We’re proud to be pressing some of the best quality vinyl on the international market, but there are various elements to consider prior to sending audio files to us which will help guarantee the absolute best quality record is produced.
The process for vinyl reproduction differs greatly to that of digital, which is why if using both formats for your release, for best audio quality it is absolutely essential to obtain a different mix for each. We always recommend using an experienced engineer to master your audio for vinyl.
A common example to illustrate why this is important, is that higher frequency content and in particular sibilant “t” and “s” sounds, do not always translate well to a lacquer and are frequently exacerbated sonically once cut/pressed. So (for example) loud cymbals and prominent hi-hats can cause distortion. Equally, stereo frequencies from 80hz – 180hz can be problematic as they can introduce phase correlation issues, potentially causing the stylus to skip on the cut. So percussion, toms and kick drums within this frequency band should ideally be mono with no hard panning in order to manage phase issues.
If you are submitting audio to us with issues such as those mentioned above, the audio mix may be altered to suit best cutting parameters. This isn’t ideal and in this case, it is important to be aware that the record could sound different to the original mix.
Our cutting engineers like to have some room to manoeuvre on the mix, so an ideal volume level to supply your audio is -3dBu with a max audio running time of 22 minutes per side for audio cut at 33RPM, 15 minutes at 45RPM*. If longer than this, the volume of the record will need to be reduced accordingly, which can in turn increase the audibility of any surface noise that may be present, impacting the overall quality of the record.
If your album recording is longer than 22 minutes a side, it might be worth considering the record’s track running order. The outer grooves of a record can hold a lot more information as the cutter has a more room and a greater radius to work with. As the cutter gets closer to the centre of the lacquer, the same amount of information needs to fit in a tighter radius and the audio quality decreases slightly as the spinning speed decreases. As such, on longer recordings in particular it’s not advised to have a dynamically rich track as the last track on either side, as it may not be properly represented and there may be some loss in quality and/or fidelity.
* Generally speaking singles are cut at 45RPM and albums at 33RPM, as while more information can fit at 33RPM, the higher spinning speed of 45RPM offers more stability and better audio quality through a longer groove played per second.
If planning to press on coloured vinyl, another consideration is that while the audible difference won’t be noticeable to the average listener, some audiophiles estimate up to a 5% difference in sound quality between black and pigmented vinyl. We have sourced the best quality coloured vinyl to minimise this and feedback from our clients is that the audio difference is negligible if noticeable at all, but it is still an important factor to consider where optimal audio quality is a priority.
When submitting tracks to us, generally speaking you can send us individual tracks (track listing essential to provide with this) but ideally your mastering engineer will provide a separate single audio file for each side of the record. We ask for minimum 24 bit WAV files with a sample rate of 44, 100 Hz to 192kHz, but we always would lean toward the higher bit and Sample Rates. We cannot accept compressed audio files such as MP3/M4A as your vinyl master file.
As lovers of vinyl and the sound only vinyl records can produce, we believe that the masters you supply will sound better when pressed on your record than they do in digital format, but only if due consideration is given to all of the above notes and audio is supplied in such a way that we can achieve this. Please understand that we will always do our absolute best to make your recording sound the best it possibly can, but where the audio hasn’t been properly mastered or prepared/supplied as required, this will impact how good we can make it sound.
We work closely with a number of studio engineers who specialise in vinyl mastering and would be happy to put you in touch if needed. We’re also always here to help with any queries you might have – don’t be shy!