Starting / Getting into Vinyl Mastering

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by spesh, Dec 3, 2004.

  1. spesh

    spesh Guest

    I am considering making the leap into 'VINYL cutting & mastering'.

    I have been searching for a cutting system & equipment & it's very difficult to find anything (in USA at least).

    I'm really interested in making test plates / acetates / dub plates for clients of my recording studio as well as myself.

    What are some good equipment recommendations?

    I realize I need the cutter/lathe, cutting amps, cutter head(s), etc...
    But what else?
    A slew of mastering equipment? Comps, EQ's, etc....?

    I have researched & read about Neumann, Scully, Westrex, Ortofron.... Even the old Rek-O-Kut & Presto units.

    Lot of the real big systems are simply out of my reach (20,30,40+ thousand !!!! ).
    I don't want to have to mortgage my house to do this, but am just not sure what the best approach would be.

    What are some good suggestions for a rudimentary / small but functional setup?
    I'm not necessarily looking to cut the next 180Gram audiophile re-mastered beatles album.
    Just a test record that can be played on a standard turntable with decent enough fidelity to be played on radio or in a club.

    I am looking mainly to offer it as a service to clients.

    I am determined to do this & make it my speciality.

    I have heard of 2 places overseas that manufacture 'dub plate cutters' but they are extremely pricey & made to order (with long wait times).
    While they seem they may do the job, I am just wondering if my money is better invested in an old school Neumann/Scully/Westrex lathe instead.
    These new type cutters sit on top of a standard turntable.
    I just feel I would rather have a solid lathe in front of me...

  2. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Distinguished Member

    Sep 12, 2002
    NYC New York
    Home Page:
    well you can look into the "dubplate cutter". I think it's made in England and works with a techniques turntable. I can't really remember how much it costs, but I think it was around $5,000, could be less. I don't know how good it is but it looks kind of cool and maybe a good starting point to get your feet wet. you have to have a 1200 turntable and do a little mod to it to increase the torque.
  3. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    Dec 12, 2001
    Oberlin, OH
    Home Page:
    Vinyl is not dead (depending on what you read it may be making a big comeback soon) and therefore lathes and associated equipment, which are no longer being made, are at a premium. There are still ones around sitting in dusty basements or pushed into closets at radio stations and other places that use to use them but no longer do so you can find them you just have to know where to look.

    Dub plate cutters are nice but there is nothing like seeing that shiny black thread coming off the lathe as the record is cut.

    Best of Luck.

  4. kgutzke

    kgutzke Active Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    Soon to be offered will be a unique compact Fairchild 740 record vinyl mastering lathe with mono Grampian head (Gotham tube amp optional). Other options may become available. Email if interested.
  5. Ammitsboel

    Ammitsboel Guest

    Yeah, and does a 670 come with it? :cool: :D
  6. kgutzke

    kgutzke Active Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    Wish I had a 670 to offer :lol:
  7. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    Jan 16, 2002
    just north of NYC
    Home Page:
    I'm not sure if the less expensive table top models are worth the $$$. I believe they have somewhat limited low frequency capabilities ( I think they have a HP filter at about 60 hz). This might limit their functionality for club and full frequency work.

    They are cute though & will cut a disc.

    I tend to think, based on what I've heard, that there is no substitute for the real deal in a lathe. Condition is critical. Make sure you have all the technical manuals for the unit you buy and are prepared to adjust & maintain the beast.

    Sometimes the toughest part is setup , repair & maintenence especially on a complicated older piece of mechanica/electrical gear. This is not for the faint of heart!

    Best of Luck
  8. TotalSonic

    TotalSonic Guest

    Don offers excellent advice here. Basically it sounds like you really want to open a can of worms if you're not prepared for at least a $7g outlay - and if you're serious and are truly from scratch unless you're extremely lucky and find a working lathe for cheap I'd think you'd want about $20g in the bank to really get this going with.

    First the cheap options -
    There's the Vestax cheapy dubplate cutter but the issue is that it's frequency response regardless of what anyone tells you is really only going to be about 60Hz to 12kHz and the level it cuts will be no where near what most DJ's are demanding these days for club play. I'd advise you to pass unless you just want to get a very expensive toy with limited real world uses.

    Vinylium in Switzerland offers a dubplate cutter that supposedly has a much better response than the Vestax and that retrofits on top of a Technics 1200 - I believe it goes for around $7g's.
    I'm still not sure whether this will produce a satisfying result but might be an "affordable" way to get started.

    But if you go for the real deal:
    As far as "what else besides the lathe do I need" - well if you score a professional caliber lathe, cutting head & cutting amps you'll need transports - i.e. a full featured DAW - such as Sonic, SADIE, Sampliude, SAWStudio or Wavelab (best with 2 seperate outputs to a pair of the same high quality DACs so you don't need to send the program signal through a ddl), a pro CD player, perhaps a DAT or Masterlink, and 1/4" & 1/2" 2 track analog reel (and if you want to purist analog transfers you'll need one with both preview and program heads) are probably the most common formats to have available.

    A high frequency limiter, a vertical limiter, a high res digital delay line, an elliptical equalizer and HPF's and LPF's are definite necessities too. Next you'll probably want some mastering caliber processors - compressor, limiter, parametric eq's, and definitely a de-esser. Obviously it really helps to have a dedicated analog transfer console that ties all these things together, along with source and monitor path routing, independent preview and program signal attenuators, a master fader, level metering, and remote controls to the lathe's functions too. Don't forget "little things" like fantastic sounding monitors & amps, a well tuned room, digital routers, cabling, air compressor for the chip tube vacuum, and a nice bright lamp for right over the lathe. oh - and a comfy chair too.

    Now that you have all those pieces together (and I probably forgot to think of 1 or 2), unless you're already an experience cutting engineer with lot of mechanical and electronics repair aptitude you need the most important parts: a technician to get all of this stuff working and a mentor to show you how to use it. You can read the AES "Vinyl Cutting Bible" all you want - http:// (and frankly my degree is in music and not electrical engineering so apart from the pretty pictures it's mighty hard for me to get anything but a headache from trying to get through more than a few of its 1100 pages at once) but unless you have an experienced engineer that can spend some quality time with guiding you through all of the nuances as you get your feet wet cutting masters you're up for a definitely monumental learning curve - and one where you can risk destroying your equipment if you're not careful or just simply don't know what you're doing. Having someone to guide you through the process is truly invaluable and I would be very hesitant to get involved with building a new vinyl mastering facility unless you're already experienced in all of the aspects of vinyl cutting or have someone available to you who is.

    The other thing to consider is that if you do indeed put in a bit of investment you'll want to get a return on it eventually. Right now price of petroleum (which is what makes vinyl) is going up and there's nothing in the logistics of supply and demand to make anyone think it will ever come down again - so the cost of making vinyl records is also going to contine to become less and less economically attractive. Combine this with more and more DJ oriented CD players that "scratch" and the increasing prominence of "laptop DJ's" and you can see that the future market for vinyl mastering most likely isn't looking as rosy in 10 years as it does even now.

    Having said all that - if all of the above truly doesn't deter you - go for it! It truly is a fun thing to do and if you are determined and passionate enough and have either luck or cash you indeed can make it happen.

    Best regards,
    Steve Berson
  9. kgutzke

    kgutzke Active Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    Kudos to Don and Steve for telling it exactly how it is. That being said may I suggest starting out with an inexpensive Presto or Rek-o-kut portable mono lathe just to get your hands wet. If you find out cutting isn't your bag you can sell it off and not loose a dime except for costs of a few cutting needles and blanks. If you feel you must start on a more professional level may I suggest a Fairchild 740 lathe of which I have a duplicate to sell. This is a lathe you could own for under $5k with Grampian head included. It's one that takes up only 4 square feet of floor space and can even be hauled downstairs without breaking your back. Try that with a Neumann or Scully :wink:
  10. TotalSonic

    TotalSonic Guest

    You might also want to try and get in contact with Al Grundy -

    He's known as the man as far having an encyclopedic knowledge of the tech aspects of lathes/cutting heads/etc. and in getting these things working to their fullest potential - so if you get a system he might be able to get it in shape for you - and it's even possible he might have some working systems available for sale.

    Couple of other links to check out if you actually get going are acetate blank & stylus suppliers - &

    Best regards,
    Steve Berson
  11. drdub

    drdub Guest

    .. also check out

    the best, and affordable cutting machine
  12. lxx

    lxx Active Member

    Jan 22, 2005
    Neumann SX 68 / SX 74 sought for

    Can somebody help me ? I am looking for a reserve cutterhead type SX 68 or SX 74/. Broken or in good condition.
    Thanks !

  13. kgutzke

    kgutzke Active Member

    Nov 21, 2004
    I have a Neumann SX-68. If you have interest please email me.
  14. Marcos

    Marcos Guest

    do you like cut pvc or laquers? its important...
    with vinylrecorder you only cut pvc blanks...its good for scratch dj (only) her sound its medium fi, i have one
    if you missing a good machine (headcutter with feedback) the best solution its the kingston, the headcutter its similar to Neumann sx74 and have all the necessary in a box (except de essing and comp) look http://

    i have for sale one vestax vrx2000 in 5000 euros with a lot of upgreadable parts, in Spain

  15. Proof

    Proof Guest

    How have you actually found the VRX? There is one here in NZ gathering dust in the distributors warehouse - I have tried, actually got a fairly good cut on it, just wondering about consistancy...
  16. Marcos

    Marcos Guest

    the vestax lathe stand now in Spain, runs at 240 volts and 50 hertz,
    unbalanced -10 and balanced +4 inputs
    in very good condition, the headcutter its new, with some new stylus, i believe have 3 new stylus
    do you like a vms70? 80? 82? or one scully-lyrec-westrex? i can speak with you
  17. jase

    jase Guest

    Interested in gettining into vinyl disc cutting

    Thats a very difficult one.I taught myself to cut records,Whilst i did have a disc cutting genius at the end of the phone when i needed it, It was still very difficult expensive and stressfull,Would i do it again with my current knowledge ?definatley. Make sure its what you want to do, make sure you have very deep pockets, you see cutting Vinyl is a passion for me and i think to be good at it you need that passion you also need to do it everyday in order to be any good.There is far to much to cover fully on this message board so drop me a line if u need more direct advice.
    Good luck

    I just noticed that Poul Gold is selling a lathe it looks good and is very reasonably priced here is the link,Talk to Paul he is very Knowledgable.

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