The first “High Definition vinyl” could be in stores next year, launched by the austrian-based startup Rebeat Innovation, which has received $4.8 million in funding for the initiative. “By summer 2019 we shall see the first HD vinyls in the stores,” founder and CEO Günter Loibl told Pitchfork.
In 2016, a European patent filing described a way of manufacturing records that the inventors claimed would have better sound quality, higher frequency response, 30% more playing time, and 30% more amplitude than current vinyl records. It also eliminates the toxic chemicals currently used in the vinyl mastering process, while completely removing tangential/radial error. Now, Rebeat Innovation has told Pitchfork that the new format could reach our homes as early as next year.
HD Vinyl records can be played on any existing turntable, while still delivering major fidelity improvements. “Down the road, we’ll be making our own HD vinyl turntables as well. That will maximize the audio quality playback, while opening endless possibilities for digital metadata and connectivity,” said the startup.
HD Vinyl in Detail (info extracted from Rebeat Innovation web)
Step 1: Audio to 3D conversion
Rebeat Innovation patented laser-cutting process completely replaces the toxic, unstable electroplating process used in traditional vinyl record production. Here’s more on how it works.
As a first step, they convert a high-resolution audio file into a topographic 3D map of a stamper (the master plate for creating vinyl records). Because they know the exact width of the amplitude at any time, they can virtually remove the unnecessary gap between the grooves.
They can also correct the tangential/radial error (a lacquer is traditionally cut at a tangential angle, but most turntables read in a radial angle, so the needle is constantly tilting). All of that results in 30% more playing time with the same volume of traditional vinyl records.
Or, they can use the additional space to create a completely augmented listening experience by adding that space to the amplitude. The result is that HD Vinyls are louder, with far better dynamics and much better S/N ratios.
Step 2: Laser Engraving
Once optimized, the 3D topographic map will be engraved onto a ceramic plate. They can precisely cut up to 100kHz onto the outer edge of the disk.
By comparison, a traditional vinyl record can realize a maximum 15kHz in a realtime cutting process.
Step 3: Pressing
They use ceramic materials for the stamper. This is an incredibly important detail, because it ensures that there’s no quality difference between the first and last copy produced.
In the traditional vinyl pressing process, a nickel stamper has to be replaced after a maximum of 1,000 copies because of wear. Even worse, there’s a huge quality difference between copies no. 1 and 1,000 in traditional vinyl manufacturing. That’s one of the reasons why vinyl collectors pay much more for early copies.
With HD Vinyl there’s no such quality difference: the first and the last copy are absolutely equivalent.