WEA Manufacturing matrix barcodes (my collection only)

By mjb mjb
updated 8 months ago

Gen1Gen2Gen3Gen4GenX1Gen5Gen6Gen7GenX2GenX3 • GenX4 • matrix barcodesunusualguide

I figured out how to scan the barcodes in the matrix areas of some CDs.

Based on my observations, Code 39 barcodes debuted on CDs glass-mastered by Specialty Records Corporation (SRC) / WEA Mfg. Olyphant around late February/early March 1990. Just like the DADC "DIDX" codes, they seem to be sequential project numbers, so based on the release dates of the first pressings (which may not have these barcodes), these sequential numbers can be roughly correlated with an original mastering date—i.e., when the digital premaster was probably created.

Aside from maybe picking up a leading zero, the code stays the same on represses, even if the original pressing didn't have a barcode.

The barcodes initially had just 5 characters and the narrow blocks were the maximum width allowed by Code 39 (half the width of the wide ones), so Lazlo's guide calls these "thick block" barcodes and they were only on Gen4 discs. A 6th character was added with the Gen6 debut in late 1992, and they switched to narrow blocks being one-third the width of the wide ones—these are "thin block" barcodes. Gen4 and Gen6 discs were made concurrently until mid-1993 when Gen4 ended.

WEA Manufacturing was making CDs by late September 1986, so I would expect the lowest-numbered codes to include a lot of back-catalog titles (reissues of albums from previous years).

The first line of each comment in this list is the value of the barcode. The next line gives clues about the release date.

The matrix barcodes on some Enhanced CDs have their own numbering sequence starting with 6 instead of 0, or they use the catalog number.

The matrix barcodes on CDs glass-mastered by Allied Record Company (ARC) / WEA Mfg. Commerce have their own numbering sequence, apparently. I put those, along with other odd cases, at the very end of the list. Nearly all of the CDs are glass mastered & pressed at SRC. Some are SRC masters pressed at ARC. Only very few are pressed and mastered by ARC.

Some barcodes omit the first digit and append a letter suffix. I don't know what it means.

  1. Van Morrison - Moondance

    19 For Sale from $0.50

    © 1971 but CDs didn't exist until late 1982, and the first WEA Mfg. edition would have been late 1986.
    With such a low number, I am betting there are "Gen1" first pressings out there. Mine is a "GenX2" repress from the late '90s or early '00s.

  2. Roxy Music - Avalon

    25 For Sale from $1.00

    © 1982 but first WEA Mfg. edition would have been late 1986 at the earliest.
    I have an early repress with a matrix barcode but no M#S# code.

  3. Prince And The Revolution - Around The World In A Day

    14 For Sale from $4.06

    © 1985 but first WEA Mfg. edition would have been late 1986 at the earliest
    I have a late 1990s repress with the "Gen7"-style matrix

    Weirdly there is a "Gen4" glass master with a barcode that scans as 03293, which would be circa 1990.

    There are other unusual things about these pressings; see https://www.discogs.com/lists/Very-unusual-WEA-Manufacturing-CDs/328519

  4. Prince - Sign "O" The Times

    13 For Sale from $4.49

    © 1987
    I have a late 1990s repress with the "GenX2"-style matrix on disc 1 and the earlier "Gen7"-style on disc 2

  5. The Cure - Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me

    6 For Sale from $8.00

    © 1987
    An unusual case: rather than having a "GenX2"-style matrix, my copy, which I bought new c. 1999, has an early '90s "Gen4" matrix style (thick-block barcode) but also has a SID code stamped on the clear plastic hub piece.

  6. New Order - Substance

    24 For Sale from $2.00

    © 1987
    I have an original pressing which I bought new in late 1987, and of course it has no matrix barcode, but someone once uploaded a disc scan with one, so I am including it here.

  7. Depeche Mode - Catching Up With Depeche Mode

    51 For Sale from $2.00

    © 1985 but this is obviously a later pressing

  8. New Order - Power, Corruption & Lies

    2 For Sale from $5.95

    My copy is a "GenX2" repress. Original pressings would be from c. 1987/1988

  9. New Order - 'Low-life'

    2 For Sale from $6.12

    Mine is a repress with a 1990–1992 style thick-block barcode, but also a SID code. Original pressings must be from c. 1987 or 1988.

  10. The Cure - Staring At The Sea • The Singles

    4 For Sale from $3.98

    © 1986
    late '90s "GenX2" repress

  11. Philip Glass - Powaqqatsi

    19 For Sale from $4.17

    © 1988
    mine is a Gen4

  12. Sweet Sensation - Take It While It's Hot

    12 For Sale from $4.99

    © 1989
    Mine is an early '90s "Gen4" repress

  13. R.E.M. - Green

    70 For Sale from $0.99

    08 Nov 1988
    I have an original pressing without barcode, but someone uploaded a scan of the matrix area from an early '90s pressing, so I am including it here.
    Unlike the Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me example above, this one release represents pre-SID-code pressings with and without the barcode, so I had to clarify that the barcode is only on early 1990s pressings.

  14. Neworder* - Technique

    5 For Sale from $6.99

    © 1989
    Mine is a late '90s repress. As of Nov. 1, 2016, no one has yet submitted an SRC-made version from 1989. All the ones from 1989, including the longbox, have discs made by PDO or Discovery Systems.

  15. Erasure - Crackers International

    21 For Sale from $1.00

    25 Apr 1989
    Earliest pressings are Gen3, no barcode. Mine is a Gen4.

  16. Chris Isaak - Heart Shaped World

    120 For Sale from $0.99

    06 Jun 1989
    mine is a Gen4; original pressings might be Gen3

  17. Paul Simon - Graceland

    1 For Sale from $10.41

    © 1996 but this is an Enhanced CD released early 1997 (there's a file on the CD-ROM track from '97).
    Original masterings have barcode 00032. Apparently a new mastering was prepared in 1989 but was unused until this '97 release.
    Mine is a GenX2 pressing from late '99/early '00.

  18. Various - Hot Moves

    4 For Sale from $4.00

    © 1989
    mine is a Gen4 repress

  19. They Might Be Giants - Flood

    22 For Sale from $0.99

    © 1990
    Mine is a GenX2 repress.

  20. Depeche Mode - Violator

    49 For Sale from $1.94

    20 Mar 1990

  21. Depeche Mode - Enjoy The Silence

    8 For Sale from $9.99

    27 Feb 1990
    original slipcase release

  22. Depeche Mode - Enjoy The Silence

    20 For Sale from $3.00

    © 1990
    jewel case reissue of slipcase release

  23. The Beloved - Hello

    14 For Sale from $3.37

    05001 (not entered in release data yet)
    © 1990

  24. Electronic - Getting Away With It... Compact-Disc Maxi-Single!

    6 For Sale from $6.00

    © 1990
    As with the Madonna CD below, this came in a plastic slipcase, its actual release date is uncertain, and it's also uncertain whether every copy has the barcode or if there are some Gen3 copies out there too.