You Ask, We Answer: Pressing to Vinyl - EMusician

You Ask, We Answer: Pressing to Vinyl

How to Make the Most of the Medium
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I’M THINKING OF PRESSING AN LP RATHER THAN MAKING A CD. HOW DIFFERENT ARE THE FORMATS TO WORK WITH? WHAT KINDS OF THINGS DO I NEED TO CONSIDER?

Jason Williams
Chicago, IL
via email

There are several elements to take into consideration when putting music on vinyl, particularly if you want to make the most of the medium. To begin with, an LP holds less music per disc than a CD, and the amount of music it’ll handle depends on the playback speed and how loud you want your record to be. The louder the music, the bigger the grooves and the more space that is required. In addition, the faster the playback speed, the better it’ll sound, though the trade off is less music per side.

Mastering services and pressing plants each have their own recommendations, but in general they suggest keeping the program length between 12 and 18 minutes per side of a 12” LP at 33.3 RPM. The longer the side, the more space you’ll use and the quieter (and potentially noisier) playback will be. You can, however, fit nearly 30 minutes per side if sound quality isn’t an issue.

Because high-frequency reproduction declines as the needle approaches the center of the disc, consider sequencing your louder songs earlier on each side so that they are closer to the outside edge and are spread across more surface area.

The mastering engineer will likely add dynamics processing and EQ, as well as center the bass frequencies below a particular crossover point to maximize playback. Although you may be tempted to do some of this yourself as you mix, don’t: Give the mastering engineer the best sounding mix you can and they will tailor it to the vinyl medium using their specialized tools.

Finally, be sure you listen to your test pressings on a high-quality turntable to make sure no artifacts were introduced, such as hum or distortion. It’s not uncommon to go through more than one test pressing, so be patient and don’t rush the results. And if you have any questions about the process, ask your mastering engineer..
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