When vinyl records first came out over a century ago, they were all the rage. Finally, there was a way to make recordings of music, speeches, and everything else you can think of. Then, time passed, and society moved onto other technologies like cassette tapes and then CDs, and now almost everything seems to be digital. This does not, however, mean that vinyl disappeared. And it’s a good thing too. Because now that access to music is no longer a concern (because of the internet), music-lovers have started to focus more on quality. How well does a particular medium sound when compared to the real thing?
While to the naked ear, a CD or digital audio-file may sound fine, to artists, and those with a deep love and understanding of music, only vinyl will do. Vinyl records have greater depth, clarity, and sound. So much so that they are really only comparable to a live performance.
All of this begs the question: How is it that an older technology like vinyl has managed to not only survive but actually define quality in the music industry? In other words, how are vinyl records made?
Vinyl Record Manufacturing Process
The vinyl record manufacturing process has four basic steps:
- Manufacturing and Cutting the Master Disk
- Creating the Stamper
- Preparing the Labels
- Pressing the Records
Manufacturing the Master Disk
Master disks are made from aluminum. This is where the sound contained within the recorder system is literally carved into a physical object—the master disk. Even the tiniest flaw in a master disk can lead to scratching on subsequent vinyl records, so it’s important that all master disks are always carefully inspected for any flaws before manufacturers move onto the next step.
In order to carve the actual sound into the master disk, a machine called a lathe is often used. Lathes have hard tips composed of material like emerald or other very hard substances that can easily cut into aluminum.
Creating the Stamper
Stampers have to do with electroplating and how a master disk is treated after it has been manufactured and cut. Usually, nickel is used to fill in the grooves cut into the master disk in the previous step. After this is done, the nickel is removed from the rest of the master disk and is used to create the stamper.
Preparing the Labels
Labels are an important part of every record. Otherwise, you will just have a bunch of un-labeled vinyl records lying around without anyone having any clue what they are for. The labeling process is what people often visualize when they think of creating records. It involves sending the cut vinyl records through a manufacturing belt and then over to a machine that automatically adheres to a (usually circular) label to each record.
Pressing the Records
Finally, the last step in the vinyl record manufacturing process involves pressing each of the individual records. This is a simple process that is basically a final touch and ensures that afterward, the record is ready to slip into its jacket and head out the door.
Now that you know the five steps involved in creating a vinyl record, you can have an even greater appreciation for what goes into your music. Not only do artists have to write and perform the music you listen to, but often a whole team of people has to work on the vinyl records that carry the music from the studio and into your ear. Just remember the next time you are listening to a song that all of this was done so that you can sit back, listen, and hopefully feel something.