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Vinyl Record Production Gets a Much-Needed Tech Upgrade (engadget.com) 303

Ever wondered why you sometimes have to wait months after an album's launch to get the music on vinyl? It's not necessarily because the label hates vinyl -- in many cases, it's because the decades-old manufacturing process can't keep up with the format's resurgence. From a report on Engadget: Relief may be in sight for turntable fans, though. Viryl Technologies is producing a pressing machine system, WarmTone, that should drag vinyl production into the modern era. Much of WarmTone's improvement rests in its use of modern engineering. It's more reliable when producing the "pucks" that become records, makes it easier to switch out stampers (the negatives that press records) and sports a trimming/stacking system that can better handle large-scale production. Also, there's a raft of sensors -- the machine checks everything from pressure to temperature to timing, so companies will immediately know if something goes wrong.
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Vinyl Record Production Gets a Much-Needed Tech Upgrade

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  • Usually, such formats all include DRM. How do they make money without DRM??? If you believe the MPAA, they'd be bankrupt by now!

    • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @10:04AM (#53765721)
      No need of DRM. People who buy vinyl want to listen "vinyl" (and vinyls are much harder to duplicate, compared to a CD or a file).
      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 30, 2017 @04:10PM (#53768881)

        I'm sitting in a recording studio right now. If you want to hear the music as intended by the musicians you would listen to the recording in the medium of the day.

        An album from 40 years ago was recorded with studio settings to overcome the limitations of vinyl and the pressing process. The sound was better on the vinyl LP than in the studio. Especially with guitars, where the amps treble settings were set high to overcome treble loss in the vinyl process.

        This is also why for the first few years CD's sounded like shit, harsh was the common term, btw.

        There is no reason to listen to a recording from last week on vinyl. The people mixing/mastering the music are not mixing/mastering for vinyl. You will not hear the song as intended. It will be degraded.

        My old guy classic rock and jazz albums are on vinyl. Most everything else over the last few decades I buy on CD or download in a lossless format.

        Bands releasing vinyl LPs in modern times is a gimmick. Not that there's anything wrong with that, and I do pick up a vinyl version of a new release now and then myself, but not for the sound of vinyl.

        To add insult to audiophiles who fuss over their gear (like me), we have a pair of really, really shitty speakers in the studio here that we use for our final mix down. We do not mix for audiophiles, we mix for the shitty speakers 95% of listeners have.

        And along that same line, I use standard mic cables, guitar, patching and speaker cables, I do not purchase 1,000 dollar oxygen free copper or whatever the voodoo of the day is in my studio, I have no idea why some people spend more money on cables than speakers or room treatments at home.

    • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @10:06AM (#53765749)

      records are not lossless and every copy is unique and imperfect. not only that, but the act of PLAYING it destroys and degrades the medium.

      I grew up with lp's and I'm happy to say that the last one I played was well over 20 yrs ago.

      today's dacs are so good and the a/d's in studios are so good, there is zero reason for using lp's at home.

      the ONLY valid reason is that the mix is intentionally different, which makes zero sense. there is more dyn range in cd and 'files' than any LP could produce. and yet, they put better mixes on records for pure marketing reasons.

      dacs can do 24/192k and even DSD. records are about 1/10 of that or even less.

      sigh ;(

      • by JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @10:13AM (#53765811) Journal
        This! I don't want vinyl, what I want is a digital download of the master used to produce the vinyl. The one that doesn't have to compete in the loudness wars and isn't compressed all to hell.
        • by H3lldr0p ( 40304 )

          Hate to break it to you but they don't go from the masters to vinyl. They send the mix to be pressed. That's the way it's worked since multi-channel stereo became the norm.

          AFAIK, you can't get the unmixed masters even if you wanted to.

          • Whatever. I thought that was what they called the master.
          • by pla ( 258480 )
            He's not talking about the raw individual instrument/mic tracks, he's talking about the final digital mix that gets used to produce the record, which is an entirely different (and I would have to agree better) mix than goes to CD/MP3 and radio.

            I have no love for vinyl, but its hard to argue that not every second of a song (aside from the intro and outro) should be equally loud as every other second.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Vinly is pressed from a negative produced from a "gold master". It is most certainly a master. It's not a "studio master", which is probably what you're thinking of. And even studio masters aren't the source recordings. Those are usually just called "originals" or "takes" or "cuts".

            The point the GP was trying to make was that vinyl gold masters are created using "RIAA compression", which is a standard set of analog compression processes applied post-mixing to make the mix sound good on vinyl. CD's don't nee

            • by Cutterman ( 789191 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @03:46PM (#53768697)

              Matter o'fact RIAA equalisation is different from just generalised compression. At the start of the LP era each record producer had its own equalisation scheme so what sounded good on your TT/AMP might sound awful on your neighbour's. So the Recording Industries Association of America (RIAA) tried, and mostly succeeded, in getting folks to use the equalisation scheme that they had so carefully decided on.

              The idea was not so much to "make the mix sound good on vinyl" but to permit greater recording times (by decreasing the mean width of each groove), to improve sound quality, and to reduce the groove damage that would otherwise arise during playback.

              The power cutting-head could probably have coped, but the recorded track would have been wider (so less tracks would fit on the record) and you would have needed a highly compliant stylus, and much higher tracking weight to keep it in the groove (and so muc faster wear).

              The RIAA equalisation curve (NOT compression) was a very neat answer to a difficult problem.

              And sorry, but my carefully cared-for LPs have quite a different sound from CDs/DVDs - not necessarily better but different - somehow warmer and more immediate.

              'Ol Fart Cutterman

                                                                                                   

        • This! I don't want vinyl, what I want is a digital download of the master used to produce the vinyl. The one that doesn't have to compete in the loudness wars and isn't compressed all to hell.

          I don't. I want the person preparing the master to be completely unrestricted and unadvised by any record company. Sure the vinyl mix is better, but vinyl is still a medium that by virtue of it's properties and limitations also places limits on what can be done during mastering. Do mixing right, don't do vinyl, and don't do a loudness war.

      • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @10:22AM (#53765893)

        There is more dynamic range on a CD in theory, however with sound compression (i.e. "loudness wars", not "lossy audio compression as in MP3 or AAC") we end up with CDs and audio files from music stores that sound like crap.

        • The loudness war mostly affects pop genres like Rap and Rock.
          Classical and Jazz recordings generally don't suffer the same fate.

        • by Kohlrabi82 ( 1672654 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @02:10PM (#53767933)

          That.

          What really should have happened, when the loudness war started to rise in the mid 90s, was for manufacturers to replace volume knobs with loudness knobs, with some (dynamics) compressor attached to it. Keep the volume knob, but make it something special common people wouldn't need to touch. That way people could turn up the loudness, which in effect would not just increase the amplitude but also compress dynamics.

          Because altering [i]loudness[/i] is what people actually want. If they are on a train or in a loud environment they want to amplify the amplitude AND compress the signal to be able to hear the full recording. At home at a party you'd want to be able to hear all parts of the music properly and have high volume by just cranking up the knob to 11. In a quiet environment you'd want to be able to experience the full dynamics. For knowledgeable people we'd still have volume knobs to really alter the volume. In the end you could have tuned every well-recorded record to the environment you're in. There would have been zero benefit and need for the insane levels of compression we're seeing today.

      • Well, even the best DAC available only can create a approximation from the original analog sound signal, while vinyl is an analog recording by nature.
        • by bickerdyke ( 670000 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @10:26AM (#53765927)

          while vinyl is an analog recording by nature.

          Which doesn't say anything about any similarity with the original signal.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Further, is there really _no_ digital going on between recording and pressing in new works? I'd be pretty surprised if they are recording direct to vinyl master these days, or recording to analog tape, cutting the tape, and creating the vinyl master from it.

            • Given the average pop singer of today can't sing on key and must be auto-tuned, I'm sure they are not doing direct to disk. I do have a couple of direct to disk albums from the 80's. They sound good, but I'll still take a well done CD/SACD/blu-audio disk any day. Something I notice about the direct's is the little booboos like somebody dropping a pen or page turning. Adds a real sense of being there.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by ai4px ( 1244212 )

                Pop Singer? What is the sorcery you speak of? I thought they were /entertainers/. First and foremost, you have to been good looking, we can fix your voice. And if you aren't selling any songs, don't despair, "accidentally" release a sex tape.

                You know the number one reason Vinyl sounds better that digital? Because the music was better when they were making vinyl.

            • If you put any digital conversion between recording the sound and printing the LP then it will not make sense to create the LP. I suppose the manufacturer of the LPs took that into account, obviously.
        • by gnick ( 1211984 )

          Well, even the best DAC available only can create a approximation from the original analog sound signal, while vinyl is an analog recording by nature.

          Even with the best vinyl pressing technology, records can only create an approximation of the original analog sound signal. Just because something isn't being digitized doesn't somehow make it perfect. Just because a copy is "analog" doesn't necessarily make it a more accurate representation of the original than a digital "approximation."

        • by DrXym ( 126579 )

          Well, even the best DAC available only can create a approximation from the original analog sound signal, while vinyl is an analog recording by nature.

          That doesn't make any sense for a couple of reasons.

          1. Virtually all music is mastered digitally so its already passed through various DACs any way. A vinyl record will be a reproduction of a digital master so any supposed benefits of being analogue are irrelevant.
          2. Just because something is analogue doesn't mean it better either. A record master may be filtered and have a reduced dynamic range so the needle doesn't bounce around or skip. Records also wear out, particularly high frequency and attract dust and
          • As I already said for an AC, recording an LP only makes sense if your entire mix chain is analog. I assume manufacturers are taking this into consideration of course.
            • If you make the entire mix chain analog, you'll only introduce more errors along the way. At least with digital, you can mix the data without further loss of quality.
        • Well, even the best DAC available only can create a approximation from the original analog sound signal, while vinyl is an analog recording by nature.

          The recording on vinyl is also only an approximation of the original signal. It's been processed throught the complex RIAA equalization filter to get a reasonable amount of music to fit on the LP. Your stereo's phono preamp has to apply an approximate inverse of that filter to try to reconstruct the original signal.

          Anyone who knows about electrical engineering principles can tell you that doing analog signal processing like that in the real world will have undesirable side effects.

          When you also consider tha

      • by DrYak ( 748999 )

        dacs can do 24/192k and even DSD.

        Which we aren't physiologically equipped(*) to be able to enjoy any way.

        (*): Except to hear the hearing-range ( < ~10-15kHz ) distortions that are caused by throwing ultra-sonics (192kHz sampling means up to 96kHz frequencies) at a setup that was never meant for it.

        the ONLY valid reason is that the mix is intentionally different, which makes zero sense.

        It does make a sense commercially.
        If your mix looks like a set of solid bars constantly locked to the top on the spectrum of your radio/CD-player, it "sounds" subjectively louder and attracts more the attention.
        And when you're in the market of

        • Except to hear the hearing-range ( The point of high sampling frequencies is that you can then filter out any unwanted distortions in an easy way.

      • LMOL yeah ok Potsy, please tell us how analog is not lossless and digital is.....
    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      They did come up with a method for plugging the analog hole [blogspot.com] in vinyl media decades ago.

  • Now (Score:5, Funny)

    by The-Ixian ( 168184 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @09:55AM (#53765629)

    Can they solve the problem of the record skipping in my car?

    I have all of the gold plated monster cables and everything....

    • they used to make spring suspension record players for cars! long time ago, 50's I think.

      there was also a spring reverb with a sender and receiver across 2 literal metal springs. they had those for car audio, too ;)

    • Re:Now (Score:5, Informative)

      by Zontar_Thing_From_Ve ( 949321 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @11:01AM (#53766291)

      Can they solve the problem of the record skipping in my car?

      I know you're joking, but for those who don't know, they actually did try record players in cars many years ago. They were very expensive and had lots of drawbacks.
      http://gajitz.com/road-tunes-w... [gajitz.com]

      • Mechanically, they were similar to the generation or two of turn-of-the-century ultra- ultra- ultra-high-end car CD players that minimized skipping by mechanical means (vibration-dampening, etc) instead of just letting it skip, but reading the disc 4-16x faster & buffering enough to keep the output pipeline filled during the recovery. Which, incidentally, sounded WAY better than the ones that relied on buffering since audio cds have no concept of tracks or sectors, so figuring out precisely WHERE to con

  • ... how the millions of LPs. EPs and singles were manufactured in ancient times! IRC its not only the pressing, but also the production of pucks and the creation of negative masters that do slow down the production nowadays - not many of the suppliers of specialized services left (some goes for the accumulated knowledge). That aside it seems a good idea that some of the press runs in the 70s and 80s would have needed to avoid that crappy quality sold back then.
    • ... how the millions of LPs. EPs and singles were manufactured in ancient times!

      Simple. There were many more factories back then and multiple levels of masters. However even then, the gold master would get worn out eventually, but by then millions of copies would have been made.

      That aside it seems a good idea that some of the press runs in the 70s and 80s would have needed to avoid that crappy quality sold back then.

      Well quality wasn't merely on the replication side due to bad press runs. Production costs on the original recordings were always being trimmed. You see these days in many industries like film. Today it is far easier to duplicate theatrical films with the use of digital cameras, and the time between theater rel

    • Back then that was the only way to sell music, so they had to build the factory equipment to produce and stamp the LPs.

      Today, vinyl records are a fad. And the manufacturers know it's a fad so they're afraid to invest money in manufacturing equipment, lest they be stuck with a bunch of useless equipment when the fad dies.
  • Oh for goodness sake (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Jethro ( 14165 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @10:00AM (#53765679) Homepage

    Vinyl had a tech update decades ago. It's called "CDs".

    This obsession with obsolete and empirically inferior technology is baffling. Yes, I know it started as a backlash over bad MP3 compression, but that obsession killed superior technologies, the tech upgrades to CDs - SACD, DVD-A and pure DTS albums. All you vinyl obsessed people are making things worse, not better.

    What's next? Let's all go back to watching movies on VHS and old CRTs! It's how the director wanted it to be seen, right? How about analogue cellphones and leaded gasoline?

    • by GWBasic ( 900357 )

      I have shelves full of DVD-As, which I treasure. I also treasure my vinyl when I love an album enough to want a physical representation. Why? Two reasons:

      • Cover art: Vinyl is the best way to deliver large scale artwork
      • Simplicity: DVD-A has DRM. CDs require complicated playback hardware. You can build your own record player if you want to.

      I don't run around pretending that records sound better... They don't. But that's not the point, the point is to have a physical recording of music that I love that'll stil

      • by Jethro ( 14165 )

        You are 100% right on cover-art - I do miss that from the vinyl days - but it is ultimately about the music.

        I'm not saying we needed to keep CDs around. We could have easily have sold lossless compression audio tracks. In fact, there are sites that do just that.

        I still buy CDs, but any CD I buy gets ripped -- in a lossless format -- to my media server. My various media players (including the one connected to my stereo) can then access those.

        And I do the same with DVD-A and music Blu-Rays, so any DRM there m

        • pirate bay (etc) has tons of sacd and dsd files at 88.2 and 176.4k.

          somehow (playstation?) they ripped them digitally.

          its still hard to rip sacd but not impossible.

          today's dacs can play up to 192k and even dsd direct.

          • by Jethro ( 14165 )

            I said it's a different story, I didn't say it's impossible.

            I have one SACD left that I can't find in another format nor ripped by someone else in a format I can do anything with. I just have to be very gentle with it.

            • by tepples ( 727027 )

              Run the SACD player's analog out to a decent external ADC, dither down to 16-bit 44.1 kHz stereo, and compress that with FLAC.

      • Cover art: Vinyl is the best way to deliver large scale artwork

        Get the digital copy for the superior music, I'm sure the cover art is available online- print it off if you want a physical copy of the cover art. Best of both worlds.

      • Cover art: Vinyl is the best way to deliver large scale artwork

        The "best" way to deliver art work (that almost no one gives a shit about and is largely orthogonal to the music experience) is to put it on an obsolete and fragile storage medium that no one buys or wants? How about just making a print on paper instead? It's the same art work either way. Not like you are buying the original work.

        But that's not the point, the point is to have a physical recording of music that I love that'll still work when we can no longer play our DVD-As and CDs, and to be able to appreciate the printed artwork.

        We'll have the ability to play CDs for just as long as we have the ability to play vinyl records. And the artwork isn't any better just because you print it on a larger piece o

    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      I am kinda sad DVD-A did make it. A DVD holds enough data that you could deliver basically any normal length album, and even compilations at a higher quality than any of the other stereo equipment a person has could replicate anyway. The 5" disk is a good size its comfortable to handle and easy to carry/store lots of them in book/sleeve style cases. Maybe 3" disk or 3.5" would be better and you could do that with DVD-A too!

      Now all that is obsoleted by the fact that you can buy an SD card today that will

      • by Jethro ( 14165 )

        I should note that someone in another comment pointed out that vinyl has built-in DRM. Go ahead, make a perfect copy of a vinyl record (:

        The cover art was a good thing about vinyl, to be sure. And I actually have some vinyl sleeves hanging up in my office (with the vinyl record in them because I don't need it - and I only have those because they were included in a boxed set of remastered 5.1 remixes on blu-ray).

        And, see, that's where the mainstream tech should have gone. We went hidef with video, and in fa

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      There are cars, yet people still ride horses, because they like to do so. And if there are enough people interested in it, why not use new tech to improve the way they spend their time?

      We have lighters, yet some people are still interested in making fire by hand for whatever reason. We have boats, bridges and tunnels, yet some people still like to swim across the Channel using modern technologies, like wetsuits.

      There are people who play with cards, while we have computers. People who like to run, while we h

      • by Jethro ( 14165 )

        Virtually nobody uses horses as a means of transportation. And if you'd like to do some research about what New York City was like when horses were prevalent, you'll see why we moved away from that.

        Everything else you're talking about is niche at best, too.

        And I'm not talking about a mere "hobby". I'm talking about a fad that did, in fact, cause technology to regress. Audio quality was improving (steel-spool), improving (8-track), improving (vinyl), improving (CD), improving (DVD-A/SACD), degrading (128bit

        • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

          Its also true that ridding a horse is only similar in terms of experience to ridding in a car in that you are moving thru space! Its not really the same thing at all. Playing a record after than few seconds spent placing it on the turn table and dropping the needle is almost exactly like playing a CD! You sit and listen, oh except with CD you don't have to avoid jumping around and dancing to the music in fear of permanently harming the record if it skips, there is that.

          A better question is when was the l

    • Did it really start like that or has it simply never gone away? I started listening to vinyl in the 80s and haven't really stopped since. I've just always found it more enjoyable than either of the digital equivalents, it's just more fun than juggling CDs or file management (and I've tried both).

      If you want to push digital files on optical disks then surely you're better off trying to convince those who already buy CDs or have moved to downloads/streaming.

      • by Jethro ( 14165 )

        Vinyl was dying, with many new releases never even being released on that format. So yeah, it did kind of go away for a bit.

        • I guess it just went underground for a while, a lot of the bands I listened to at the time were still releasing records on vinyl, and you had to go to record fairs or mail order rather than shops. And releases in that period now sell for a fortune.

          I think the internet is something that probably helped, taking that nascent mail order market and making it easier than ever. Discogs probably helped keep quite a few small businesses afloat.

          I don't really see it as competitive to the digital or CD marketplace, mo

    • by havana9 ( 101033 )

      What's next? Let's all go back to watching movies on VHS and old CRTs! It's how the director wanted it to be seen, right? How about analogue cellphones and leaded gasoline?

      I still have in use an old Sony 33 inch CRT with Trinitron tube. It's standard definition of course but the quality it's really good, the black is black and the colours are quide good. I don't need a soundbar to get a decent soud, because due the fact the case has to be big, it's not a proble to put in a couple of 16 cm woofers. And sit switches on in seconds because doesn't have to boot a complex OS to enable the 'smart' functions. It' has no DRM functions and the user interface is intuitive. If I want Sma

      • by Jethro ( 14165 )

        You are kind of doing the same thing here - you're giving up the incredible advances in visual technology because of some of the secondary advantages... some of which you can still get with a modern TV.

        I have a Big Flat TV(tm). Yeah, takes a couple of seconds to turn on. Big deal. It has no smart functionality - and yes, there's a media center PC plugged into it (sometimes that's a Raspberry PI, but those are a bit unresponsive).

        As for the sound - no way will I let the TV handle the audio. Audio goes to the

      • Newer technologies DO have a few quantifiable advantantages over CRTs: subpixel-addressability, and no convergence error.

        NOBODY circa 2000 thought LCD would EVER achieve the dominance it has today -- almost everyone in the display industry was betting on FED as "the next big thing" (FED is basically a CRT that's directly-illuminated at the subpixel level by an array of solid-state electron emitters sitting behind them). The problem with FED was dead pixels... they were as seemingly-unavoidable with FED as t

      • by Alioth ( 221270 )

        You can get "dumb" LCD TVs, I got one about 2 years ago, 50 odd inch. Since the hi-fi is underneath it, it's straightforward to route the audio through something with better speakers. It turns on far quicker than my old (and much beloved at the time) Trinitron display, no tube to warm up - sub 1 second startup. The picture quality is so much better than the Trinitron it's like night and day.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Solandri ( 704621 )

      What's next? Let's all go back to watching movies on VHS and old CRTs!

      Actually, there was a short-lived drive to resurrect CRTs. You see, the ideal pixel isn't a square. It's a blob whose brightness falls off with radius, which is almost exactly what a CRT produces. The pixel is supposed to represent the brightness and color of an infinitely small sample at a certain location. A CRT phosphor's blob does that very well. When you represent it with a square LCD pixel, you're introducing a lot of high-fre [wikipedia.org]

    • by jcr ( 53032 )

      I know it started as a backlash over bad MP3 compression,

      Actually, it was a backlash against bad CD mastering. This was years before MP3 quality was an issue.

      -jcr

  • by doconnor ( 134648 ) on Monday January 30, 2017 @10:06AM (#53765743) Homepage

    I would have assumed to delay was to encourage people to buy albums twice, once they they can get it right away and then again to fulfill there irrational desire to the reto.

  • Is this some sort of DMM system?
  • Ever wondered why you sometimes have to wait months after an album's launch to get the music on vinyl?

    Nope. It's absurdly obvious. Why would they go to the trouble of building the infrastructure to mass product quickly a niche product that won't sell a huge number of copies? I literally know of no one who actually listens to vinyl records anymore. The only people I know who even own turntables are people in the baby boomer generation. I'm confident most people reading this also don't know many people who listen to vinyl if they know any at all. Manufacturing takes time and there has to be enough deman

  • Everyone will agree that a vinyl record sounds different than the CD/Blu Ray/SACD. This difference is due to the limitations of vinyl. Everybody is in agreement with this so far. The divergence occurs because some people equate the fact that the mixes are different to meaning that one must be better than the other. It would be very interesting if you could put the vinyl master mix on CD and see what people think. If people think vinyl is better than CD, they will play both sources and proclaim that wha

  • Ever wondered why you sometimes have to wait months after an album's launch to get the music on vinyl?

    No.

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