Skip to main content


I'm going to master two songs for vinyl for the first time, which matter do I have to take in account ? Normally I do CD masters.

Thank you.

Topic Tags


JoeH Fri, 04/14/2006 - 10:16

What kind of music are you planning to master to vinyl? I'm curious because it might affect your dynamic range.

Classical and Jazz will let you get away with more range, and for the most part a quieter pressing with better peaks and dynamic range. Pop/Rock/Rap will of course require a lot more compression and restrictive limiting to make it all "fit in the grooves" and let you play it as loud as possible without skipping out of the grooves.

You'll also want to sum everything below 200-250hz to mono for the same reason: the needle will track better that way.

Let's see, what else...hmmmm...I think I'll pass on this for now.....see what other advice you get. 8)

iznogood Sat, 04/15/2006 - 02:50

i keep this quote for reference.....

Hi Garrett -
Here's my tips that apply specifically to providing pre-masters for VINYL mastering, an area which I've found that more and more young engineers don't really have a clue about:

Here's my suggestions:

  • center the bass frequencies - if you have things like two different simultaneous bass lines panned left & right or stereo chorusing or flanging effects on the bass it will make it extremely difficult to have your record cut with a hot level because if bass freq's aren't phase coherent the groove will actually become narrower in these parts leading to the potential for a skip.
  • tame sibilance - it's a really good idea to run a de-esser on any vocal tracks that have a lot of sibilance. esses and t's can produce a burst of high frequencies which will just distort when played back on vinyl. The solution the cutting engineer can do to make sure this doesn't happen is to just put the whole mix through a de-esser - but it's a lot more transparent if you can take care of this during the mix instead.
  • avoid excessive high end!! - ultra high frequencies above 15kHz tend to just cause distortion if there is a lot of them and if there are way too much of them will actually smoke the cutting head! Avoid boosting any of the highs above around 8kHz on your mix. If you are looking to add "presence" or brightness focus your boosts in the upper mid areas around 3-6kHz.
  • don't clip your wave forms!!!! - clipped wave forms with squared tops will often break up really really quick when transferred to vinyl master at a hot level. There's absolutely no reason whatsoever to clip your wav forms on a pre-master destined for vinyl. While it's a popular way to achieve extreme average levels for a CD master it can potentially make the cutting engineer cut your record quieter than if you're wav forms have nice natural rounded tops. I've seen lots of people introduce clicks and pops into their master because they clipped their audio way too excessively and didn't notice it because of their crappy monitoring - so I think it's best to completely avoid this problem and make -0.3dbFs your output ceiling.
  • go light with the limiter!! - while a little peak limiting to tame the big transients can actually be a really helpful for keeping even levels the current squash settings used on a lot of digital masters will actually make things distort more quickly because in overly limited material instead of the peaks on the vinyl master being nice round bottom transients all the upper mids are forced to the top too . Remember dBfs does not translate into dBvu!!! - the levels that go to your vinyl master are actually set by the cutting engineer - so if you're questioning how much limiting or compression to use communicate with the cutting engineer and let them apply what they see fit to do.
  • keep it "clean" - any distortion in the digital realm tends to become more noticeable when transferred to vinyl
  • sequence thoughtfully - the inner grooves will always be a little more susceptible to distortion when played back than the outer ones - so it's always a best idea to keep the cuts you want to be at the hottest levels for the 1st or 2nd tracks and have the last track on the side be an instrumental or acapella or quieter passage.
  • keep the side lengths realistic. For max level (around +6dbVu) on a 12" "competitive" dance single keep the side length to around 12 minutes max for 33-1/3 and 9 minutes max for 45rpm.

For LP sides I'd say make 26 minutes a side your maximum unless you want to possibly encounter problems with scuffing and low signal to noise ratio when the records are pressed. With long sides remember that the cutting engineer must make a compromise between bass response and level in order to fit more grooves onto the side - so if you want a really long LP side remember that you'll probably have to sacrifice some of the low end.

  • make sure the heads and tails on the tracks in your premaster are clean and have good fades, and unless you want sound in your "spirals" (the wider grooves that are placed between tracks so that dj's can see where the next track is) leave at least 2 seconds (I usually recommend 3-4) of silence between each track. It's also best to leave at least 10 seconds between tracks at the side break or provide the pre-master for each side on seperate discs or reels.
  • communicate any requests or questions with the cutting engineer! This I've found is often the key to having you end up really happy. I also recommend getting an acetate or DMM reference disc made prior to having your masters cut so that you can be sure that you are happy with how your master sounds before incurring the expenses for plating and test pressing.
  • provide good documentation - make sure you include a track list including track number and side and length of tracks and sides. If you're providing a data disc make sure that the names of your files on the disc match the names you have listed on your track sheet (or just name them something like A1.wav, A2.wav, B1.wav etc.).

Hope that helps.

Best regards,
Steve Berson