Although this task is entrusted to our partner factories, it is important to familiarize yourself with the different stages of vinyl record manufacturing in order to better understand its value, and the factors that influence its production cost. The process consists of three steps: cutting, galvanic, and pressing.
STEP 1 : Cutting the Master disc
This is the process that creates the physical master. It is divided into 4 stages :
Audio mastering : from the master (CD, disc image, audio files or tapes) the factory engineer adapts the volume to the medium and slightly equalizes the sound, to convert the digital recording into analog signals with the best possible quality.
Cut lacquer : The blank medium (copper or acetate disc) is placed on a recording machine, then the recording head reproduces the audio signal and records with a diamond chisel a helical groove from the outside of the disc to the inside. It is during this step that the speed at which the vinyl will turn (45 or 33 RPM) is determined.
This second step is repeated on both sides of the record (a second master is created for side B).
Finally, the engineer checks the grooves with a microscope, and handwrites the record reference on each side, which will then be present on all copies of your vinyl records.
There are 2 main types of cutting :
Cutting on lacquer
Lacquer engraving is the oldest process. A heated stylus engraves the microgrooves in the cellulose lacquer layer of a blank resin or acetate disc (held by a flexible aluminum disc). One blank disc per side is used, so there are two lacquers.
Engraving on lacquers is preferred for its "hotter" rendering, but it is more risky because the support is more fragile. It is strongly advised to produce Test pressings before launching any manufacture.
DMM (Direct Metal Mastering) is a more recent method of engraving. It consists in engraving on a copper disc and not in resin/acetate. It is today the "standard" method used by factories, because the process is less fragile, more economical while keeping a good listening quality, and offers a good stability of the global spectrum of frequencies.
STEP 2 : Creation of the stamper
This stage aims to create the stamper with which a series of records will be pressed.
Once the lacquer is engraved, it is “electroplated”, that is to say sprayed with silver, then soaked for several hours in a nickel bath. During this time, the nickel particles attach themselves to the disc to form a matrix: the imprint that will allow the production of the entire series of vinyls. Then comes the pressing.
STEP 3 : Pressing and packaging
This is the final step in the vinyl manufacturing process.
Once created, the nickel matrix is placed on the press. The labels are then placed. A certain quantity of hot and adjustable PVC is placed on them (according to the desired weight of the record, 140g or 180g). This mass is then heated and pressed, taking the shape of the grooves. The labels adhere to the vinyl wafer at this time. Finally, the vinyl is cooled for 12 hours. The excess material is trimmed, and the record is placed in an anti-static sleeve.
This method allows up to 10,000 disks to be pressed from a single array.
Ta da! You now have a beautiful vinyl record ready to listen to for hours!