Vinyl Factory Tour: Part 5

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by B. Rica on July 12 '06



Quality Assurance and Packaging

At random times, a record gets picked up from the pressing batches and played in order to evaluate the quality of the product. It gets played briefly and inspected for any pressing and off-center issues that may ruin an entire pressing batch. If any of these issues occur, the batch of that press may be entirely discarded - the label is punched out, and the rest gets recycled.

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The batches that pass the listening test go to packaging. Here, these experienced ladies visually check each and every record for any surface imperfections, blemishes or otherwise unacceptable flaws. If any are found, that record is discarded, punched out and recycled. A batch of forthcoming Everest 35mm reissue series is being checked in the picture above. Those are legendary classical music performances, and the average buyer of these is often more nitpicking and less tolerant of flaws than the typical rock and pop consumer, so these probably get double-checked. They are also sprayed with a high pressure air compressor to discard any trace of dust.

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Typical, ordinary pressings get packed in plain paper sleeves; Audiophile-oriented reissues, such as those of Classic Records or special label requests, get the special poly/paper, acid-free sleeve treatment. Later, they are finally put into the outer sleeves, which get printed and assembled elsewhere. “Popular” LP pressings often get shinkwrapped; heavy audiophile pressings usually do not. These, instead, are sealed in a loose plastic bag. Many hardcore vinyl enthusiasts think shrinkwrapping causes vinyl warpage over a long time.

And that, my friends, is a wrap (no pun intended!) for the RTI/AcousTech tour. At the end, you walk away gazing in awe at the great amount of resources and know-how it takes to produce those much beloved vinyl slabs which in turn reward us with music that, for some of us, can sound much better than in any other format out there. But even more than that, you end up realizing that, in this day and age, it really takes true commitment and passion to run a factory of analog sound, and that what people like Steve Hoffman, Kevin Gray, Don MacInnis and Chad Kassem (below) do here, cannot be better described as anything other than a true labor of love -- for both the LP format, and for the music. Quoting a T-shirt from theirs, “Long Live Analog - saving the world from bad sound!”

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I wonder if that is an audiophile quality VW bus LP player she has at the top.