A Brief History
Apollo Masters has quite a pedigree, and it all started in 1936. Audio Devices signed an agreement with La Societe des Vernis Pyrolac at Creteil (Seine) in France for the rights to manufacture varnish recording discs on October 12th, 1936. Pyrolac supplied drawings for the equipment and the lacquer formula. Audio Devices set up their first manufacturing plant in a house in New York City. They didn't start production of blank lacquer discs until August 1938. Sometime later (we have no date) they moved the plant to another house in Glenbrook, Connecticut. They continued to make lacquer discs at Glenbrook until around 1972, when Audio Devices was bought by Capitol Records.
In 1974 Capitol Records built a new facility for lacquer disc manufacturing in Winchester, Virginia. At that time, Capitol Records had a record and tape manufacturing plant as well as a distribution center on their 40 acre site.
[Postscript: In 1990, the Winchester Regional Jail Board leased the old Capitol lacquer plant for a temporary jail for inmates to work release! The building was used until the new jail was completed.]
In 1982 Capitol Records purchased four polishing machines from GC International, which had several divisions that manufactured various items. One division produced polished aluminum blanks for Capitol. This was when GC International and Capitol Records formed a business relationship.
Capitol Records closed the Lacquer Division in October of 1986 and contacted several parties they thought might be interested in buying their lacquer disc manufacturing facility. GC International purchased the rights and lacquer disc equipment from Capitol Records in 1987. The operation was then moved to Banning, California, and Apollo Masters was again producing the master discs which are the basis for making records.
One of the most frequently asked questions (besides "Do they still make records?") is "Why Banning, California?" Banning is a small town of 15,000 people located in Southern California between Riverside and Palm Springs. The dry, hot climate made it perfect for Apollo Masters. All of the equipment from Capitol Records Lacquer Division was disassembled, loaded on 15 trucks and sent to 101 West Lincoln Street in Banning. All the parts were reassembled, and production was started in early 1989.
Over the years, Apollo Masters had requests for 7", 8", 16", and 17" discs. We made production samples of 7-inch discs, but a market never developed for this size. One of the strangest requests was for a recording cylinder for the Edison recorders and players. This customer tried to coat the cylinders with wax like they were originally made but was having no success, so he contacted Apollo. He supplied Apollo with cylinders made from aluminum tubing. It was necessary to make a machine to rotate the cylinder while lowering it into a reservoir of lacquer to coat it. We produced a small pilot sample, but never went into production.
Master - The Most Polished Performer:
Aluminum substrates of sufficiently high quality must be used for lacquer masters.
Initially developed for the manufacture of computer memory discs, this elaborate, multi-step polishing process totally removes the original surfaces on both sides of the blank, thus eliminating all dips, pits, bubbles, rolling marks and other imperfections. If not removed such defects would show up, magnified, in the lacquer coating surfaces.
As a result of this super-polishing operation, we have a plentiful supply of flawless substrates.
Mastering The Master:
The greatest formulation and finest raw materials cannot by themselves assure a perfect product.
This is particularly true when manufacturing lacquer masters. To produce consistently superior masters, all manufacturing processes must be scrupulously and continuously controlled. The operations must be performed in well-equipped facilities with highly trained personnel.
Apollo's factory in Banning is ideally suited to produce such masters. We feel it is the most modern and sophisticated of its type in the world.
The ingredients, which must meet unusually tight specifications, are compounded in our Banning plant. The formulation and the process of preparing it are totally proprietary and not available to any other lacquer master manufacturer.
These developments in aluminum and lacquer formulations allow us to exercise complete control over the critical raw materials, thus minimizing the major difficulties experienced in the manufacturing of lacquer masters.
Every Master Ever Made:
After polishing, the aluminum blanks are washed in special ultrasonic cleaners to render them totally free from oils and other residues.
The degree of blending and filtering that the lacquer formulation under goes and the resulting smoothness and consistency are amazing. The aluminum and the lacquer come together in the coating room. There, the automatic coaters perform the critical step of depositing a perfectly even layer of lacquer on the aluminum blank.
Even the apparently simple drying and curing process is an example of modern control systems. Throughout the process, all the parameters are continuously monitored.
All masters are 100% visually inspected to insure the absence of any imperfections in the cutting area. Only the surfaces which meet such criteria are accepted for Apollo Masters. Those which do not are rejected. The accepted lacquers are then coded to identify the manufacturing date, as well as other information about the process and materials.
Shifting Gears - Moving Forward:
In late 2007, Apollo Masters acquired the assets of our long time competitor, Transco Masters. Transco had an excellent formula that unfortunately was never able to reach its full potential in the market because of limitations in its manufacturing process. The decision was made to set-up a separate production line to produce Transco lacquer with Apollo's modern process. The results were nothing less than stupendous. The inconsistencies were gone and the Transco customer base now had their favorite product with the best quality available in the industry.
We are now proud to offer the two best lacquer products available in the world, Apollo & Transco. Two extremely consistent high quality lacquer products that allow cutting engineers to fine tune the individual cutting characteristics preferred. Try some of our masters today. We know you will be satisfied, in fact, we guarantee it.
The Perfect Partner:
Apollo also acquired the Transco Styli operation. Transco ruby styli were originally manufactured as Micro Point and are considered to be the best available styli for cutting performance and frequency response. These styli are manufactured with specific attention to cutting efficiency and accuracy of directional axis of the rough stone. Stylus edges of several microns are manufactured uniformly by mirror finishing, thus assuring recording of accurate sound frequency signals. Furthermore, Transco styli developed excellent special-purpose polishing machines for recording styli incorporating a unique optical unit. Recording styli of Neumann and Westrex types are highly valued by leading record manufacturers throughout the world. Apollo also has been distributing Adamant sapphire styli since 1990.
And More Testing:
Samples of finished lacquer masters are continuously tested for conformity with all specification requirements. There are many physical and chemical tests. Every lot is also cut and checked for sound quality.
Even the lacquers which have been released to inventory are periodically sampled to check the effects of storage and aging. Continuous contacts with customers give us a source of additional feedback on the day to day performance of our lacquers.