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Mastering for Vinyl ..

Hi ...
My name is jeremy and i make electronic music . Always on vinyl . i've got about 6 records out now so everything is finally moving from being an experiment with the finished product to now knowing more or less which way to point the ship.

i had a few questions : i'm sure good mastering is good mastering but vinyl can be tricky and requires special care .

it took me a while to get a good sounding kick that fit well with lowend .. now i'm trying to get definiton in my high end .. i have heard that vinyl uses a somewhat archaic RIAA cutting process where the lowend is inserted back at amplifier stage . Mastering studios have told me to watch my crispy highs as this can make a record sound bad . but what is considered too high and crispy and what considered 'good definition"

I can spot a great sounding vinyl release right away, to get my own stuff there is more difficult .. i find i can chase my own tail while setting levels .. trying to get good sound from my lowend, from my kick, main lead or synths, pads and hi hat .. i have problems trying to set the levels of each ..
am i looking for an even sound when mixing, or should i be making somethings sound louder than they should because of changes in the cutting process to vinyl ?

anyhow i know this is all vague but just wanted to maybe open up a bit of little chat ..

hope some people out there still master to vinyl !

long live the wax ..


Thomas W. Bethel Sun, 02/15/2004 - 04:50
The RIAA curve is explained here

and here

and here with a diagram

The curve is not something to be afraid of it is just something to be aware of.

Most really good vinyl mastering engineers know how to get around problems in the cutting of wide range music and will happily explain them to you when you go into your mastering session.

It is like anything else when you want really good results WATCH YOUR LEVELS, DON'T OVER DO THE BASS AND TREBLE EQ and WATCH FOR OUT OF PHASE SIGNALS ESPECIALLY IN THE BASS. If you do these simple steps you will have a great sounding record.

Most programs now have built in phase scopes if yours does not think seriously about getting an oscilloscope that you can put across the signal at the output to see what your phase looks like. You do not need a fancy scope and most times you can find one on the internet or at a local "electronic surplus store" for under $100.00.

Listen in Mono to your mixes and if the bass goes away when you are listening in mono and comes back when you listen in stereo you probably have a lot of out of phase information in the bass. There is a device put into every vinyl mastering console called an elliptical filter which is designed to deal with this problem but it is better not to have to use it.

I did vinyl mastering as an intern and it is a very fun thing to watch and do. It requires someone with lots of skills and a good mechanical aptitude as well as having really good ears and knowing how to use the equipment to its fullest. People like Glenn Meadows and Doug Sax were the consummate masters of their craft and honed their skills to provide some of the best cut vinyl around.

Best of luck.

Member Sun, 02/15/2004 - 06:43
Thanks for the great response thomas ..
I will check this out for sure ..

Now i understand the issue of phasing but a little unclear exactly what causes it ? i also know what it kind of sounds like but like i said unsure of what instigates it ..

I have one record for example that sounds good at home and on other's stereos but in a big club on a big system the bass is so much louder than the kick . it's muddy and too much ..

i will check out the links .. Thanks !!

Thomas W. Bethel Sun, 02/15/2004 - 09:12
You are welcome.

There are many causes of phase problems. Some of them are easy to fix some not so easy.

Problem number one. You mic the bass drum from the front and the rear of the drum for some reason. The front of the drum is in phase and the side where the beater is on is out of phase. When you mix these two microphones together you get bass canceling and bass enhancement. You can vary this with the mixer faders. Same thing with a micing tom. This is something that a lot of engineers forget when they mic the toms from the bottom.

Problem number two. You have the output of your synth running though the direct boxes of two different manufacturers. One direct box is wired pin two hot the other pin three hot on the XLR connector. They are out of phase with each other and the synth sounds wider than life but with no middle in the stereo mix.

Problem number three. You mike the bass guitar cabinet with a microphone and use a direct box. One of the two is out of phase and if you put them together you get bass enhancement and or bass cancellation.

Problem number four. Yyou caught an XLR cable in the door and decided to repair it yourself. After cutting off one end you solder it back together only now you have reversed the phase by putting the pin 2 wire on the pin 3 terminal and the pin 3 wire on the pin 2 terminal. You use this cable to go between your mixer and a DAT recorder but you monitor off the console. Your signals are out of phase with the "normal" cable but you don't hear them because you are monitoring off the console.

Problem number five. You mike a drum set up close and personal then you decide to put some extra microphones into the room for ambience. When you mix the up front and personal with the room mics you get a swishing sound at certain frequencies. This is because the room microphones at certain frequencies are out of phase with the up close and personal microphones and you get phasing....hence the term phasing.

As to your question about the club.

Many times we get this problem in mastering a client's CD. They are monitoring their mixes on a small set of speakers with no sub woofer. When they do their equalization they think they are listening to the fundamental but what they are really listing to is the first or second harmonic and they keep cranking up the equalizer at 60 Hz but what they are really listening to is the 2nd harmonic at 240 or the first at 120 and so it sounds good on their speakers but does not sound good when played on a full range system in a club.
The other problem is that most clubs have what they call a "house EQ" which is usually a smiley eq meaning the bass and treble are already boosted and so when you play something with lots of bass already on the material it does not sound good.

Hope all this helps

Member Sun, 02/15/2004 - 14:27
Thanks Tom ..
This is all a big help !

I think most of us when we first start producing tend to make the things loud that seem to need to be loud .. we tend to overemphazize the things that we remember from a certain song or what it sounded like in a club . rather than making a tight mix with good definition .. it's tricky with electronic music because at home most people tend to leave their bass down on their eq . So they need more in the song , in a it's the oposite in a club ..

as i said i am often chasing my own tail when it comes to setting levels but my last 12 inch did sound better than the others i made .. now i would just like to work on that depth ..

thanks for the advice


Gold Mon, 02/16/2004 - 08:25
Originally posted by lebus44:
Hi ...
i have heard that vinyl uses a somewhat archaic RIAA cutting process where the lowend is inserted back at amplifier stage . Mastering studios have told me to watch my crispy highs as this can make a record sound bad . but what is considered too high and crispy and what considered 'good definition"
The RIAA or DIN curve boosts high end and cuts low end when encoding onto the disk and does the opposite on playback. This is for noise reduction. The curve is centered around 1k hertz. There are time constants or EQ slopes that make the low end -20dB at 20hz and + 20dB at 20k Hz. This is also called constant amplitude below the center frequency and constant velocity above the center frequency. I'll stop now with the technical talk.

The reason excessive high frequencies are a problem is that since you are putting up to 20dB extra high end on the disk the cutter head coils heat up and can explode. A very bad and expensive thing. A good way to check your mixes is to insert a low pass filter at 10k Hz. If your mix changes dramaticly you have too much high end. If all the definition on your high hats and vocals goes away it will not cut well. You can do the same thing on the low end as well. If you insert a high pass filter at 40Hz and all the punch of the kick and bass goes away the disk won't be able to be cut loud. A good engineer will be able to fix this stuff somewhat but there is no substute for getting the mix right.

Member Tue, 02/17/2004 - 01:56
Hi Jeremy,

Here are the things from practical side.We signed with UK label before 2 years to release a vinyl.They liked some lounge tune by us with many electro elements.Why I mention electro?I sampled a modular synth which I found in the old building of our national radio.But by mistake I recorded my samples after editing out of phase.I never achieve the same sound after so I decided to leave exactly the first one.It was a bit overloaded too,because of the gains of my digital mixer...The label asked us to make remixes of this tune and we did deep house and dub ones.After finishing the dub it was impossible to make it louder than -18 RMS.Every try at any mastering studios made the reverbs to sound awful.We were so upset,but the label set a deadline and told us not to worry.They mastered I think at Kinetec and when they sent us a promo vinyls we couldn't believe that these are our tunes.My overload samples sound as an effect which I cleverly wanted at the start:)The master studio kept the dub not so loud ,but they made it to sound smash even at the low end where we used sub kick and no bass.I was afraid that the tune is not to loud,but DJs said:"there is a volume fader at the mixer!"Now exactly the dub is in DJ Tony Thomas January/2004 chart and one of the best Canadian DJs Mark Oliver is touring the states playing our deep at his events.
So sometimes the vinyl master could make it!!!

Best regards!