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Music Patents Entertainment Technology

'High Definition Vinyl' Is Coming As Early As Next Year (pitchfork.com) 330

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Pitchfork: In 2016, a European patent filing described a way of manufacturing records that the inventors claimed would have higher audio fidelity, louder volume, and longer playing times than conventional LPs. Now, the Austrian-based startup Rebeat Innovation has received $4.8 million in funding for the initiative, founder and CEO Gunter Loibl told Pitchfork. Thanks to the investment, the first "HD vinyl" albums could hit stores as early as 2019, Loibl said. The HD vinyl process involves converting audio digitally to a 3D topographic map. Lasers are then used to inscribe the map onto the "stamper," the part that stamps the grooves into the vinyl. According to Loibl, these methods allow for records to be made more precisely and with less loss of audio information. The results, he said, are vinyl LPs that can have up to 30 percent more playing time, 30 percent more amplitude, and overall more faithful sound reproduction. The technique would also avoid the chemicals that play a role in traditional vinyl manufacturing. Plus, the new-school HD vinyl LPs would still play on ordinary record players.

'High Definition Vinyl' Is Coming As Early As Next Year

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  • Call me jaded, but every time I hear an advertisement claim a percentage improvement in efficiency, I hear "up to" even if it's unspoken.
  • I smell bull%^& (Score:4, Informative)

    by BoxRec ( 532280 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:39PM (#56428395) Homepage
    The volume of the record is dependent on the movement of the needle which is dependent on the width of the track. Louder tracks are wider which reduces the length of play. Remember those old compilation albums with 10+ tracks per side sounded tinny compared to the original because to fit the tracks were compressed and volume (especially bass) was lost.
    • I smell bull%^& because this is going to be marketed to "audiophiles". Someone's going to make a lot of money too.
      The whole vinyl fad is just another way for the unscrupulous to take money off the stupid.
      • Re:I smell bull%^& (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Altrag ( 195300 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @03:11AM (#56429473)

        Its a fad to be sure, and its kind of BS at best.. but basically the vinyl lovers (I hate to call them audiophiles..) are mostly looking for the non-musical effects. Things like the attenuation caused by the disk being slightly warped, the needle not being perfect, etc. Essentially, the music changes slightly and unpredictably as you play the record more often which I guess some people like.

        Meaning this "HD" vinyl, if it lives up to its claims, is pretty much the worst of both worlds -- all the inconvenience of an LP but without all of the "interesting" quirks that vinyl gave you. If those people wanted digital music, they'd go to iTunes like everybody else. But they specifically don't want that.

        I mean I'm sure some people will buy it thinking it will be like an LP but with better sound quality, and some who don't know wtf they're talking about and just want to be "cool" with their record player will probably enjoy it.. but for most vinyl lovers, they'll likely be disappointed and these new disks won't last long.

    • I admit I haven't seen a whole lot of vinyl up close, but I think the gap between the groves it's usually wider than the grooves themselves. If you can tighten manufacturing tolerances without making the record too fragile to play, I could imagine it still being possible.

      And then there's this, from the patent:

      the mastering process further includes applying a so-called Rheinsche Füllschrift process to ensure that, in quieter parts of the audio, the groove spacing is reduced whereas in louder parts of the audio, the groove spacing is increased

    • Doesn't have to be bullshit. Think 'Loudness War' writ onto vinyl, with some laser-cut stamping thing no less
    • Remember the loud albums which were unplayable without adjusting up the weight of the needle beyond the manufacture spec to prevent it jumping the track when some rocker hit the drums.

  • Who wants to bet that any improvement in vinyl audio quality will only cause vinyl lovers to hate it nearly as much as they did when CD's came out?
  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:50PM (#56428465)
    I find it amazing that in the age of devices capable of handling arbitrary precision arithmetic, someone opts for a process inherently limited by scales of size of physical material features. This is definitely not one of those things I'd be pining for.
    • no, the funny part here is that they're cutting analog records from a digital sound processing system.

      • +1

        Exactly what I was going to write. I mean, really? We are going to take pristine digital audio, convert to analog and THEN stamp it on lossy, low-capacity, hugely space inefficient, inconvenient, wearable, easily damaged, non-portable material? Yeesh.

      • No, most of them are cut digitally these days.

        To increase the amount of playing time, you can vary the width of the grooves depending on the volume and frequency content (louder and more bassy parts need wider grooves), kind of like RLE coding in a way. To do this while cutting the master, you need to know what's going to happen in the next rotation of the disk.

        This means you need two signals going into the cutting amplifier, one with the future signal, and one with the signal you're actually cutting to di

    • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @12:22AM (#56429073)
      The whole obsession with analog formats (and super-digital formats like SACD) stems from lay people's fundamental misunderstanding of digital sampling. It's not intuitively obvious that a series of discrete digital samples at 2x the highest frequency you want to capture only has a single valid analog mathematical solution, and so the digital sample is a perfect representation of the original analog waveform [youtube.com]. Because it's not intuitively obvious, people convince themselves that the digital sample must somehow be missing something that the analog sample captures.
      • by brantondaveperson ( 1023687 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @12:53AM (#56429139) Homepage

        Well, to nitpick, Nyquist's theorem applies only to signals of infinite length, and in fact a 20kHz signal can't be perfectly reproduced with a 40kHz sampling frequency because you lose phase information on any finite signal.

        I'm not for a moment suggesting that this actually adds up to a perceptible loss of information in the signal, or that 'transients' are in any way different to high frequency signal components, or that Vinyl is superior. I'm just nitpicking, because it's Friday afternoon, and I've nothing better to do.

      • the digital sample is a perfect representation of the original analog waveform

        Not really, but it is "good enough".

        Excellent article here on the details of digital audio; Digital Dharma of Audio A/D Converters [rane.com]

        Everything you ever wanted to know about quantization, dither, and more.

      • the digital sample is a perfect representation of the original analog waveform

        It's probably good enough given the typical noise floor, but I wouldn't say it's a perfect representation. Definitely overkill for audio, but I'm sure scientists need lots of bits.

    • Thank the industry. What people ultimately care about is the end product. When that sounds better on a crappy medium due to the pressure the record industry places on the mastering process that ultimately ruins it then fine, we'll gravitate towards the niche medium that gets ignored by the fuckerupers.

      The best example of this can probably be seen in the pirated copy of the Metalica Death Magnetic, the highest quality of which is that ripped from the Guitar Hero video game.

    • by houghi ( 78078 )

      People like different things. News at 11.

      Some people like mechanical watches. I find it amazing that in the age of devices capable of handling arbitrary precision arithmetic, someone opts for a process inherently limited by scales of size of physical material features. This is definitely not one of those things I'd be pining for.

    • by Megol ( 3135005 )

      An engineer should strive for the simplest system possible IMO. This complicates one step (done once) but keeps compatibility with old technology while improving the result. Sounds good to me!

  • by tgeek ( 941867 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:51PM (#56428471)
    (shamelessly stolen from Men in Black)
  • by Cytotoxic ( 245301 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:51PM (#56428475)

    The HD vinyl process involves converting audio digitally to a 3D topographic map. Lasers are then used to inscribe the map onto the "stamper,"

    Or.. now hear me out on this one... or ... we could just, you know, send the digitally converted audio, you know, without converting it back into a bumpy piece of plastic.

    I know this might sound radical, but it seems to me that converting analog sound to digital format then to a digital 3d map then to a laser-cut stamper then to a piece of bumpy vinyl then to a vibrating stylus and into a varying electrical current to drive an amplification system to run the speakers that you listen to might just be a little more complicated than just taking the digital format for storage and transport and converting that back into analog sound at playback.

    • Trust me this will go over as well as HD-CD and SACD did. Include MiniDisc too for that matter.

      • HD-CD was a stillbirth. MiniDisc was HUGE and incredibly popular killed by a completely different and vastly superior medium. SACD is still active, you can still buy equipment, there are new releases in the format etc.

        The only one here worth comparing to is HD-CD.

    • by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @12:02AM (#56428993) Journal

      I used to think like that, but it occurred to me to just look at it differently.

      Steampunk aesthetic is producing modern outcomes with archaic (generally 19th century) means and/or styling. Generally it involves overly complicated mechanisms (as complex as needed to achieve the outcome mechanically, only 'overly complicated' when compared to a solution using electronics.)

      Using rotating turntables, vinyl and needles to reproduce sound fits this description neatly. So all those people who like vinyl are just a variety of steampunks (whether or not they realize it.) And I'm cool with steampunks.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

      • by Megol ( 3135005 )

        Overly complicated? You obviously don't know the meaning of the word! Vinyl is very simple and modern audio is very complicated.

        Vinyl: position changes in a stylus/needle induces proportional voltages that is amplified and then replayed with a speaker.

        Digital: compressed audio is decompressed to a digital sound representation that is converted to an analog value which is then amplified and replayed with a speaker.

        Decompression of the audio isn't exactly a simple operation and the workings of a modern audio

    • Or.. now hear me out on this one... or ... we could just, you know, send the digitally converted audio, you know, without converting it back into a bumpy piece of plastic.

      What you're saying boils down to "You shouldn't make records." That's not the point, and TBH it seems to be needlessly pissing on other people's hobbies, both people who collect vinyl and bands who want a physical copy of their album for posterity.

      What a lot of people seem to be missing is that there is already a market for producing vinyl. So much so that new cutting shops and pressing plants are coming online. If these people can skip most of the expensive steps of getting a stamper cut, that will make

    • It will certainly be lossy.

    • Depends on the source material.

      If the source is the CD and it is converted to vinyl then it's a horrible idea.
      If the source is the original tracks and it is converted to vinyl though this convoluted niche process then it is a great idea as some bumbling studio exec may ignore it and we may end up with a decent result ... unlike the CD.

    • The HD vinyl process involves converting audio digitally to a 3D topographic map. Lasers are then used to inscribe the map onto the "stamper,"

      Or.. now hear me out on this one... or ... we could just, you know, send the digitally converted audio, you know, without converting it back into a bumpy piece of plastic.

      I know this might sound radical, but it seems to me that converting analog sound to digital format then to a digital 3d map then to a laser-cut stamper then to a piece of bumpy vinyl then to a vibrating stylus and into a varying electrical current to drive an amplification system to run the speakers that you listen to might just be a little more complicated than just taking the digital format for storage and transport and converting that back into analog sound at playback.

      Next you'll be telling me that gold cables won't help.

  • Being able to use my Technics 1200s isn't the only factor. I have a pair of Shure M44-7 needles, as well as a pair of Ortofon Clubs, which have a tip of a particular size. If HD vinyl is fitting louder tracks at higher fidelity, and more of them, onto a 12" vinyl record, then the grooves *have* to be more narrow. Will I need new needles for these? If not, won't my wider needles just wear them out faster? If neither of these are true, is it because of a tougher material that is more resistant to wear at the

  • Cheap conversion rate?

  • by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @10:21PM (#56428607)

    the rush of high definition 8 track players that are sure to follow....

    • I remember having an 8-track deck (reco

      (KA-CHUNK)

      r, too). the worst part is that you got used to the cha

      (KA-CHUNK)

      l changes. sucks when you learned the song that way.

  • a little every time you play them. Someday people are going to start collecting CDs again, when this vinyl nonsense has run its course.

  • by Zobeid ( 314469 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @10:29PM (#56428649)

    If only record companies would put a fraction as much effort and resources into mastering their CDs properly and making them sound good, all this would be unnecessary.

  • Digital audio to vinyl records? I guess if someone is stupid enough to make it there will be people stupid enough to buy it.
    • Why not? See the thing about vinyl's sound is that it goes through its own mastering process. Part of the reason vinyl sounds good is that its a niche product so the men in suits don't force the sound engineer to completely fuck up the sound during the final master because they are aren't all that interested in this small market segment.

      All recording is done digitally now, that doesn't mean the vinyl doesn't often sound very different (and often not in a bad way). Same with SACD. They sound the same whether

  • half speed masters ?
  • by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @11:19PM (#56428819)

    This scheme is a shoe-in for the 2018 "polished turd of the year" award.

  • I still have a pile of records from .... a long time ago. I thought that the encoding was a limiting factor, and I don't mean the RIAA equalization. Some disconnected neuron in my brain is saying LPs use velocity and 78s and older used amplitude encoding.
  • I am sure it will work for vinyl also..
  • Everyone knows that if you want real high quality sound you skip the CD, Vinyl, SACD, and HD-DVD, copies and go straight into playing guitarhero: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

    In case people don't understand this comment I mean that any positive attributes of sound attributed to vinyl has nothing at all to do with vinyl. Studio mastering is a dead art killed by people in suits.

  • Vinyl was a shit format
    Vinyl is a shit format
    Vinyl will always be a shit format
    Your vinyl is shit
    My vinyl is shit
    His or her vinyl is shit
    Their vinyl is shit
    Vinyl is made of shite.

    That year of Latin in school has finally paid off.

  • what is next; HD laserdisc?

  • by GodWasAnAlien ( 206300 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @07:17AM (#56429995)

    I assumed that a modern record player would have no needed and use a laser for reading.

    A better fitting needle, wow ?

    • it could be done with a laser, and has been, but apparently, it was too expensive. Fact: LPs use this EQ called an RIAA curve - it rolls off the top and bottom after mastering, then restores it during the amplification stage. The reason for this is that too much low end would make the needle bounce and too much top end would make the needle skip - not track the highs.
  • First thing I thought of was Monster and their digital HD audio cables at a bazillion percent markup.

    Have you looked at music waveforms lately ? There really isn't any dynamic range. Everything is cranked just shy of the clipping limits across the entire song.

    They need to fix that first.

  • Vinyl is the best analog format around, but what's the point when it's the only analog component? Everything between the mics/instruments and the vinyl is digital, so is there any real advantage?
  • I understand the people that are nostalgic about LP's. I love the album art. But let's stop pretending that mechanical sound reproduction is anywhere close to a faithful reproduction of the real thing. It's not. I will always introduce sounds that were not apart of the original performance. It's impossible not to do this. It's also extremely expensive to get the best possible reproduction.

    A true audiophile knows that the first rule of accurate sound reproduction is to not add to the original performan

  • So they create yet another digital medium. DAT, Digital Reel to Reel, CD, lossless DA, etc., it doesn't matter. DA is still ones and zeros. Digital is digital and analog is analog. People like LPs because of the warmth and depth of the sound - they are analog. Making them digital defeats the whole advantage.
  • The High Definition Compatible Digital [wikipedia.org] and Super Audio CD [wikipedia.org] formats were lonely and needed a new companion on the pile of failed formats.

  • The idea of putting high definition, or high dynamic range onto vinyl is not new. In fact it was done in the 70s and 80s - CX, DBX etc.

    It flopped then even when vinyl was the predominant format. Not least because you needed special noise reduction / amplifying circuitry to extract the audio from the format it was stored in.

    It will flop now for the same reason. That and because vinyl is just a stupid hipster format that offers not a single advantage over digital audio except for audiophile wankage.

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