Ahead of its launch, HD Vinyl is already striking critical manufacturing partnerships. Just this week, the company announced a slew of deals with major record manufacturing plants — including the massive GZ Media.
Back in 2016, ‘HD Vinyl’ emerged as a back-of-the-envelope idea hatched outside Vienna, Austria. Interesting, but mostly theoretical.
Now, the company, part of Rebeat Innovation, has received millions in funding, owns critical patents, and is striking major partnerships. That includes a number of deals with major vinyl record pressing plants, including GZ Media, announced this week.
The massive GZ, situated in Loděnice, Czech Republic, has joined forces to retrofit HD’s ceramic, laser-cut stampers to select machines. “Since HD Vinyl stampers will be made out of laser-cut ceramic instead of electroplated metal stampers, new molds and fittings have to be developed,” explained HD Vinyl (and Rebeat Innovation) founder, Guenter Loibl.
Others are also joining in, likely the first of many plants and manufacturers.
According to details shared this week at the Making Vinyl conference in Detroit, HD Vinyl has also inked similar deals with Record Products Of America (RSA) and Viryl Technologies.
RSA is based in Hamden, Connecticut, while Viryl hails from Toronto (more on them a little later). All three are aiming to beat the curve, and become fully compliant with HD Vinyl once the format hits the market.
“Changing from traditional to HD Vinyl stampers has to be simple and fast,” Loibl noted. “Therefore, we are excited to work together with such innovative partners. They are leaders in their field and have the experience and knowledge to fit HD Vinyl stampers into any press machine, both new and existing.”
HD Vinyl is aiming to boost audio fidelity by 30%, while expanding the amount of music that can be played on a single side.
Traditional 33 LPs can handle about 22 minutes per side; HD Vinyl expects its laser-cutting precision to expand that to 30 minutes.
The secret sauce is the ultra-precise laser, which can cut grooves along an exact topographical path. That allows for far greater precision and resulting audio quality, while skipping multiple steps in the current manufacturing process. It also dramatically reduces environmental waste, with direct-cut stampers eliminating the need for nickel-plating chemical processes (among other cumbersome steps).
In a presentation to vinyl industry executives on Monday in Detroit, Loibl estimated that his HD Vinyl stamper sets will be able to press 10,000 copies before any degradation appears. Traditional stampers typically wear out after about 1,000 pressings (though plenty of plants stretch that number).
But perhaps the biggest benefit is that HD Vinyl will be entirely backward compatible, meaning they’re playable on any existing turntable.
Loibl later told Digital Music News that he’s not sure exactly what the final, finished product will look like. The HD Vinyl platter could feature a matte finish (sounds cool), or be indistinguishable from the current, glossy black vinyl look.
And when will the first HD Vinyl copies hit customers’ hands?
At Making Vinyl, Loibl offered early laser-cut stamper prototypes, while addressing innumerable questions from vinyl record manufacturing executives. Loibl is expecting first pressings to emerge in the spring of 2019, with product hitting the marketplace by fall.
As for Viryl Technologies, this is another fast-rising company making waves in the vinyl space. The Toronto-based company builds state-of-the-art record pressing machines, which include far more efficient turnaround times and quick-change stampers.
Incidentally, we spotted multiple Viryl machines on the floor of Jack White’s Third Man Records, which features a stunningly beautiful record-pressing facility (well worth the visit if you’re in Detroit). Indeed, Viryl’s early-stage deal means that plants like Third Man could be pumping out HD Vinyl platters in the near future.
Meanwhile, Loibl’s hair-brained concoction is rapidly gaining support.
At Making Vinyl, traditional vinyl record manufacturers seemed skeptical, though many were simply intrigued by the possible evolution in LP technology. That included at least one major label executive, who was eagerly checking in on progress.
Others simply pooh-poohed the idea, perhaps clinging to the more traditional — and wildly inefficient — production techniques. But that age-old process is leading to a serious supply side problem for vinyl records, and holding back a resurgence that continues to gain steam.
In many cases, artists are forced to wait for months to receive their vinyl orders, a lag time HD Vinyl aims to dramatically reduce.
Earlier this year, Rebeat raised $4.8 million in Series A funding for the HD Vinyl initiative, led by Austrian-based GW Invest GMBH. Just last month, the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) pledged an additional $1.9 million, bringing the total amount raised to $6.7 million.
Reporting live from Detroit!