I’m kind of a vinyl nerd. When things get hectic, I retreat to the man-cave in my garage, play some pinball and play my records on a little turntable perched on my workbench.
I’ve always been curious about the process for making vinyl records. I found the answer in a video filmed at Rainbo Records in Southern California that shows the record manufacturing process from end to end.
The basic process is that the sound pattern of music is fed into a computerized lathe, which cuts grooves into a master disc according to the tone–wider grooves for bass tones, narrower grooves for higher treble tones. That master disc is used to make multiple “mother” discs, which in turn are used to create negative “stamper” discs. These are then used to press the final records you buy in a shop where guys in ironic tee shirts flip through albums one by one.
Vinyl records are experiencing a resurgence in popularity. According to Rainbo Records, in 1977, 3 days after Elvis died, they were pressing 60,000 records per day. By the late ’80s, with the rise of the CD, that number was down to 8,000 to 10,000 per day. Now, thanks to the vinyl comeback, Rainbo is pressing up to 25,000 records per day.
Is this renewed popularity enough to change a manufacturing process that hasn’t changed much since the ’50s? Only time will tell.