The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
 Search This Thread  Search This Forum  Search Reviews  Search Gear Database  Search Gear for sale  Search Gearslutz Go Advanced
How Hard Would It Be to Start a Lacquer Cutting Business?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #1
Lives for gear
 
Trakworx's Avatar
How Hard Would It Be to Start a Lacquer Cutting Business?

As far as I know there is only one person who cuts lacquers in the entire San Francisco Bay Area. George Horn is a legend and I wouldn't dream of rivaling him, but it seems like there's room for another cutting engineer in an area with 8 million people.

So I'm wondering - just how much would be the investment financially and time-wise to set up and become proficient with a cutting room?

Is it even doable without a mentor?

I've already got an Ampex ATR 102 with 1/2" and 1/4" heads, an elaborate analog mastering chain, accurate monitoring and 25 years experience as a ME, but zero experience with a lathe...
Old 4 weeks ago
  #2
Lives for gear
 
Greg Reierson's Avatar
 

Verified Member
I can think of at least to others but there probably is room for more.

IF you can find a working lathe they have gotten ridiculously expensive these days. Can't quote a number since it's a moving target. Several cars, all of your kid's college loans, that sort of territory. But nothing in the audio business makes sense on paper anyway so if you want to do it and can afford it, why the heck not. YOLO...

It's definitely doable if you know a few people and feel comfortable getting your hands dirty (and feeding the 'swear jar') on a regular basis. It is VERY hands-on in terms of operation but also maintenance. It's like having a classic car as your daily driver. Every so often some 50 year old part decides it's done and you have to be able to figure out what is broken, who to ask about how to fix it, where to find parts, how to make parts, etc. But it's just a machine. No alien technology there. Just a lot of simple bits connected together that are fairly easy to work on if you know what do to. The electronics require good tech chops. It helps to have smart friends !!

Learning to run the beast is a steep learning curve but what isn't? Plan a few months of testing with no income to show for it until you're ready to cut real lacquers for paying clients. Then you'll be rolling in (hmm, not sure what you'll be rolling in... mostly blown lacquers and worn styli...)...

Well, it's fun. What else really matters?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #3
Lives for gear
 
loji's Avatar
and each of those blank lacquers you're learning and testing on are about $100 a pop.

if you attempt only 1x cut a day, (:40 min of practice per day) .. you're spending $3k a month, not counting electricity or any other costs

and god help you if you blow your cutting head ... their about $10k each.

if you want to learn more, check into the secret society of lathe trolls
Old 4 weeks ago
  #4
Lives for gear
 
Paul Gold's Avatar
 

Verified Member
A VMS70 is good condition is going to be upwards of 100K these days. 14" lacquers are more like $35 each. But if you blow a few cutting a side you're working for free. If you've never cut before I wouldn't expect to send out any billing for six months to a year after getting one. The upside is that you will be able to sell the lathe for at least what you bought it for. I don't see prices going down anytime soon.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #5
Gear Maniac
 
DBarbarulo's Avatar
Sometime ago a Scully popped out at 90k. Without any other maintenance issue, assuming 1 payed cut per day, turned to be a 6 year operation to break even... My question is why there's no contemporary cutter, computer controlled in a human price range. Say i'll made one for inder 10k... i think should sell quite a few!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #6
Here for the gear
 
S_mask's Avatar
 

Quote:
As far as I know there is only one person who cuts lacquers in the entire San Francisco Bay Area. George Horn is a legend and I wouldn't dream of rivaling him, but it seems like there's room for another cutting engineer in an area with 8 million people.

So I'm wondering - just how much would be the investment financially and time-wise to set up and become proficient with a cutting room?
Depending on the lathe, between $20k and $100k.

Time-wise, it will take one to two years' daily work (at least three hours per day when you're not rolling .wavs) to solve what's wrong with the old lathe, wait for parts (which takes the longest), fix it, and learn how to make it cut well (and exactly the same each time).

Most people in the Bay Area will never ask you to cut a side. Only a small fraction of them are making records, and most of them will ask the factory to supply them with cuts. So, unless you get a gig with a pressing plant, you won't be cutting much. There's probably no way to recoup the investment needed for developing a good cutting studio unless you cut for a plant. Most view vinyl as a souvenir - extra to the download. You will almost never get to master the LP unless you also did the 'CD'. Most labels will send you the CD to be cut 'flat'. So, while cutting is fun and very interesting and hard (which is the fun part), it's basically an expensive hobby. It's not about best sound - that's up at 24/96... It's pointless being 'faithful' to tape - since Plangent-de-fluttered captures sound better than tape. It's a low-fi format by today's standards. Why are we cutting anything? Probably nostalgia is the best reason. (don't do it!)

Quote:
Is it even doable without a mentor?
No. But Lathe Trolls has many e-mentors... The internet of things has made self-teaching quite advanced. I taught myself how to fix electronics mostly from a chat with a lathe troller, reading the Naval Electrical Engineering Test Series CD-ROM files (http://www.fcctests.com/neets/Neets.htm), and looking at many YouTubes.

Quote:
I've already got an Ampex ATR 102 with 1/2" and 1/4" heads, an elaborate analog mastering chain, accurate monitoring and 25 years experience as a ME, but zero experience with a lathe...
The ATR102 sounds good, but, until you get the Mike Spitz mod (which Sterling had done), you won't be able to use it with lathe automation, so you'll be stuck with fixed pitch (with manual override). Works, but not as loud for longer sides, whereas many cutting studios have advanced groove-packing automation which cuts tighter than any human could achieve, and this benefits digital audio sources as well, since the lathe needs to get out of its own way, even for 'flat' cuts.

As for tape, all-analog mastering is no longer the end-all. The Plangent Process of correcting flutter (from the recorder and the reproducer) requires digitization (at high sample rate), but fixes the bad sound of tape that most people think sounds good. When you hear the de-fluttered examples on their website, you'll see that today's digital audio 'trumps' all-analog. But most people are going by the old wisdom, and, unless you do the Plangent Process to the digitized tape, all-analog probably _is_ better, but you'd have to have enough processors to do custom eq on each song, which means you'd need an A and a B path with an advanced version and a real-time copy of the program signals, so, for stereo cuts, you'd need 8 channels per processor. Fills up a Neumann console in a hurry unless you use Danner-sized cassettes.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #7
Lives for gear
 
JP__'s Avatar
 

Verified Member
In fact, quite a lot of ppl trying to build new lathes these days, but most of them are simply failing building quality cutting heads alone. A modern lathe with the qualities of a Neuman or Scully wouldnt be any cheaper than those ridiclous overpriced vintage lathes these days I think.
Computer controlled lathes exists already, check out for the latest Neuman VSM80.

For learning the art of cutting one could also consider buying a vinyl recorder cutting lathe for PVC dubplates (as I have done), much cheaper, but still rare and hard to get. Quality is surprisly good with an feedback head and other mods.
Or an old presto etc. for mono lofi cuts.

But buying a fully working neumann lathe for lacquer cutting is a high finacial risk I really would think twice about. Especially when you have no long year first hand experiences with cutting and need to make money with it anytime soon...

Last edited by JP__; 4 weeks ago at 10:18 AM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #8
Gear Head
 
Benoit D's Avatar
 

I’m affraid to observe that the tools and knowledges to cut lacquer are slowly dying :( Whereas in the same time new pressing plants are opening.

I personally think it’s almost impossible to become a cutting engineer today. Mostly because of the high initial investment, but also because the «*good old*» mentoring disappeared. Not because actual cutting engineers don’t want to teach, but because there is not enough money in this business to assume the cost of an intern.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #9
Lives for gear
 
Paul Gold's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by DBarbarulo View Post
My question is why there's no contemporary cutter, computer controlled in a human price range. Say i'll made one for inder 10k... i think should sell quite a few!
Because high precision hand finished machine tools are no less expensive to make than they ever were. A VMS80 in 1985 sold for about $225K.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #10
Lives for gear
 
Plush's Avatar
No, certainly would not be a good idea.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #11
Lives for gear
 
Trakworx's Avatar
Thanks for all the answers!

It's about what I was expecting to hear; a daunting endeavor for sure.

I'd be wise to avoid it.

Sometimes I'm not wise...
Old 4 weeks ago
  #12
Lives for gear
 
Paul Gold's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trakworx View Post

I'd be wise to avoid it.

Sometimes I'm not wise...
At least you have the right attitude. When I asked the same question close to twenty years ago the universal opinion was that I was some combination of stupid and crazy. But people think that anyway.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #13
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Verified Member
I'm amazed to hear that the cost of blanks hasn't gone up from when I was cutting in the 1960s.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #14
DAH
Lives for gear
 
DAH's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
I'm amazed to hear that the cost of blanks hasn't gone up from when I was cutting in the 1960s.
Why should it?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #15
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Money is worth less than a fifth of what it was back then.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #16
DAH
Lives for gear
 
DAH's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
Money is worth less than a fifth of what it was back then.
FRS printing and foreplanned inflation? On the other hand, cellphones would cost in the 60ies like a Ferrari?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #17
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Lacquers aren't mass-produced.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #18
DAH
Lives for gear
 
DAH's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
Lacquers aren't mass-produced.
Sorry, Bob, I imagine I read PVC blanks. Otherwise, I think DMM is a better technology in all ways, available at gzvinyl, though not attendable, of course. Anyway, I see the only sense in a vinyl consumer playback chain as a means to capture old catalogue, otherwise not attainable in a better than redbook resolution.
BTW 48 vs 44 did not make it for me, tested specially after reading your post about sample rates. 16 bit dither via MDA plug-in also seems to be flatter sounding than straight 32 fp off the DAW master buss to the DAC.
Once again, thank you and Internet and GS that legends like you, Mike Tarsia, Bobby Eli and such pass real knowledge to people like me, relatively youngsters.
OT: Damn, have just googled, the real name of Bobby Eli is Eli Tatarski, which means his ancestors were Tatars, or Jews coming from Tatarstan. And my grandmother was Tatar from Kazan (the modern capital of Tatarstan). This small is the world (or we humans have been moving that far)!
Old 4 weeks ago
  #19
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Verified Member
The world certainly is much smaller than the politicians want us to believe. The U.S. is mostly inhabited by immigrants and descendants of immigrants from all over the world.

DMM has always gotten mixed reviews subjectively. Obviously, labels and pressing plants love it because it reduces manufacturing cost. My experience with 48 vs. 44.1 is strictly the sound of plug-ins. 16-bit dither should sound better than 32 float but 24-bit dither should sound better yet.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #20
DAH
Lives for gear
 
DAH's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
The world certainly is much smaller than the politicians want us to believe. The U.S. is mostly inhabited by immigrants and descendants of immigrants from all over the world.

DMM has always gotten mixed reviews subjectively. Obviously, labels and pressing plants love it because it reduces manufacturing cost. My experience with 48 vs. 44.1 is strictly the sound of plug-ins. 16-bit dither should sound better than 32 float but 24-bit dither should sound better yet.
With 44 vs 48 vs 96 I have tested a direct analog to ADC to DAC playback chain with no plugins or just a parametric EQ correcting the playback chain, and I have thought 32 float are just truncated to 24 bit when feeding the 24 bit output to DAC so that multiplying exponent 8 bit part is left aside when not going over 0 dBFS at the master buss?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #21
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Verified Member
A lot of people misunderstand this. As I understand it, with 32 float signals or files, every individual sample is calculated to full scale 24 bit when any kind of processing is applied. The number of bits is the same but the amount of information is much greater. When that floating-point signal gets converted to fixed-point 24-bit, there will be a truncation of every non-full scale sample. This must be dithered in order to not distort and mask low-level information. It's most obvious with orchestral recordings where the hall is an important part of the sound.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #22
Gear Guru
 
Brent Hahn's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by S_mask View Post
... The ATR102 sounds good, but, until you get the Mike Spitz mod...
Does that replace the record head and electronics with a preview head and electronics?
Old 4 weeks ago
  #23
DAH
Lives for gear
 
DAH's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
A lot of people misunderstand this. As I understand it, with 32 float signals or files, every individual sample is calculated to full scale 24 bit when any kind of processing is applied. The number of bits is the same but the amount of information is much greater. When that floating-point signal gets converted to fixed-point 24-bit, there will be a truncation of every non-full scale sample. This must be dithered in order to not distort and mask low-level information. It's most obvious with orchestral recordings where the hall is an important part of the sound.
Yes, I am glad that our experiences coincide in that the most obvious test case of the low-level resolution are orchestral/choir recordings captured with tradidtional classical methods such as main stereopair combined with a center mike/spots etc. I must be not deaf, thank you. I will check the 24bit-dither vs no dither vs 16bit-dither at 96 kHz once again.
Anyway, just getting into the wow-flutter of tape recorders and vinyl playback area makes me believe that 24/96 PCM or DSD are superior in the accuracy and definition to the pure analogue capture/playback. I seem to be hearing 0.07% wow+flutter on a test 3150 hz track of the test record LP "Hi-Fi Test" by Erato label. The more annoying becomes hearing the flutter of the source tape used to transfer some of the musical pieces on the same LP. O, gosh,the fidelity...
Old 4 weeks ago
  #24
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Verified Member
I fear that a lot of today's appeal of tape is actually the appeal of the instruments and touch of the world's top musicians who were recorded as ensembles on tape. I don't think most people have any idea of the difference in sound between two musicians playing the exact same instrument.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #25
DAH
Lives for gear
 
DAH's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
I fear that a lot of today's appeal of tape is actually the appeal of the instruments and touch of the world's top musicians who were recorded as ensembles on tape. I don't think most people have any idea of the difference in sound between two musicians playing the exact same instrument.
I feel you on that as many AEs who actually have been recording musicians over the years since the no computer editing age do. I bought a direct to disc Yamaha Session II Promo LP and will troll the young artists like "are you really ready to record and you can can play as tight as the guys on that unedited LP"? LOL
On the dither: Damn, Bob, I have just re-examined the dither while switching the type and bit depth as well as the OFF setting. HI-TRI and 24 bits work the best compared to 16 bit or OFF on the Obraztsova's Seguidilla of Bizet's Carmen LP needle drop. I was freaked how much any of the settings affected the sound when I selected a short high DR portion of the audio to loop and just switched between the settings. Will check on Bob Marley and Pink Floyd.

Last edited by DAH; 4 weeks ago at 02:40 AM..
Old 4 weeks ago
  #26
Here for the gear
 
S_mask's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by S_mask View Post
... The ATR102 sounds good, but, until you get the Mike Spitz mod...
Does that replace the record head and electronics with a preview head and electronics?
They can''t simply remove the erase and record headstacks because they are used by the servo arms in establishing correct tension and contact of the tape. In the linked photo (at sonicscoop), the head gate is up, so we can't see what's in the assembly:
https://sonicscoop.com/wp-content/up...sterling_2.jpg
They probably left the erase and record headstacks in place. Otherwise, they'd have to have put in dumbie heads.

However, in this ca. 1979, apparently-factory 'pre-listen' setup (linked, below), only the two repro headstacks were needed (permitting deletion of the erase and record headstacks), since the advance repro one is where the erase headstack normally goes and provides support for the tape on that side of the assembly:
http://www.discolathe.com/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=211

As for the electronics, only one input/output assembly (aka 'penthouse') is on the Sterling 'pre-listen' ATR, and, although Sterling has theirs lit up, even that's best bypassed (provided one adds DC-blocking caps to the single-ended outputs), but they'd need to have four Audio cards in the cage below the transpo so that two of them can be used to amplify the small signals from the advance repro headstack, while the other two amplify those of the program repro headstack.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #27
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by DAH View Post
... I was freaked how much any of the settings affected the sound when I selected a short high DR portion of the audio and just switched between the settings...
So was I! It turns out we can hear through the noise to remarkably low levels provided it's in a frequency range that isn't being masked by other sounds.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #28
Lives for gear
 
teebaum's Avatar
why don't you try learning for a while from someone near you who is already fully equipped but not fully occupied (or has free late sessions) and then cutting your own masters there?
could become a win-win situation for both parties.

by the way, i can imagine that in the near future it will be possible to cut vinyl in higher quality with laser and computer, investing 1/4 million at this point in time could be a shot into one's own leg.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #29
Lives for gear
 
Silvertone's Avatar
Looks like Piper beat you to it in the Bay... although I know of at least 4 people around there who cut.

You could always buy her old set up to learn and then move up from there...
https://reverb.com/item/23895921-pre...r-record-lathe

Then there are always these machines for cutting short runs and singles. Jon, Jono on this forum is an expert with these things...
https://www.vinylrecorder.com

Good luck. I looked into it a year or two ago. Trouble is my clients don’t have the money to press anything. They’re always shocked when the loo into the real costs. Most tell it’s more than they spent recording their whole project.

I’ve used Jono’s service in the past and he’s great. Sent a client or two his way as well. Highly recommended.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #30
Gear Guru
 
Thomas W. Bethe's Avatar
 

Verified Member
Quote:
Originally Posted by teebaum View Post
why don't you try learning for a while from someone near you who is already fully equipped but not fully occupied (or has free late sessions) and then cutting your own masters there?
could become a win-win situation for both parties.

by the way, i can imagine that in the near future it will be possible to cut vinyl in higher quality with laser and computer, investing 1/4 million at this point in time could be a shot into one's own leg.
See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34Vg3r0k_e8 and http://www.williamosman.com/2017/03/...g-records.html

Go to about 8 minutes in on the first one and watch. Just imagine reversing the operation. Not too far off. The second link is almost exactly how they will finally do it. Both are interesting thought provokers. FWIW

FWIW

Last edited by Thomas W. Bethe; 3 weeks ago at 02:22 PM.. Reason: Added a link
Topic:
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Similar Threads
Thread
Thread Starter / Forum
Replies
Joao B. / Mastering Forum
12
grandmasters / The Good News Channel
8
elan / Electronic Music Instruments and Electronic Music Production
14

Forum Jump
Forum Jump