When Emile Berliner introduced his rotating grooved disc more than a hundred years ago, he created a technology that we still use today with modern vinyl. There were several improvements over the next six decades–the microgroove 33.3 RPM LP in 1948, the 7-inch single in 1949 and stereo records beginning in 1957–but there hasn’t been much in the way of innovation since.
Sure, we could talk about the quadrophonic records of the 1970s, but those didn’t stick. And you could make an argument that today’s 180-gram (and beyond) records have improved the vinyl experience. In fact, many of the record pressing plants in operation today are still using machinery that’s more than 50 years old. But when it comes down to it, there hasn’t been any kind of technological leap with vinyl since Elvis went into the army.
An Austrian company called Rebeat Innovation has a patent on what it calls “high definition vinyl.” With $4.8 million US in fresh financing, the company says it has developed a new laser-cutting process that results in records that play 30% longer (that would mean nearly 30 minutes per side of a typical album) and with 30% increased amplitude (i.e. more information encoded in the bumples in the grooves, which means better sound.)
The best news? The new HD records don’t require any special equipment. They’ll play fine on the turntable you have today. And because this new technology should actually bring DOWN the cost of manufacturing vinyl, we might see cheaper, better-sounding records. I’m in.
Rebeat has ordered the machinery necessary to make these records and hopes to have the first discs on the market sometime next year.