Vinyl is back and it's different

    The world is experiencing a "vinyl boom" - a noticeable jump in the popularity of records among music lovers. We tell why vinyl is back and who is engaged in its production.

    Photo by Simon Bonaventure / SS BY-SA

    Why vinyl is back

    Vinyl remained popular until about the end of the eighties of the last century. Later he was forced out by more compact and convenient CDs and audio tapes. However, in recent years there has been a revival of the format: in 2016, sales of records reached a maximum in 25 years. There are several reasons for this.

    Tribute. The active renaissance of vinyl began in 2007. Then they founded the Day of the music store - a holiday, during which hundreds of stores around the world organize concerts and sell exclusive music recordings, most often on records. This helped revive interest in "vinyl culture."

    "Materiality".Part of the growing popularity of vinyl is associated with the spread of streaming services. People yearned for the feeling of being physically involved in listening to music, and such a tactile format, like vinyl, allows it to be quenched.

    In the case of vinyl, you cannot just press a button on the player, you need to take an envelope from the shelf, take a record out of it, put it on the player. At the same time, the vinyl record library must be properly maintained and cleaned regularly. For some people, these processes have become a kind of ritual.

    Uniqueness. Vinyl is also attractive by the distortions that, according to amateurs, give liveliness to music. Due to the light background rustling vinyl creates a special sound, different from the digital release.

    A significant role in the popularity of records and play related materials - booklets, album covers. Vinyl release is not an easy carrier of musical information, but an art object. There are collectible releases of discs and box sets with autographs of the performers, there are versions of albums on color vinyl. In fact, two records with the same music can be completely different.

    Different discs

    Old school and replica. The market of vinyl records can be divided into two camps: the old releases (old school) and the replica. Old releases are records released prior to the “vinyl boom”. Novodel - this is the re-release of old albums and fresh works of modern musicians. Today both of these formats are popular. The difficulty is only the fact that the number of old releases is limited, and finding a retro disc in good condition can be difficult.

    Photo JFHayeur / PD

    Return of flexible plates. For the first time flexible plates appearedin the middle of the 20th century, but, like traditional vinyl, practically went to its end by the end. Flexible material differs from classical plates - the tracks are stamped on a thin sheet of flexible PVC film. Such a drive becomes less fragile, but it can be “jammed” with a needle of the player during listening.

    Despite the lack of flexible plates, like traditional vinyl, is also gradually returning to the shelves. In the fall of 2017, the Australian rock band Tame Impala released a limited edition album "Currents" on flexible vinyl. The labels Joyful Noise and Third Man Records have also begun to offer "flexible releases."

    New developments - HD-vinyl. The surge in popularity of records and the revival of the most different versions of this medium prompted enthusiasts to think about the evolution of the format - soHe appeared HD-vinyl.

    The developers promise that the “new format” records will be 30% more capacious than the usual ones, and the quality of the recording will be improved compared to traditional vinyl. In this case, HD-vinyl can be listened to on a regular player.

    The secret is in the mode of production. Most of the records are still being created using outdated technologies on repaired machines from the last century. The sound is converted into vibrations of the cutter, which cuts the tracks on the copper foil disc. Then this disk is subjected to galvanization and form the matrix, with which stamped plate.

    When creating HD-vinyl using optical technology. A three-dimensional model of all the tracks will be created, which will be cut out on the ceramic matrix with a high-precision laser. This will allow you to compact the tracks on the plate and write more information to the disk. The release of the first batch of HD-vinyl is scheduled for 2019.

    According to the developers of the format, the cost of creating discs will be halved, and the gain in production time will be 60%.

    Modern production

    Now the release of vinyl engaged in production with a history, and new factories trying to occupy a niche. Pirates Press revived its production in 2010. In 2017, the label Third Man Records, owned by rock musician Jack White, opened his own factory in Detroit, completing it with new machines. At the same time in the US open small indie factories for the production of plates. An example would be the Cascade Records factory opened in Portland.

    Factories are opening up in other countries, for example, two years ago Sony installed a vinyl cutting machine in their Tokyo studio.

    Независимые фабрики ежемесячно «выдают» по 30–40 тысяч пластинок, крупный американский завод Gotta Groove Records — около 80 тысяч, а самый крупный производитель винила — чешская фабрика GZ Media — до полутора миллионов пластинок. Однако этих объемов все равно недостаточно, чтобы удовлетворить мировой спрос на пластинки.

    The main problem in vinyl production is the lack of equipment. Most of the factories are working on old machines, released in the 60s and 70s of the last century and mothballed at the beginning of the zero. In the USA, only one company recently produces new machines - Record Products of America, but its two hand presses will cost 130 thousand dollars. In Europe, German Newbilt Machinery is engaged in the release of new machines - just in 2015, it introduced a modern press with electronic control and hydraulic system, which also cannot be called a budget one.

    A number of companies are already trying to solve the problem of expensive installations. Canadian Viryl Technologies offered a compact, economical and environmentally friendly machine design. In the traditional system, the plate blank is heated to the required temperature using steam, but the proposed Viryl system does not use steam, but water heated by an electric heater to 140 degrees Celsius.

    The new method excludes a massive boiler and gas heater from the machine design. Machines begin to occupy less space, and more equipment is placed in the workshop, which increases production volumes.

    At the same time, it is possible to equip ready-made machines with a new heating system, so that factory owners can upgrade their existing equipment. One company has already become the owner of the machine from Viryl - Smashed Plastic, recently opened in Chicago, which begins production of records in February of this year.

    Photo Audiomania

    Sales will continue to grow

    Statistics show that in 2018, vinyl continued to gain popularity in many different countries. In the US, sales of vinyl in the first half of 2018 increased by 19.2% compared with the same period a year earlier and amounted to 7.6 million records, in Canada sales of vinyl increased by 66.6%. There is reason to believe that in the new year these figures will continue to increase. The global flea market Discogs vinyl still remains the most popular format.

    Vinyl, experiencing a bright rebirth, does not stand still - new technologies appear that facilitate the production of records and allow the media itself to be made better and better. And the plus of these innovations is that even with them, vinyl remains vinyl - the physical carrier that originated in the twentieth century.

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