Lacquer Master Cutting Questn about Minutes a Side & Vol

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by RubenO, Jan 22, 2005.

  1. RubenO

    RubenO Guest


    I been Pressing Vinyl for Over 20 years, mostly LPs 18 minutes and under per side. I have some new jobs coming up that require 22+ minutes per side, how much of a level loss am I going to see? Are there certain time parameters that you want to stay under to acheive certain levels?

    I know a 12" with a 5 minute song is always going to be louder than a LP with 6 or 7 3 minute songs.

    What Happens when you have to cut a 30 minute side?

    Is there a breakdown of times to stay under to maintain different levels?

    Also if I boost up the master so its much louder will that help keep levels on the Lacquer Masters louder with apparent loudness?

  2. TotalSonic

    TotalSonic Guest

    Re: Lacquer Master Cutting Questn about Minutes a Side &

    Hi Ruben -
    I'd say you most likely are going to see a drop somewhere around 2-3 db from the difference in an 18min to a 22 min side but I don't really have a magic formula for determining what the drop will be because every track and every side is different - the amount of dynamics, average level, and amount of bass frequencies present all contribute to how much you can fit on the master. Main thing to realize is that when cutting long sides the cutting engineer can reduce either level or bass response (usually done by engaging a high pass filter) and making the best possible compromise between these two (along with choices such as any additional compression or limiting) is part of the art of cutting a long side.

    For an LP side I usually play the side with the lathe engaged but with the cutting head up to do a practice run with the depth/pitch computers going to see how high I can push the levels & bass response to without running out of space. This way I can make sure that you get maximum impact possible for that side.

    Anyway - long sides are an area where Direct Metal Mastering definitely excels - usually you can get around 15% more playing time for the side with DMM than you can get with a lacquer master. If you're interested in DMM you can email me at steve at europadisk dot com (just use an @ and a . instead of the words - trying to avoid the spam-bots here) for info & pricing. Otherwise if you decide to stick with lacquer I'd go with someone highly experienced with cutting long sides, such as one of our hosts and moderators, Don Grossinger, who cuts at Masterdisk.

    In general I recommend that an LP side be kept to 26 minutes max - although it is indeed possible to cut longer.

    I've cut a 30 minute and some odd seconds side and while it was indeed quiet it actually sounded good on the copper reference disc (the DMM equivalent of an acetate dub plate that is cut on a 12" copper coated steel plate that can be played hundreds of times without degradation and is one of the most pristine sounding things you'll ever put on a turntable). The problem though was that it was pretty problematic in pressing - there was a low signal to noise ratio for one thing - and when the grooves on a stamper are that small it's very prone to something known as "scuffing" where as the press molds pull apart the vinyl clings to the stamper and the stamper actually pulls a little bit up off of the mold to bang into the vinyl causing a whitish threading look to some of the grooves which if bad can sound like ripping noises during playback. The press operators were able to monitor the job carefully (a nice clean coating of oil on the molds and cleaning the stampers often helps against this problem) and we were able to get the client satisfactory records in the end - but still you're just asking for trouble with a side this long - especially if you have it pressed at a plant that doesn't pay strict attention to quality control. My suggestion if you're going for 56+ minutes for a vinyl release is to make it a double album as that way it's easy to make it sound great.

    This might not necessarily help the sound of your record out. If it's material with some nice dynamics crushing it with compression or limiting just to get more average level possibly could do it dis-service, especially if you're processor choices aren't high quality, or your monitoring environment doesn't allow you to hear accurately what the comp or limiter is actually doing to your mix. In general I recomend that you just mix your pre-master to sound as good as you can (i.e. use a 2-bus compressor only if you like it for its particular sound and not just to get level), without applying any additional processing just for level, and allow the cutting engineer to determine whether additional compression or limiting is necessary, as we have some high quality choices available to us and are able to determine whether they help make the side sound better or not.

    Best regards,
    Steve Berson
  3. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Thanks Steve, great post.
  4. RubenO

    RubenO Guest

    Thank You Very Much for the extremely informative post Steve.

    I use to use a guy in Manhattan (Who is Retired Now) that use to cut my lacquers and I would sit there with him some times. He was Eddie from Soundtek You all probably know of him. I use to bring him so much work he would cut me 18 minute sides for $60 each. Those days are long gone now:(

    Eddie use to get a pretty decent level on my longer Sides and it Sounded great too. It would amaze me the sound he would get out of his extremely old equipment. He Used a Scully (belt driven) Lathe and He had Altec Lansing concentric Monitors. I was big time into the latest equipment Like Genelec Monitors and Computer Software and use to talk to him about it but he had no idea about it.

    In search of a competitive price to Eddies after he retired, I turned to a Company out in Miami who cut Lacquers and cut them for $105 a Side and they came out absolutely Horrible. They were all essy, Hi Hats were Piercing Distorted and Essing all Over. All complete with a Ground noise behind all the recordings. Not to mention the Masters skipped in several places. Did I mention that all the Lacquer Masters were Essy? :) The guy had to recut the Lacquers 3 times and I originally gave him 16 sides to cut at once, So you can imagine the nightmare. He had to rewire his system to try to eliminate the ground noise just to meet my standards. They ended up having to Pay for all the Metal I made and tests as well. I never dealt with them again. I got a new guy now in NY that gives me a decent price comparable to the company in Miami and does decent work. On the first 8 Sides I gave him he had 1 that skipped and these were short Sides (under 10 minutes) but he corrected it On a second run.
    I also checked with Dick Charles but I heard he had a Stroke and retired (I hope he is alright).

    The Change of Lacquer Cutters I went through will not be forgotten.

  5. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    I just signed on (late in the day Monday). I agree with Michael that Steve's post covers the bases!

    My all time longest length for a side is 44 minutes of solo classical guitar and it was cut at a VERY low level. I have cut a 20+ minute side of Dance music & it was well received.In general (and each case is different) you will lose 1dB for every minute over 12 min. of program time.

    Keep the sides short for best results.
  6. RubenO

    RubenO Guest

    Nice, so your saying that sides from 1 minute up to 12 minutes relatively maintain the same level? Or does it still get louder at shorter times under 12 minutes?

  7. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member


    There is a practical limit as to how loud you can cut and still be able to have the record played on "real world" turntables in the field. As we all know, sometimes the end user will not have the setup properly calibrated (tracking/anti skating/etc) or will use a stylus forever without replacement.

    I'd say that if you're cutting at +6 to +7 VU, then you're just about at that limit. So don't worry about getting louder, there's no point.

  8. RubenO

    RubenO Guest

    Thanks for your reply Don,

    I was just asking because I have a job coming up that is 3 minutes on Side A and 9 minutes on Side B. So I was just curious as to if the Levels from side a to side b would differ.

  9. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    Ruben, that's a good point. Both Don and Steve cut a lot of projects I do that go to vinyl. lacquer and DMM both have their pluses and minus's. If you're looking for some good vinyl, I'd contact either or both and find out what they can do for you. I'm sure they can work something out if you're cutting that much vinyl.
  10. TotalSonic

    TotalSonic Guest

    da-aammm - that's a loooonnnngggg side!
    Seriously - that has to be a world's record - no joking -
    I wonder if you could get into the Guiness Book of World's Records for that??

    Best regards,
    Steve Berson
  11. RubenO

    RubenO Guest

    I'm not looking for anyone to cut my lacquers at the moment, as I said above I'm cool with the new guy I got. His Prices are very good and turnaround and quality have been great so far.

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