Music snobs tend to champion vinyl as the best way to listen to music. If Austrian startup Rebeat Innovation succeeds in its mission, however, audiophiles will have a new format to worship: High definition vinyl.
After filing for a patent in 2016, Rebeat has just received a $4.8 million investment, founder and CEO Günter Loibl told Pitchfork. That money will go to fund a new laser-cutting process that promises vinyl with 30% longer playing time and 30% increased amplitude. Loibl sid that if all goes according to plan, the first HD vinyl could be in stores as early as next year.
As with any new technology, the details are actually pretty complex, but here’s the abridged idea: Rebeat’s $600,000 laser system uses a 3D topographical map of a vinyl’s grooves to cut a stamper into a ceramic plate. (A “stamper” is what actually presses grooves onto the slab of vinyl you end up putting on your turntable.) The advantages to traditional vinyl mastering are multifold. For one, the ceramic stamper means there’s no quality loss after multiple pressings; traditional nickel-stampers tend to wear out after 1,000 copies, and there’s noticeable differences in quality between the first and final pressing. Not to mention that nickel-stampers require an electroplating process that produces a bunch of toxic waste.
What’s more, the 3D map allows for greater precision meaning the gap between grooves can be drastically reduced. The result is more audio can be crammed onto the same size vinyl, and you can up the volume considerably by increasing the amplitude.
According to Loibl, the company plans to show their first five test stampers at October’s Making Vinyl trade conference in Detroit. “It will take another eight months to do all the fine adjustments,” he continued. “So by summer 2019 we shall see the first HD vinyls in the stores.” Don’t worry about having to buy whole new machine like you did when you started collecting Blu-ray, though, as HD vinyl will be completely backwards compatible; it’s the pressing process that’s been improved, not the playback.