Someone has invented a brand new medium for recorded sound

The recorded music industry has gone through all kinds of formats since Thomas Edison first demonstrated the phonograph in 1877.

  • Wax cylinders
  • Gramophone records made of shellac
  • Vinyl LPs
  • The 7-inch single
  • Reel-to-reel tape
  • 8-tracks
  • Cassettes
  • Elcaset
  • CDs
  • MiniDiscs
  • DAT
  • DCC
  • Music DVDs, SACDs, and HD-CDs
  • A million different digital formats, including MP3s and WMAs.

What’s left to be invented? Well, we have something new: a medium dubbed Ionic Originals. Producer T Bone Burnett has developed a rotating disc format that he says attempts to “reset the valuation for recorded music.”

As reported by Pitchfork, Burnett describes Ionic Originals as “lacquer painted onto an aluminum disc, with a spiral etched into it by music.” Sounds a lot like an old-school vinyl record, doesn’t it?

But technically, this is brand new. This is the first new type of rotating disc since June 1948 when the industry moved from shellac 10-inch 78 RPM singles to 12-inch vinyl albums. The 7-inch single came along in March 1949.

Here’s Burnett’s full description:

An Ionic Original is the pinnacle of recorded sound. It is archival quality. It is future proof. It is one of one. Not only is an Ionic Original the equivalent of a painting, it is a painting. It is lacquer painted onto an aluminum disc, with a spiral etched into it by music. This painting, however, has the additional quality of containing that music, which can be heard by putting a stylus into the spiral and spinning it.

When describing the quality that raises analogue sound above digital sound, the word “warmth” is often used. Analogue sound has more depth, more harmonic complexity, more resonance, better imaging. Analogue has more feel, more character, more touch. Digital sound is frozen. Analogue sound is alive.

Nothing is available to the general public yet, but Ionic Originals will be available through a new company called NeoFidelity Inc. The first release might be something from Bob Dylan, who served as a testbed for the tech.

Photo by Jason Myers via Pitchfork

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

4 thoughts on “Someone has invented a brand new medium for recorded sound

  • April 29, 2022 at 4:09 pm
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    Sadly, the myth of analog audio’s superiority to digital lives. Recently some researchers conducted a blind comparison of the same material on CD, vinyl, and 192-kHz MP3. Vinyl was rated worst for all material and by all listeners. Only when the comparison was un-blinded did some listeners put vinyl first.

    Reply
  • May 1, 2022 at 11:11 am
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    Where was the research published?

    Reply
  • May 2, 2022 at 6:15 pm
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    Acetates? Pono (Digital, but unique)?

    Reply

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