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macfan

Major Blow to Vinyl Production

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Some of you may have seen the links below. There was a fire at the Apollo/Transco Master's facility in California leaving only Japan's MDC the only source for blank masters used in the production or new or reissue releases. The fire has resulted in a total loss of the facility.  The other choice is Direct Metal Mastering or DMM which is more promptly used in Europe vs. more traditional lacquer mastering here in the states. Beyond that the supply of styli for the Westrex heads found on Neumann lathes looks to be impacted as well.

Looks like our friends across the pond will be able to keep things going for a while. Either way, this looks to be a major blow to vinyl lovers worldwide.  

https://www.analogplanet.com/content/abbey-road-mastering-engineer-miles-showell-comments-apollotransco-disaster

https://www.analogplanet.com/content/major-vinyl-production-catastrophe-apollotransco-lacquers-burns

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I have an LP on order from Amazon that is scheduled to be released on March 6. We'll see if that date is impacted.

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Fire seems to have it in for us  doesn't it.:(

What  with the Universal warehouse fire ...and  now this. We can only  hope that those in a position to finance it decide that it's worth the effort of putting it all back together .

The shortage  today of folks with the necessary skills and experience is a big worry...but can be overcome if the will is there . That will be the biggest factor in determining the whole future  of vinyl .

The resurgence in recent years has been supported largely by stretched old hardware and facilities . Will the industry be willing to invest the resources  required to maintain and develop this  vital mastering and cutting  capability into the future?

This could be a good  test.  Is there enough of a market ?   It's all about the dollars .

Edited by Smokestack

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I would expect that there is enough interest in the still increasing vinyl market to get a new plant up and running.  All the people involved in that side of the business know each other so I would't be surprised to se some kind of consortium come together to do this.  Putting it all back together, however, is rather unlikely as that is one of those facilities that probably only existed in California since it had been there forever.  It is highly unlikely that rebuilding a plant that processes the kinds of chemicals used in making these lacquers would be allowed there now.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out but I am cautiously hopeful that a new facility will come online.

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On 09/02/2020 at 10:12, akamatsu said:

I have an LP on order from Amazon that is scheduled to be released on March 6. We'll see if that date is impacted.

Marillion "Less is More" arrived right on time. So, no impact from the fire.

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Posted (edited)

While the fire in N.Calf was very unfortunate for the record industry..I do think there is some misunderstanding as to the impact. Any reissue of existing work will not be effected by this scenario. We are only talking about new music that is requiring a new acrylic that will be effected. So, if you are hoping for that new Billie Eilish record to get on vinyl, that could be a problem, but for the prior-reissue Miles Davis reissue...not so much.

Edited by Daveyf
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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Daveyf said:

While the fire in N.Calf was very unfortunate for the record industry..I do think there is some misunderstanding as to the impact. Any reissue of existing work will not be effected by this scenario. We are only talking about new music that is requiring a new acrylic that will be effected. So, if you are hoping for that new Billie Eilish record to get on vinyl, that could be a problem, but for the prior-reissue Miles Davis reissue...not so much.

Sorry, but we do actually have a slightly larger problem. 

The factory in Banning, on the 10 freeway east of Los Angeles in Southern California, was one of two factories that made laquer masters globally. 

A laquer will only make a finite amount of albums, namely about 100’ of your average mass produced album or about 50’ for a high quality pressing. This is because the stamper, that is pressing the actual lp, will gradually decline and eventually break after about 1000 pressings.

Here’s the chain of production of an lp from master medium in reverse order:

- Each stamper will make 1000 pressings

- Ten stampers can be made from each mother

- Ten mothers can be made from one father

- One father is made from one laquer

So eventually all production of lp:s, or new pressings from old master media will be affected.

Edited by Clavius

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13 hours ago, Clavius said:

Sorry, but we do actually have a slightly larger problem. 

The factory in Banning, on the 10 freeway east of Los Angeles in Southern California, was one of two factories that made laquer masters globally. 

A laquer will only make a finite amount of albums, namely about 100’ of your average mass produced album or about 50’ for a high quality pressing. This is because the stamper, that is pressing the actual lp, will gradually decline and eventually break after about 1000 pressings.

Here’s the chain of production of an lp from master medium in reverse order:

- Each stamper will make 1000 pressings

- Ten stampers can be made from each mother

- Ten mothers can be made from one father

- One father is made from one laquer

So eventually all production of lp:s, or new pressings from old master media will be affected.

Are you claiming that all new releases, including reissues, will immediately need to make new lacquers? 

As to the rebuilding of the plant in California... i would agree that this is extremely unlikely, as the guidelines regarding facilities that produce chemically polluting by- products has been severely limited in the last twenty years! Has anyone noticed how few plating companies exist in California these days...almost none. ( Most of this work has been driven south of the US border). 

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Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, Daveyf said:

Are you claiming that all new releases, including reissues, will immediately need to make new lacquers? 

No! As is clearly evident from the quote I wrote ‘eventually’-  not ‘immediately’.

Re-issues will eventually require new lacquers because every link in the mechanical chain is subject to wear and the laquer is a finite resource at beginning of the chain of production.

Here’s another explanation of the process from https://www.audiomasterclass.com/newsletter/vinyl-record-manufacturing-lacquer-master-mother-stamper-and-pressings

“The manufacturing process starts with the lacquer disc created in the cutting room. This is too delicate even to play without damage and needs toughening up.

So the lacquer disc is coated with silver, which makes it conductive for the next process, which is electroplating   with nickel. The nickel is then separated from the lacquer, giving a disc with ridges where the grooves would normally be - a 'negative' copy. Even though it is made of metal, it is too delicate to use to make pressings. This disc is known as the 'master' and there is only one. 

The next stage is the 'mother'. This is made from the master by a similar process of electroplating. It is feasible to create up to around four mothers, but for the highest quality recordings this is restricted to two. The mother has grooves once again and is playable.

From the mother, 'stampers' are produced - up to six from each mother. Once again these are negatives, and are given a smooth chromium surface.

The stampers, two per record, are placed in presses and heated with steam before clamping down onto a cake of vinyl raw material. The result is a 'pressing' which after trimming and packaging is the record that is sold in the shops.”

 

Edit: As you can see this source gives the maximum amount of ‘mothers’ produced from a laquer to two and the amount of stampers from each mother to six, drastically restricting the amount of albums produced from a laquer from my original example. It will also be helpful to note that they also merge ‘laquer’ and ‘father’ into one calling it a ‘master’. 

Edited by Clavius

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