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The Truth About Vinyl - Vinyl vs. Digital

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This "mastering for vinyl" workflow tutorial describes some of the limitations of the black disk. It's no wonder that some vinyl pressings sound better than the CD version, vinyl requires a lot of TLC...

A GUIDE TO MASTERING FOR VINYL

HOW TO PREPARE YOUR CUTTING MASTER

This is the first step in creating vinyl records. While playing your master audio the record lathe creates the grooves that will later be plated and placed into the press.

The chart at the foot of this page reflects cutting methods used by NSC. Levels as high as +12 dB may be obtained under certain conditions. This should be used as a guide only; cutting levels and methods will vary by different operators.

Lacquer mastering requires very specific audio standards. Following this guide will ensure your audio will uphold its quality during the transfer to the analog master.

STEP 1: All bass frequencies must be centered (below 150 Hz). Phase issues in the bass frequencies can cause a collapse of the groove, causing a skip.

STEP 2: Tame sibilance. Too much sibilance will cause distortion on playback. This should be addressed at the mix level for best results. Additional de-essing during the pre-mastering stage and cutting process may be possible.

STEP 3: Avoid excessive high frequencies. Frequencies above 15 kHz just cause distortion. Do not boost frequencies above 10 kHz.

STEP 4: Try to avoid using psycho acoustic processors to an excessive degree. 

STEP 5: 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.

STEP 6: Do not “clip” waveforms. This technique is often used in CD mastering to achieve a hot level, but will translate to distortion when cut. If a re‐cut is requested on a record cut with clipped audio, it will be fully billable.

STEP 7: Avoid too much limiting. Too much brick wall limiting can cause distortion in the cut. Re‐cuts requested due to distortion on material that has been excessively brick walled (rms over ‐10) will incur additional costs if not resolved before manufacturing.

STEP 8: A distorted master will likely sound more distorted when transferred to vinyl. Watch the distortion on the mix.

STEP 9: Keep in mind that due to the limitations of vinyl, by the time you reach the inside of the record the frequency response is down ‐3db at 15 kHz. Sequence your master accordingly. It is best to put quiet songs or ballads on the inside. Try to avoid sequencing the loudest song as the last track.

STEP 10: 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 the table in the next section for recommended playing times for all formats)

STEP 11: Try to avoid 7" vinyl formats at 33 1/3 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.

STEP 12: All audio should be provided on a CD‐R master or uploaded to us in a .wav or .aiff format.

https://www.secondlinevinyl.com/a-guide-to-mastering-for-vinyl/

Edited by tuga

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8 minutes ago, tuga said:

It's no wonder that some vinyl pressings sound better than the CD version, vinyl requires a lot of TLC...

Seriously...? Or is your tongue firmly in your cheek?

I particularly like step 3, given the endless wittering I've read over the years about the inferiority of CDs because it limits the top end to 22k...

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5 minutes ago, Tony_J said:

Seriously...? Or is your tongue firmly in your cheek?

I particularly like step 3, given the endless wittering I've read over the years about the inferiority of CDs because it limits the top end to 22k...

I was referring to the fact that some (usually rock or pop) recordings sound better in vinyl than they do in CD because they were mastered with care for the former (which needs careful mastering anyway).

Edited by tuga

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The only way to sort this out is for someone to submit to surgery and allow probes to be inserted into that part of the brain that responds to music signals from the ear and see whether they light-up brighter with a CD or an LP! :D

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9 minutes ago, v1nn1e said:

The only way to sort this out is for someone to submit to surgery and allow probes to be inserted into that part of the brain that responds to music signals from the ear and see whether they light-up brighter with a CD or an LP! :D

Generous of you to offer :D

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You are welcome to have my brain but only once I've finished with it! ;)

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19 hours ago, v1nn1e said:

The only way to sort this out is for someone to submit to surgery and allow probes to be inserted into that part of the brain that responds to music signals from the ear and see whether they light-up brighter with a CD or an LP! :D

I'm not using mine much these days so probe away :)

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In regards to point 3 that is incorrect.

The first thing you're doing when mastering is trying to make the track have the correct balanced frequency response for that type of music and make sure the bass, mid, and treble has some coherence from song to song, and for it to translate to the consumer's listening environment. Often trends dictate this. For instance, 80's pop the mid range was pretty hard and bass not full or deep. 

It's wrong to say you can't boost above 10khz for vinyl, you can. Something like a 10khz, 12khz, or 15khz shelf (boosting everything above the aforementioned frequencies) would be normal. It's just you don't want excessive amounts. On 33/13rpm if the cutter head amps go above 3/4 of an amp you're likely to get top end distortion. For 45rpm it can take more, and can go to about 1 amp.

As I previously stated, if there is excessive treble above 15khz, etc, likely to send the cutter amps crazy, then filter that out. If it then sounds dull, add treble lower down in the 10-12khz range.

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On 14/02/2019 at 12:20, v1nn1e said:

The only way to sort this out is for someone to submit to surgery and allow probes to be inserted into that part of the brain that responds to music signals from the ear and see whether they light-up brighter with a CD or an LP! :D

You could do it with Functional M.R.I. scanning, no need for surgery :geek:

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All this chat about digits v vinyl, the elephant in the room is vinyl v vinyl. When you have the marked difference in presentation of a cart like the DL103 at AT OC9 it's pretty obvious vinylistas can not agree what vinyl should sound like.

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56 minutes ago, lower bullens said:

You could do it with Functional M.R.I. scanning, no need for surgery :geek:

Killjoy...:D

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IMHO, when it comes to vinyl replay, you just have to throw money at it until you get a level of sound and presentation that is above one's own enjoyment/acceptability threshold. :D

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