This week, music producer T Bone Burnett (Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Counting Crows, O Brother, Where Are Thou?) announced a new analog disc medium for music he’s developed called “Ionic Originals.”
And he promised 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 press, a prototype disc held up by Burnett looks much like a silvery vinyl record. That makes sense because the medium is manufactured by painting lacquer onto an aluminum disc, the music then etched on it in a spiral.
To wit, it sounds like the process combines current vinyl manufacturing with the production of metal stampers for vinyl records. Stampers are usually used as “masters” for further vinyl duplication, and they don’t often reach the hands of listeners since they aren’t made in large numbers. (Regular LPs consist of PVC [polyvinyl chloride] plastic with no metal components. Standard compact discs consist of polycarbonate plastic with a metal layer, usually aluminum.)
Burnett positioned Ionic Originals as one-of-a-kind objects. And while the idea of a consumer-level metal vinyl disc medium isn’t new, it would still be the “first breakthrough in analog sound reproduction in more than 70 years” if successful, Burnett claims.
“An Ionic Original is the pinnacle of recorded sound,” he continues. “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.”
The producer adds, “This painting, however, has the additional quality of containing that music, which can be heard by putting a stylus into the spiral.”
Burnett already has a major artist onboard for the first Ionic Originals release. According to Pitchfork, the producer recently worked with Bob Dylan, re-recording some of his classic material to emerge as the first Ionic Original. (No release date has yet emerged.)
Burnett has also started a company called NeoFidelity Inc. to handle the distribution of the discs. The producer, who’s been working on the project for several years, hopes to “reset the valuation for recorded music” that some feel has slid during the streaming era.
From the Ionic Originals press release:
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.