People are coming back to vinyl in record numbers and it’s never been easier to get your own music onto wax.
A rejuvenation of record pressing plants has resulted in a fertile underground independent label scene and we all know that the true mark of credibility is no longer in MP3s, SoundCloud plays and streaming services – it’s whether you’ve gone to the effort of pressing some records.
So for those thinking about striking out on their own and wishing to see their music on more than just a hard drive, we’ve put together some guidelines and what to expect while going through the process.
1.SAVE SOME MONEY
Getting into the vinyl game is an expensive business. But asking someone else to do it is certainly going to be cheaper than sourcing your own lathe, audio racks, digital to analog converters and many more bits of equipment.
If you’re looking for a one-off press, maybe of your favourite track or because you are a strictly vinyl-only head and those digi-only releases are too good to not have on wax, then services like Vinylify are for you. Prices will also vary when it comes to size of the records so a 7″ will be cheaper than a 12″.
Limited 50-record runs shouldn’t be sneered at if you can’t shell out for more. If the music’s good, a limited-run gives it that extra rarity that record collectors love to seek out. It helped the Red Ember labellaunch a comeback after all.
But if you’re an up and coming underground label looking to do something a little meatier, say about 300-400 records, then you’ll be looking at £600+ via DMS, Gotta Groove Records or Curved Pressings.
2.CHOOSE YOUR TRACKS
The most important thing to think about is the length of your tracks because that will determine what size vinyl you press. The more you try to fit on means the shallower the grooves will be which equals a quieter record.
“The closer to the centre of the vinyl that we cut, the lower the level and more risk of audio distortion. This is why we will always recommend tracks longer than 5 minutes be cut to 12-inch vinyl,” Alan Brown from Australian service Vinylgroovetold us.
This also means you need to carefully select your tracklist, as the closer to the centre of the record the needle is, the more inner-groove distortion will appear. So maybe think again about which track is A1 and which A2 if you’re releasing a four track EP.
What genre you’re producing can also influence the type of record you press. For instance, Brown says loud audio like drum ‘n’ bass and techno should be cut at 45rpm, a speed best suited for singles.
“The faster speed actually stretches the bottom-end out and prevents any needle jumping and distortion which also reduces the amount of time per side of the record.”
A lot of places come with a mastering service either in the cost or as an extra charge. But if you want to do it yourself then there are a number of key things you need to keep in mind.
– Because vinyl is a physical medium, you’re going to experience distortion if the track contains any extreme frequencies. For example, club music is mostly dominated by the low end, so a low shelf eq on some of the lower frequencies (kick drum and bass) will make them quieter, and will compensate for the equipment’s mechanical limitations. The same principle applies to hi-hats and cymbals but at the higher end of the frequency spectrum.
– Make sure everything from 250hz and below is in mono otherwise you will get skipping on playback because of the way those frequencies make the needle move.
– Don’t brickwall that compressor as it doesn’t transfer well to the analogue system or stylus and they destroy dynamics and cause distortion.
– Get rid of any sibilance (that’s the sss-sound) in vocal tracks.
– It seems obvious but you need to bounce down your track in the highest quality possible. 24 bit, 44.1 kHz WAV or AIFF files are best because no sonic information is lost during the process. Some services will cut mp3’s but prefer not to.
4.GETTING THE TEST PRESSING
So you’ve chosen your pressing service, made sure the tracks are the right length and even gotten the all-ok on your perfect mastering techniques. Almost all services will send you a test pressing to listen to before you go full steam.
These are absolutely key to your process. Made of PVC, they go through the same processes as your main batch, meaning any issues in your mix will show up and you can adjust. It’s also a good stage to make sure all the tracks are in the right order and on the right side of the record!
When listening back, Gotta Groove Records suggest you listen back to the pressing all the way through on a variety of different turntables. “You can’t control what your end consumers will be listening on, but you can at least gain some perspective on how the cartridge/stylus in particular can make the record sound different.”