How to "Read" your Record
Secrets of the Matrix and More

by Vernon Fitch

*** © copyright Vernon Fitch / The Pink Floyd Archives ***


This is a collection of historical information about the manufacturing of Pink Floyd vinyl LPs in the United States. Here you will discover how to read matrix numbers, determine where your record was made, who the mastering engineer was, and even where the cover was printed. Every vinyl LP tells a story and this article should help you decode some of the secrets contained in the vinyl.


Quick Click Guide

[The Pink Floyd Discographies Page]
[Reference Directory] [Pink Floyd Archives home page]


  1. Index

    1. Bar Codes

    2. Catalog Numbers
      1. Capitol Records prefixes (including Tower and Harvest Records)
      2. Columbia Records prefixes

    3. Covers & Labels
      1. Cover Printing - Tower Records Cover Slick Numbers
      2. Label Printing
      3. Label Typefaces
      4. Label Variations
        1. Color
        2. Text - Tower Records
        3. Text - Harvest Records

    4. Matrix Information
      1. Capitol Records
        1. Lathes
        2. Mastering Engineers
      2. Columbia Records
        1. Laquer Letters

    5. Pressing Plants
      1. Capitol Records
        1. Pressing Plant Symbols
        2. Label Rings
      2. Columbia Records
        1. Pressing Plant Symbols

    6. Mastering Houses & Additional Pressing Plants


A History of U.S. Vinyl LPs

  1. Bar Codes: Bar codes on album covers made their appearance in the early 1980s, either in 1980 or 1981.

  2. Catalog Numbers: Catalog numbers are the letters and numbers assigned to a particular record by the record company, and can be found printed on the cover and label, and in the matrix of the records. Catalog numbers and their prefixes may indicate when a record was released, and how much it sold for.
    The following is a list of prefixes found on Pink Floyd albums:

    1. Capitol Records prefixes (including Tower and Harvest Records):

      SABB - Special price double album (1974-1989)
      SEAX - picture disc
      SKAO - stereo LP (1970-1975)
      SKBB - double album (1976-1989)
      SMAS - stereo LP (1971-1989)
      SPRO - 12" promotional issues
      ST - stereo LP (1967-1979)
      STBB - double album (1969-1974)
      SW - stereo LP (1973-1989)
      T - mono LP (1967-1968)

    2. Columbia Records prefixes:

      AS - 12" promotional issue (1975-1984)
      ASQ - quadraphonic promotional issue
      C [with barcode on cover] - $5.98 list price (1983 onwards)
      FC - $8.98 list price (1978-1989)
      HC - Columbia Records Master Sound issue (1981-1982)
      JC - $7.98 list price (1973-1982), $8.98 list price (1983-?)
      OC - $10.98 list price (1986-1989)
      PC [with no barcode on cover] - $6.98 list price (1973-1980)
      PC [with barcode on cover] - $5.98 list price (1980-1989)
      PCQ - quadraphonic issue
      QC - $8.98 list price (1983-1986)
      TC - $8.98 (1981-1983) later used for cassettes

  3. Covers & Labels:

    1. Cover Printing

      Tower Records Cover Slick Numbers - On many of the first three Pink Floyd albums, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, A Saucerful of Secrets, and More, a very small number can be found at the bottom of the back cover in the lower right corner. These numbers are the "designated numbers" for the particular album slick, and indicate which printer was used by the record company to print that specific album cover slick. A cover with no number on it can be assumed to indicate the original printer used by Capitol Records, as there are no issues with a number 1 on them. Known numbers 2 through 21 indicate different printing factories that were used. It is unknown which printers belong to each number (Capitol Records primarily used the companies Modern Album, and Imperial Paper Box Co. to print their albums) but the four Capitol Records pressing plants operating in the United States at the time each are associated with specific numbers:

        2, 3 - Scranton, Pennsylvania record plant
        4, 9, 16 - Jacksonville, Illinois record plant
        5, 6, 18 - Los Angeles, California record plant
        11, 12, 21 - Winchester, Virginia record plant

      Keep in mind that these "designation numbers" do not indicate order of release. Many cover slick printing factories were used simultaneously, and it is possible that any pressing could be put with any record cover number depending on the record company's inventory at the time.

    2. Label Printing - Printing of the labels for the Pink Floyd releases on Tower / Capitol Records were done at different printing plants.

      1. East Coast - For records that were pressed at the Scranton, Pennsylvania pressing plant, the label copy printing was done at Keystone Printed Specialties Co., Inc., of Scranton, Pennsylvannia, with the labels printed by Queens Litho of Long Island City, New York. Capitol Records began doing in-house label copy typesetting in Scranton in 1969.
      2. Midwest - For records that were pressed at the Jacksonville, Illinois pressing plant, label copy was done in-house.
      3. West Coast - For records that were pressed at Capitol Records's Los Angeles pressing plant, the label copy and printing were done by Bert-Co Press of Los Angeles, Califonia. Capitol Records began doing in-house label copy typesetting in Los Angeles in late 1967.
        For records that were pressed by Rainbo Records (Tower singles and some albums) the label copy was done by Alco Research & Engineering of Los Angeles.

    3. Label Typefaces:

      1. Varitype Fonts - Capitol Records albums and singles from the Jacksonville, Los Angeles, Scranton, and Winchester plants all used Varitype fonts.
      2. IBM Typesetting - Beginning in 1970, the Los Angeles plant replaced Varitype fonts with IBM typesetting. The Winchester plant changed from Varitype to IBM typesetting in 1973. (Winchester pressings of the single Money / Any Colour You Like (3609) used Varitype fonts, while later pressings of the single Time / Us and Them (3832) used IBM fonts).

    4. Label Variations:

      1. Color:

        1967-1968 - Brown Tower Records label.
        1969 - Striped Tower Records label.
        June 1969 - Green Harvest Records label.
        July 1983 - Capitol Records reissues on a black Capitol label with rainbow ring.
        Summer 1988 - Capitol Records reissues on a purple Capitol label.

      2. Text - Tower Records:

        In 1967 and early 1968, the text at the bottom edge of Tower Records labels read:

        "Mfd. in U.S.A."

        In August 1968, the text on Tower Records labels was changed to read:

        "Manufactured in the U.S.A. by Capitol Records, Inc."

        In approximately mid-1969, the text on Tower Records labels was changed to read:

        "Mfd. by Capitol Records, Inc, a subsidiary of Capitol Industries, Inc. U.S.A."

      3. Text - Harvest Records:

        Beginning in June 1969 and throughout the early 1970s, the text around the bottom edge of Harvest Records labels started at the 8 o'clock position and read:

        "Mfd. by Capitol Records, Inc., a subsidiary of Capitol Industries, Inc., U.S.A. - ® Capitol Marca Reg. - U.S. Pat. No. 2,631,859"

        This changed in the September 1975, when it started at the 10 o'clock position and read:
        "Mfd. by Capitol Records, Inc., a subsidiary of Capitol Industries-EMI, Inc., U.S.A. - Capitol Marca Reg. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication is a violation of applicable laws."

  4. Matrix Information: Matrix information is the letters and numbers etched into the vinyl near the label, in the runoff groove at the end of each side of a record.

    1. Capitol Records

      Matrix information on Capitol Records pressings may include:

      1. Record Company prefix code.
      2. Catalog number.
      3. Side number.
      4. The lacquer, or more specifically, the lathe that was used to cut the lacquer.
        The lathes that were used by Capitol Records (indicated in the matrix by the letter following the catalog number, i.e. A1, G13, F32, X7, etc.) were:
        1. Scully lathes [tube lathes]:
          1. A / B Scully stereo lathe - Used by Capitol Mastering in Hollywood, California (1967-1974).
          2. F / G Scully mono lathe - Used by Capitol Mastering in Hollywood, California (1967-early 1969).
          3. H / J Scully lathe - Used by Capitol Mastering in Hollywood, California (1969-1983).
          4. P / T Scully lathe - Used by Capitol Mastering in New York (1967-1971).
          5. W / X Scully stereo lathe - Used by Capitol Mastering in New York (1967-1974).
        2. Neumann lathes [solid state lathes]:
          1. F Neumann lathe - VMS-66 lathe used by Tower Mastering in Hollywood, California (1969-1982).
          2. G Neumann lathe - Used by Capitol Mastering in Hollywood, California (1975-1988).
          3. P Neumann lathe - Used by Capitol Mastering in New York (1980-1983).
          4. R Neumann lathe - Used by Capitol Mastering in New York (1972-1974).
      5. Mother number.
      6. Stamper number.
      7. Record pressing plant and / or mastering house (see below).
      8. The record company that mastered the album.
        "Mastered By Capitol," abbreviated as [MBC] in this discography, often appears stamped on the vinyl of Capitol Records' releases beginning in 1973.
      9. The mastering engineer who cut the lacquer.
          Some of the better known Capitol Records' engineers, and their [matrix signatures] are:
          1. Hal Diepold - Mastering engineer at Capitol's New York Studios in the late 1960s / early 1970s.
          2. Ken Perry [KP] - Generally worked on the "F" Neumann lathe. Also cut some lacquers on the "H / J" Scully lathe 1973-1975.
          3. George Marino - Mastering engineer at Capitol's New York Studios in the late 1960s / early 1970s.
          4. Jay Maynard [Jay Luck] - Generally worked on the "H / J" Scully lathe.
          5. Ron McMaster [MM]
          6. Maurice Long [ML] - Generally worked on the "H / J" Scully lathe.
          7. Gene Thompson [Gene] - Mastering engineer at Capitol's New York Studios (until the mid-1970s), and later in Hollywood, California. Generally worked with the "G" Neumann lathe in California.
          8. Wally Traugott [Wly or Wally] - Mastering engineer at Capitol Records, generally worked on the "F" Neumann lathe at Tower Mastering in Hollywood, California. Also cut some lacquers on the "H / J" Scully lathe 1973-1975.
          9. Wayne Watkins

      Example - Capitol Records: The matrix information, SMAS-1-11163 F1#4 Wly, found on one side of a particular pressing of the Dark Side of the Moon indicates:
      1. SMAS is the record company prefix code ("S" means stereo, "M" is the price code, "A" indicates it is a single LP, and the final "S" indicates a gatefold album).
      2. 1 is the side number.
      3. 11163 is the catalog number.
      4. F is the letter that refers to the lathe used to cut the lacquer. In this instance, the lacquer was cut using the "F" Neumann lathe at Tower Mastering.
      5. The 1 following the F is the specific lacquer / stamper number.
      6. #4 is the mother number.
      7. Wly indicates that Wally Traugott was the mastering engineer who cut the lacquer.

    2. Columbia Records

      Matrix information on Columbia Records pressings may include:

      1. Record Company prefix code.
      2. Mastering job number.
      3. Catalog number.
      4. Side number.
      5. Tape used for the mastering.
      6. Mould. Numbers following a T indicate the mould, with T1 being the first mould, T11 being the second mould, etc.
      7. Lacquer or cutting. The codes used by Columbia Records for their lacquers are the letters A through L*, excluding the letter I:
        A=1
        B=2
        C=3
        D=4
        E=5
        F=6
        G=7
        H=8
        J=9
        K=10
        L=11

        After L, the letters are doubled: AA through AL would be 12 through 22, BA through BL would be 23 through 33, and so on.

        * Letters M and N were brought into use in the 1980s.

        Note: It is important to note that these letters do not necessarily indicate which pressings were made first (a 1A record is not necessarily an earlier pressing than a 1E record). Columbia Records would often cut six (or more) lacquers at the same time for Pink Floyd, due to the high demand for their records. Multiple lacquers would be cut and sent to various pressing plants so that they could have more than one plant pressing the records at the same time. And if a part was blown in processing, the next higher number would then be used, so even a first pressing run could have numbers higher than 1 or 2.
        The coding of the lacquers with letters allowed the lacquers to be assigned to different pressing plants. For example (and this varied over the years), A and B lacquers were sent to the Santa Maria, California pressing plant, C and D lacquers were sent to the Terra Haute, Indiana pressing plant, E and F laquers were sent to the Pitman, New Jersey pressing plant, and G and H were sent to the the Carrollton, Georgia plant. Thus a record with a 1A in the matrix could easily have been pressed at the same time as a record with a 1B in the matrix. They were just pressed at different pressing plants.

        Some of the Columbia mastering engineers, and their [matrix signatures] are:

        1. Chet Bennett [Chet or CB in a circle]
        2. Barry Griffin [Barry]
        3. Anna Pate [Anna]

        Example - Columbia Records: The matrix information, AL 33453-2A, found on one side of a particular pressing of Wish You Were Here indicates:

        1. AL is a prefix code used by Columbia Records. (AL was used for side 1 of the album, while BL was used for side 2.)
        2. 33453 is the mastering job number (as well as the catalog number).
        3. The 2A shows both the tape used (2), and the cutting (A). In this instance, the lacquer was cut using a second tape (perhaps a slightly different mix or equalization than tape #1), and it is the "A" cutting made from that tape.

      Note: The matrix information listed in this discography is not intended to be complete listings of every pressing ever made. This is only the matrix information that I am aware of.

    3. Pressing Plants

      1. Capitol Records

        When the first Pink Floyd records were issued in the United States in 1967, Capitol Records were pressing records in Scranton, Pennsylvania, in Los Angeles, California (the early Tower Records releases were actually pressed by Rainbo Records of Los Angeles for Capitol Records), and in Jacksonville, Illinois. In 1970, they opened a pressing plant in Winchester, Virginia, that eventually replaced the Scranton, Pennsylvania plant.

        Pressing plant symbols: The particular record presing plant that was used to press a certain album is indicated by the following symbols found in the matrix of the record:

          [IAM] - A machine stamped triangle with the initials IAM indicates that the record was pressed at the Scranton, Pennsylvania plant. IAM stands for the International Association of Machinists, the union that worked at the plant. (Capitol Records sold its Scranton plant to North American Music Industries in late 1973).
          [*] - A star indicates that the record was pressed at the Los Angeles, California plant.
          [0] - An 0, either stamped or hand written, indicates that the record was pressed at the Jacksonville, Illinois plant.
          [−<] - A a line with a closed-top V at the end (looks like a long stemmed wine glass) represented a Winchester rifle and indicates that the record was pressed at the Winchester, Virginia plant.
          [R] - An R followed by a dash and numbers (R-953) indicates that the record was pressed at the Rainbo Records plant in California (used to press Tower Records promo copies).

        Label Rings: The diameter of the ring on a particular label can indicate where the record was pressed:

          1.5" diameter ring - Indicates a record was pressed by Capitol Records in Scranton or Los Angeles.
          2.875" diameter ring - Indicates a record was pressed by Rainbo Records for Capitol Records.

      2. Columbia Records

        When the first Pink Floyd records were issued by Columbia Records in 1975, Columbia Records had pressing plants in Santa Maria, California (1963-1981), Terra Haute, Indiana (1953-1982), and in Pitman, New Jersey (1960-1986). In January 1981, they also opened a pressing plant in Carrollton, Georgia (Carrollton stopped pressing vinyl in 1991).

        Pressing plant symbols: The particular record pressing plant that was used to press a certain album is indicated by the following symbols found etched in the matrix of the record:

          G - The letter G indicates that the record was pressed at the Carrollton, Georgia plant.
          P - The letter P indicates that the record was pressed at the Pitman, New Jersey plant (ceased pressing vinyl records in 1986).
          S - A backwards letter S indicates that the record was pressed at the Santa Maria, California plant.
          T - The letter T indicates that the record was pressed at the Terra Haute, Indiana plant.
          XG - XG next to a T indicate that the stamper was first used at Terra Haute, then reused at Carrollton, Georgia.

    4. Mastering Houses & Additional Pressing Plants: Various mastering houses and pressing plants have been used for Pink Floyd records over the years. Some of them are:

        Allentown Record Co. Inc. - Located in Pennsylvannia. Indicated by an ARC stamp.
        American Record Pressing Co. - Located in Michigan. Indicated by an ARP stamped in italics.
        The Mastering Lab - A mastering house in Los Angeles, California, owned and run by Doug Sax. The Mastering Lab used three different lathes to cut records: two Scully lathes indicated by the letters TML-M and TML-S, and a Neumann lathe indicated by the letters TML-X.
        Monarch Press Plant - A pressing plant located in Los Angeles, California. Indicated by MR in a circle.
        Precision Record Press - A mastering house located in Nashville, Tennessee. Indicated by PRP preceeding the matrix number.
        Specialty Records Corp. - A pressing plant located in Olyphant, Pennsylvannia. Indicated by a large S with a small R inside the top part, and a small C inside the bottom part of the S. Specialty Records Corp. was owned by Warner Borthers from 1978-1996, when they became WEA Mfg. Ceased vinyl manufacturing on January 1, 2002.