It's easy to take for granted how much work goes into making vinyl records! What are the steps that come between a musician or band recording an album and you buying it? In this post, we’ll look at how vinyl records are physically made.
Making the Acetate
After the tracks for an album get recorded, mixed and mastered, an engineer uses the master tape to create an acetate. An acetate is an aluminum disc that gets coated with vinyl.
Like a proper vinyl record, the acetate’s vinyl gets cut into grooves. However, each acetate usually has only one side with music on it. Because of this, acetates come in pairs (one for the A side, the other for the B side).
Acetates are very fragile. Their sound quality decays within a few days, which can impact the sound of the finished record. Because of that, record manufacturers send acetate sets off for plating as quickly as possible.
In the plating process, each acetate gets coated with a layer of silver. Next, a plater adds a layer of nickel on top of the silver. The layers of metal form a plate, which is then removed from the acetate disc. The acetate is usually destroyed, but that’s okay—the plate has ridges that are like a negative image of the acetate’s grooves. Manufacturers call this the “father” plate.
After the father plate is made, it gets oxidized and coated with metal. This creates the “mother” plate, which record-makers can play in order to check for plating or mastering problems.
Once the father and mother plates are made, one of two things can happen. In the first scenario, the mother plate goes through a process that turns it into a stamper plate, which actually produces the vinyl records we listen to.
In the second scenario, the record manufacturer stores the mother plate in safe place. Meanwhile, the father plate goes through a process that turns it into the stamper plate.
After the stamper plates are created, the pressing plant can start making records. First, the stampers get attached to a hydraulic press. Next, a piece of vinyl goes between the stampers. The stampers press into the vinyl, which forms the record’s grooves. Finally, the rough edges get cut away from the edge of the disc. Voilá! You’ve got a record.
Testing the Record
The work’s not quite done, though. Once a record has been printed, the musician or band needs to test it and make sure it sounds right. If it doesn’t, the process starts all over again. If it does, the pressing plant starts making the records that stores sell.
Packaging the Record
As the records themselves are manufactured, so is their packaging. This includes:
- The labels that go on the records (list of the track names, etc.)
- The record sleeves
- The album covers (Want to see some amazing covers? Check out our blog on 5 of the most unusual album covers ever designed.)
Manufacturing records isn’t easy. It requires a lot of careful work, but when it’s done, the results are definitely worth it. Think about this process while you’re looking to buy vinyl records online at Vinyl Lovers Unite!
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