So you’ve decided to press some vinyl records.
Congratulations, we think vinyl is awesome. Which is why we decided on the name “Standard Vinyl” in the first place. That, and we couldn’t get the domain for “Standard Cassettes”. Let’s talk a bit about mastering for your vinyl record project, because it’s as different from CD mastering as Dr. Pepper is to Fresca.
Back in the day bands would go to a mastering facility with properly sequenced and edited analog tape reels. The final mixes on these tape reels would be prepped taking into account that the only commercial medium for music delivery was vinyl and everyone in the record producing business thought “wax” when it came to getting the stuff in people’s hands. Some of these considerations would include frequency limitations, overall recording volume, and excessive highs and lows. These kinds of things are a lot easier to get away with when mastering a CD, and simply put, if you try to do them on vinyl, they can trash lacquer masters and make your recording sound bad or even inaudible. Grooves are literally being cut into the lacquer via the “disc recorder” (commonly referred to as a lathe) while being reverse negatively read from an audio source. Imagine a sudden peak in treble or a heart stopping bass track. Now imagine the physical cutting effect that that sound would have on a lacquer master. Vinyl is a different way of committing sound to a physical form than CDs or digital files… just trust us.
Because of this we often get questions about whether a mix for vinyl will sound as good as one for CDs. This is subjective. Some people have the strong opinion that a vinyl version of a digital source sounds better. Others say no. In our opinion, unless you are recording specifically for vinyl with a seasoned engineer who knows his way around a lathe and how it works, it can kind of go either way. In an effort to manage expectations, in most cases, a vinyl version of a recording will not sound as crisp or as bright as a digital version but many think that vinyl adds an audible element of warmth that is sorely lacking in the digital version.
So what do you do? Well you have options. What we call a “standard pass” on a CD-R source is typically your best bet if you’re looking for a general all-purpose treatment of an audio source. That’s what we do and it’s included in the cost of your order. For those who are more particular about getting as dynamic a sound as possible, hiring a vinyl mastering specialist can be a good investment and you can often work with them a lot more closely in achieving a desired fidelity. They’ll create the lacquer and sometimes even the metal stamper in their pursuit to the best sound possible. This is where we provide the option to send us in your own lacquer master, metal stamper, or both. More importantly — whatever way you go — receiving a test pressing of your records is hands down the most important step in the process. Listen, listen, listen.