Vinyl Mastering and Pressing

Vinyl Mastering and Pressing

Being a collector is associated with an unusual challenge - the way how you organize your collecting. It may not be easy in the beginning and requires considerable knowledge about differences which can be found not only on cover sleeves and labels but also [and most of all] on run-out-grooves.

We want to describe here a process of vinyl manufacturing and details which may appear on chosen vinyl releases. It should be helpful in understanding some details which are visible on vinyl releases which you have in your collection.

       

Vinyl manufacturing

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

We do not want to convince you that possibility of music releasing on vinyl should be consider on early stage of production, but the final step of making music may be crucial. Every professional music production is finalized by process of mixing. Music 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!

Mastering studio

Master disc [called sometimes a mother] is made in a mastering studio. Hope it will not be confusing to you reading this text because another copies called mothers as well are made later in a manufacturing plant 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 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 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.

Both, 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.

 

   

1: Acetate plate, 2: DMM plate, 3: Grooves' cutting on acetate plate, © infoaudio.pl [1, 2], © ernestjournal.co.uk [3]

 

Master disc [mother] has grooves which are concave - it's a positive image of future vinyl.

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

 

Vinyl manufacturer

Master plate [called a father] is made at vinyl manufacturerMaster plate is a stamper which is using for vinyl manufacturing. Stamper is made from acetate in two steps. Stamper made from DMM in one step. Less steps in the middle of vinyl manufacturing is important for sound quality and this is one of the reasons why DMM are usually chosen for making vinyl records. 

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

 

  

1: DMM and acetate [covered with silver] plates without nickel, 2: Acetate or DMM plate with nickel, 3: Nickel master plate - father (stamper), © infoaudio.pl

 

Nickel master plate [father, stamper] can be coated with nickel again to produce a 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 records. One mother can produce six new fathers.

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

 

  

1: Nickel master plate - father (stamper), 2: checking of correctness of nickel master plate, 3: convex ridges of nickel master plate, © infoaudio.pl

 

When master plate [father, stamper] is ready and checked, final step of vinyl manufacturing is implemented. A certain portion 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 [father, stamper] can provide 1000 vinyl records, but before that, a few test pressings are made and they are sent to music company for the final acceptance of the product. If something is wrong with a sound and quality, a new acetate plate 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 [acetate or DMM plates - mothers for every side of the final product]:

  • master disc [acetate or 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 produce more vinyl records, a new master discs set [acetate or DMM plates] have to be prepared in mastering studio.

 

Run-out-grooves

Run-out-grooves [called sometimes 'a deadwax'] usually show names [or logos] of two companies: mastering studio and pressing plant. It often happens that it is clearly visible who was responsible for vinyl pressing but there is 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 stage [positive image]:

Mastering studio Pressing plant

Marks are made on master disc [acetate or DMM] by mastering engineer.

Text is usually smooth and deep.

Marks are made on mother made from father by pressing plant engineer.

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.

Mastering studios can mark RE1 [recut 1] if the first cut of lacquer disc [acetate or DMM] was unsuccesful and another master disc was produced.

Details added: the name of pressing plant and internal work numbers [sometimes side A/B/C/D information, catalog number if mastering studio did not do it].

Pressing plant can mark RE1 [remake 1] if there was a need to produce a new father because the first one was unsuccesfull or damaged.

 

UK Releases

All Madonna's UK vinyl releases were mastered and pressed in many different mastering/pressing plants. Some examples:

  Run-out-groove Mastering studio Pressing plant

Causing A Commotion *

7" single, W8224

A: W8224 A // 1▼420R

B: W8224 B // 1▼420R

R - Master Room ▼420 - Polygram UK

Open Your Heart *

12" single, W8480T

A: W8480T A // 1▼420V Bazza

B: W8480T B // 1▼420V

V - Trident Studios

(Bazza - nickname of Barry Grint)

▼420 - Polygram UK

Angel

12" single, W8881T

A: W8881T-A MT Damont

B: W8881T-B MT Damont

MT - Musitech Damont

Deeper And Deeper

12" single, W0146TP

A: W-0146-TP-A ORLAKE

B: W-0146-TP-B

? ORLAKE

Justify My Love **

12" single, W9000T

A: W9000(T)

A2 CopyMasters.Miles.PR-P

B: W9000(T)

B2 CopyMasters.Miles.PR-P

CopyMasters

(Miles - Miles Showell)

PR-P - P.R. Records Limited

Borderline ***

12" single, W9260T

A: XW 9260 TA-1U-1- Bazza

B: XW 9260 TB-1U-1-

1U-1 - Abbey Road Studio

(Bazza - Barry Grint)

EMI Records

* 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.

** A2 and B2 means that vinyl was pressed from a 2nd set of master discs sent to pressing plant from 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 master discs. 1U-1 - letter identifies Warner Music. 1U-1 - vinyl was pressed from a 1st mother made from a father.

 

Vinyl made by EMI for Warner Music [1], CopyMaster - mastering studio with "Miles" what identifies Miles Showell - a mastering engineer [2]:

 

 

Vinyl made by P.R. Records Limited with "m" as a short of mastering engineer [1], Vinyl made by Polygram UK and mastered at Trident Studios [2]:

 

 

German Releases

Some examples of German run-out-grooves information:

  Run-out-groove Additional information

Open Your Heart

12" single, 920597-0

A: R/S Alsdorf 920597-0-A2

B: R/S Alsdorf 920597-0-B2

Pressing plant: Record Service Alsdorf

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

True Blue

12" single, 920564-0

A: R/S Alsdorf 920564-0-A

B: R/S Alsdorf 920176-0-A 920564-0-B RME

Pressing plant: Record Service Alsdorf

RME - signature of mastering engineer - Rainer M. Ehrhardt

Side B was pressed using stamper for Holiday single - old matrix information is erased and new one is stamped next to it

Bye Bye Baby

12" single, 9362 41195-0

A: WMME Alsdorf 936 241195-0-A

B: WMME Alsdorf 936 241195-0-B

Pressing plant: Warner Music Manufacturing Europe Alsdorf

What It feels Like For A Girl

12" single, 9362 42379-0

A: B146895-01 A1 HL

B: B146895-01 B1 HL

Pressing plant: Optimal Media

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

 

Most of Madonna's German records are pressed by Record Service Alsdorf (RSA) [1], Warner Music Manufacturing Europe Alsdorf (WMME) [2], and Optimal Media [3];

  

 

US Releases

US vinyl releases are mostly pressed by two pressing plants: Specialty Records Corporation (SRC logo on the run-out-grooves, [1]) and Allied Record Company (characteristic sing - something like Q letter after catalog number, [2]):

 

 

Some examples of mastering studios:

  • Sterling Sound NYC [1],
  • Masterdisk NYC [2],
  • Future Disc [3],
  • Frankford/Wayne Mastering Labs NYC [4]

    

 

Some examples of mastering engineers:

  • Bill Kipper (Masterdisk BK) [1],
  • Herb  Powers Jr (Herbie Jr:)) [2],
  • Robert Ludwig (Sterling RL),
  • Ted Jensen (Sterling TJ) 

 

 

Some examples of US run-out-grooves information:

Angel - 12" single, 9 20335-0

SRC logo 0-20335-A-SR1 MASTERDISK BK

Masterdisk BK SR1 SRC logo
Mastering studio resposible for master disc and engineer Bill Kipper Vinyl pressed from a 1st set of master dics sent to pressing plant from the mastering studio Specialty Records Co. - company responsible for vinyl pressing

 

Burning Up - 12" single, 9 29715-0

STERLING 0-29715 A SH1 Q B-17806-SH1 SLM △ 3824 /-/

Sterling SH1 Q logo

Mastering studio resposible for master disc

[SLM △ - clean metal plate with laquer used to manufacture master disc was made at Sheffield Lab Matrix]

Vinyl pressed from a 1st set of master dics sent to pressing plant from the mastering studio Allied Records Co. - company responsible for vinyl pressing

 

Like A Virgin - 12" single, 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 /-/

Frankford/Wayne NY by Herb Powers Jr. Masterdisk SH1 SH3 Q

Mastering studio resposible for master disc and engineer Herb Powers Jr.

[SLM △ - clean metal plate with laquer used to manufacture the master disc was made at Sheffield Lab Matrix]

Side A pressed from a 1st set of master discs and side B pressed from a 3rd set of master discs sent to pressing plant from a mastering studio  Allied Records Co. - company responsible for vinyl pressing

 

© Kamil Kaznowski, Maciej Stańczak