The modulation of a premastered source to a lacquer or metal foil (the real vinyl „premaster“) adds harmonic and intermodulation distortion to the sound. Furthermore the noise floor is higher, the S/N ratio lower and the resolution obviously worse. Therefore the vinyl will ALWAYS sound slightly different from any premaster listening copy on CD or any other format. Only a test pressing on vinyl is capable of representing the final sound. In addition, keep in mind that your stylus will add distortion and due to at least 2 stages of equalization (implemented first when cutting the premaster and last in your phono preamp – with the RIAA curves for recording and playing back a vinyl record) the sound will be modified additionally.
Possibly just because of all these „dirty“ qualities, the vinyl may sound „better“ to some ears than the compact disc in the end.
The only technical advantage of a lacquer cut compared to a DMM cut (Direct Metal Mastering) is the possibility to cut deeper and wider grooves resulting in a louder record. All other engineering issues (resolution, playtime, distortion, etc.) are better off by using DMM (from a technical point of view). Especially the delicate high and low ends of the audible spectrum benefit from a DMM (less distortion and „rumble“).
BUT if you are looking for that specific, spacious and warm vinyl sound, a lacquer cut may be exactly what you need!
We would recommend to use lacquer for singles and DMM for longplayers.
If you need help finding a good cutter or want us to take further care of the cutting process for you, please conatct us.
Please name your files with definite prefixes (e.g.: A1 Title 1, A2 Title 2, …., Bx Title x) or send a clear edit list for the vinyl cut. Be sure to include Artist Name, Label, Cat.-No. and if necessary UPC/EAN Codes and/or ISRCs (we can cut you a copy of the master with embedded codes).
For the lacquer/direct metal cut keep in mind, that the cutter will automatically generate pauses, if you don’t include your desired pause times.
The final loudness of the vinyl is mostly dependant on the runtime of the program material (although obviously a heavy dancefloor smasher with lots of bass will need more space than an acappella). Reciprocally that means, a lacquer/metal foil cut with maximum volume will end up with less playing time in consequence of the more space required for the grooves.
If you stay below the following times you are pretty safe to get a „hot“ record (approximately above +6 dB in relation to the Standard Reference Level as set by the RIAA and the NAB) without strong distortion artifacts:
- 7“ (45 RPM) – 3-4 mins./side
- 10“ (45 RPM) – 6-7 mins./side
- 10“ (33 RPM) – 8-9 mins./side
- 12“ (45 RPM) – 9-10 mins./side
- 12“ (33 RPM) – 12-13 mins./side
- 12“ Longplayer – 20-24 mins./side
When exceeding these times, you must be aware that the record can’t be as „hot“ – but can still be cut with a good level.
7-inches are the exception in level and speed (approximately at +4 dB within the above time range). We do not recommend to cut 7“s at 33 RPM due to the high potential of distortion. Up to about 5 mins. of duration the single can be cut louder and sounds better at 45 RPM (compared to an undistorted cut at 33 RPM). Even with a much longer playtime (6-7 mins.) the result in 45 RPM will sound superior to a 33 RPM approach (note: approximately in this time range the level of the clean cut at 33 RPM will begin to exceed the possible level of an undistorted 45 RPM single).
Due to the physical limitations of vinyl (and the lacquer/metal foil) be aware of the potential need of special sonic treatment and therefore an additional sonic difference from the mix to the master. Common problems are strong sibilance in the vocals (possibly interacting with some hi-hats) or phase differences between the left and the right channel in the lower frequency range combined with high energy in that spectral region.
In the case of phase reversion (180°) the stylus would be forced to only cut vertically and therefore, with high energy in the low frequency range, could exceed the size of the material and cut through. BUT this will rarely be the case. With the possibility of deeper cutting (for lacquer) and vertical-amplitude-limiting (for DMM) much can be cut into the premaster. The result may be equivocal, since the phase reversion is still in the signal and hence lead to cancellations or boosts of the affected frequencies/sounds and possibly force your stylus to jump out of the groove when playing back the record.
If therefore necessary, we will take care of phase issues and prepare the premaster for a secure cut and maximum playback reliability. Very rarely test cuts may have to be done in order to get the material on vinyl without tremendous sonic losses.
The sound quality, especially in the higher frequencies, will decrease the closer the material gets to the center of the record. Due to shorter groove lengths for the same amount of time (slower relative speed) compared to the outer border of the record distortion will appear and thus reduce resolution. We would therefore recommend that you choose pieces with less energy and resolution in the high end as last tunes on every side of the vinyl.
A record with 33 RPM may sound inferior to a cut with 45 RPM because of the lower resolution (again: less relative speed = less length of grooves for the same amount of time = less resolution). Primarily the high end of the frequency range will possibly sound much better on a 45. BUT on a 33 more material (longer playtime) can be cut with a higher volume. So the tradeoff for a 45 is less playtime, especially for higher levels, whereas the tradeoff for a 33 is lower resolution.