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One master for digital and vinyl pre-master Digital Converters
Old 8th January 2012
  #1
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One master for digital and vinyl pre-master

So, this is something a niche market of DIY musicians want/need from MEs sometime.

They have already argued hard enough to even suggest the band/label to bother with mastering, and you've cut them a nice deal because they are essentially on a zero budget, and they ask for a master for Bandcamp/sending to promoters AND the same master for vinyl (the pre-master, to be cut by the pressing plants in house engineer).

You can't so "no that doesn't work" because they will say "we won't bother at all then".

And you can't say "they are idiots" because this is a real life situation.

They won't pay another 50% for a second version.


SO, if you were asked to make master which is digital distro AND vinyl friendly (to be cut by an unknown person working a plant) what would you think, and what might you do?

It's something I get asked to do a lot by friends bands and small DIY bands here in the UK and I've had some good results, some that could be better.
Old 8th January 2012
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe_caithness View Post
SO, if you were asked to make master which is digital distro AND vinyl friendly (to be cut by an unknown person working a plant) what would you think, and what might you do?
Think about (pre-)mastering for vinyl first with no limiting/clipping and just great sound. Then make a copy of the final EDL and tack on your limiting to get it up to typical digital volume.

I usually go this route because most clients want the digital to sound as much like the vinyl as possible.
Old 8th January 2012
  #3
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My method is much like Allens, and so long as I know before I start the session that a vinyl master is needed too I'm cool with it. I master as normal but keep an eye on things I know won't make friends with the cutting engineer [excessive sibilance, out of phase lo frequencies, that sort of stuff] and make sure I run a 24bit file without limiter. TBH that's part of my workflow anyway, to always have a 24bit unlimited file as well as final limited version.

I don't mind doing that occasionally on one offs for free, but I do charge if it's whole albums worth, as then you have to do gaps and fades etc.

YMMV as they say... and why am I at work on a Sunday anyhow!
Old 8th January 2012
  #4
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I print two masters on two separate tracks so it does not take me extra time at all. I ask for 5 dollars more per song and that's it. I saw this is a problem a long time ago and just came up with a workflow that does not add to my session time. All the balances are the same between the two masters, but the vinyl masters do not include digital limiters (only soft analog limiters that do not add much to the rms)
Old 8th January 2012
  #5
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Originally Posted by acorneau View Post
Think about (pre-)mastering for vinyl first with no limiting/clipping and just great sound. Then make a copy of the final EDL and tack on your limiting to get it up to typical digital volume.

I usually go this route because most clients want the digital to sound as much like the vinyl as possible.
Thanks Allen, I was going to try this for this project, your logic confirms my thoughts, and you are right about trying to get unity between the two masters.
Old 8th January 2012
  #6
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Forgive me for Laarsø-ink in on this thread, but I fear these advice is not so good for best results. When Dave Collins or Jay Frigoletto adjust processors in premasterink session (for CD manufacture), or Doug Sax, for that matter, they put smashink limiter on first and listen to audio in loaded context of finished, down-sampled, dithered to 16 bits just-shy-of-ruination (; while adjustink high density digital or analog eq and whatever else upstream. The processink decisions you get this way, when you hear how they get shoe-horned into the little compact disc, will be possibly different from session in which you first try to make music sound pretty without limiter or SRC and then do the deed as an after-thought. Why take chance? To preclude surprises in tone and verve, you need to have a real-time sample rate converter or else you are shootink kind of in the dark, even if you like Saracon better than SFC-2. {Laarsø says: Saracon is best for upsamplink before premasterink, or for repremasterink somethink that was released at hi-res and now you want to make it the same sound but on CD, say. To use Saracon for regular premasterink downsamplink for session in which you captured at 2x without limiter first and hope to limit and SRC that which you have already eq'd would be to miss out on a crucial amount of focus and precision towards hearink the actual end product while you have a chance to heal it where you can do the least harm and most good - upstream...}

So, my advice, for all that it's worth (many screw-pulls, if not so many rubles):

Don't premaster for vinyl. Only premaster for CD. If you want to release somethink on both CD and LP/45, give the lacquer premasterink job to the cuttink clerk, who knows already how to take a studio master tape and dumb it down for cuttink, using his static and dynamic filter set.

Also, a CD should not have excessif sibilance, ever. Out of phase bass, on the other hand, might be what the music wants, dependink on arrangement and mix decisions. The level will simply be attenuated in the lacquer grandmotherink room, according to displacement needs and playink time, or an elliptical filter will be judiciously applied. No one who is far from a helium tank needs to anticipate what the cutter wants. Stay out of the lathe room, digirati!


If you want the CD to sound the same as the vinyl, have the lacquer cuttink clerk premaster the CD!


Cheersø,
Laarsø
Old 8th January 2012
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Laarsø View Post

Don't premaster for vinyl. Only premaster for CD. If you want to release somethink on both CD and LP/45, give the lacquer premasterink job to the cuttink clerk, who knows already how to take a studio master tape and dumb it down for cuttink, using his static and dynamic filter set.


Cheersø,
Laarsø
The situation in discussion does not allow for this to happen, the band or label will simply not pay for an attended cut with vinyl pre-mastering. That is the situation in which I describe and wish to discuss.

I am not 100% sure, but when you pay the 15 quid for "mastering" on top of you vinyl pressing quotation, you are paying for someone to check that the music gets onto the lacquer without skipping or any major problems, but any of the stuff we do for any project: clean up, tonal adjustments, creative and corrective compression.. do not get touched, especially by someone who has been hired based on their reputation in the particular genre or field.

You give your advice to a DIY label or band and you'll get a session mix, not checked by anyone else, on a piece of plastic and that's it.

Also, I think when people say "they want it sound like the vinyl" they don't mean they want it to sound like a record, they mean that any processes to the audio for aesthetic or corrective reasons used on the pre-master should be present as they will inherently change the music sounds, and the consumer should not get a better or worse sounding master in theory, just a master of the same music on a different format.

Nothing wrong with having different pre-masters for different markets, but this is a particular example where the market does not demand such a thing
Old 8th January 2012
  #8
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Where are they going for the Stampers and the Pressing Joe? You might want to contact Chris Moss, he's got some reliable people that might be able to get that done through his plants. It may be a good way to establish a good relationship with a plant.

Or for a few dubplates maybe contact Dietrich Schoenemann, Aarvark, or Paul Gold. I know we get stuff from Dietrich all the time and have gotten some stuff from Paul Gold and Aavark and they do quality stuff.

What I can tell you however if the stuff isn't done right its not going on the cutting lathe. They just aren't going to risk blowing heads for something that isn't done right, especially for a client that isn't willing to pay.


Cheers

Lu
Old 8th January 2012
  #9
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So what lower frequencies should be mono aligned? All under 100Hz? Are there any simple plug-in phase meters out there?
Old 8th January 2012
  #10
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Originally Posted by lu432 View Post
Where are they going for the Stampers and the Pressing Joe? You might want to contact Chris Moss, he's got some reliable people that might be able to get that done through his plants. It may be a good way to establish a good relationship with a plant.

Or for a few dubplates maybe contact Dietrich Schoenemann, Aarvark, or Paul Gold. I know we get stuff from Dietrich all the time and have gotten some stuff from Paul Gold and Aavark and they do quality stuff.

What I can tell you however if the stuff isn't done right its not going on the cutting lathe. They just aren't going to risk blowing heads for something that isn't done right, especially for a client that isn't willing to pay.


Cheers

Lu
I have no idea, it will all be done at whatever plant the cheapest broker they googled on the day they searched. I am going to presume it will be GZ Media as we are in the UK and it seems like all the brokers here do (did?) go through them.

When I used to put out vinyl I just used various front ends which were just GZ.


I would presume that whoever is transferring the digital pre-master at somewhere like GZ isn't monitoring anything other the obvious signs that the needle is gonna jump and working out some simple calculations about the cut length.#

I say this because that is going to take an hour or two, and the cost of a lacquer and the quoted price is usually something silly like 15 pounds.... whereas getting a mastering engineer to cut your lacquer costs a HELL of a lot more for good reason.
Old 8th January 2012
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sat159p1 View Post
So what lower frequencies should be mono aligned? All under 100Hz? Are there any simple plug-in phase meters out there?
Not necessarily _any_ of them. Don't pre-process to spare the lacquer cutting clerk the inconvenience. They have the technology to make all signals compatible for Joe 6-pack's pickup. Just keep it real good sounding and don't try to win any loudness contests (Losers take All!). Send the cutter your dynamic luscious mix-down and let the lacquer cutting clerk do her magique, oui? Don't you like the cutter's ideas? They'll still have to change your lacquer pre-premaster, anyway, if only to save their head. Only if they beg off on the CD prep should you hire two clerks for one double-format delivery. The Sontec mastering equalizer was made for a lacquer cutter's console, after all. These guys are the gear slutz.

In the lacquer cutting (disc grandmothering) console they can use a parametric eq and a high pass a low pass a shelf a high freq. limiter and an elliptical filter. They might even use a coffee filter. This is not a problem!

The elliptical (EE) can be analog and have many center frequencies (if custom) or can be digital with thousands? to choose from. Also, as I mentioned in previous post, it can be that no elliptical sounds best and that summing low end doesn't matter with a cut. Radical stereo was cut without issue when levels were kept sane... Even 10 Hz church organ can be cut, but the levels would be quiet (not as quiet as the Church Mouse, however). Half-speed ironless transfers can also be done with difficult material, of course.

However, to make a premaster CD and an LP grandmother from the same master tapes, the obvious choice is to hire a clerk who can do both. Dietrich has been mentioned. Josh Bonati. Paul Gold. Bob Weston. These guys put out good discs of digital and analog audio signals. Don't overthink this. Why hire someone to wag the dog? Ok. Bob Ludwig doesn't cut sides, anymore. But he used to. Same with I believe Mr. Collins (Stop calling him DC, guys!). Oh, yes, Doug got rid of his lathe. But I think Sonny is cutting sides in Hollyrock.


Cheersø,
Laarsø
Old 8th January 2012
  #12
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Originally Posted by Laarsø View Post

However, to make a premaster CD and an LP grandmother from the same master tapes, the obvious choice is to hire a clerk who can do both. Dietrich has been mentioned. Josh Bonati. Paul Gold. Bob Weston. These guys put out good discs of digital and analog audio signals. Don't overthink this. Why hire someone to wag the dog? Ok. Bob Ludwig doesn't cut sides, anymore. But he used to. Same with I believe Mr. Collins (Stop calling him DC, guys!). Oh, yes, Doug got rid of his lathe. But I think Sonny is cutting sides in Hollyrock.


Cheersø,
Laarsø

No disrespect but we all, as engineers, know that all these guys can cut great vinyl and cd masters, but that's what we're talking about in my OP.

I'm talking about small/no budget operations within a DIY circle of music where people have no more money to spend, but if they can get something that works better for them out of what they can afford, then I'd like to provide that service.
Old 8th January 2012
  #13
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Originally Posted by Laarsø View Post
Oh, yes, Doug got rid of his lathe.
Doug has the original Mastering Lab lathe set up in Ojai.


DC
Old 8th January 2012
  #14
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Originally Posted by dcollins View Post
Doug has the original Mastering Lab lathe set up in Ojai.


DC
There's actually 2 lathes there now - modded Neumann AM32's with custom Sherwood Sax cutterhead suspensions - one with an SX-68 and another with a SX-74, Sherwood Sax custom transfer console and tube amps, and Sontec Compudisc pitch/depth computer.

Here's a couple pics from when I visited Doug's studio last year:




Best regards,
Steve Berson
Steve
Old 9th January 2012
  #15
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You could always do a great sounding, no-limiter mastering job and use that for the LP and whatever digital formats are planned. Clearly, this is the best solution for everything. But, given the likelihood of the average client accepting a LP-appropriate RMS level for their digital master, doing a second bounce of the LP master through a limiter has worked for me in many cases.
Old 9th January 2012
  #16
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We do two versions quite regularly.

Find the settings for the hotter digital master & print.

Then ease off a few dB just before the limiter for the vinyl version & print.

Naturally you listen carefully in case you want to make other EQ or Compression changes to the vinyl master.

Also check for excessive sibilance and phase problems, but leave the LF elliptical EQ for the cutter.

Often we'll do the vinyl print at 24-bit/96k and assemble the sides as two large wave files to send on to the Lathe-Meister.

JT
Old 9th January 2012
  #17
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Originally Posted by Jerry Tubb View Post
We do two versions quite regularly.

Find the settings for the hotter digital master & print.

Then ease off a few dB just before the limiter for the vinyl version & print.

Naturally you listen carefully in case you want to make other EQ or Compression changes to the vinyl master.

Also check for excessive sibilance and phase problems, but leave the LF elliptical EQ for the cutter.

Often we'll do the vinyl print at 24-bit/96k and assemble the sides as two large wave files to send on to the Lathe-Meister.

JT
well said, JT. That's the way I've been doing it for years.

However, I rarely find myself changing anything but the volume (just lowered enough so it doesn't hit the limiter). With this approach, it only takes an extra run thru for the vinyl version (after a small amt. of time to figure out the volume drop when doing the first one). Once I find it, I use the same drop for each vinyl master so that the volumes are consistent.

So I tell clients that if we (pre-)master for CD/Digital Downloads and Vinyl at the same time, the cost is only another hour to hour and a half which most ppl find acceptable.
Old 9th January 2012
  #18
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Cutting at GZ Vinyl

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe_caithness View Post
I have no idea, it will all be done at whatever plant the cheapest broker they googled on the day they searched. I am going to presume it will be GZ Media as we are in the UK and it seems like all the brokers here do (did?) go through them.

When I used to put out vinyl I just used various front ends which were just GZ.


I would presume that whoever is transferring the digital pre-master at somewhere like GZ isn't monitoring anything other the obvious signs that the needle is gonna jump and working out some simple calculations about the cut length.#

I say this because that is going to take an hour or two, and the cost of a lacquer and the quoted price is usually something silly like 15 pounds.... whereas getting a mastering engineer to cut your lacquer costs a HELL of a lot more for good reason.
Hello Joe,

regarding our GZ Vinyl processing methods: all source WAV/AIFF files, CD-Audio discs, DAT tapes or DDP files are carefully checked by our operators with a help of our dedicated vinyl mastering software. Several simulations of cutting can be done and the optimal set of cutting parameters is chosen for every side. However, we don't "improve" the sound of your master, we try to preserve the sound of supplied sources if it is possible. We only adapt the master to limitations of the mechanical recording technology (depth, amplitudes, accelerations, velocity limits etc.).

Optionally we can process also analogue tapes on request, but it is more expensive.

Regards,
Old 9th January 2012
  #19
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Originally Posted by Andy Krehm View Post
well said, JT. That's the way I've been doing it for years.

However, I rarely find myself changing anything but the volume (just lowered enough so it doesn't hit the limiter). With this approach, it only takes an extra run thru for the vinyl version (after a small amt. of time to figure out the volume drop when doing the first one). Once I find it, I use the same drop for each vinyl master so that the volumes are consistent.

So I tell clients that if we (pre-)master for CD/Digital Downloads and Vinyl at the same time, the cost is only another hour to hour and a half which most ppl find acceptable.
Hi Andy, good to see you back on the boards again!

JT
Old 9th January 2012
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Originally Posted by GeorgeZ View Post
Hello Joe,

regarding our GZ Vinyl processing methods: all source WAV/AIFF files, CD-Audio discs, DAT tapes or DDP files are carefully checked by our operators with a help of our dedicated vinyl mastering software. Several simulations of cutting can be done and the optimal set of cutting parameters is chosen for every side. However, we don't "improve" the sound of your master, we try to preserve the sound of supplied sources if it is possible. We only adapt the master to limitations of the mechanical recording technology (depth, amplitudes, accelerations, velocity limits etc.).

Optionally we can process also analogue tapes on request, but it is more expensive.

Regards,
Hey Mr GZ, thanks for your input, you saved me an email!

That is pretty much what I expected and thanks for explaining more in depth.

Can I ask you a question for you or your cutting engineers please? When you receive limited audio, does this impair you completing your job in a satisfactory way? and if so, how so?
Old 9th January 2012
  #21
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One advantage of limiting ITB is that I can use the same 24 bit file for a vinyl master if required, without taking up any more of the clients time doing 2 prints.

It's a good safety measure as many artists are doing vinyl at a later date.
Old 9th January 2012
  #22
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Make the two versions as close as possible, but remember to keep more dynamic range on the vinyl premaster because, as everybody knows, one of the hallmarks of vinyl is that it is more dynamic than digital. Up is down, and down is up, and anybody who suggests anything different is a delusional idealist who isn't living in the real world.
Old 9th January 2012
  #23
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Vinyl is back! Sales increased 39% last year.
Old 10th January 2012
  #24
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Old 10th January 2012
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jerry Tubb View Post
but leave the LF elliptical EQ for the cutter
Interesting. I have been doing the elliptical EQ here for vinyl masters.

What are others take on this? Do it yourself or leave it to the cutter?

I like doing it here because after deciding on a cutoff frequency for the elliptical EQ and applying it it sometimes causes me to make additional EQ changes to the vinyl master. E.g. There is a good deal of stereo bass content, after applying a elliptical EQ a bass boost is needed to compensate for the stereo bass content that was filtered via the elliptical EQ.
Old 10th January 2012
  #26
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I always do the same EQ, just use less (or no) limiting for the LP version. Usually 24/44, but I have done a couple at 96/24.


DC
Old 10th January 2012
  #27
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Originally Posted by scalawag View Post
Vinyl is back! Sales increased 39% last year.
Was in Best Buy today and saw a row of vinyl.. Mostly boxed sets packaged with cd's as well.. but still.
Old 10th January 2012
  #28
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Limited audio

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe_caithness View Post
Hey Mr GZ, thanks for your input, you saved me an email!

That is pretty much what I expected and thanks for explaining more in depth.

Can I ask you a question for you or your cutting engineers please? When you receive limited audio, does this impair you completing your job in a satisfactory way? and if so, how so?
Regarding the limited audio files:

Simply said - limited audio files usually have less dynamics, but are quite loud and contain a lot of "energy". This energy can be stored at and played back from vinyl records only to some limits. Above them the distortion starts to raise rapidly (sometimes even yet during cutting). To avoid this we have to lower cutting levels. As a result of such limited audio files you will have records with both the less dynamics AND lower/standard loudness (not high loudness as you supposed).

An example is attached. It is not the worst case because the amount of limited signal is not big, sometimes we have to work even with hard-limited signals with square waves
Attached Images
File Type: png limited_audio_example.png (160.0 KB, 624 views)
Old 10th January 2012
  #29
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I have The Kooks limited edition vinyl (but released officially) - Live ACOUSTIC (from Abbey Road). It's unlistenable. It's completely distorted. Acoustic show! Sounds worse than Death Magnetic for sure.

Anyone having this vinyl too?
Old 10th January 2012
  #30
Quote:
Originally Posted by scalawag View Post
Vinyl is back! Sales increased 39% last year.
39% of a tiny percentage of vinyl releases. In a market with 1/3 the sales of a decade ago.

No, it's not coming back.
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