Get the most out of the format

About vinyl records

A vinyl record is a unique format, a one-of-a-kind listening experience. At its best, it brings an unexplainable sense of presence to the music, but at its worst, it can be a weaker version of the original master. Understanding the nonlinear characteristics of the medium helps to fully appreciate and get the most out of the format.

High recording levels and low frequencies quickly eat up the surface area from a side of a vinyl record, which in turn limits the maximum playing time. In longer sides, the groove must be kept narrower. A wide stereo image might then cause a lift-off due to vertical modulation. To avoid this, compromises often have to be made in terms of recording level, low frequencies, and stereo image particularily in lower frequencies.

The sound quality of a vinyl record is at its best on the outer edge of the record. Because the rotational speed is slower near the center of the record than on the outer edge, the sound is compressed into a tighter space on the inner groove, making it difficult for the stylus to track the groove. This results in distortion and loss of high frequencies.

The problem can be avoided by using shorter sides, limiting the high frequencies, or adjusting the track order, with darker and quieter tracks placed at the end of each side.
Test pressings serve as the final check before the actual vinyl pressing.

In addition to checking the sound quality and overall functionality of the record, various types of noise are also sought out on the test pressings. Because vinyl is a format of many limitations and compromises, a direct A-B comparison with its digital counterpart is usually pointless. Normal crackling and surface noise are a part of the format, as well as at times a more distorted and/or darker sound.

The settings of the turntable affect the checking process. If the tonearm and cartridge of your turntable are misaligned, a fully functional record may skip or sound worse than it actually is. So make sure to carefully familiarize yourself with the settings of your turntable.

If you find any annoying clicks or pops on your test pressing, mark them down (e.g. Side A, 12:07), and see if there is a similar issue on another test pressing. If not, it's probably an isolated issue and nothing to worry about. Sometimes test pressings may be noisier than the actual pressing. Repeated issues between different copies may be due to a problem in the stampers, which could possibly be fixed.
Ask for quotes from pressing plants and place an order with the chosen one. Inform the plant during the order that lacquer masters will be delivered to the plant by me. Your order should be done by the time of cutting the lacquer disc masters. Ask the plant for a delivery address and a possible project number, and send them to me. Additionally, I will need the catalog number of the record.

I will cut the masters and send them to the factory in express shipping. You will receive test pressings at your home a hopefully within a few weeks after delivering the lacquer disc masters. Listen to them carefully. Once you approve the test pressings, the factory will press the final batch of records.

Side lengths

Recommended vs. maximum

  • 33 1/3 rpm
  • 12"
  • 12-18 minutes
  • 25 minutes
  • 10"
  • 8-10 minutes
  • 13 minutes
  • 7"
  • 4-5 minutes
  • 7 minutes
  • 45 rpm
  • 12"
  • 6-12 minutes
  • 15 minutes
  • 10"
  • 6-8 minutes
  • 10 minutes
  • 7"
  • 3-4 minutes
  • 5 minutes
  • The sound quality of a record is at its best within the recommended duration. The sound quality of a long album side begins to deteriorate drastically after about 20 minutes, starting from the end.
  • The maximum length is an approximate limit and is highly dependent on the dynamics and amount of bass frequencies on the record. The longer the side, the quieter it has to be cut.