One of the more fascinating things unveiled at the AES Mastering Conference last fall in London was the development of HD Vinyl. The prospect of hearing some of the greatest albums ever recorded using digital technology to enhance our classic vinyl medium was too exciting!!
HD vinly accomplished three different things; 1) It simplifies manufacturing into a one step process to create a stamp, 2) Digital analysis of the audio creates a “perfect groove” map, 3) HD vinyl allows for a perfect copy every time.
Simplifying into a One Step Process
Creating a vinyl record can be a complicated process. In essence there are three different lacquer copies made before the vinyl is stamped. The “father disc” is created which creates the ‘mother disc” which creates a stamp. It is plain to see how we can lose some audio definition in this process. In the HD vinyl process the ceramic stamps are cut by a laser. There are no copies needed, its a direct digital transfer to the stamp.
By combining advanced robotics and digital audio technology HD groove cutting controls the shape of the groove to near perfection. HD groove cutting increases amplitude, dynamics and signal to noise ratio by up to 30%!!! HD vinyl can also store up to 30 minutes on each side (up from 24 minute maximum) without losing any audio quality! In addition the grooves are optimized for radial scanning which eliminates unwanted artifacts created by a tilting needle.
Perfect Copy Every Time
The HD vinyl stamp is comprised of mostly ceramic along with some trace elements. It is a very stable and long-lasting material in contrast to the nickel used in the past. The ceramic also ensures that the vinyl will easily separate from the stamp with perfect form. The concept is that the 1st copy will be identical to copy #10,000 with the same stamp. In current practice the stamp is replaced every 1,000 units or so.