Acetate records, also known as lacquer discs or lacquer masters, are made by coating a thin layer of lacquer onto a metal or glass disc. The lacquer is then cut with a recording lathe, which creates a physical groove in the lacquer that corresponds to the audio signal being recorded. Acetate records are highly prone to deterioration over time due to the nature of the lacquer material, which is sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity.
When acetate records are exposed to extreme temperatures or high levels of humidity, the lacquer can become brittle and start to crack, which can cause the grooves to become distorted and the audio quality to degrade. Similarly, exposure to dust and other contaminants can cause the lacquer to become scratched or damaged, leading to surface noise and other audio artifacts.
To prevent acetate records from deteriorating over time, it is important to store them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and other sources of heat and moisture. It is also a good idea to handle them carefully and avoid touching the grooves or playing them excessively, as this can cause wear and tear on the record. It is highly recommended to have a professional clean and transfer your discs before further degradation can occur.
The lifespan of an acetate record can vary greatly depending on several factors, including the quality of the lacquer, the type of recording lathe used to cut the grooves, the storage conditions, and the frequency of use. In general, acetate records are considered to be more fragile and prone to deterioration compared to other types of records, such as vinyl.
Under ideal storage conditions, an acetate record can last for several decades, but it is not uncommon for them to start showing signs of wear and tear within a few years. Some collectors estimate that the lifespan of an acetate record is around 20-30 years, although this can be shorter or longer depending on the specific circumstances.
Surface noise tends to be more pronounced with acetate or lacquer records. The level of noise can vary depending on the quality of the record, the condition of the stylus, and the age and wear of the record.
Surface noise is a term used to describe the hissing, crackling, or pops that can be heard when playing a record. It is caused by physical imperfections on the surface of the record, such as scratches, dirt, or dust, that create static electricity as the stylus moves through the grooves.
Generally “homemade” acetate records are the worst sounding and hardest to transfer of all record types. Furthermore (computer) audio restoration is difficult due to a variety of issues such as the unprofessional nature of the recording itself, inferior record “blanks” and the original lathe used to cut the actual record.
As the original source material or recording was often amateur quality and the record itself was created in a non-professional environment you should expect that the sound quality will not be the same as a professionally produced modern vinyl record.
We are able to transfer & digitize nearly all types of acetates and restore most of the original audio to “better than original” sound. Whether your records are 10 or 100 years old please contact us if you’d like to preserve your discs for future generations.