The intricate network of grooves imprinted on the surface of a vinyl record is a beautiful sight to behold. Each complex design is unique, made of precise, sharp grooves spiraling in a melodious vortex toward the record’s center. Many claim that you haven’t heard a song’s full potential until you have heard it played from an LP record.
The process by which these records are created is a complicated one, with many steps that each requires extreme accuracy. That being said, it is no wonder LP records weren’t invented until after the industrial revolution, when factory technologies had made great leaps in their reliability. To ensure maximum sound quality, the master recording of the song(s) are perfected by studio engineers.
The most technologically complex step in the process is next: when a groove design is derived directly from the electrical signals generated by the master recording. A cutting stylus is placed upon a piece of prepared lacquer, and responds to these electrical signals by making variations in one continuous groove spiral. Some places are wide, some thin, some close together, some spread apart. All of these tiny inconsistencies are what result in the wide variation of instrumental and vocal frequencies that are heard within a song on an LP record.
After the lacquer has been prepared, the rest of the process is completed at a production company. The lacquer is lightly covered with a liquefied metal, normally silver or nickel, later removed to make a metal casting of the record’s grooves. This copy is referred to as a Metal Master, and possesses ridges rather than the classic grooves we observe on an LP. The Metal Master is used to create a metal record: referred to as the Mother. Finally, a Stamper is derived from the Mother, and the Mother is kept in a secure location, ready to create a new Stamper should the original become damaged. The Stamper also has ridges rather than grooves, and as a result can be used to literally “stamp” the groove pattern onto thousands of vinyl records. This process is done via a hydraulic press, wherein steam softens the vinyl, allowing the Stamper to press its ridges onto the surface. The vinyl is set in cool water, and is now ready to be played.
Every single one of the thousands of vinyl records in our store is the product of incomparable technology and many delicate reproductions. LP record production techniques have evolved over time to create flawless casting and, by extension, a sound that you simply cannot match by any digital recording. iPods may be convenient, but an LP is timeless.
Solid State Contributor