I can’t quite call myself old enough to have experienced the golden age of the phonograph, ya know since they date back as early as the mid-1800s. But with the (continual) resurgence of vinyl records, now with the age of hipsters and vintage music enthusiasts, I figure this would be a nice opportunity to see how these timeless music storage devices are made.
The whole video is a treat to watch, but for those who want the short version, here’s the (super simplified) rundown:
1. Carving The Music Onto A Stamper
Music can be basically boiled down to really ‘groovy’ sound waves, so in order to press those sound waves onto a piece of vinyl, it first needs to be professionally mixed for the medium.
Once the music is mixed, the sound is carved into a series of grooves which are transferred to a stamper. These stampers are then sent out by record companies and indie bands to a number of pressing plants (such as BrooklynPhono) which load the stampers onto their hydraulic press machines for vinyl record-making.
2. Baking The Vinyl
When an order for records comes through, BrooklyPhono prepares circular chunks of vinyl. These chunks are first drilled in the center before being baked in an oven.
3. Adding The Labels and Press The Record
These heated vinyl chunks are then sandwiched between two labels by use of an extruder. The crude vinyl sandwiches are then shot forward into the main pressing area where the stampers can be found. With the stampers in place, the vinyls have the sweet, sweet music pressed onto them.
In the case of BrooklynPhono, they use the traditional method of using steam and heated water to press the vinyls into records. 2,000psi is applied to a heated piece of vinyl before being cooled down to produce a record.
This isn’t the most cost-efficient or environment-friendly method of pressing records; some companies have moved on to more modern steamless modules that use electricity instead of water to heat up the vinyl.
While BrooklynPhono does use the old steam method, they have taken it upon themselves to implement a closed-loop recycling system. This means excess vinyl from old records is reused and turned into new records. So they’re doing what they can to make their pressing plant able to reuse/recycle materials.
4. Trimming The Record and Prepping for Shipping
With the music imprinted onto the records, all that’s left to do now is remove the excess vinyl, trim the records into their iconic disc shape, and prepare them for shipping to music lovers worldwide.
It’s a fascinating process that brings a deeper appreciation for making the music and the medium that has brought us so many wonderful groups. So the next time you’re browsing in your local record store, take a moment and reflect on just how a series of melted grooves produces your favorite band’s newest (or most classic) album.