According to an article published by Digital Music News
and covered by Vice
, a recent European patent filing detailed a process for creating HD Vinyl pressings. What the articles describe is a mastering method that improves upon traditional laquer cutting by laser inscribing masters using data optimized in 3D modeling software. It would allow the creation of records that play longer, louder, and offer higher fidelity than is achievable with current vinyl record production techniques.
Is vinyl about to join the 21st century?
It’s important to note that these HD Vinyl records would not require new equipment to play. Guenter Loibl, Rebeat CEO told Digital Music News that "This is a completely backwards-compatible technology. It will play on any existing turntable, you don’t need to buy a new system to enjoy the benefits."
Current vinyl record masters are created with antiquated equipment, including lathes that mechanically cut the groove. It's a process that depends on a very limited supply of equipment and technicians. Mr. Loibl explained some advantages of HD Vinyl: "We adjust the distance of the grooves, we correct the radial/tangential errors, and we optimize the frequencies. You could say we ‘master’ the topographical data, which is a totally different approach."
It’s somewhat ironic that digital technology can be used to create a better vinyl record, given how strongly the format is associated with analog music reproduction. Of course, a patent filing does not mean it will come to fruition. However, the companies involved–Joanneum Research (one of the largest Austrian research institutes) and Rebeat (an Austrian company that specializes in digital music distribution) are legit, so there’s a real chance it could.
I was not content to publish this story without talking to Guenter Loibl directly, given the potentially huge implications (for the audiophile comunity) of adopting this new approach to making vinyl records. He quickly replied to my inquiry, and offered a tidbit not covered in the other articles: "Our technology provides for the editing of nano-structures, so it will be able to cut much finer (waveform) structures than a traditional lathe could. Comments about sapphire cutting the groove (on a lathe) and how it cannot be replaced by laser are definitely not true. The level of detail present in the groove is much higher than on current vinyl pressings."
The unabated rise in the popularity of records has led to a shortage in production capacity. The HD Vinyl solution promises to eliminate that bottleneck while reducing the overall time and cost of manufacturing records. Add the benefit of superior-sound and longer playback time to the mix, and you can see why this is a technology that could pique the interest of audiophiles who are already invested in vinyl playback systems.