Vinyl Records & Accessories
History Of Vinyl
Vinyl Records History
A gramophone record (phonograph record in American English) or vinyl record, commonly known as a "record", is an analogue sound storage medium in the form of a flat polyvinyl chloride (previously shellac) disc with an inscribed, modulated spiral groove. The groove usually starts near the periphery and ends near the center of the disc. Phonograph records are generally described by their diameter in inches (12", 10", 7"), the rotational speed in rpm at which they are played (16 23, 33 13, 45, 78), and their time capacity resulting from a combination of those parameters (LP – long playing 33 13 rpm, SP – 78 rpm single, EP – 12-inch single or extended play, 33 or 45 rpm); their reproductive quality or level of fidelity (high-fidelity, orthophonic, full-range, etc.), and the number of audio channels provided (mono, stereo, quad, etc.).
The phonograph disc record was the primary medium used for music reproduction until late in the 20th century, replacing the phonograph cylinder record–with which it had co-existed from the late 1880s through to the 1920s–by the late 1920s. Records retained the largest market share even when new formats such as compact cassette were mass-marketed. By the late 1980s, digital media, in the form of the compact disc, had gained a larger market share, and the vinyl record left the mainstream in 1991. From the 1990s to the 2010s, records continued to be manufactured and sold on a much smaller scale, and were especially used by disc jockeys (DJ)s, released by artists in some genres, and listened to by a niche market of audiophiles. The phonograph record has made a niche resurgence in the early 21st century – 9.2 million records were sold in the U.S. in 2014, a 260% increase since 2009. Likewise, in the UK sales have increased five-fold from 2009 to 2014.
The sound quality and durability of vinyl records is highly dependent on the quality. During the early 1970s, as a cost-cutting move, much of the industry adopted began reducing the thickness and quality of vinyl used in mass-market manufacturing. The technique was marketed by RCA Victor as the Dynaflex (125 g) process, but was considered inferior by most record collectors. Most vinyl records are pressed from a mix of 70% virgin and 30% recycled vinyl.
New or "virgin" heavy/heavyweight (180–220 g) vinyl is commonly used for modern audiophile vinyl releases in all genres. Many collectors prefer to have heavyweight vinyl albums, which have been reported to have better sound than normal vinyl because of their higher tolerance against deformation caused by normal play. 180 g vinyl is more expensive to produce only because it uses more vinyl. Manufacturing processes are identical regardless of weight. In fact, pressing lightweight records requires more care. An exception is the propensity of 200 g pressings to be slightly more prone to non-fill, when the vinyl biscuit does not sufficiently fill a deep groove during pressing (percussion or vocal amplitude changes are the usual locations of these artifacts). This flaw causes a grinding or scratching sound at the non-fill point.
Since most vinyl records contain up to 30% recycled vinyl, impurities can accumulate in the record and cause even a brand-new record to have audio artifacts such as clicks and pops. Virgin vinyl means that the album is not from recycled plastic, and will theoretically be devoid of these impurities. In practice, this depends on the manufacturer's quality control.
The "orange peel" effect on vinyl records is caused by worn molds. Rather than having the proper mirror-like finish, the surface of the record will have a texture that looks like orange peel. This introduces noise into the record, particularly in the lower frequency range. With direct metal mastering (DMM), the master disc is cut on a copper-coated disc, which can also have a minor "orange peel" effect on the disc itself. As this "orange peel" originates in the master rather than being introduced in the pressing stage, there is no ill effect as there is no physical distortion of the groove.
Original master discs are created by lathe-cutting: a lathe is used to cut a modulated groove into a blank record. The blank records for cutting used to be cooked up, as needed, by the cutting engineer, using what Robert K. Morrison describes as a "metallic soap," containing lead litharge, ozokerite, barium sulfate, montan wax, stearin and paraffin, among other ingredients. Cut "wax" sound discs would be placed in a vacuum chamber and gold-sputtered to make them electrically conductive for use as mandrels in an electroforming bath, where pressing stamper parts were made. Later, the French company Pyral invented a ready-made blank disc having a thin nitro-cellulose lacquer coating (approximately 7 mils thickness on both sides) that was applied to an aluminum substrate. Lacquer cuts result in an immediately playable, or processable, master record. If vinyl pressings are wanted, the still-unplayed sound disc is used as a mandrel for electroforming nickel records that are used for manufacturing pressing stampers. The electroformed nickel records are mechanically separated from their respective mandrels. This is done with relative ease because no actual "plating" of the mandrel occurs in the type of electrodeposition known as electroforming, unlike with electroplating, in which the adhesion of the new phase of metal is chemical and relatively permanent. The one-molecule-thick coating of silver (that was sprayed onto the processed lacquer sound disc in order to make its surface electrically conductive) reverse-plates onto the nickel record's face. This negative impression disc (having ridges in place of grooves) is known as a nickel master, "matrix" or "father." The "father" is then used as a mandrel to electroform a positive disc known as a "mother". Many mothers can be grown on a single "father" before ridges deteriorate beyond effective use. The "mothers" are then used as mandrels for electroforming more negative discs known as "sons". Each "mother" can be used to make many "sons" before deteriorating. The "sons" are then converted into "stampers" by center-punching a spindle hole (which was lost from the lacquer sound disc during initial electroforming of the "father"), and by custom-forming the target pressing profile. This allows them to be placed in the dies of the target (make and model) record press and, by center-roughing, to facilitate the adhesion of the label, which gets stuck onto the vinyl pressing without any glue. In this way, several million vinyl discs can be produced from a single lacquer sound disc. When only a few hundred discs are required, instead of electroforming a "son" (for each side), the "father" is removed of its silver and converted into a stamper. Production by this latter method, known as the "two-step-process" (as it does not entail creation of "sons" but does involve creation of "mothers," which are used for test playing and kept as "safeties" for electroforming future "sons") is limited to a few hundred vinyl pressings. The pressing count can increase if the stamper holds out and the quality of the vinyl is high. The "sons" made during a "three-step" electroforming make better stampers since they don't require silver removal (which reduces some high fidelity because of etching erasing part of the smallest groove modulations) and also because they have a stronger metal structure than "fathers".
Vinyl records do not break easily, but the soft material is easily scratched. Vinyl readily acquires a static charge, attracting dust that is difficult to remove completely. Dust and scratches cause audio clicks and pops. In extreme cases, they can cause the needle to skip over a series of grooves, or worse yet, cause the needle to skip backwards, creating a "locked groove" that repeats over and over. This is the origin of the phrase "like a broken record" or "like a scratched record", which is often used to describe a person or thing that continually repeats itself. Locked grooves are not uncommon and were even heard occasionally in radio broadcasts.
vinyl records can be warped by heat, improper storage, exposure to sunlight, or manufacturing defects such as excessively tight plastic shrinkwrap on the album cover. A small degree of warp was common, and allowing for it was part of the art of turntable and tonearm design. "wow" (once-per-revolution pitch variation) could result from warp, or from a spindle hole that was not precisely centered. Standard practice for LPs was to place the LP in a paper or plastic inner cover. This, if placed within the outer cardboard cover so that the opening was entirely within the outer cover, was said to reduce ingress of dust onto the record surface. Singles, with rare exceptions, had simple paper covers with no inner cover.
A further limitation of the gramophone record is that fidelity steadily declines as playback progresses; there is more vinyl per second available for fine reproduction of high frequencies at the large-diameter beginning of the groove than exist at the smaller-diameters close to the end of the side. At the start of a groove on an LP there are 510 mm of vinyl per second traveling past the stylus while the ending of the groove gives 200–210 mm of vinyl per second — less than half the linear resolution.Distortion towards the end of the side is likely to become more apparent as record wear increases.
Audiophiles have differed over the relative merits of the LP versus the CD since the digital disc was introduced. Vinyl records are still prized for their reproduction of analog recordings. The LP's drawbacks, however, include surface noise, tracking error, pitch variations and greater sensitivity to handling. Modern anti-aliasing filters and oversampling systems used in digital recordings have reduced problems observed with early CD players.
There is a theory that vinyl records can audibly represent higher frequencies than compact discs. According to Red Book specifications, the compact disc has a frequency response of 20 Hz up to 22,050 Hz, and most CD players measure flat within a fraction of a decibel from at least 20 Hz to 20 kHz at full output. Turntable rumble obscures the low-end limit of vinyl but the upper end can be, with some cartridges, reasonably flat within a few decibels to 30 kHz, with gentle roll-off. Carrier signals of Quad LPs popular in the 1970s were at 30 kHz to be out of the range of human hearing. The average human auditory system is sensitive to frequencies from 20 Hz to a maximum of around 20,000 Hz. The upper and lower frequency limits of human hearing vary per person.
Groove recordings, first designed in the final quarter of the 19th century, held a predominant position for nearly a century—withstanding competition from reel-to-reel tape, the 8-track cartridge, and the compact cassette. In 1988, the compact disc surpassed the gramophone record in unit sales. Vinyl records experienced a sudden decline in popularity between 1988 and 1991, when the major label distributors restricted their return policies, which retailers had been relying on to maintain and swap out stocks of relatively unpopular titles. First the distributors began charging retailers more for new product if they returned unsold vinyl, and then they stopped providing any credit at all for returns. Retailers, fearing they would be stuck with anything they ordered, only ordered proven, popular titles that they knew would sell, and devoted more shelf space to CDs and cassettes. Record companies also deleted many vinyl titles from production and distribution, further undermining the availability of the format and leading to the closure of pressing plants. This rapid decline in the availability of records accelerated the format's decline in popularity, and is seen by some as a deliberate ploy to make consumers switch to CDs, which were more profitable for the record companies.
In spite of their flaws, such as the lack of portability, records still have enthusiastic supporters. Vinyl records continue to be manufactured and sold today, especially by independent rock bands and labels, although record sales are considered to be a niche market composed of audiophiles, collectors, and DJs. Old records and out-of-print recordings in particular are in much demand by collectors the world over. (See Record collecting.) Many popular new albums are given releases on vinyl records and older albums are also given reissues, sometimes on audiophile-grade vinyl.
In the United Kingdom, the popularity of indie rock caused sales of new vinyl records (particularly 7 inch singles) to increase significantly in 2006, briefly reversing the downward trend seen during the 1990s.
In the United States, annual vinyl sales increased by 85.8% between 2006 and 2007 and by 89% between 2007 and 2008.
Many electronic dance music and hip hop releases today are still preferred on vinyl; however, digital copies are still widely available. This is because for disc jockeys ("DJs"), vinyl has an advantage over the CD: direct manipulation of the medium. DJ techniques such as slip-cueing, beatmatching, and scratching originated on turntables. With CDs or compact audio cassettes one normally has only indirect manipulation options, e.g., the play, stop, and pause buttons. With a record one can place the stylus a few grooves farther in or out, accelerate or decelerate the turntable, or even reverse its direction, provided the stylus, record player, and record itself are built to withstand it. However, many CDJ and DJ advances, such as DJ software and time-encoded vinyl, now have these capabilities and more.
Figures released in the United States in early 2009 showed that sales of vinyl albums nearly doubled in 2008, with 1.88 million sold — up from just under 1 million in 2007. In 2009, 3.5 million units sold in the United States, including 3.2 million albums, the highest number since 1998.
Sales have continued to rise into the 2010s, with around 2.8 million sold in 2010, which is the most sales since record keeping began in 1991, when vinyl had been overshadowed by Compact Cassettes and compact discs.
In 2014 artist Jack White sold 40,000 copies of his second solo release, Lazaretto, on vinyl. The sales of the record beat the largest sales in one week on vinyl since 1991. The sales record was previously held by Pearl Jam's, Vitalogy, which sold 34,000 copies in one week in 1994. In 2014, the sale of vinyl records was the only physical music medium with increasing sales with relation to the previous year. Sales of other mediums including individual digital tracks, digital albums and compact discs have fallen, the latter having the greatest drop-in-sales rate.
In 2011, the Entertainment Retailers Association in the United Kingdom found that consumers were willing to pay on average £16.30 (€19.37/$25.81) for a single vinyl record, as opposed to £7.82 (€9.30/$12.38) for a CD and £6.80 (€8.09/$10.76)for a digital download. In the United States, new vinyl releases often have a larger profit margin (individual item) than do releases on CD or digital downloads (in many cases), as the latter formats quickly go down in price. [from wickipedia]