Audiophiles have a long history of paying premium prices for premium quality recordings, and now, in a true test of an audiophile’s resolve, premium recordings are moving up to whole new level. It’s called UD1S, for ultra-disc one step, and it uses material called super vinyl. And UD1S recordings of your old favourite albums will cost you, wait for this, $260 each.
If you’ve never heard of UD1S or super vinyl, well you’re hardly alone. Explaining the technology is difficult because information about it is not being shared by those who are using it, I guess because if they did everyone would be using it and the prices would drop out of the ionosphere and back into the stratosphere. But it appears to me to be all about the compounding of the vinyl itself; reading into the literature it seems the new stuff is finer and more malleable when being pressed, yielding better definition within the grooves and less friction for a lower noise floor and reduced surface noise.
There’s a bit more going on too. The process of mastering the record avoids two steps which normally take place and which can result in a fractional loss of quality. Following the UD1S process the engineers start with the master tapes and cut a set of lacquers that are used directly to form the stampers for the records, avoiding the additional steps of pulling another positive and an additional negative, as is done in the three-step process used in conventional record pressings. UD1S’s creator, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, of Chicago, claims this together with the super vinyl results in the world’s quietest surface and it “provides the closest approximation to what the recording engineers hear in the mastering lab.”
MoFi, by the way, has been manufacturing audiophile-quality records, CDs and cassettes for more than 40 years.