long with the steady increase in popularity of music downloads over their physical counterparts on CD, there has over the last few years been a remarkable resurgence in sales of vinyl records.
You can put this down to all sorts of factors, whether it’s the tangibility of the physical product and the scale of the artwork, or a sense of increased warmth and naturalness in the sound and that feeling of anticipation you get when you hear the needle drop into the groove. Whatever the reason, global vinyl sales more than tripled over the five year period from 2007 to 2012.
For the emerging artist in an ever more competitive market, vinyl also is becoming an object of desire; when revenues from your recordings may be reduced to a trickle from streaming services and the number of purchased downloads doesn’t stack up to a hill o’beans, vinyl provides the opportunity to create a beautifully packaged premium product around your music which can add an extra layer to that all-important revenue stream.
It is interesting to note that the creative process of mastering as we know it today originally stemmed from vinyl cutting; in fact many of the world’s leading mastering engineers of the previous generation cut their teeth by cutting endless acetates (dub-plates) for artists to take home from recording sessions, as this was the only way at that time for the artist to hear what the day’s work sounded like at home and away from the studio environment. As time went by it became clear that a great deal of skill and an expert ear were essential in getting the final master to translate successfully onto the vinyl format and so the master lacquers from which the metal stampers were derived would always come from a mastering studio.
hen the demand for vinyl declined in the 1990s many mastering facilities sold their unused cutting lathes, and a slight shift in the process began to take place because a number of these lathes were bought by vinyl factories allowing them to offer a cutting service in-house, thus making the vinyl-cut a part of the manufacturing process as opposed to being a part of the creative process. Fortunately in recent years this trend has begun to reverse as people start to realise that having your record cut as a straight A to B process in a back-room at the factory is not the same thing as having an experienced mastering engineer take the time to ensure the best possible results using the facilities available to him in the most appropriate location for cutting a record: the mastering studio.
In case you’re new to the format here are some pointers to consider first:
When considering a vinyl release, you need to think about the diameter and speed in relation to the length of programme material. A longer cut takes up more space as does a louder cut, and if you try to put too much material on a side of vinyl your engineer will have to take steps to make it fit such as reducing the volume (thus making the background noise relatively louder), reducing the bass and/or narrowing the stereo image. A further consideration is that as you approach the centre of the record a combination of factors begin to reduce the quality of playback in terms of frequency response and distortion, which is another good reason for keeping the duration of each side within reasonable limits. This has also had quite an effect historically speaking on running order, with few artists wanting their best tracks at the end-of-side, and certainly not the loudest or brightest ones…
Here’s a guide to recommended running times for vinyl:
33 1/3 rpm
5 mins *
* 33 1/3 rpm on a 7” is not a recipe for high fidelity at the best of times, but the times quoted here are given relative to expectations for the format.
Fluid Mastering’s engineers work in all styles and are as adept in cutting a classical choral work as they are a banging dance twelve. Give us a call and we’ll quote you up…