What is a GrooveCoated stamper?
The simplest answer is, a GrooveCoated stamper is a proprietary type of stamper offered by Gotta Groove Records which has a specialized lubricious coating applied after nickel formation that reduces surface tension while increasing surface hardness. Depending upon the cut, this combination can dramatically increase the lifespan of the stamper, and reduce high frequency loss as pressing cycles continue over the course of manufacturing.
But- before we get into more detail, let’s first discuss a basic primer on record plating in general…
There are three approaches to record plating:
1-step plating: The first metal part pulled away from the master lacquer is turned into the stamper used to press the records. No additional stampers can be made.
2-step plating: The first metal part pulled away from the master lacquer is re-plated to create a mother, and then it is turned into a stamper to press records. Additional stampers can be made from the mother.
3-step plating: The first metal part pulled away from the master lacquer is re-plated to create a mother. Then, it is replated again to form a thin layer of nickel over its silver surface (more on this below); and then it is saved as a “father” for future use. The father can make additional mothers. The mothers can make additional stampers.
In all three types of plating, the process is started by thoroughly cleaning the master lacquers. Different types of lacquers require different cleaning treatments, and lacquers cut by different mastering facilities can even require different cleaning treatments.
After cleaning, the lacquer face is coated with silver — yes, the metal silver. This silver layer has direct contact with the grooves on the face of the lacquer, and is therefore the most important layer of “information” in the metalizing of the grooves.
In both 1-step and 2-step plating, this layer of silver is stripped from the face of the first metal part before being turned into a stamper. The reason for this is, silver is a relatively unstable metal, and tarnishes very easily. A stamper which does not have the silver fully stripped will turn orange after pressing just a few records, and be terribly noisy.
Since the silver is stripped from that first metal part, in both 1-step and 2-step plating (with a caveat mentioned next), there is a very slight loss in high frequencies when that first metal part is stripped of its silver layer and used to press records.
In 1-step plating, there is no going back – for this reason, it is generally viewed as an inferior type of record plating, and very rarely used (we never use 1-step plating at GGR). In 2-step plating, that first stamper (remember – the one that created the mother before being turned into a stamper), is like a stamper made from 1-step plating — the silver is stripped, and therefore any information in that silver layer is lost after stripping. However (here’s the caveat mentioned above), additional stampers can be made from the mother in 2-step plating, and those stampers DO have the information that was in that silver layer (because the part that was used to create the mother still had that silver layer intact).
In 3-step plating, all stampers (including the very first stampers used) will have all of the information intact from the silver layer. This is because the silver is never stripped in 3-step plating – the first part pulled from the lacquer is used to create the mother, and never turned into a a stamper. Only the mother (and future mothers from the father) are used to make stampers, and they are each replicated from parts which have the information from the silver layer intact. If you recall from above, the first part pulled from the lacquer in 3-step plating has a layer of nickel electroformed over the silver layer before being filed away for future use. Since silver is an unstable metal, this layer of nickel (which is an extremely stable metal) prevents tarnishing on the face of the father, so that it can be re-used to make additional mothers.
Now that you are an expert in record plating, let’s get back to GrooveCoated stampers…
In 2017-2018, NiPro Optics / NiPro Records and Gotta Groove Records worked to develop one of the first “new technologies” in record stampers in several decades — the GrooveCoated ™ stamper.
GrooveCoated stampers have a specialized lubricious coating applied after nickel formation that reduces surface tension while increasing surface hardness. Depending upon the cut, this combination can dramatically increase the lifespan of the stamper, and reduce high frequency loss as pressing cycles continue over the course of manufacturing.
With traditional record plating technology, over the course of the cycles of a pressing, the high frequencies tend to diminish first as the cycles go on. While this is always going to be a natural phenomenon in the course of pressing vinyl records, GrooveCoated stampers dramatically strengthen the grooves on the face of the stamper, and allows better material flow. This helps stampers stand up much stronger to the repeated stresses of each pressing cycle.
The truly amazing thing about this new record plating technology is that it does not cause the core nickel substrate of the stampers to become brittle (brittleness is an issue with traditional stampers, because they can break before finishing a run of records). This can help reduce scrap and turnaround time during the record pressing process.
In late 2018, GGR conducted an experiment with a 180 gram 6-LP box set which used GrooveCoated stampers for all copies. We recorded and analyzed frequencies of the recordings of records produced by the same GrooveCoated stampers from record #45 through record #2400 off the same stampers. The results were incredible — even after over 2,000 stamper cycles, the tracks sounded remarkably similar. When viewing the frequencies in a sound editor, the information was also nearly identical.
This article was reproduced by permission of Gotta Groove Records. For more information about GrooveCoated stampers please contact them at (800) 295-0171 or firstname.lastname@example.org.