Category Archives for "Media"

This New Robot May Change Vinyl Record Pressing Forever

Warm Tone vinyl record pressWe’ve been hearing about vinyl record manufacturing coming into the future for some time, and here’s another example. Some Canadian design engineers who usually put their R&D talents into things like MRI machines went to work on the vinyl record press. They made some huge improvements and came up with the Warm Tone vinyl record press.

What’s cool about the Warm Tone press is that so many pain points of the record making process are improved, not just one. Everything from the way the vinyl puck (the piece of plastic before it becomes a record) is warmed and formed to the way the finished record is picked up off the press has been improved. As a result, you now have a high-tech device that’s much more efficient than anything that’s come before.

You always hear that word “efficient” thrown about, but in this case it’s a huge improvement that can end up saving the customer (you, the artist) money.

The typical old-school record press has a 30 to 40% failure rate, meaning that for every 1,000 records pressed, 300 to 400 are bad and must be recycled thanks to everything from operator error or mechanical failure. The Warm Tone is down near 1%!

It’s faster too, spitting out 3 records per minute versus less than 2 from the old system.

All this from a machine that’s iOS operated by a single technician for every 4 presses, as compared to the normal one technician for every press.

The bottom line is that every though each press costs $195,000, it should actually bring the cost of making a record down, and speed up the manufacturing as well. If you’re suffering from a long wait time for your vinyl album to be pressed (as long as 4 months in some cases), then hopefully that wait time can chopped down to something bearable soon.

Can A New Process Improve Record Pressing?

Injection moulding pressingMaking a vinyl record is a messy, time consuming business. It involves toxic chemical baths, huge mechanical presses, stampers that wear out easily, and maybe worst of all, the final product is made from a petroleum product. Record pressing has shown small improvements over the years, but for the most part, it’s still done the way it was 40+ years ago.

But that could change soon. A new injection moulding process invented by the Dutch company Symcon, promises not only to cut production costs, but to improve sound quality, and reduce the environment impact of conventional record pressing as well.

In a conventional record press, a PVC puck is heated with steam until it’s soft, then placed between the two stampers that press the puck for about 8 seconds. Another 16 seconds is then required for the record to cool off before the process can begin again.

In the new process, the plastic mixture is heated in advance, injected between the two stampers, then pressed for a few seconds and cooled for another 20 seconds to make sure the mixture reaches the outer edges of the stampers.

There are several big advantages with injection moulding. First of all, the amount of energy used is cut by up to 65%. There’s no excess vinyl around the record that needs to be cut off, and the stampers last much longer before they degrade. Currently, a stamper only lasts for around 2,000 records before it must be replaced. Yet another happy byproduct is that the noise is reduced by up to 10dB over conventionally pressed records.

This seems like a slam dunk, but there are still a few challenges to overcome though. So far, injection moulded records are less durable, as they show signs of wear after 35 plays compared to 50 times for a vinyl record. The price is also about 25% higher, although that should come down over time. It also takes more time to actually press the record, which is a serious disadvantage.

So this new system holds a lot of promise, but it’s too early to tell whether it’s revolutionary or not. Here’s a video that explains more, as well as a bit of an interview with one of the engineers.

Using LUFS For Mixing

Using LUFS for mixingYou might have noticed that in the last few years, the differences in level between television shows, commercials, and channels are pretty even, with no big jumps in volume. That’s because viewers were complaining for years about the fact that there was a dramatic increase in level whenever a commercial aired because it was so compressed compared to the program that you were watching. Congress set out to do something about this, and in 2012 adopted a method to normalize those volume jumps that the European Broadcast Union put into place the year before – Loudness Unit Full Scale or LUFS.

LUFS (called LKFS in Europe) is a way to measure the perceived loudness of a program by measuring both the transient peaks and the steady-state program level over time using an a specially created algorithm. It’s different from a normal meter in that it doesn’t represent signal level – it measures how loud we perceive an audio program to be. For a broadcaster this is actually pretty serious, since if a station violates the mandated LUFS level of -23, it could possibly lose its broadcast license.

Even though LUFS was intended primarily for broadcast audio delivery, it has a new increased meaning in music production as well, as you’ll see in the video below. Thanks to the fact that streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music are now normalizing the songs so the level is the same from tune to tune, there’s no real benefit for compressing a song to within an inch of its life any more. In fact, less volume and more dynamic range are actually your friend.

Using a LUFS meter allows you to optimize your music mixes for a variety of platforms to be sure that they’re always in the sweet spot for dynamic range.

Check out this video from MasteringTheMix that uses its LEVELS plugin to illustrate how this all works. Keep in mind that there are other LUFS meters on the market as well from TC Electronic, Waves or other developers.

Pressing A Vinyl Record In 60 Seconds

Pressing VinylVinyl is all the rage again, but most people don’t understand just how chemical and mechanical the process really is. In this very quick video, you’ll see the electroplating process that goes into making the various stages of master, mother and stampers. That’s the messy part of the business, and the one that everyone hopes will die soon thanks to the new laser master process that’s in development.

From there you see the record being pressed and packaged, all pretty much the way it was done way back in the 50s. The video was done at the Vinyl Factory in the UK and compresses the entire manufacturing process into just 60 seconds.