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Ever Wonder Where Those Plastic Pellets for LPs Came From?

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  • Ever Wonder Where Those Plastic Pellets for LPs Came From?

    Wonder no more!

    Did you ever wonder where the vinyl used to press your records originates? Most of the vinyl pellets used by American pressing plants originates in Thailand, manufactured at a TPC plant on the outskirts of Bangkok. We got to go there the other day. Unfortunately, the company would not allow us to video inside the plant. That said, I think you will enjoy the parts we could video as well as the meeting we had with company executives. I did my best to describe what I saw, though I didn't do so well because with no advance warning I wasn't prepared.
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
    ________________________________________

    -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
    -Goldmund Telos 300 stereo amp
    -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
    -Doshi EVO and Goldmund PH3.8 phonostage
    -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
    -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
    -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga Mk. 2, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
    -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
    -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 6, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
    -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz 3 racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA OHIO Class 2.1+ platforms.

  • #2
    I dug into this topic a few years ago, and frankly, didn't get very far. I suspect that most of the plastics business shifted off shore a while ago, not only due to labor, but to ecological/OSHA type issues. The "vinyl record" portion of this market is tiny. When plumbing in construction shifted from copper or iron to plastic, that was a boon for the plastics business; in my discussions with one representative, who will go unnamed, the whole notion of "mold release" was foreign and bizarre- you know, that audiophile curse of having to remove the 'mold release' compound from the record through cleaning. Of course whatever "it" is resides in the pellets, but if you go back to some of the early white papers (there was one extensive paper from RCA) during the heyday of vinyl, one of the main issues was thermal stabilization, so that the stuff would melt and behave "evenly" on the press. I suspect this became more of a problem when vinyl was recycled, because reground material was probably from different materials sources with different thermal properties. The other area where the old monographs concentrated was anti-static. There was very little discussion at the time (this was in the era from the late '50s through the '70s and these papers are available to AES members with a subscription) of "mold release" as such. So, I never got to the bottom of that to my satisfaction. Didn't RTI have some fancy pelletizer/regrinder machine that Hobson claimed improved sonics when he was doing the Classic Records? Sorry this stuff isn't in the immediate part of my brain, it was a while ago that I was looking into it.

    Comment


    • #3
      It would be interesting to learn how much recycled vinyl goes into TPC.

      I want to know where Chad gets the vinyl he uses for QRP records - perhaps it's TPC. I have this theory that vinyl content (additives) and then production treatment are major influences on the amount of surface noise thrown off by an LP. QRP's physical records seem among the most quiet.

      Like Bill, I dug into this topic a while back; it was part of my research for an article on record cleaning and AIVS fluids. I created a PDF of text from a Classic Records Newsletter, where Michael Hobson describes the issues he has run into with vinyl quality. My apologies for being unable to offer any provenance for this document. Michael Hobson on Vinyl Records (pdf download)

      Here is an interesting thread on vinylengine from user desktop who worked at cutting facilities in LA, forty years ago. Seek info from record plant staff

      Here is a way cool article from Matt Davenport for Chemical & Engineering News that features QRP: Groovy Chemistry: The materials science behind records.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by tima View Post
        It would be interesting to learn how much recycled vinyl goes into TPC.

        I want to know where Chad gets the vinyl he uses for QRP records - perhaps it's TPC. I have this theory that vinyl content (additives) and then production treatment are major influences on the amount of surface noise thrown off by an LP. QRP's physical records seem among the most quiet.

        Like Bill, I dug into this topic a while back; it was part of my research for an article on record cleaning and AIVS fluids. I created a PDF of text from a Classic Records Newsletter, where Michael Hobson describes the issues he has run into with vinyl quality. My apologies for being unable to offer any provenance for this document. Michael Hobson on Vinyl Records (pdf download)

        Here is an interesting thread on vinylengine from user desktop who worked at cutting facilities in LA, forty years ago. Seek info from record plant staff

        Here is a way cool article from Matt Davenport for Chemical & Engineering News that features QRP: Groovy Chemistry: The materials science behind records.
        Good stuff. Thanks, Tima.

        Comment


        • Guest's Avatar
          Guest commented
          Editing a comment
          Thanks Bill, my pleasure.

      • #5
        Originally posted by Bill Hart View Post
        I dug into this topic a few years ago, and frankly, didn't get very far. I suspect that most of the plastics business shifted off shore a while ago, not only due to labor, but to ecological/OSHA type issues. The "vinyl record" portion of this market is tiny. When plumbing in construction shifted from copper or iron to plastic, that was a boon for the plastics business; in my discussions with one representative, who will go unnamed, the whole notion of "mold release" was foreign and bizarre- you know, that audiophile curse of having to remove the 'mold release' compound from the record through cleaning. Of course whatever "it" is resides in the pellets, but if you go back to some of the early white papers (there was one extensive paper from RCA) during the heyday of vinyl, one of the main issues was thermal stabilization, so that the stuff would melt and behave "evenly" on the press. I suspect this became more of a problem when vinyl was recycled, because reground material was probably from different materials sources with different thermal properties. The other area where the old monographs concentrated was anti-static. There was very little discussion at the time (this was in the era from the late '50s through the '70s and these papers are available to AES members with a subscription) of "mold release" as such. So, I never got to the bottom of that to my satisfaction. Didn't RTI have some fancy pelletizer/regrinder machine that Hobson claimed improved sonics when he was doing the Classic Records? Sorry this stuff isn't in the immediate part of my brain, it was a while ago that I was looking into it.
        IIRC from the paper it was spread evenly in the press. It seems to me that things changed over time from something sprayed on the press (?) to a chemical contained within the plastic nugget used to press the LP. As I recall, one reason for cleaning new LPs is so the mold release doesn't trap dirt and damage the LP.
        Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
        Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
        ________________________________________

        -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
        -Goldmund Telos 300 stereo amp
        -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
        -Doshi EVO and Goldmund PH3.8 phonostage
        -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
        -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
        -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga Mk. 2, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
        -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
        -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 6, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
        -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz 3 racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA OHIO Class 2.1+ platforms.

        Comment


        • #6
          Originally posted by tima View Post
          It would be interesting to learn how much recycled vinyl goes into TPC.

          I want to know where Chad gets the vinyl he uses for QRP records - perhaps it's TPC. I have this theory that vinyl content (additives) and then production treatment are major influences on the amount of surface noise thrown off by an LP. QRP's physical records seem among the most quiet.

          Like Bill, I dug into this topic a while back; it was part of my research for an article on record cleaning and AIVS fluids. I created a PDF of text from a Classic Records Newsletter, where Michael Hobson describes the issues he has run into with vinyl quality. My apologies for being unable to offer any provenance for this document. Michael Hobson on Vinyl Records (pdf download)

          Here is an interesting thread on vinylengine from user desktop who worked at cutting facilities in LA, forty years ago. Seek info from record plant staff

          Here is a way cool article from Matt Davenport for Chemical & Engineering News that features QRP: Groovy Chemistry: The materials science behind records.
          Thanks for the links Tim! More to record pressing than meets the eye. Hobson's article is a good synopsis.

          I was in the studio at that time when Transco became the main supplier of lacquers. The crisis came about because OSHA listed nitrocellulose as a hazardous chemical. The better record companies had to cut several lacquers to get one good lacquer. The lesser labels just pressed and sold schlock. Especially after the oil embargo.

          Record "hardness" is another factor that isn't necessarily appreciated. Back in the late '80s, I had a chance to listen to the same recording pressed at Europadisc in New York using different hardness vinyl formulations. At least back then, the softer formulas sounded better to my ears. The harder vinyl formulations sounded well harder to my ears. Problem was it seemed that the softer vinyl formulation became noisier more quickly. So think that's another factor not generally appreciated by audiophiles. But certainly by the record labels who didn't want the records wearing out given the wide variety of turntables out there in the market. Even today, we have records being played on vinyl grinders. Bottom line was that the records labels didn't necessarily select the vinyl based on sound but durability.
          Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
          Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
          ________________________________________

          -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
          -Goldmund Telos 300 stereo amp
          -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
          -Doshi EVO and Goldmund PH3.8 phonostage
          -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
          -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
          -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga Mk. 2, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
          -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
          -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 6, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
          -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz 3 racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA OHIO Class 2.1+ platforms.

          Comment


          • #7
            Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post

            Thanks for the links Tim! More to record pressing than meets the eye. Hobson's article is a good synopsis.

            I was in the studio at that time when Transco became the main supplier of lacquers. The crisis came about because OSHA listed nitrocellulose as a hazardous chemical. The better record companies had to cut several lacquers to get one good lacquer. The lesser labels just pressed and sold schlock. Especially after the oil embargo.

            Record "hardness" is another factor that isn't necessarily appreciated. Back in the late '80s, I had a chance to listen to the same recording pressed at Europadisc in New York using different hardness vinyl formulations. At least back then, the softer formulas sounded better to my ears. The harder vinyl formulations sounded well harder to my ears. Problem was it seemed that the softer vinyl formulation became noisier more quickly. So think that's another factor not generally appreciated by audiophiles. But certainly by the record labels who didn't want the records wearing out given the wide variety of turntables out there in the market. Even today, we have records being played on vinyl grinders. Bottom line was that the records labels didn't necessarily select the vinyl based on sound but durability.
            Ah yes, the oil crisis - was Sony in cahoots with the sheikhs? I guess there's also oil in them there CDs, so maybe not. :-)

            I think some labels selected vinyl based on what is/was available. The type and proportion of additives - fillers, pigment, plasticizers, hardeners, lubricants, mould release, etc. - seemingly impact surfaces, susceptibility to damage (durability), susceptibility to being cleaned, susceptibility to heat during manufacture and later, etc. (footnote 1) It seems to me that some labels are obviously quieter than others. And some labels are more interested in getting product out the door. Why are some labels quieter than others?

            Where I see a problem is reissues of albums made with what appears as obviously noisy vinyl right from the start. Take for example a recent issuance of one of Bernstein's Mahler cycles on Columbia - 12 LPs by Sony Records. Say a run of 2500. Right out of the shrink-wrap the records are noisy. And who is going to license that to make a better quality set? Likely nobody because the audience for such is limited. The Analogphonic label did the same thing for Bernstein's Mahler cycle on D-G - noisy out of the box. I went through 4 copies of one album trying to find a quiet 2nd Symphony. None were good. Money was lavished on quality cover art, but seemingly not on the vinyl itself. On the other hand, the original Heifetz box set from Classic - beautiful and quiet. I know I'm ranting here, but dammit Janet, at $40-$50 bucks a pop we deserve better. Sure you can send them back but retailers, eg Music Direct, get burned because most distributors have a no return policy on records.

            ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
            1 "Various substances have been proposed as antistatic additives for record compositions, to be added to the resin during the copolymerisation, during the isolation of the resin from the polymerisation medium and during subsequent compounding. Some antistatic agents, when added to the mixture during the compounding stage, tend to give rise to excessive concentrations on the record surfaces, thus causing a reduction in the surface quality of the record produced."

            "Higher quantities of carbon black cannot be incorporated into record compositions to give improved antistatic properties because small agglomerates of carbon black and polymer tend to occur, giving rise to surface noise on the record produced."

            .... and on and on.

            RE: For those of you who think "Mold Release" does not exist...




            Comment


            • Bill Hart
              Bill Hart commented
              Editing a comment
              My Sounds of the South copy of one of the first Skynyrds has visible paper flecks in the vinyl. It's a badge of honor.

          • #8
            Originally posted by tima View Post

            Ah yes, the oil crisis - was Sony in cahoots with the sheikhs? I guess there's also oil in them there CDs, so maybe not. :-)

            I think some labels selected vinyl based on what is/was available. The type and proportion of additives - fillers, pigment, plasticizers, hardeners, lubricants, mould release, etc. - seemingly impact surfaces, susceptibility to damage (durability), susceptibility to being cleaned, susceptibility to heat during manufacture and later, etc. (footnote 1) It seems to me that some labels are obviously quieter than others. And some labels are more interested in getting product out the door. Why are some labels quieter than others?

            Where I see a problem is reissues of albums made with what appears as obviously noisy vinyl right from the start. Take for example a recent issuance of one of Bernstein's Mahler cycles on Columbia - 12 LPs by Sony Records. Say a run of 2500. Right out of the shrink-wrap the records are noisy. And who is going to license that to make a better quality set? Likely nobody because the audience for such is limited. The Analogphonic label did the same thing for Bernstein's Mahler cycle on D-G - noisy out of the box. I went through 4 copies of one album trying to find a quiet 2nd Symphony. None were good. Money was lavished on quality cover art, but seemingly not on the vinyl itself. On the other hand, the original Heifetz box set from Classic - beautiful and quiet. I know I'm ranting here, but dammit Janet, at $40-$50 bucks a pop we deserve better. Sure you can send them back but retailers, eg Music Direct, get burned because most distributors have a no return policy on records.

            ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
            1 "Various substances have been proposed as antistatic additives for record compositions, to be added to the resin during the copolymerisation, during the isolation of the resin from the polymerisation medium and during subsequent compounding. Some antistatic agents, when added to the mixture during the compounding stage, tend to give rise to excessive concentrations on the record surfaces, thus causing a reduction in the surface quality of the record produced."

            "Higher quantities of carbon black cannot be incorporated into record compositions to give improved antistatic properties because small agglomerates of carbon black and polymer tend to occur, giving rise to surface noise on the record produced."

            .... and on and on.

            RE: For those of you who think "Mold Release" does not exist...



            MoFi seems to get pretty nice surfaces don't they? (I'm not talking about the old MoFi, which had some of the nicest surfaces in the biz). I don't buy that many reissues, so maybe I just haven't hit bad ones.
            Who pressed the Sonys?
            PS: i also have some thoughts on the link you posted re mold release, which I'll share later....

            Comment

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