Vinyl master guidelines
These are the basic rules to follow when mastering for vinyl.
- Try not to exceed the maximum recommended playing lengths per side, as longer playing times will lead to a dramatic decrease in recording level and dynamics. On the other hand, the requirements of extremely high recording levels decrease the possible playing time (see recommended playing times for all formats).
- Try to place demanding, powerful and exposed tracks at the beginning of the required side and not towards the end of the record. The conditions for recording and subsequent reading of vinyl records get worse with the decreasing diameter towards the middle of the record (the label).
- Try to avoid using psycho acoustic processors to an excessive degree.
- If possible, please check the master by using a correlation measurer (it must not be drastically in the red field or have negative values) and a frequency spectrum analyser to ensure the signal does not contain unreasonably large elements in the low frequency range (around 20 Hz) and also the top end of the frequency zone (around 20 kHz).
- The lowest frequencies of the acoustic zone that are below 300Hz have to be in phase.
- Filter away all inaudible signals to avoid possible problems during recording and reproduction, e.g. subacoustic signals below 20Hz (better below 40Hz) and high frequencies above 16 kHz.
- If your recording substantially differs from natural sounds, which is caused by spreading out the energy in the acoustic zone, there is a risk of audible changes to the sound during the transcription. This is due to the limitations of mechanical recording processes and can for example be caused by singing adjusted by processors or electronically generated effects. In the worst scenario where the signal/music has such critical characteristics that it may damage the cutting head, the order will unfortunately be refused.
- As standard we choose the highest reasonably possible level in accordance with the character of the existing recording and with respect to the specific properties of the mechanical recording. If it is tolerated by the limit values of the recorder and by the playing time of recording, then it is possible - at Customer’s express request (mostly DJ or rock and heavy-metal bands) – to use a higher level – LOUD, however on the side of reproduction it can be to the prejudice of distortion or stability of the tip.
- Try to avoid 7" vinyl formats at 331/3 RPM as the possibilities of the recording and reproduction are most limited at this format. If there is no other solution you have to take into account that the final product will be in some way compromised (Low groove speed limits the recording level and causes a higher decrease of the high frequencies into the middle of the record and can also cause higher distortion levels).
- Remember that good reproduction results on the user's side depend on the quality, technical conditions and correct adjustment of the reproduction facilities! (The quality of the reading system, the shape, the level of the attrition, the cleanness of the needle and the adjustment of the vertical force and anti-skating)
- We need a complete tracklist with your master containing the names of all tracks (including the hidden and bonus tracks), track timings and their separation into side A and side B, the total time of each side! Please inform us of any special effects or anomalies etc. Any orders without a complete track list will be refused for production.
- Please carefully check if the data on the tracklist (number of tracks, track order, names and timings on each side) corresponds with the master, the label and cover artwork (and other printed parts - inserts, posters).
- Please keep in mind that the data needs to be readable and understandable.
- Any claims against the final product, caused by errors in the production parts supplied by customer, will not be accepted!
- If you require additional adjustments or mastering (changes in track order, disregarding some tracks, compilation....) please specify your request exactly on the order form, and note what is on the master and what needs to be done for the final product.
Vinyl mastering FAQ
What further processing will the audio go through before reaching the final press?
In the case of digital audio data all processing is done in digital domain. If customer do not specify any preferences and/or do not provide any instruction we set cutting parameters to reach flat cut. In other words we try the record will sound the closest the master. Depending how well is master prepared for vinyl production we use several processing. In some rare cases we just set the basic level, but usually we use further processing to do not exceed vinyl physical and geometric limitation. We use dedicated audio workstation developed specially for vinyl production. No external boxes, plugin filters or digital delays are used. Here is a list of all possible process:
- digital equivalent of classic analog filters (lowpass, highpass, low shelf, high shelf, eq filter)
- digital filter with flat phase response
- free spline filter with flat phase response
- dual look ahead compressor/limiter/gate (band pass compressor, dry/wet option, free compressor curve, )
- stereo effect filter (free frequency and level settings)
- vertical amplitude limiter
- groove processor (distortion compensation)
Which DBFS peak level should the audio I provide have?
Digital peak level is unrelated to loudness on vinyl records! It is a myth that higher digital level brings louder vinyl record. Many times opposite is true.
Digital audio data from customer regardless on bit resolution (bps) is always processed in double precision math format with enough headroom, so there is no reason to try make digital audio input data louder. There is a danger of clipping and strange artefacts if you exceed DBFS. Do not make any normalisation or heavy limiting of audio.
We set cutting level with respect physical (accelaration, speed), geometric (lateral and vertical amplitude, groove angles and radiuses) and electrical (drive coil current) values, what depends also on spectrum and phase between left and right channel.
Do you apply dynamics and EQ processing to make the audio "fit" the vinyl format?
If it is needed.