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.
The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) adopted certain standards for the recording and manufacturing of phono records with regards to the recording levels and the assumption that the standard level will be 0-dB under certain conditions. The chart below will show variations due to time, speed, and size.