Maybe you’ve seen the article on DigitalMusicNews.com about a technology that promises better quality LPs. According to the article, Rebeat has applied to European patents to protect a method that, “improves upon traditional lacquer cutting by laser inscribing masters using data optimized in 3D modeling software. It would allow the creation of records that play longer, louder, and offer higher fidelity than is achievable with current vinyl record production techniques”.
Their process doesn’t create “HD Vinyl LPs”…there is no such thing. It’s the same false promotion that the CEA, DEG, NARAS, and labels have been pushing for years now with high-resolution audio and music. Think of the new disc cutting process as you would about “blueprinting” an automobile engine. I can’t say I’ve ever done it but among car loving friends, it was a popular thing to do. The idea is to make sure that your engine precisely meets those technical specifications of the design. Basically, compare the physical measurements and tolerances to those specified by the original “blueprints” for the engine and tweak things until they match.
The “design” document for a vinyl LP specifies the thickness of the vinyl (180, 200 gram), the groove pitch, the groove dimensions, the lead-in, and lead out grooves and the maximum depth of a cut. The job of the disc-cutting engineer is to maximize fidelity while working within the limits of the technology. And the technology is quite old…coming from the 60s. Most disc cutting facilities are using old Neumann cutting lathes and struggle to keep up with the demand. The machinery is old, experienced operators are old, and the results are often compromised.
There are two commonly used disc-cutting methods in use:
• Using a classic disc lathe to cut an “analog” of the audio waveform into the surface of a master lacquer disc. The engineer adjusts the parameters of the machine to avoid problems such as over cutting or groove deformation. The lacquer master is then plated with metal and additional “mothers” and “daughters” are generated to use in the stamping machines.
• Another method, called Direct Metal Mastering, cuts the grooves directly in a metal blank made of copper. This method is generally considered “higher fidelity”.
ReBeat Digital GmbH decided that they could develop a method that would refine the process, improve accuracy, and speed up the process. Instead of “cutting” a groove they “burn” them using, “pulsed high-energy Femto-laser” from a computer 3D topographic data file. According to company CEO Guenter Loibl, “we ‘master’ the topographical data”.
The results could be very impressive—better quality (because of less errors and highly optimized grooves), less expense, and faster turnaround.
But, the new vinyl LPs will not be High-Definition! And the name is very misleading. I wrote to Guenter Loibl about my concerns and the confusion that would undoubtedly result. He replied:
I totally agree, HD-vinyl is not the perfect term and so far it is the working title. HD-Vinyl has the advantage that everyone immediately understands what it is. But yes, we are looking for a different term for marketing.
Regarding audio-quality: We are considering allowing the logo only for real HD/HR recordings. I agree that most of the vintage recordings will hardly match the frequency-range, not even when ‘re-vitalizing’ the audio-signal with analogue ‘magic-gear’.
It would be great to stay in touch and any input from your side is very welcome, since we want to create a real improvement of a very trendy media.
A very fair and reasoned response. I think ReBeat is on to something. We’ll just have to wait and see how this technology progresses.