Record Lathes

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by Greener, May 27, 2008.

  1. Greener

    Greener Guest

    I have a few questions about record lathes that I can't seem to find answers for.

    Who makes them?
    Who owns them?
    How are they controlled?
    This one, now, that looks rather digital to me. Check 3m:35s.

  2. hueseph

    hueseph Distinguished Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    It's not digital.The source is digital yes but there is no such thing as a digital record lathe.
  3. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Mar 8, 2004
    Fredericksburg, VA
    You mean you haven't seen those new-fangled digital record lathes?

    As the record blank spins, the needle bobs up and down leaving pitted and non-pitted surfaces...

    I think the pit represents some kind of "bit" of information and the smooth are represents a zero bit of some sort.

    You have to have special digital turntable playback equipment - one that can read this pits and troughs. Apparently, the "bits" are translated into some sort of analog that sounds *way warmer* than traditional analog. Those with tubes in them sound even warmer!

    Are you sure you haven't heard of this? I think it's called "BlakRay" or something like that...

    Anyway...Sony and Philips are dropping PCM and DSD in favor of BlakRay (the new technology created by a partnership between Ortofon, Music Hall, Benz, and Koetsu) technology and will be releasing all of their old stereo and multi-channel recordings from those bad digital-era masters on BlakRay's patented mono (to minimize phasing and crosstalk) systems.

    In an unprecedented move, most likely a factor of Sony's involvement, the new phase compliant signal known as:

    will be carried over a series of 12 proprietary analog signal cables and will likely drive a new era in home listening, urging manufacturers of high-end gear to rethink (and redesign) their gear to include this new 12-way input.

    When pressed recently about the matter, a spokesperson from the BlakRay consortium assured the worried public that modifications to their existing system to accept this new, revolutionary format would be painless and only set them back another $4,000.

    Not to be outdone, Toshiba and HP are backing the other consortium releasing similar (in appearance only) products known as HDLP. The new format also writes to extra-long capacity 12" discs and has extensive extra features such as multi-page liner notes and high-impact protective sleeves which ensures a disc that will last a lifetime (of a fruit fly).

    This consortium, initially founded by Gemini, Stanton and Montgomery Wards has released its propietary compression algorithm known as:



    The new algorithm is able to pass through existing connections so you can use your existing equipment. However, if your existing preamp, receiver or stereo system does not contain mono, single-ended barrier strips, you may need to purchase an adapter available at Radio Shack (Part Number 1234-69) for $399.

    While standard RCA/Phono cables can be used with this particular format, it's urged by the consortium's spokesperson to only use those which are included in the box of such high-end manufacturers as Coby and Magnavox as these transmit the most appropriate signal.

    Oh much for the end of format wars, eh?
  4. Greener

    Greener Guest

    Rather creative I must say.
    Seriously though, I'm interested in the control of the lathe itself, not the stylus side of things or the cutting. But the D/A tech inside the control system. Does the Engineer input an analogous signal to the lathe or a digital one? (this would depend on model... But I can't find who makes them).
    That lathe is the coolest thing I've seen in a long while. Makes my 18" thread cutting lathe look like a relic from the stone age.
  5. BrianaW

    BrianaW Active Member

    Jan 10, 2008
    New York
    Holy sh*t Cucco. :)


    I've kind of been trying to find some of this info myself. Particularly, where certain records were pressed. That info used to be available on the sleeve somewhere but no one is doing that anymore. I know there are corporate and independent lathe operators that cut masters... the difficulty I'm finding with vinyl now is discerning what the source format was before purchase. Gold Standard Laboratories makes amazing and thick pressings but I'm not sure if they do them in house or not. I assume depending on the date of manufacture, there are analog and digitally controlled machines... digital meaning that the lathe's mechanical and electrical functions are controlled by a PC of some sort.

    Holy sh*t Cucco. :)
  6. Greener

    Greener Guest

    That's exactly what I'm trying to figure out.
    A friend of mine is a vinyl fiend and we have been noticing a lot of difference in the sounds that different records have, especially in different pressings of the same recording.
    For me, analog vs digital is like the difference between being licked and being spat on. Same thing really just a different perception.
  7. hueseph

    hueseph Distinguished Member

    Oct 31, 2005
    Vancouver, BC, Canada
    Well, that was a good read. Fortunately I managed to keep the coffee in my mouth and not spray it all over the monitor.
  8. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    Like hueseph said, it's a good thing I wasn't drinking any coffee!

    So really guys, in the old days, the analog tape recorder had a pair of playback heads. Sort of like a look ahead limiter in that the preview head can send analog control voltages from rectified audio to the motors turning the screw on the lathe. That's called an analog computer. And so with that, limiters were also used that were compensated for the high-frequency preemphasis boost during the cutting process. Lathe's were built in the USA by Presto Corp. who were making them back in the 1930s & forties. By Larry Scully out of Bridgeport Connecticut in the fifties through the seventies. And by Neumann who not only made the best microphones in the world, he made the best early computer-controlled lathe's and in particular the VMS70 series, that prevails today as seen in the you tube video.

    Now as far as that lacquer master stuff goes... Did you notice that it was 2 old ladies in their seventies with bad eyesight & glasses? Yeah, great quality control there. The guy punching the holes through the lacquer master's, was also in his seventies. The mastering engineer only had one arm! I think this was filmed in a hospital? And the announcer had a decidedly Canadian accent, eh? But we can't do anything a boat that. What they didn't tell you was that Direct Metal Mastering on copper masters sounds way better than cutting into lousy lacquer. I don't know who's doing that anymore? But the last albums I had mastered I would only go with Direct Metal Mastering and that was in the early 1980s. Of course there is also half speed mastering which sounds different again from real-time. Nobody's got the equalization curves right that way plus it's twice as boring to listen to while mastering. You just can't get around the analog stuff either. Nobody wants to because it still sounds better than anything digital. So all mastering is a hybrid procedure these days of one sort or another. It's not just what you see on television. Although I really love the " How Do They Do It" show on Discovery Networks. Especially the one about toilets but that's some other crap we can talk about another time.

    Becoming a mastering engineer because someone wants to pay me to become one. Really. I'm not kidding. Go figure? I'll bite. Digital only, with analog stuff, thank you.
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  9. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    Lots of information on the web some good some not so good.

    And if you have some really badly done vinyl records laying around you may want to read this...
  10. Greener

    Greener Guest

    Ms. David, your writings contain so much more than sum of the words. It reminds me of an old KFC slogan... *goes back for a fourth read* Many thanks.

    Mr. Bethel, cheers. I know whats on the reading agenda tonight thanks to you.

    Mr. Cucco, I hold you responsible for giving these fine people the enthusiasm to reply with such fervor. Top shelf tangent there. :cool:

    Amazing times.
  11. Greener

    Greener Guest

    Just to wrap things up, using the above information I was able to find a Mastering Engineer with a Direct Metal Mastering lathe, a Neumann 82. He told me they convert the signal to digital then process to get the variable pitch down pat to create the most "synthetic" of records. Useful information if I wish to produce music in the future with high quality digital gear.
    As for analogous recording (or just getting the analog goodness from records), the earlier Neumann lathes (which he has as well) are the best for making variable pitch cuttings on lacquer, but he recommends using a fixed pitch lathe tweaked by hand gives the best sound.
    Thanks again to all who helped me get to where I am now, in regards to cutting vinyl I now know what I wanted to know.

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