September 26, 2007

Video Vinyl

When you read an explanation of how LPs are made, even a detailed, well-written one, you discover the limitation of words when it comes to capturing such a multifaceted, technical process. There are too many steps -- from master to stamper to finished LP -- to visualize exactly what's happening. YouTube to the rescue. There you will find a ten-minute-long segment from How It's Made, a Discovery Channel program that documents the manufacture of many different products. In this clip you can see every part of LP production, from the lacquer coating the aluminum disc to the heated vinyl oozing from between the stampers. Great stuff.

In a series of video clips on its website, German reissue label Speakers Corner goes a step further, revealing some of the fine points of LP production for the audiophile market. It is slow, methodical work -- the last clip shows LPs being individually inspected and then re-sleeved -- and Speakers Corner has a lot of experience doing it. Since 1993, the label has released 346 different titles. Of these, 246 are still in print, which means the Speakers Corner LP catalog is one of the largest in existence today. The initial pressing run for all new titles is 1200 copies, with reorders, which use new stampers, occurring on a near-constant basis. Best-sellers exceed 10,000 copies pressed -- each inspected by hand.

While digital music slowly abolishes the physical format in favor of greater convenience, analog playback, the most inconvenient way of playing recorded music, is thriving. Who would have predicted that for CD's 25th birthday? Even if you're all digital, these video clips will make you yearn to spin a record or two.

...Marc Mickelson

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