There’s a new analogue format in the foray, folks. You read that right — analogue! Award-winning record producer and musician T Bone Burnett has announced that he has developed a new physical, recordlike music disc to offer what he describes as “the pinnacle of sound”. The format, called Ionic Originals, combines some of the materials used in both vinyl and CDs to create durable, one-of-a-kind analogue discs. Move over, vinyl…
Unlike traditional vinyl LPs made of PVC, and CDs, which contain plastic with a layer of metal, these Ionic Originals will consist of “lacquer painted onto an aluminium disc, with a spiral etched into it by music... which can be heard by putting a stylus into the spiral and spinning it”.
T Bone Burnett, who got his break as a guitarist in Bob Dylan’s band in the mid-70s and is best known for his Grammy-winning work on Raising Sand by Alison Kraus and Robert Plant, as well as the soundtracks for O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Big Lebowski, is already using the technology for a project with long-time collaborator Dylan, in which classics from the singer’s discography have been re-recorded onto the new disc. Whether this forms a new EP or album, this material is expected to make up the debut release of Ionic Original, though at the time of writing there is no launch date. What we do know is that a new studio recording of Blowin’ in the Wind
— the first since it was first recorded in 1962 — is being released on the new disc and expected to be auctioned off for the equivalent of between $1m and $1.8m at Christie’s in London in July.
Once other Ionic Originals are available, their distribution will be handled by Burnett’s own, newly formed company called NeoFidelity Inc. Burnett hopes that the long gestated project can go some way toward “reset[ing] the valuation of recorded music”.
In a press release about the new analogue format’s launch, he said: “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 aluminium 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.”
This isn’t actually Burnett’s first foray into audio formats. Back in 2008 he developed Code (also known as ΧΟΔΕ), a high-fidelity audio technology intended to produce discs with sound quality comparable to studio masters, which would “democratise highfidelity” and combat the prevalence of MP3 as the dominant format for listening to music. Code discs could be played back on any DVD drive and delivered 24-bit/96 kHz PCM audio, but also included files in 24-bit/96kHz WAV, AAC and MP3 for transfer to portable music players and computers. Releases included John Mellencamp’s Life, Death, Love and Freedom and Will Dailey’s Torrent, Volumes 1 & 2.
It’s fair to say we don’t hear too much about the Code format today, so it remains to be seen if Ionic Originals will fare any better...