From sound to sound carrier: How records are made

Deutsche Grammophon

The following exhibition features photos from a number of different years showing the various stages involved in making records – the processes have essentially remained the same. All the pressing-plant photos were taken at the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft factory.         

How is a record made?
During recording, the sound waves created by the performer are engraved into a recording material with a stylus.The workers at record-making companies then produce copies from those templates in galvanic baths. Ever since 1922 this has been done on the father-mother-son principle. The father is a negative copy of the master template, the mother is a positive copy, and then the son-negative, copied in turn from the mother (and also known as a “stamper”), becomes the matrix for producing the discs. Since 1897, discs had been made of a mixture of shellac, stone dust, cotton fibres and carbon black. From the second half of the 1950s onwards, polyvinyl chloride(PVC) – vinyl for short – was used as the basic material for records. The prepared material is put in a press, where printing is carried out using two matrices. Then random testing is carried out on the records before they are packed and dispatched. 

Matrix production

First the music is recorded. View of a recording studio from the control room (1950s).

Tape recording replaced engraving in wax in the late 1940s. In a further production stage, the recordings are transferred to lacquered discs.

The recorded lacquered disc which is to be reproduced goes for galvanic processing. The first stage in the process is the silvering of the disc to make it conduct electricity (seen here c.1960).

Electroplating (1920s).

Electroplating (1920s).

Heinrich Strecker: Drunt' in der Lobau Op. 290 (1936)

Separating two galvanised plates (1967) – this was a task that required very careful handling.

The stampers are trimmed at the pressing plant (1957)…

… and then carefully cleaned (c.1950).

Material production

Mixer in which the components of the shellac compound were combined (1938).

The shellac mixture was heated, rolled out, and cut into rectangular pieces (1938).

These were heated again (1938)…

.… and ended up in the press as slabs of shellac. The labels were pressed on at the same time – the same applies to records made of vinyl or vinyl pellets (1950s).

Record with pressed edge (1950s).

The records were then visually checked (1938).

Audio checks (shown here c.1965) were done on a random basis.

The packing process (1967).

Dispatch 1909-style, using the original horse power!

Credits: Story

Texts by Gabriela Kilian

Based on the exhibition 78, 45, 33 – vom sanften Ton zum starken Sound at Museum Energiegeschichte(n)

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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