Disco Acetates

Acetates were used for several reasons.
In the disco 70's they were also used by DJ's to create a own remix on a "record" which they could use in the Disco.
In this section i first explain a little bit about acetates and in the other sections i show the most important ones from New York in the disco 70's.


An acetate it's a heavy disc which is directly cut on a record cutting lathe from the audio master source (Reel to Reel tape).These can be played but wear slightly with play and are quite fragile. The acetate looks like a vinyl record but has a metal plate covered in a layer of acetone. The wear on a acetate is higher than of a vinyl pressing. Today's playback styluses are tracking much lighter so the acetates of today last much longer than those of the older days.

An acetate disc (also known as a test acetate or, in the United States, a lacquer) is an audio disc that is created as part of the process of producing a gramophone record. Acetates are produced from the master tape recording and represent an intermediate stage prior to the production of the master disc - the disc from which retail copies of the recording will be pressed. The purpose of the acetate is to allow the artist, producer, engineer, and other interested parties to check the quality of the tape-to-disc recording process and make any necessary changes to ensure that the audio fidelity of the lacquers should be checked for the following problems before making the final master:
1. Low overall volume compared to other records
2. variations in volume levels within the songs or from cut to cut
3. variations of tempo within each song
4. breaking up or distortion in the treble or high registers at peak loudness levels or towards the end of a side
5. excessive boominess or airiness in the bass or low registers
6. dullness or lack of presence in the mid-range
7. skips, buzzes, crackling noises, or dull thuds at the beginnings of notes. ster disc will be as close as possible to that of the original master tape.

Even though referred to as an "acetate", it is essentially an aluminium disc coated with a fine film of nitro-celluolose lacquer with no acetate in it at all! 12" and 10" masters are cut on 14" master disks (most turntables cannot play a 14" disk). 7" masters are usually cut on 10" master disks but can be cut on 14". A lathe (like in metal work) cuts grooves into the acetate (that's why we call it "cutting a record"). After the record is cut (which has to be cut in real time (or 1/2 speed, which would take 2 times the total program time)) It is sent to a plating plant where they make the stampers. The metal stampers are sent to a pressing plant.


The lacquer coating on the disc is very soft and so the sound quality will deteriorate the more you play it.
At first, the high frequencies will diminish and an increase of surface noise will be evident.
If you thought records scratch and wear out easily, a lacquer disc is worse!
Reference cuts will usually appear as 10" discs with a 7"single cut onto them, or a 12" disc with either a 7" or a 12" cut.


On some acetates the laquer peels of the underlying aluminum.
If the Acetate is kept in a wet surrounding (cellar) this could happen faster.
I have also several Acetates from Frankford And Wayne were this spontanious happens.

The damage to the edge of this test acetate shows that the underlying material is aluminum.

Whereas vinyl records are light and semi-flexible, acetates are rigid and somewhat heavier.
More significantly, the thin coating of lacquer on an acetate is much more susceptible to wear; the playback head of a stylus quickly damages the grooves of the record such that after only a relatively few number of plays the audio quality is noticeably degraded. This is not a problem, however, since acetates are only test pressings and are not designed to be able to stand the test of time.

The record's sleeve is typically nothing more than a generic cover from the manufacturing company and the disc's label is similarly plain, containing only basic information about the content (title, artist, playing time, etc.), which is usually typed but is often just hand-written. Other uses Acetates were also used as a storage medium for radio commercials; since commercials only run for a limited time it doesn't matter if the disc wears out relatively quickly.

The reason they cut an acetate refence disc is so that they can play it on a standard record player! That's why they were used for reference purposes. If it doesn't sound great it's because it has been played to death and the soft lacquer wears very fast. They sound great when you are the first person to play it. Acetates are extremely rare, and in some cases, are one-of-a-kind.

Here is a picture of a Acetate Cutting firm

Care: Acetates degrade rapidly when played. So you should record your acetates back to tape if you wish to listen to them more than once.
Accept that acetates obtained secondhand may have been played a few times, so the sound quality may already be poor.
I own acetates which looks mint but are played often so they have noise all over the track.
Never clean acetates with alcohol-based cleaners.
It will dissolve them ! Use distiled water instead.

For the Disco Acetates the Allied and Presto ones were used the most.
Here are some pictures of blanc acetates.

Disco Acetates:
The DJ came with his real to real tape and from that tape the acetate was directly cut. The owner of the acetate press put the tape in a own box and kept it in his file. See scan for such a box of Sunshine Sounds (one of the famous labels in New York).

There were a lot of company's in the USA were acetates could be made.
The most (professional) famous ones are: Frankfort/Wayne Mastering Labs, Sterling Sound, Kendun, etc.
The most famous ones were Disco acetates could be made are: Sunshine Sound (broadway-new York),Angel Sound (broadway-new York), Disco Queen, Melting Pot Sounds .