Vinyl: Process of Mastering and Pressing / Matrix Codes

Date: 2011-07-04 Autor: Kamil

written by Kamil Kaznowski and Maciej Stańczak
pictures by Kamil Kaznowski, Maciej Stańczak,

- thanks to Michal from  for writing down patiently the matrix information from 2016 releases for us Embarassed


Vinyl collecting is associated with an unusual challenge: how to organize your collecting. This is not easy and requires considerable knowledge about differences which can be found not only on labels, but also [and the most of all] on run-out-grooves

This review presents information about vinyl manufacturing process and details which may appear on chosen vinyl releases. It should be helpful in understanding details which are visible on Madonna [and not only] vinyl releases.


Vinyl manufacturing

Process of vinyl production begins earlier than it would be expected.

Every professional music production is finalized by process of mixing. Music album which is properly mixed need to be mastered to improve a sound and highlight everything what was not achieved during mixing process. And this is a very important moment: different types of mastering are made for vinyl, CDs and digital recordings!


1. Early stage of vinyl manufacturing [in mastering studio]:

Creation of the master disc [called sometimes "mother" - hope it will not be confusing to you reading this text because another copies called "mothers" are made later in manufacturing plant as well] from the master tape [analog tape, audio files or DAT tapes which are rarerly used these days].

There are two types of master discs which are made by mastering engineers:

Acetate plate

DMM [direct metal mastering] plate

14" aluminium plate which is coated with a lacquer;

grooves are cut by sapphire cutting stylus and inspected with microscope by engineer who scribes [or stamps] first details on "mother" run-out-groove

14" copper plate;

grooves are cut by diamond cutting stylus and inspected with microscope by engineer who scribes [or stamps] first details on "mother" run-out-groove

Acetate and DMM plates are made in pairs – one for one side. If album or single is four sided, there are four master discs – one for each side! 

Acetate discs need to be sent to vinyl manufacturer immediately because it looses its quality after 3 days and then cannot be used for vinyl manufacturing. 

DMM plates [created by Neumann and Teldec] are preffered because they give a chance to avoid superfluous noises and receive better sound in higher frequencies.


[A]  [B]  [C] 

Acetate plate [A], DMM plate [B], grooves' cutting on acetate plate [C], © [A, B], © [C]


Master disc has grooves which are concave - it's a positive image.

Grooves need to be checked by engineers using microscope because that kind of record cannot be played - gramophone needle would destroy it. Sometimes additional double sided acetate [or DMM] are made to check the quality of sound - but they cannot be used to prepare master plates [see below].


2. Stamper producing at vinyl manufacturer:

Creation of the master plate [called "father"] which will be a stamper used for vinyl manufacturing: 

Stamper made from acetate in two steps

Stamper made from DMM in one step

Acetate plate is coated with a layer of silver and then is coated with nickel using galvanometric method.

DMM is coated with nickel using galvanometric method at once.

Master disc [acetate or DMM] can be used only once to produce a master plate [stamper, "father"]. Nickel layer is removed from acetate or DMM plate and a proper nickel master plate is prepared.

Master plate [stamper, "father"] has ridges which are convex because "father" is a negative image of acetate or DMM.


[A]  [B]  [C] 

DMM and acetate [with silver] plates without nickel [A], DMM or acetate plate with nickel [B], Nickel master plate - "father" [C], ©


Nickel master plate ["father"] can be coated with nickel again to produce new "mother" which can be played [to check correctness of the sound]. Six "mothers" can be made from one "father". "Mother" can be saved for producing a new "father" in the future to re-press new set of vinyl – one "mother" can produce six new "fathers".

Every side of the record has its own "mother", "father", etc.


[A]  [B]  [C] 

Nickel master plate ["father"] [A], checking of correctness of nickel master plate [B], convex ridges of nickel master plate [C], ©


3. Vinyl manufacturing from stampers:

A certain amount of heated polymer [polyvinyl chloride with additional substances] is placed between stamper of side one and stamper of side two with two paper labels of both sides and then squeezed. After that and some technical processing, vinyl is ready and can be put into sleeve.



One master plate [stamper, "father"] can produce 1 000 vinyl records, but before that, a few test pressings are made and they are sent to music company and musicians for the acceptance of the final product. If something is wrong with a sound or anything else, a new acetate or DMM plate is prepared and the process of vinyl manufacturing starts from the beginning.

Around 36 000 vinyl records can be made from one master discs set [acetates/DMM plates called "mothers" for every side of the final product]:

* master disc [acetate/DMM] can give only one father during nickel-plating process

* one "father" can give six new "mothers" without losses in quality

* six new "mothers" can give 36 new fathers [six "fathers" from one "mother"]

If there is a need to produced more vinyl records, a new master discs set [acetate or DMM plates] have to be prepared by mastering studio.


Run-out-grooves, Matrix

Run-out-grooves [called sometimes 'a deadwax'] usually show names [or logos] of two companies: mastering studio and pressing plant. It happens that it is clearly visible who was responsible for vinyl pressing but there is a lack of information about mastering studio (barely visible marks, etc). Of course the situation may be reversed.

Text details can be added to run-out-grooves only on "mother" plate [positive image] stage:

Mastering studio

on main master disc [acetate or DMM] by mastering engineer

Pressing plant

on "mother" made from "father"

Text is usually smooth and deep. Text is usually shallow and uneven.
If vinyl is made from DMM master disc it is hard to distinguish which writing was made on the master disc and which was cut on "mother" made from father".
Details added: the name of mastering company, side A/B/C/D information, catalog number, name of mastering engineer and some internal work numbers. Details added: the name of pressing plant and internal job numbers [sometimes side A/B/C/D information, catalog number if mastering studio did not do it].
Mastering studios can mark RE1 [recut 1] if the first cut of lacquer disc [acetate] was unsuccesful and another master disc had to be produced. Pressing plant can mark RE1 [remake 1] if there was a need to produce new "father" [the first one was unsuccesfull].


UK releases

UK vinyl releases were mastered and pressed in different plants. Review of some examples:

7" Causing A Commotion [W8224] 12" Open Your Heart [W8480T]

A: W8224 A // 1▼420R
B: W8224 B // 1▼420R

A: W8480T A // 1▼420V Bazza
B: W8480T B // 1▼420V

Pressing plant: ▼420 - Polygram UK
Mastering plant: R - Master Room

Pressing plant: ▼420 - Polygram UK
Mastering plant: V - Trident Studios (Bazza - nickname of Barry Grint)

The letter signifies the mastering studio: 
A - Abbey Road Studio, C - CBS Studio, D - Decca Studio, E - The Penthouse/EMI, G - Portland Studio, H - The Town House, K - Kendun Recorders, P - PRT Studio, R - Master Room, S - Strawberry Mastering, T - Tape One, U - Utopia Studio, V - Trident Studio, W - CTS Studio Wembley, Z - The Sound Clinic.


12" Angel [W8881T] 12" Deeper And Deeper [W0146TP]
A: W8881T-A MT Damont
B: W8881T-B MT Damont
B: W-0146-TP-B
Pressing plant: Damont
Mastering plant: MT - Musitech
Pressing plant: ORLAKE
Mastering plant: unknown


12" Justify My Love [W9000T] 12" Borderline [W9260T]
A: W9000(T) A2 CopyMasters.Miles.PR-P
B: W9000(T) B2 CopyMasters.Miles.PR-P
A: XW 9260 TA-1U-1- Bazza
B: XW 9260 TB-1U-1-
Pressing plant: PR-P - P.R. Records Limited
Mastering plant: CopyMasters (Miles - Miles Showell)
Pressing plant: EMI Records
Mastering plant: 1U-1 - Abbey Road Studio (Bazza - Barry Grint)

A2 and B2 means that vinyl was pressed from a 2nd set of lacquers (acetates) sent to pressing plant from the mastering studio

PR and additional letter denoting the engineer. Examples: PR-E, PR-M, PR-m, PR-R, PR-G, PR-P & PR-T.

 1U-1 - digit means the first set of laquers (acetates)

1U-1 - letter identifies Warner Music

1U-1 - vinyl was pressed from a 1st "mother" made from a "father"


Pressing made by EMI for Warner Music [A], CopyMaster - mastering plant with "Miles" which identifies Miles Showell - mastering engineer [B]:

[A]  [B] 


Pressing made by P.R. Records Limited with "m" as a short of mastering engineer [A], vinyl made by Polygram UK and mastered at Trident Studios [B]:

[A]  [B] 


German releases

Review of some examples:

12" Open Your Heart [920 597-0]  12" True Blue [920 564-0]

A: R/S Alsdorf 920597-0-A2
B: R/S Alsdorf 920597-0-B2

 A: R/S Alsdorf 920564-0-A
B: R/S Alsdorf 920176-0-A 920564-0-B RME
Pressing plant: Record Service Alsdorf

Pressing plant: Record Service Alsdorf
RME - signature of mastering engineer - Rainer M. Ehrhardt

A2 and B2 means that vinyl was pressed from a 2nd set of lacquers (acetates)

Side B was pressed using stamper ("father") of "Holiday" single - old matrix information is erased and new one is stamped next to it


12" Bye Bye Baby [9362 41195-0] 12" What It Feels Like For A Girl [9263 42379-0]
A: WMME Alsdorf 936 241195-0-A
B: WMME Alsdorf 936 241195-0-B
A: B146895-01 A1 HL
B: B146895-01 B1 HL
Pressing plant: Warner Music Manufacturing Europe Alsdorf

Pressing plant: Optimal Media

HL - signature of mastering engineer (Heino Leja) responsible for master disc [acetate] made at Optimal Media, Germany


Most of Madonna vinyl records were pressed by: Record Service Alsdorf [A], Warner Music Manufacturing Europe Alsdorf [B] 

[A]  [B] 


Optimal Media [A], RME - signature of mastering engineer - Rainer M. Ehrhardt [B]

[A]  [B] 


US releases

US vinyl releases were mostly pressed by two companies: Specialty Records Corporation (SRC logo on the run-out-grooves, [A]) and Allied Record Company (characteristic sing - very like letter Q after catalog number, [B]).

[A]  [B] 


There can be found signs of mastering studios as well - names of companies, and often signs or initials of the engineers responsible for mastering:

Sterling Sound, NYC Masterdisk, NYC Future Disc Frankford Wayne Mastering Labs, NYC Precision Lacque


Mastering studios: Frankford Wayne NY [A], Future Disc [B], Masterdisk [C], Sterling [D]:

[A]  [B]  [C]  [D] 


These are some samples of signs of mastering engineers:

Robert Ludwig Bill Kipper Herb Powers Jr. Robert Ludwig Ted Jensen


Engineers resposible for mastering - Herbie Jr [A] and Bill Kipper [B]:

[A]  [B] 


Review of some examples:

Angel [9 20335-0]
SRC logo 0-20335-A-SR1 MASTERDISK BK

mastering company resposible for master disc cutting with engineer Bill Kipper vinyl pressed from a 1st set of lacquers (acetates) sent to pressing plant from the mastering studio  Specialty Records Co. - company responsible for vinyl pressing


Burning Up / Physical Attraction [9 29715-0]
STERLING 0-29715 A SH1 Q B-17806-SH1 SLM △ 3824 /-/


mastering company resposible for master disc cutting

[SLM △ - clean metal plate with laquer used to manufacture the acetate/DMM is made at Sheffield Lab Matrix]

vinyl pressed from a 1st set of lacquers (acetates) sent to pressing plant from the mastering studio  Allied Records Co. - company responsible for vinyl pressing


Like A Virgin [9 20239-0]
Side 1: MASTERED BY FRANKFORD/WAYNE NEW YORK Herbie Jr :^) 0-20239-A-SH1 Q B-20299-SH1 SLM △ 8300 /-/
Side 2: MASTERDISK 0-20239-B-SH3 Q B-20300-SH3 SLM △ 8300-X /-/


mastering company resposible for master disc cutting and name of mastering engineer

[SLM △ - clean metal plate with laquer used to manufacture the acetate/DMM is made at Sheffield Lab Matrix]

side A pressed from a 1st set of lacquers (acetates) and side B pressed from a 3rd set of laquers (acetates) sent to pressing plant from the mastering studio  Allied Records Co. - company responsible for vinyl pressing