Austrian company Rebeat is looking to fundamentally change the way vinyl records are mastered, promising to bring what it calls “HD vinyl” to stores sometime in 2019. With the triumphant resurgence of vinyl in recent years as other forms of physical media sales have dwindled, this attempt at “high definition vinyl” is claimed to result in longer playing time, more amplitude than current records, and better sound quality.
Sales trends over recent years have been incredibly clear. People are buying less physical media, and streaming more. CDs still account for a large volume of music sales but they are undoubtedly on the downturn. Vinyl sales, on the other hand, have been slowly growing year by year until, in 2017, Sony Japan went so far as announcing it will be reopening its first vinyl plant in 30 years.
Rebeat first patented its novel vinyl production method in 2016, and now, after an influx of new funding, can finally move ahead and start producing the innovative product. The technique redefines the entire process of record production, from mastering the audio to stamping the vinyl.
The first step converts digital master audio data into a topographical image that represents a 3D inverted surface model of the music. Extra mastering on the data can be done at this stage, and because the exact width of each groove can be evaluated, each record can be optimized to reduce unnecessary gaps in the grooves. This can either extend the playing time of a single side or expand the amplitude to make the record louder with a better signal to noise ratio.