed, the labels are applied to the top and bottom of the biscuit. Then the biscuit is placed between the two stampers and the pressing machine exerts high pressure to force the softened vinyl into the grooves of the stamper. Simultaneously, heat is applied to facilitate the bonding of the vinyl molecules. Once the vinyl has cooled and solidified, the stampers are removed, leaving behind a playable vinyl record.
Quality control and inspection
To ensure that each vinyl record meets the desired standards, visual examination and audio testing are conducted to identify any imperfections from the vibrations such as surface noise, warping, or skips. Records that pass the quality control checks move on to the final stages of production.
Mastering for vinyl
Vinyl mastering is a specialized process that optimizes an audio master for the unique characteristics of vinyl playback. A mastering engineer carefully adjusts the levels, dynamics, and frequencies of the audio recording to ensure optimal sound quality on vinyl.
Preparing audio files
Once the mastering process is complete, the audio files are prepared for vinyl pressing. High-resolution audio files, such as WAV or AIFF, are commonly used. These files undergo specific formatting and adjustments to account for the physical limitations of vinyl records. The audio is then cut onto the lacquer during the cutting process discussed earlier.
Disc Makers is your modern-day solution for vinyl
There are plenty of reasons to choose the vinyl record format, and though the turn times are longer than CDs, there’s an active demand for the vinyl format driven by a bunch of factors, including:
- Growing a vinyl collection. Gen-Zers are joining the ranks of older music lovers in embracing the collectible aspect of vinyl LPs.
- A one-of-a-kind listening experience. Listening to music in a physical format requires a focus not often experienced with streaming. And vinyl records just sound different than other audio formats.
- Big physical packaging. Who doesn’t love flipping through the cover art and included material while listening to their records?
If you are looking to make your own vinyl record, Disc Makers offers a complete solution for independent musicians with a range of services that simplify the process of manufacturing and packaging vinyl records.
So, give your fans what they want! Have CDs and vinyl records to sell at live shows and online.