This week, music producer T Bone Burnett (Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Counting Crows, O brother, where are you?) announced a new analog disc medium for music it developed called “Ionic Originals”.
And he promised that the technology transcends the sound quality of CDs and vinyl. Not to mention digital streaming and other mediums, as Variety reported.
In a photo provided to the press, a prototype record held by Burnett looks a lot like a silver vinyl record. This makes sense because the backing is made by painting lacquer onto an aluminum disc, the music is then etched into it in a spiral.
Namely, it seems that the process combines the current manufacturing of vinyl with the production of metal matrices for vinyl records. Pads are usually used as “masters” for other vinyl duplications, and they don’t often reach listeners’ hands because they aren’t made in large numbers. (Regular vinyl records are made of PVC [polyvinyl chloride] plastic without metal components. Standard compact discs are made of polycarbonate plastic with a metallic layer, usually aluminum.)
Burnett positioned the Ionic Originals as one-of-a-kind items. And while the idea of a consumer-level metal vinyl record medium isn’t new, it would still be the “first breakthrough in analog sound reproduction in over 70 years” if successful, Burnett claims.
“An Ionic Original is the pinnacle of recorded sound,” he continues. “It’s archival quality. It’s future-proof. It’s one of the only. Not only is an Ionic original the equivalent of a painting, it’s is a painting.”
The producer adds: “This painting however has the additional quality of containing this music, which can be heard by putting a stylus in the spiral.”
Burnett already has a major artist on board for Ionic Originals’ first release. According to Pitchfork, the producer recently worked with Bob Dylan, re-recording some of his classic tracks to become the first Ionic Original. (No release date has yet emerged.)
Burnett also created a company called NeoFidelity Inc. to handle the distribution of the records. The producer, who has been working on the project for several years, hopes to “reset the valuation of recorded music” which some say has declined in the age of streaming.
Excerpt from the Ionic Originals press release:
An Ionic Original is the pinnacle of recorded sound. It is archival quality. This is future proof. It’s one of the ones. Not only is an Ionic original the equivalent of a painting, but it is a painting. It is a lacquer painted on an aluminum disc, with a spiral engraved on it by the music. This painting, however, has the added quality of containing this music, which can be heard by placing a stylus in the spiral and spinning it.
To describe the quality that elevates analog sound above digital sound, the word “warmth” is often used. Analog sound has more depth, more harmonic complexity, more resonance, better imaging. Analog has more feel, more character, more touch. Digital audio is frozen. Analog sound is alive.