T Bone Burnett, a music producer who rose to prominence as the guitarist in Bob Dylan’s band, unveiled what he describes as a new breakthrough in analogue recording technology called Ionic Originals. The new disc format merges aspects of vinyl and CD to create what Burnett describes as “the pinnacle of recorded sound.”
The technology itself involves lacquer painted onto an aluminum disc, with a spiral etched onto the whole thing that contains a piece of music. As pointed out by Loudwire, traditional vinyl records are made out of polyvinyl chloride (a plastic containing no metal), while standard CDs utilize polycarbonate plastic and a metal component, like aluminum. Ionic Originals are then more similar to the metal “stampers,” which function like masters and are used to press records so that they can be sold commercially.
Burnett went on to compare this new audio format to a work of art, and claims it exceeds the sound quality of digital streaming by virtue of its “depth, harmonic complexity, resonance, and better imaging.” The producer has also apparently tested his invention with Bob Dylan by re-recording some of his classic discography using Ionic Originals.
Physical media — If you told me in 2008 that I would have access to an unfathomable amount of music through my phone for just $15 a month, there’s no way I would have believed you. Back in the mid-aughts, the decision to spend $20 on a physical album was fairly simple — if I liked whatever handful of singles that were available from a given project, I decided to go ahead and buy it.
While streaming has taken over, attitudes have started to swing back in the other direction — vinyl received a boon in sales in 2020, and those numbers continued to trend in the same direction last year. Now, a host of musicians are trying to merge the physical qualities of a record with NFT capabilities.
Streaming is, and will continue to be, the future of music consumption, but owning a tangible piece of music allows fans to have a stronger connection to their favorite artists. While Ionic Originals might not be feasible for mass consumption, it’s nice to see development in that arena, which above all else, champion the value of music as a cultural artifact.