MATRIX NUMBERS AND OTHER
RUN-OFF MARKINGS


The various numbers and markings which are generally be found in between the spirals of a record's
run-off groove can be a help in identifying which company made that pressing.  Judging by a quick look at singles in my collection it seems that different pressing plants had different styles of run-off 'legend'.  CBS, Decca, EMI, Philips/ Polydor, Pye, and (in the second half of the decade) RCA appear to have had distinctive and easily recognisable styles, so a few notes about them may be useful.  There were of course a lot of other pressing firms, some of which had their own particular styles; I've been able to identify some of them - Orlake, and possibly British Homophone and Saga - but others remain elusive.  What follows is not authoritative; as I said, it comes from observation, not from first-hand knowledge.

Run-off legends come in different forms - hand-written or typefaced - and in different positions.  They tend
to consist of the matrix number of the record with a few add-ons at the end.  The matrix number is often accompanied by a 'cut number', which refers to the 'stamper' (the metal plate being used to press that side of the record).   Other numbers, letters or symbols can often be found in association with the matrix number or at other places on the run-off; these refer to things such as the 'take' (which version of a recording is being used).   Firms, or individual engineers, responsible for cutting the records sometimes added initials, names or even messages: Utopia studios used a lyre-like mark to identify its cuts.  Making a record involves several stages, and marks can be added at each - it should be kept in mind that once a stamper has been made by one firm it can be taken to a different firm for the actual pressing to be done.  Identification, therefore, is likely to be less than an exact science, and the following guide should be approached with caution.  I would only claim that it is better than nothing.
While reading the following descriptions it helps to think of the record as a kind of clock-face.  Position the run-off legend so that it's the right way up.  If it's at the top of the record, that's twelve o'clock; if it's at the bottom, that's six.  The three and nine o'clock positions are where you'd expect them to be, as are all the rest of the hours.  So if the description says there's an '04' at ten o'clock you should know where to look for it.  He said, hopefully.

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CBS 

 
 
 
  
 
CBS run-off legends from 1970-c.76 are typefaced and can be found at twelve o'clock.  The basic matrix number
(which is generally the same as the catalogue number but with an 'A' or a 'B' added, indicating whether that side of the record is the 'A' or 'B' side) is followed closely by a single number, which presumably refers to the 'stamper' or the 'take'.  The parts of the legend may be separated by hyphens or dots or they may be left blank.  Typical examples would be 'CBS S 7986 A1' from 1972, 'CBS-S-2327-A2' from 1974, or 'EPCS 2151 B1', an Epic single from 1973.



At nine o'clock there are usually three dots, making the points of a small triangle; sometimes these dots have faint lines partially joining them.  At three o'clock there is often a symbol resembling a pair of closed brackets, '( )'.  Around 1977 the typefaced legend was replaced by a handwritten one but the layout remained the same, as can be seen in the third and fourth examples shown above.  The symbols at three o'clock and nine o'clock remained unchanged.

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DECCA



With occasional exceptions Decca run-off legends are typefaced.  They can be found at 6 o'clock.  The basic
matrix number, which usually bears no relation to the catalogue number, is followed by a 'T' and a single number, and then by another single number and a letter - generally a '1' and a 'C' or a 'K'.  The various parts of the legend are separated by hyphens.  An example would be 'ZDR-56491-T1-1C'.  The 'Z' seems to indicate a stereo recording, an 'X' a mono one.  EMI legends are similar but they tend to be more widely spaced and to lack all but the last of the separating hyphens.  

   

At nine o'clock there is a single number, usually '1' but sometimes higher; Keith Stephens has been kind enough to mail in and say that this number was the 'mother' number - it referred to the metal 'mother' which was an integral part of the pressing process.  At three o'clock there is usually a letter which, Keith points out, indicates which stamper was used to do the pressing.  Decca used the letters of the word BUCKINGHAM to indicate the letters 1 to 10; thus a 'B' at 3 o'clock indicates a first stamper, 'K' a fourth, and so on.  The letters could be used in combination, thus a 'BU' would be from the twelfth stamper.  Each stamper was used to make approximately five hundred pressings, so for a popular record they had to be changed regularly.

* * * * *

EMI



EMI run-off legends are placed at 6 o'clock, and come in a widely-spaced typeface.  The basic matrix number
is followed by a hyphen, then a single number, usually a '1'.  Thus we have 'SHAR 5113 B-1' for Harvest, 'YPUR 120 A-1' for Purple, and 'EMI 2397 A-1' for the EMI label.  For labels where the matrix number is very different from the catalogue number, as is the case with Columbia and Parlophone, the results look like '7XCA 33002-1' and '7YCE 21469-1'.  An 'X' in the matrix number generally indicates a mono recording, a 'Y' a stereo one, the 'WIPX' of the Island label (shown below) being an exception. 

 

Some EMI pressings can be found with a 'U' after the single number, giving 'UP 35760 A-4U', 'BELL 1299 B-1U', 'ARISTA 1 A-1U', MAG 127 B-1U' and so on.  Phil Elliott has been kind enough to get in touch to explain that this 'U' indicated that the mastering had been done somewhere other than at EMI's own Abbey Road facilities; it was first added c.1970.  Decca legends are similar but the letters are more closely spaced and always run in a straight line; the various parts of Decca legends are generally separated by hyphens.  

   

Away from the run-off legend there is usually something which looks like either a '1', a reversed '1', or an '!' at nine o'clock.  There is a letter, or a pair of letters, at three o'clock; Keith Stephens has kindly informed me that, as is the case with Decca recordings, these refer to the different 'stampers' that were used to make the pressings.  According to Keith, EMI used the letters GRAMOPHLTD to represent the numbers 1 to 10, so that a record with 'G' at 9 o'clock would be from the first stamper, and 'T' from the ninth, while 'GM' would be from the fourteenth.  On records dating up to c.1973 the initials KT can often be found, inverted, at twelve o'clock.  This would appear to refer to the purchase tax payable on the record.
In addition, where a record has been perforated so that its centre may be pushed out, the perforations on EMI pressings (and those of RCA from Spring 1975 onwards) are noticably narrower than those of the other companies, which offers an initial readily observable clue as to a single's origins. 

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PHILIPS / POLYDOR / PHONOGRAM / PHONODISC



Philips and Polydor shared a close association.  In the '70s their records were pressed at the Philips (later renamed 'Phonodisc') plant in Walthamstow.  The legend action - for want of a better description - on records in the Philips / Polydor groups and their
successors all takes place at the top of the record, and the legend is typefaced.  The basic matrix number is at twelve o'clock: for Philips / Phonogram singles it consists of the catalogue number followed closely by a '1F' (for an 'A' side) or a '2F' (for a 'B' side).  Then come two forward slashes, a single number (usually a '1' or a '2'), an inverted triangle and (usually, for British singles) the number '420'.  For example you might find '6006160 1F//s420' (Philips), '6059026 2F//1s420' (Vertigo), or '6076002 1F//1s420' (Nashville).   'Seb' has written in to identfiy the various components: the first '1' or '2' after the catalogue number are side identifiers; the 'F' is the 'media identifier' and indicates that the record is a 7" ('Y' would mean a 12" or an LP); the number before the inverted triangle is the 'lacquer cut sequence number'; and the number after the triangle is the 'lacquer cut machine number' - it indicates what country the lacquer was cut in.  Keith Stephens has been kind enough to send the following list of machine numbers and the countries in which they were used; he warns that it may be incomplete:
Austria - 720;  Australia - 150;  Belgium - 170;  Brazil - 200;   Canada - 230;  Denmark - 300;
Far East - 022;  France - 380;  Germany - 320;  Great Britain - 420;  Hungary - 450;   Italy - 520;
Luxembourg - 630;  Norway - 710;  Netherlands - 670;  Portugal - 790;  South Africa - 960;   Spain - 850;
Sweden - 970;  Switzerland - 980;  Rest of the World 000.
 
'Seb' has also provided the following information about lacquer markings:
Phonodisc used characters to denote an outsourced lacquer cut: sE where 'E' stands for 'External'.
The matrix number would look like: CB 363 A // 1sET RAYS .
In that example 'RAYS' stands for Ray Staff, mastering engineer at Trident from 1970 to 1986.
The following studios were used:
Abbey Road (sEAR);  CBS (sEC);  Decca (sED);  Kendun Recorders (sEKR);
Master Room (sEM);  CTS (sEMC);  Master Disc (sEMD);  Pye / PRT (since 1980) (sEP);
Portland (sEPS);  The Sound Clinic (sESC);  Sterling Sound (sEST);  Strawberry Mastering (sESTR)
Trident (sET);  Townhouse (sETH);  Tape One (sETO);  Utopia (sEUT).




Polydor group matrix numbers are almost identical to Philips / Phonogram ones, except that that the 'A' and 'B' sides are indicated by 'A' and 'B' instead of by '1F' and '2F'.  Thus we get '2058110 A//1s420' (Polydor) and '2025193 B//1s420' (Stax).  There are occasional exceptions to these rules - sometimes the triangle or the '420' may be omitted or replaced by a letter, or the two forward slashes may be missing (as in the example shown above) - but the side-indicator seems to be ever present.



Two other number combinations generally appear on the run-off: '04' (sometimes '05' or '03') can often be found either at 10 o'clock or following the matrix number, and three other numbers, often with spaces between them, appear at around two o'clock.  Often these three numbers consist of two '1's (sometimes one of them is reversed) and a '1', '2', '3' or '4'.  'Seb' identifies these as the 'Father number', the 'Mother number', and the 'Stamper number', in that order.  Spacing varies wildly: usually the two '1's are close together, but the third number can be found near to them or anywhere else up to nine o'clock.
Labels which were pressed by Phonodisc but were not part of the Philips / Phonogram or Polydor families appear to have usually followed the Polydor style of run-off legends, for example 'RESL 31 A//1s420' (BBC) and 'EAG 0032 B//1s420' (Eagle); again, parts might be substituted, as happened to the triangle and the '420' in 'BIG523 A//1 M' (Transatlantic), or missing altogether, like the triangle in 'MAG005 B//1 420' (Magnum).
 
Thanks to Keith and 'Seb' for all the information they have supplied.

* * * * *

PYE


 
 

The Pye run-off legend can be found at six o'clock.  It varies in form, being typefaced from 1970-c.76 and
handwritten from then on, though handwritten ones can be found earlier in the decade.  The typeface varies: from 1970-c.73 it generally looks rather rough, from c.1973-c76 it looks a bit thin.  The legend consists of the matrix number (generally the same as the catalogue number, with a suffixed 'A' or a 'B' signifying the 'A' or the 'B' side) followed by a hyphen, a single number (usually '1'), a diamond, a triangle or a star, and finally one or (from c. 1977) two letters.  This results in a typefaced 'DJS 232 B-1 *T' for DJM in 1970, a typefaced '7N 45554 A-G' for Pye in 1975, a typefaced 'KSS 701 A-2tX' for a 1974 Kama Sutra, and a handwritten 'EMBS 366-A-1tMB' for a 1978 Ember.  There are of course exceptions to this rule, as shown in the third illustration, which is of a Bradleys single from 1974, where the symbol and letter(s) at the end are missing, but it seems to be generally reliable.  'Seb' has kindly sent along the following, which sheds light on the various symbols:
 
The symbols stand for the cutting room/lathe machines.
Diamond: Identifying the Westrex Scully stereo suite until 1974; from then on identifying the Neumann SX74 suite.
Triangle: Identifying the second Westrex Scully stereo suite until 1967; from 1967 onwards identifying the Neumann SX68 suite.
Star: Identifying the Westrex Scully Mono suite until c.1974.
The alphas after the symbols are for the cutting engineers:
F = unknown yet;   G = Gordon Vicary;   H = Howard Barrow;   J = Geoff Calver;   T = Tony Bridge
W = Derek Strickland;   X = Ian Cooper;   BJ = Bob Jones;   MB = Mike Brown
So, a *T indicates that Tony Bridge cut the record in the star suite with the Scully lathe.
Other symbols:
Pi symbol = Mike Brown;   NOEL = Noel Summerville;   TONE = Tony Bridge

   

As for other markings on the run-off, there is a letter (sometimes two letters, late in the decade) at nine o'clock, and a number, generally '1', at three o'clock.  These are handy, in that they help distinguish between Pye pressings, which have them, and Saga pressings (see below), which don't.  In the '70s Pye pressings were often done on a kind of vinyl which appears a translucent wine red when held up to direct light, which is a useful identifying characteristic.  There doesn't appear to be any distinction between run-off legends of Pye Group records and those of records which Pye manufactured and distributed for other companies.

 
* * * * *

RCA

 


From 1971-c.75 the run-off legends and the other markings on RCA singles - including associated labels such as
Rockfield - are often pretty much identical with those of CBS singles, as CBS did a lot of the pressing: typefaced matrix numbers plus a 'stamper' (or 'take'?) number at twelve o'clock, a three-dot 'therefore' kind of mark at nine o'clock, and sometimes a pair of closed brackets at three.  RCA singles, however, often have a letter 'E' after the 'stamper' number (if that is what it is).  RCA pressed many of its own albums during that period, but it also seems to have pressed a limited number of its own singles.  The only example that I have seen and of which I can be pretty sure is the first example shown above.  It has a typefaced font, set in a slight curve at six o'clock; the number itself has a '1E' after it, separated from it by a hyphen.  Elsewhere on the run-off there is a handwritten A1A; the 'B' side has an A1K - their appearance is similar to the example shown below.  At first the matrix numbers of RCA records were vastly different from the catalogue numbers, but in 1973 they became more or less identical, with only a suffixed 'A' or 'B' (indicating the 'A' or 'B' side of the record) to distinguish between them.   With the component parts added together, what we see in the run-off is something akin to 'BGBS 0992 1E', or 'RCA 2411 A 1E'.  In early 1975, however, RCA developed a style of its own - presumably it started pressing all its own singles at that point (it had been increasingly responsible for pressing its own albums from late 1970).   It bore a close resemblance to that of the earlier self-pressed singles, except that the characters were handwritten.  Again, the matrix numbers can be found at six o'clock.  It was usual for some of the components to be separated by hyphens, as in 'PB 5099-A-2E' and 'GO 336-A-1E'.



As a rule there were two other marks on the run-off during this later period: a 'letter number letter' triad, such as 'A1C' or 'A1H',similar to that on the earlier self-pressed records, and a letter 'W' in inverted commas.  These could be found at any point around the run-off; popular places for the triad were at three o'clock and nine o'clock, while the 'W' often turned up at twelve.  On occasions the triad adds an extra letter or two, as in 'A1AT' or 'A1AAB'.  Thanks to Keith Stephens for additional information.

* * * * *

WEA 

For the greater part of the 1970s labels in the Kinney / WEA group were pressed by CBS, the two companies having shared manufacturing and distribution facilites, and therefore they have CBS-style markings.  WEA was an ambitious concern, however.  It set up its own distribution network, which came into operation in early 1976, and purchased Island's pressing plant when it came up for sale in January 1978.  According to Billboard magazine (21st January) its manufacturing agreement with CBS still had more than a year to run, but the plant was available for overflow work and third-party pressings.  In that same year WEA invested in Damont, which had another pressing plant, and by February 1979 Damont had become part of the WEA group.  This gave WEA two separate facilities to employ when it struck out on its own, which it appears to have done around the end of 1978.  Its singles from then on can be divided into two distinct types.  Singles of the first type have anti-slip ridges around the labels and often have a 'D' at twelve o'clock: it seems reasonable to guess that these are Damont pressings, particularly as in the early '80s the 'D' was sometimes replaced by a 'DAMONT'.  The second type of single has no anti-slip ring and no 'D': I have no proof that these came from the ex-Island plant, but it seems not impossible.  Singles of both kinds frequently have marks from studios such as Strawberry, suggesting that mastering was done by independent facilities.  There are some differences in the run-off markings of the two types, and it is to these that we now turn.  As ever, I would like to point out that what follows is a generalization, and that there are exceptions here as there are everywhere else on this page.
 
WEA / DAMONT (?)
 
 

The matrix numbers themselves are at six o'clock, and are handwritten.  The numerical part is usually without hyphens, but they seem to be optional after the 'A' or 'B' side indicator.  There is often a number at three o'clock and a letter at nine, and the overall effect is similar to Pye pressings.  Unlike Pyes, however, there is a 'D' (sometimes underlined, and sometimes quite fancy, as below) at twelve o'clock, and the WEAs lack the distinctive star / diamond / triangle markings which indicate Pye mastering.
 
  
 
*
 
WEA (Ex-Island plant?)
 
 
 
Again, the matrix numbers are handwritten, are at six o'clock, and can be found with or without hyphens.  Elsewhere in the run-off there are often the names or logos of the studios which were presumably responsible for doing the mastering; there are other marks too, such as combinations of the letter 'S' and a number, 'EG', or WEA T/P'.  A number can be found either at three o'clock or at nine o'clock.
 
 

 
* * * * *

ORLAKE



A pressing plant from the Dagenham area, Orlake pressed singles for any number of independent labels during the '70s, and it is still in operation today.  It manufactured many of Trojan's singles, both on the actual Trojan label and on the subsidiary labels.  Orlake products often have a '+' separating the different parts of the matrix number, as in 'HOSS+18+A'.  The numbers may be typefaced or handwritten.  The labels on Orlake pressings tend to have rather rough surfaces, often with a smooth outer rim.

* * * * *

BRITISH HOMOPHONE (?) 



A long-lived independent pressing plant, British Homophone was founded in 1921.  It issued records on its own labels until 1935, and continued to press records for other companies until at least the mid '70s.  The company pressed some Doctor Bird singles and was owned at some point in the '60s and '70s by President Records boss Ed Kassner, so, because my sole Doctor Bird and most of my few Presidents have run-off markings in the style shown above, I hope and trust that that is, indeed, the British Homophone type of marking.  Jim West, the owner of the small independent West Records, says that he used British Homophone for his pressings, and the markings on the few West records that I have seen are similar, which boosts my confidence somewhat.  Working on that premise, its style of matrix numbers was distinctive: as can be seen from the above illustration the numbers, which appeared at six o'clock, were quite bold and deep; often there are tiny circles at the end of the various lines that make up the figures, as though something like a dentist's drill has been used to make them.  That style of marking can be found on the records of a large number of small companies, such as Dancetime, which presumably were British Homophone customers.   Pressings by Deroy, of Lancashire, have a similar appearance, but the few examples that I have seen have lacked the circles; in addition to which, instead of using 'A's and 'B's for the two sides of records Deroy gave them two consecutive matrix numbers.  The rims outside the labels of British Homophone pressings - if pressings such as the one shown above were indeed done by that company - have none of the raised anti-slip ribs which can be found on many records.

* * * * *
 
SAGA / ALLIED

 

Based in Kensal Road, London W10.  Saga is probably best remembered for its budget LP labels, but a pressing plant, 'Allied Records', was part of the same group of companies in the late '60s and the '70s, and a second, separate, plant was set up in March 1973.  In 1975 Saga took over the revamped Trojan and B&C labels, at which point, presumably, it started pressing their singles itself, through its Allied arm or through the new company.  If that is indeed the case, it enables us to identify Saga's style of matrix number at this period.  As can be seen in the example shown above, the number appeared at six o'clock and was in the form 'TRO 7990 A-1'.  This is similar to one of the forms used by Pye, the one without the symbol and letter(s) at the end - see the third illustration in the Pye section.  Saga singles, however, don't have the additional letter at nine o'clock and number at three o'clock that Pye singles have.  The Saga-era Trojan and B&C singles which I have been able to examine have all had shallow anti-slip rings around the label.  There are records on other labels with this style of matrix number but without that anti-slip ring; I have no evidence that would connect them to Saga - some of the ones from the end of the decade may possibly be WEA products (see above).

* * * * *

INDUSTRIAL COMMERCIAL PLASTICS 

 
 

A Leicester-based independent pressing firm.  I only have two singles that I know were pressed by ICP, but the style of their run-off markings has some features which seem to be distinctive.  The matrix numbers are in a typeface and can be found in the six o'clock position.  The letters and numbers are rather thin, and the bar on the letter 'A' is rather low, as can be seen from the illustration.
  Some singles have anti-slip ridges around the edge of the labels, others do not; they do, however, seem to have a pronounced 'moat' nine or ten millimetres away from the spindle hole and a noticable bevel (around 6 mm wide) further out - I haven't been able to examine enough definitely-ICP singles to be sure that that was always the case; it may well not have been.  ICP seems to have pressed records for a number of independent labels, including Budget LP concern Deacon.  For the sake of interest labels of EPs on Deacon and Grosvenor, with measurements, are shown below.
 


 
* * * * *
 
* * * * *

The following table should give a rough guide to matrix number and run-off variations.
The information given refers only to 'A' sides, for the sake of simplicity.

COMPANY TWELVE O'CLOCK THREE O'CLOCK SIX O'CLOCK NINE O'CLOCK
CBS Run-off legend, typefaced before c.1977, handwritten afterwards, ending in A1 Pair of brackets (Nothing) Triangle of dots
DECCA (Nothing) Letter; B, U, C, K, I, N, G, H, A, or M (Indicates stamper number) Runoff legend, typefaced, hyphens, ending in T1-1C, T2-1C, or similar Number (Indicates which metal mother was used)
EMI (Nothing) Letter; G, R, A, M, O, P, H, L, T, or D (Indicates stamper number) Run-off legend in wide-spaced type; ends -1, -A1 or -A1U '1' or reversed
PHILIPS Run-off legend, typefaced, containing '1F//', inverted triangle and '420' Three numbers with differing separations; first two often '1's (Nothing) '03' '04', '05'; nearer ten o'clock, can also be at two
POLYDOR Run-off legend, typefaced, containing 'A//', inverted triangle and '420' Three numbers with differing separations; first two often '1's (Nothing) '03' '04', '05'; nearer ten o'clock, can also be at two
PYE (Nothing) '1' Run-off legend ending with '-1' or other number, often followed by a triangle, a star or a diamond and one or two letters Letter
RCA (1971-75) (Nothing) Possibly 'letter-number-letter' - can be found elsewhere Run-off legend, typefaced and curving, often ending in '-1E' or similar

Possibly 'letter-number-letter', if not elsewhere

RCA (1975 on) Possibly 'W' - can be found elsewhere Possibly 'letter-number-letter' - can be found elsewhere Run-off legend, handwritten, often ending in '-1E' or similar Possibly 'letter-number-letter', if not elsewhere
ORLAKE (Nothing) (Nothing) Matrix number, typefaced or handwritten, its components often separated by a plus sign (Nothing)
WEA (Type 1) Often 'D' Number, often '1' Matrix number, handwritten Letter
WEA (Type 2) Number - at 9 o'clock if not here Matrix number, handwritten Number, if not at three o'clock
BRITISH HOMOPHONE (Nothing) (Nothing) Matrix number, typefaced, very obvious, sometimes suggestions of circles at the end of lines (Nothing)
SAGA / ALLIED (Nothing) (Nothing) Matrix number, ending in '-1' (Nothing)
ICP (Nothing) (Nothing) Matrix number, typefaced, thin. 'A's have low bars, labels may have noticable 'moat'. (Nothing)