With many believing the resurgence of vinyl to be nothing more than a hipster-driven trend, it seems as though that vinyl and the rebirth of has more legs than anyone imagined.
Several manufacturers have invested heavily in the development of new turntables including the re-surface of our beloved 1200s. This coupled with repressing of classic albums and record pressing plants popping up everywhere, make the future look surprisingly bright for this fairly in-practical medium. In fact the only slight blip on this upward curve was the announcement of Shure to discontinue their cartridge and stylus ranges. Even this though was counteracted by Ortofon’s belief in either the growing hunger of the industry or maybe a smart business move to fill the gap in the market left by Shure, by bringing out and entire new range of Concorde carts and styli to critical acclaim (great review by Mojaxx on those here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lQAyxq_olDs&t=565s).
So the future seems quite bright and could look even brighter. The upward trend of vinyl has mostly been a combination of nostalgia, the want for all things retro and most importantly the undeniably better and ‘warmer’ sound. So excited was I to hear of some potential quality advancements in the pressing of records. All rise for HD vinyl! There are many great articles out there going into depth on radial or tangetial scanning and 3D topographic maps, but that’s not what we are about. Let’s try and break this down to the nuts and bolts.
How ‘SD’ vinyl is pressed
A daddy disc was produced, then a mummy disc and from that the nickel stamper was produced. With each copy quality is lost. Also with each pressing the stamper would wear and had to be replaced after around a thousand pressings resulting in more quality loss as the stamper approaches the end of it’s life span. If you were lucky enough to have copy number 1 it would have been significantly better than say copy 999. Also the nickel plating process had environmental connotations using toxic chemicals, which in turn needed to be disposed of.
How ‘HD’ vinyl is pressed
So here we go, the exciting bit. HD differs at the original mastered high-resolution audio file is turned into a 3D map which reduces the un necessary space in the groove resulting in up to a 30% increase in playing time. The result is a vastly improved sound to noise ratio and increased dynamics. No more chemicals, in steps laser, which is able to cut finer due to not overheating whilst cutting the ceramic stamper. This is where the increased dynamic range is achieved. With ceramic stampers there is no loss in quality due to lack of stamper ware. No more paying more for an early pressing!
Summary and thoughts
Will it or wont it take off? Only time will tell I suppose. My initial thoughts were excitement due to better sounding records and longer playing times etc., then the nostalgic side of me started to think “stop messing with my vinyl!” Even seeing re-pressings of albums I bought twenty years ago irks me a bit and I feel the need to tell the world “I have the original of that.” Also with the Millenials who were born in a non-vinyl era now finding that records offer something tangible to embrace in a world of luvless lossless digital files and streaming. Long live vinyl!
To be honest I don’t really know where I stand on this, how about you? Have your say below: