I’ve had several people ask me “What is Deadwax?” so in this post I will explain what it is and why it matters to vinyl collectors.
Basically it is the part of the record between the end of the last song and the label. It is the flat area with no grooves. It is dead space where, with a few exceptions there is no sound at all. But this “dead” area can be chocked full of useful information to the audiophile, collector, and re-seller. It can also just contain pure nonsense or some sort of message from the artist.
Other names for this area are matrix or runoff to name a couple.
Information Found In The Deadwax?
To the casual record listener the deadwax on a vinyl record is not anything important or anything to be concerned about. But to the collector and seller it can be a goldmine of important information. If you have never paid attention to deadwax before go grab a record and have a look real quick. You will see a series of etched or scratched numbers, letters, symbols and words, none of which will make any sense to you.
What does all this mean? Well that is not an easy straight forward answer either. It all depends on what company made the record as all this cryptic information is record company specific so it takes a lot of research to figure it all out. From these numbers and such you can determine the roughly when this album was pressed, what particular pressing it was and who was the engineer who mastered the pressing.
You can tell what pressing plant pressed the record and what the master tape catalog number is and various other miscellaneous information. Why is this important? Well a 1st pressing of almost any record will be worth more than a 9th pressing. Some engineers were better than others so you know if you see a RL (Robert Ludwig) etched in the deadwax you have the best sounding copy of that record possible.
Some pressing plants are known for their excellence and some are known for their sub-standard work so you have a better chance of getting a higher quality sound by having an idea of what to look for in the dead wax.
Put On Your Thinking Caps-Or Scratch Your Head
Below is a video from an audio expert who explains this far better than I can.
It is a little over an hour long and in my opinion is worth watching all the way through. But if you are not an audiophile or particularly interested in watching the complete video so you can get a good idea in the first 10-12 minutes.
If you have no idea of what stampers, lacquers, mothers and tape number Michael explains it very well I’ll embed a video at the bottom of this page that explains how a vinyl record is made from start to finish. If you want to see how the 78 rpm record was made go here to watch a video of the process. Scroll to the bottom of the page for the video.
To Each His Own
Keep in mind every record company has their own system so you would have to be a genius to remember everything. For most vinyl enthusiasts most of this is not important. I keep a few notes on my phone but do remember a few of my favorite engineers, especially Robert Ludwig. If you are looking for an early press of a certain number do a google search on that particular record and write down the information.
Audio forums are a very good source of information on different pressings of various records too. Steve Hoffman forums is a very active forum with many knowledgeable record enthusiasts with a ton of helpful information. Michael Fremer, the guy doing the lecture above also has a ton of information. You can subscribe to his YouTube channel as he has a lot of information if you really want to get deeper into your hobby and learn as much as you can.
Mastering Houses and Some Engineers-Not A Complete List
Here are just a few of the Mastering Houses and Engineers I took from Steve Hoffman Forums. This is by far not a complete list. This is just a tiny bit of the information you can gather from the deadwax on your albums
- AT = Atlantic
- CL = Columbia
- Capitol = Capitol
- Kendun = Kendun Recorders
- SS = Sterling Sound
- Sterling = Sterling Sound
- Masterdisk = Masterdisk
- TLM = The Mastering Lab
- SRC = Specialty Records Corp.
- Townhouse = Townhouse, London
- Masterdisk G.K. = Gilbert Kong at Masterdisk
- Masterdisk H.W. = Howie Weinberg at Masterdisk
- Masterdisk R.L. = Robert Ludwig at Masterdisk
- Az or AZ = Allen Zentz
- Az with a flower symbol or a seagull symbol = Brian Gardner at Allen Zentz mastering
- Sterling LH = Lee Hulko at Sterling Sound
- Sterling TJ = Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound
- Sterling RL = Robert Ludwig at Sterling Sound
- MCA SH = Steve Hall at MCA
- GP@AT = George Piros at Atlantic
- Pecko Duck = George Peckham
- Porky Prime Cut = George Peckham
The graphic to the right is Robert Ludwig’s etching you will see on his work.
There You Have It- Sort Of
As I said earlier there is a lot involved in deciphering the markings on the deadwax area of a record. I’ve probably gone into it enough considering the scope of this blog. You can do a google search the various manufactures deadwax or matrix numbers and come up with the different systems used by the different label companies if you want to go deeper into it. It is really quite fascinating in my opinion to learn a little about some of my records, but I admit I’m a bit of a nerd. If you need any help to look something up drop me a comment or an email and I’ll help where I can. Check the video below about the process in manufacturing a 33 rpm record if you want to learn the process.
Please leave any comments or thoughts below.