Music

Inside California’s New Vinyl Manufacturer (and Every Audiophile’s Dream)

“I don’t know if there’s ever a perfect time to open something like this,” says Jim Davis with a laugh. 

Davis, president of audiophile retailer Music Direct, is standing at the front of the newly unveiled Fidelity Record Pressing, a high-end vinyl pressing plant in Oxnard, Calif. And while he doesn’t believe there can be a “perfect” time to open a new pressing plant, he does believe in the “right” time, adding: “Our niche in this industry is the high-quality end, and there’s always room for someone making a better quality product. So I’d like to think it’s the right time because we have the right people who put this plant together, and that’s going to make all the difference in the world.” Plus, as he admits while scanning the state-of-the-art facility during an invite-only preview, it’s “very encouraging that people wanted to see what’s going on here.”

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Davis co-founded Fidelity with the father-and-son team of Rick and Edward Hashimoto; the two have over seven decades of pressing plant experience combined and have emerged as leaders in quality and proficiency. Rick sees Fidelity as an opportunity to bring high-end vinyl back into focus. “I think that commercial records have been kind of pushed out the door [lately], and I think it’s important for the vinyl industry to maintain a high-quality presence,” Rick says.

Fidelity Record Pressing Plant
Fidelity Record Pressing Plant

One way Fidelity’s practices help set its products apart are the burnished edges, which Edward says is an “extra hassle” but well worth the quality. “Whether you realize it or not, [the edges of vinyl are] one of first things people notice,” he says. Another way is through the plant’s record cooling process, in which only five vinyl are stacked on aluminum plates (as seen above) to help preserve disc integrity by drying slowly. Specially designed spindles also run through the center to hold each disc and prevent warping.

But perhaps Fidelity’s biggest differentiator is that the plant presses both vinyl and SuperVinyl, a proprietary compound developed by PVC manufacturer Neotech and Record Technology Inc. (RTI) exclusively for Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs (MoFi). The composition features carbonless dye, resulting in a quieter surface that reduces noise floor and enhances groove definition. (Manufacturing costs for SuperVinyl can be eight times more than regular vinyl.)

After a two-year build, Fidelity officially opened at the start of 2024 as the pressing plant for MoFi; it soon started accepting vinyl orders from outside clients. There are currently six presses (manufactured in Nashville by Record Pressing Machines LLC) that can churn an estimated annual capacity of around 1 million records. Another four presses are on the way (the plant can accommodate a total of 12). As of now, one employee operates up to three machines, with additional employees focusing full-time on quality control, which includes spot listening to every 40-50 records for around 30 minutes.

“If you have a flawed record, you may as well just stream it on Spotify,” says Rick. “But if you have a great sounding record, you’re going to want to play that record over and over and that’s what’s going to keep people coming back to vinyl. It’s got to be great — and I think that’s what we do here.”

Fidelity Record Pressing Plant
Rick and Edward Hashimoto

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