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I think it would cool if you would talk a little about the inherent tonal qualities of vinyl and how best to prepare material that is going specifically to vinyl. Do you recommend mastering differently for CD and Vinyl? And if so, what things can an engineer do to maximize the potential results?
Years ago when talking to Glenn Meadows, he told me to master something the way I wanted it to sound and let the guy cutting the plates worry about optimizing for vinyl. Do you subscribe to this mindset or have you another point of view.
Always curious to learn new things….


joe lambert Wed, 10/02/2002 - 16:38


I subscribe to the same thinking as Mr. Meadows. Do your thing as a mix engineer and we will do our thing as mastering engineers.

The only thing I would maybe watch out for is too much low end. Really low stuff from 50hrz down. A lot of rock guys are mixing with much more low end then a few years ago. This just wont work on vinyl. Although any good cutting engineer can compensate for this.

Besides that mix it the way you want it.


Doug Milton Wed, 10/02/2002 - 18:45


As a fellow mastering engineer, my question wasn't really about mixing. Perhaps I phrased it badly.

Very few of us are actually cutting vinyl these days. As I know Don does this, I was really asking about the tonal changes the transfer to vinyl makes, and if there were things we mastering folks could do to make his work (transferring to vinyl) less painful.

joe lambert Thu, 10/03/2002 - 08:23

Ok I,m awake this time. Since I'm writing I will tell you that If I am mastering something that is going to be cut to vinyl I work in a couple different ways.

1. If it's a rap/hih hop record I will master for CD and usually use the same version for vinyl then when setting up for cutting make the necessary eq and level tweaks for it.

2. If it's someone looking for a more (hi fi) job like a jazz piece. I might do a seperate pre mastering. I might go straight to tape with it for a specific sound then cut it.

As always there is no 1 set way. But the average project gets mastered for CD then using the same 24bit file, feed that to the D/A, do the tweeks and cut the sucker.

My 3cents

audiowkstation Fri, 10/04/2002 - 19:00

Im my days of doing the whole enchalada, (recording, mix, mastering to scully and operating the lathe)..RIAA equilizers before the lathe amplifiers (cutting amps which was a McIntosh 2105) that the RIAA eq took care of the low end cut and I could listen pre riaa and post riaa and post post riaa for anomilies.

For those interested, RIAA equilazation curves for vinyl were equilizers that were custom built black boxes that did the riaa curve prior the cutting amplifiers to inhibit the curve. It was typically a cut in bottom and a rise in top so you could get 24 mins/side/33.3rpm on an LP, no matter the bass content, even if it was flat to below 20 hZ. Pre RIAA. The RIAA equilizer allowed the lathe operator "room" during the bass passages so the groves would not modulate past 1/114th/inch in lateral acceleration. During disco lathe operation on 12 inch 45 RPM singles, I would let the wool hang out even with riaa at as wide as 1/48th and even wider on some real funky stuff. 33cm/second groove modulation was the limit I adheard to but I have examples on vinyl of 122 cm a second. The typical lateral is 12 to 22 CM/Second if you were bold. Some of the microgroove K tel stuff ( i did a lot of it)involved radical pre mastering eq to give an illusion of bottom and we ran the lathes at 4CM/sec. You could get 42 mins a side on an LP that way.

Seriously, knowing the consumer post eq riaa phono preamps , either Line (ceramic, crystal), Moving magnet, or moving coils with the huge variables in stage gain was the key to having good pressing. I had 4 turntables to audition the vinyl then. Each of four different stages were employed and the singular post RIAA filter for concurency. Thier are many RIAA Curves as well. 78RPM and LP are NOT the same.

Curious why RIAA in Vinyl mastering was not discussed.

Now modern mastering (know for vinyl) I do master differently..but it is strictly a vibe in eq and compression I use that best suits the pinicle of vinyl playback equipment and the finest offered Phono preamps avalable ..strickly for audiophile standards. Now we are having to average: cartridges, arms, phono pres, turntables, wires, Input impredances and capacitance loading.

We should vibe in this tangled web as they say but I want the vinyl to be representative of the master tape after all these stages have been considered.

You "up the variables" 900% when doing vinyl..and some of it is the best you can get in the consumer realum.

This is a whole different level of art in which I really love doing, but not as exercised as it should be IMO.

Don Grossinger Tue, 10/08/2002 - 13:48

Hi Folks,
Sorry for the late reply. I was out on a road trip seeing the Stones this weekend & just returned. (great show BTW!!).
OK, here's what makes me a happy vinyl cutting engineer:
1)Listen to your complete master all the way through. Find any glitches, bad edits, out of sequence trks, bad fades, bad spacing between trks, etc.... I am amaized at how many of these (pick one or several) I get coming in as a "finished master". I can work on any of these problems, but don't tell me "it's ready to cut flat" & come back to me after test pressings are done & tell me you wanted something else. I will call a client if I spot something that I feel does not belong, but I also allow for lots of artistic freedom. So if you say it's ready, it better be ready.
2) Please center the Bass Frequencies. Lathes will attempt to deepen the groove to accomodate bass. If the bass is out of phase (different signals on rt & left channels) or panned to one side or another, it must be centered in the cutting process or too deep a groove will be cut. I will then lose a $900.00 hand faceted diamond stylus & will not be happy. I will have NO problem with stereo / panned signals above about 400 hz.
3) Please watch out for ultrasonic high end. Those razor sharp Drum & Bass high-hats will go on a CD without a problem; on vinyl they are real tough to cut without distortion. They also can really stress the cutter head in an unhealthy way. We're only talking about really sharp, really high signal here. If it hurts to listen to it, it's tough to cut.
4) With my setup I do not really have to make too many compromises for vinyl cutting. I do not compress normally, except as a subjective change: if it sounds better that way. I do not have to compress in order to cut. As I discussed in another question thread, I can & do cut hip hop & all sorts of Dance records down to 12 hz, so low end is no problem.
5) As for EQ, just make it sound great. I will get it onto vinyl with as few changes as possible. That's why I like to have clients come in & work with me on both vinyl & CD projects. We can make it all match & you will not ever have to make excuses for the sound of the vinyl. I have a system that allows me to cut & play a record pressing on the lathe TT and the master tape through the console simultaniously and they will sound virtually the same (with the exception of any "record noise") for comparison purposes.
6) Do Not over compress, over process, or over EQ before coming in for mastering. Do not normallize to excess (unless you want it that way). Let the music breathe. I can do a better job cutting if you give me some "room to move" (thank you John Mayall, for all you old timers out there).

I'm sure there's more that will come to me & I certainly welcome all questions. I hope this will be an ongoing conversation.

Bob Olhsson Fri, 10/18/2002 - 12:34

I would add, be absolutely anal about really putting things that are supposed to be in the center DEAD in the center. Anything that's even a little bit off will be more distorted than something that's right on the money. Some of the better mix rooms in the 1970s let you override the pan pots for inputs you wanted centered and I found it made a huge difference in how the final pressing sounded.

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