An acetate record usually in a 7", 10" or 12" size. Each plate has the same song on both sides (though this is not the rule, just a commonality).
Due to acetate being softer than vinyl, the record will wear quickly. Sound quality deteriorates starting with the first play, and will be audible after twenty or thirty. As always, your mileage may vary.
Audio is cut upon the surface with a cutting lathe via a cutter head.
Simply put, this is an oversized record player. The cutter head is equivalent to a turntable's phono cartridge. The cutting stylus wears quickly, 20 hours is average.
With the growing popularity of the cd-r, club DJs are turning away from the high price of having a plate cut. Though dubplate culture is still raging in the drum and bass community.
On the road to a releasing a record, the dubplate is usually the first stop. DJs play them. If the producer or record label receives enough positive feedback, they'll opt to master the song and send out test presses to other working DJs. Now that everyone is talking about this great new track, it is time to start the presses. Bigger labels may send out promo or white label releases to an even larger list of DJs, magazines,radio stations, friends or anyone lucky enough to bs their way onto the promo list. Within a few months, shops receive the final release, with printed labels and record sleeves.
In rare cases, the record label will now run out of money during the process, or support for the song dies considerably and there is never a proper release.