Los Senderos Studio
Manufacturing Albums
 Issue 55 April 2014 
CD Manufacturing

Words from the Glossary

As we continue our exploration of terms from our glossary, this month we are going to venture outside the recording studio to look at what happens after the finished album leaves the studio and look at CD replication. For you vinyl fans, we'll look briefly at vinyl manufacturing.

Manufacturing CDs and LPs

This month's terms: replication, duplication, master, glass master, vinyl mastering, lacquer master, lathe, stamper, RIAA curve, direct metal mastering,

Glass Master
Glass Master


Just so you know, this article will be a very condensed version of the process. If you want a more detailed discussion, take a look at the Wikipedia entry for CD manufacturing.

Duplication is the process of making small quantities of compact discs, typically 300 units or less. This is done by transferring the data from the master copy to a CD-R in much the same way you would copy a CD on your computer. For larger quantities, replication is used.

The first step in replication is to create a glass master. These are produced in clean rooms since dust particles and other contaminants can cause serious errors in the final disc. The process begins with glass disc about ¼ inch thick and 9½ inches in diameter (almost twice the diameter of the finished CD). The disc is polished to a very smooth surface, cleaned, and then coated with a light-sensitive material. The data from the master CD is then used to etch pits into the material using a laser beam. The encoded glass disc is then electroplated with a layer of nickel, which becomes the stamper. The nickel stamper is a negative impression of the encoded disc—in other words, where there were pits, there are now spikes. The stamper is used in a mold to press the pits into a hot (400-600 degrees F) polycarbonate disc. After cooling a reflective layer of aluminum alloy is fixed to the top (the label side). The entire disc is then coated with a clear lacquer, resulting in a finished audio compact disc.

A vinyl LP is produced in a very similar, yet quite different process. The vinyl master is created using a lathe, a heavy duty machine that cuts grooves using a sapphire stylus into the lacquer that has been applied to a 14-inch aluminum disc (for a 12-inch LP). The vibrations are induced into the groove in response to the audio signal being encoded while passing through an equalizer to implement the RIAA curve. After the lacquer master is sprayed with silver nitrate to fill all the grooves, it is submerged into a bath and nickel is electroplated onto the disc plate. After about 90 minutes, the disc is removed from the bath and the nickel-metal negative is separated from the lacquer master to create the metal stamper. A stamper for each side of the record is placed in a press. A ball of hot vinyl (380 degrees F) is pressed with 100 tons of pressure to produce the record.

Now you know why it is cheaper to use duplication for small quantities and replication for large quantities of CDs.

In This Issue

Tip of the Month
How to Contact Us
Back in the Studio
$50 Off Coupon


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Tip of the Month

TIP: Put emotion and feeling into your performance.

Mentally block out all of the microphones, studio paraphernalia, and gear around you. Stay relaxed and play or sing naturally. If it helps, imagine you are on stage in front of a friendly crowd.

Back in the Studio

As some of you know, I had back surgery the first week of February, and I am now in recovery mode. However, I have progressed well enough that I was back in the studio as of the middle of March. So if you have been putting off coming in until I was well enough to work, do so no longer. And I thank everyone for all their prayers and well wishes.

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