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What Are Matrix Codes And What Do They Mean?

Vinyl Record Surface And Runout

Tom |

In the analogue realm of music, vinyl records continue to captivate audiophiles and collectors alike, offering a rich and authentic listening experience. Yet, amidst the analogue charm lies a subtle, often overlooked detail—the matrix code etched into the runout groove of each vinyl record. 


Appearing as a cryptic inscription, these matrix codes are the hidden language of vinyl, revealing essential information about the record's production process, mastering, and even its manufacturing origin. As unassuming as they may seem, these codes hold the key to unravelling the unique story behind each vinyl creation, connecting enthusiasts to the intricate journey from studio to turntable. 


In this article, we take a closer look at these vinyl record matrix codes, exploring what they are, deciphering their significance, and uncovering the fascinating narratives encoded within the grooves of our favourite albums.

Vinyl Record Surface And Runout
A record's matrix information is normally found in its ‘runout' - the space between the end of the grooves and the label.

Identification and Organisation

Matrix numbers help identify individual sides of a record. They usually consist of a combination of letters and numbers. Sometimes they will even include additional symbols that differentiate that specific record from another pressing. The codes are assigned during the mastering process and are used to organize and manage the production of vinyl records. 


Matrix numbers are typically etched or stamped into the runout groove of each side of a vinyl record. This alphanumeric code uniquely identifies each side of the record. For a standard LP (Long Play) album, there are typically two matrix numbers, one for each side, distinguishing between side A and side B. This identification ensures clarity in labelling and prevents confusion during production and distribution. 

Mastering Information

The matrix number often includes information about the mastering engineer, the mastering studio, and the date of mastering. This allows enthusiasts to trace the origins of a specific pressing and gain insights into the expertise behind the sound quality. 

Manufacturing Details

Matrix numbers also provide details about the manufacturing process. This includes information about the pressing plant, the stamper used, and sometimes the edition or batch of the record. Collectors value these details, as they can impact the rarity and desirability of a particular pressing. 

Quality Control

Vinyl records go through a series of quality control measures during production. Matrix numbers help in tracking and identifying any issues that may arise, allowing for better quality control and ensuring consistent standards. 


Matrix numbers are often associated with the specific stamper used during the manufacturing process. The stamper is the metal, circular part of the machining hardware that presses the grooves into the vinyl material during the record-making process. Quality control involves monitoring the condition of the stamper to ensure that it is in optimal shape. Any defects or wear on the stamper can result in audible imperfections on the final product.

A vinyl record stamper | A vinyl record stamper is used to imprint the grooves into the vinyl material

Different Pressings

Reissues or different pressings of the same album may have distinct matrix numbers. Collectors often use these codes to distinguish between various versions of a record, each with its own unique characteristics or historical significance. 


First and early presses of records often have their matrix information either pressed or stamped into their record's dead wax space in a very particular way - often being represented by an A1 B1 code, or something similar. You may even see variations like A//1 B//1 or 1Y//1 2Y//1, for example.  


If you would like to learn more about how to tell if your record is a first press, we've written an entirely separate article that will help you do just that!

This first press copy of ‘Exit’ by Tangerine Dream includes the matrix information A1 B1, as well as the TOWNHOUSE etching.

Phrases and Notes:

In some cases, artists or record labels include whole phrases or sentences alongside a record's matrix numbers. These can be fun for collectors to discover, adding an extra layer of intrigue to the vinyl experience. More often than not, though, they will actually be examples of ‘signatures’ that mastering engineers have left on their work - much like an artist signing a painting. 


Popular phrases and names to look out for include “A PORKY PRIME CUT”, “TOWNHOUSE”, and “BOPPIN' BOB”. Want to learn more about etchings like these? Take a look at our article on ‘What do the etchings at the end of a record mean?’

Research and Documentation

Vinyl enthusiasts and collectors often compile databases and conduct research on matrix numbers to document the variations and nuances of different pressings. Online communities and discography databases can be valuable resources for those interested in exploring the world of matrix numbers. 


One of the most popular sites for researching and comparing different matrix numbers is Discogs- we use it ourselves on a daily basis!


Dedicated collectors often contribute to online discography databases like Discogs to catalogue and document the details of different vinyl pressings. These databases can include information about matrix numbers, mastering engineers, pressing plants, release dates, and other relevant details. 

A few examples to look out for...

A1 B1: A common code amongst first press releases. Variations can include codes like A//1 B//1 or A-1 B-1. Of course, the numbers in these codes can differ between releases.

YEX/YAX: Commonly found on records from the likes of The Beatles, Queen, and Pink Floyd. These prefixes often mean that their associated record utilised stereo sound. 

XEX: Largely used with the same releases as YEX and YAX, however, a XEX code will normally indicate that your record has been pressed in Mono sound.

1Y//1 2Y//1: This code will often indicate an early pressing, and can be found on records by Cream, Rush and Genesis

XZAL: This code will often be followed by a set of numbers depending on which release it is found on. It can often be found on record by The Rolling Stones

A* B*: A rarer A/B matrix variant that often does not contain any numeric information. This variant can be found on some New Order releases. 

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