Musical brand

Someone invented a whole new medium for recorded sound

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

  • wax cylinders
  • Shellac gramophone records
  • Vinyl records
  • The 7 inch single
  • Reel-to-reel adhesive tape
  • 8 tracks
  • Tapes
  • Elcaset
  • CD
  • MiniDiscs
  • DAT
  • CDC
  • Music DVDs, SACDs and HD-CDs
  • A million different digital formats, including MP3 and WMA.

What’s left to invent? Well, we have something new: a stand dubbed Ionic Originals. Producer T Bone Burnett has developed a rotary disc format which he says attempts to “reset the rating of recorded music”.

As reported by Pitchfork, Burnett describes Ionic Originals as “lacquer painted on an aluminum disc, with a spiral engraved on it by the music”. Sounds a lot like an old fashioned vinyl record, doesn’t it?

But technically, it’s brand new. It is the first new type of rotary disc since June 1948, when the industry transitioned from 10-inch 78 RPM shellac singles to 12-inch vinyl albums. The 7 inch single was released in March 1949.

Here is Burnett’s full description:

A Original Ionic is the pinnacle of recorded sound. It is archival quality. This is future proof. It’s one of the ones. Not only a Original Ionic the equivalent of a table, 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.

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

Photo by Jason Myers via Pitchfork