Preparing your Master

It is important to be familiar with the limitations and specific requirements for masters supplied for cutting records. Masters produced for CD are often incompatible with LP masters. We at Zenith think it’s important that you know the differences, so you can prepare suitable masters for Vinyl cutting. Please read the following carefully, and if you have any further questions, please email us info@zenithrecords.org

Please make sure that all Audio files sent to us include all the information we require, this includes a cue sheet with track times, the file type, Bitrate, Sample rate… the more information you provide us with the less room for error.
Ideally we prefer files supplied 24 bit 48K WAV or AIFF files.

Playing Times

Vinyl Records have limitations on side lengths which vary according to the recording technique used. The longer the sides, the quieter the music has to be cut, but we will always try to make your music as loud as possible. The following table lists the typical dB levels available for the various formats of discs.

TWELVE INCHES
33 rpm
dB
NOTES
45 rpm
dB
NOTES
14 mins
+4
Loud dance / hip-hop
10 mins
+4
Loud dance / hip-hop
18 mins
+2
Great length for rock’n’roll
12 mins
+4
Great
20 mins
+1
Good
14 mins
+2
Maximum recommended
22 mins
0
OK
16 mins
0
Suggest 33 rpm
24 mins
-1
Maximum recommended
SEVEN INCHES
33 rpm
dB
NOTES
45 rpm
dB
NOTES
5 mins
+2
Loud single
3 mins
+3
Good & loud single
6 mins
0
Normal EP volume
4 mins
+1
Good
7 mins
-1
Maximum recommended
5 mins
0
Maximum recommended
8 mins
-2
Getting quiet
6 mins
-1
Suggest 33 rpm

* “7” records over 5 minutes on 33rpm are not recommended as the sound quality is sacrificed. Unless a lo-fi sounding record is what you are after, we recommend you steer clear of this.”

  •  7″ Records over 5 minutes on 45rpm are not recommended (we will not cut     programs longer than 5mins 30 sec)
  • If you are seeking the best playback response for your 7″ project, we advise strongly against cutting 7″ Records at 33 RPM as high end frequencies are limited and the overall sound is compromised . If you are conversant with these limitations and are happy with a “lo-fi” sound, then we cut as per your requirements. The absolute maximum length we will cut 33RPM is 7mins 30 seconds

Masters

Masters can be  supplied as per the following:

  • Via online link (dropbox / WeTransfer / Hightail etc)
  • USB / CD / DVD as data

Accompanying the master must be a clearly legible cue sheet showing the Start and Finish times of each track, the Artist and Title, track names, Label and Catalogue Number (if used) and if you like, any inscriptions required on the vinyl runout grooves – limit 10 characters

Unless specifically instructed otherwise, we will cut your master exactly as it is presented. We can of course EQ, limit, compress, re-edit and if necessary we can cut a reference acetate / dub plate for your approval, at an extra cost.

A and B Sides

Masters can be supplied as 2 continuous WAV files or individual tracks

Please ensure you supply a cue sheet (particularly if supplying masters as 2 continuous WAV files so the cutting engineer can know exactly where tracks begin and end

If supplying individual tracks, please ensure that they are named A1, A2 / B1, B2 etc so there is no confusion about which order and on what sides the tracks are to be located when cutting. It is important to include the silence you require between tracks in the actual tracks as we will not introduce silence or gaps between the tracks when we compile your master for cutting.

All tracks should be level matched and EQ’d to your taste. Unlike CD’s, vinyl levels are relative. There’s nothing to be gained by squeezing a master though a digital maximiser such as a TC Electronics Finaliser set on ‘maximum’ to produce a constant digital level of O dB, unless you particularly like that sort of sound.

Phasing

When a recording is “in phase”, the stylus moves nicely from left to right. When it’s “out of phase”, the stylus moves up and down, causing it to jump out of the groove given half a chance. In the “good old days” of expensive studios, most good consoles had a ‘phase correlation meter’ on the output. Since phase is irrelevant to CD, this expensive extra is usually unavailable to todays engineers, leading to major headaches when trying to cut vinyl from digitally recorded or mixed masters.

Especially critical is the bottom end – when this is out of phase, the recording can be near impossible to cut. Extremely “subby” dance mixes usually present the biggest problem but are OK if the bass & kick are in phase. It’s not such a problem for lo-fi garage recordings, unless the feedback gets REALLY trebly and piercing, which will be removed during cutting anyway. Well-recorded acoustic stuff is no problem at all. Most problems come from live recordings made from the desk, or from stereo samples where a plug-in DSP has removed a solo instrument or leaving the rhythm track. Using Stereo widening Plugins is often disastrous, and may cause the inner tracks to sound dull. Mono samples panned near to the centre don’t have the same problem.

How can I tell if my mix is out of phase?
If you don’t have a phase correlation meter on your desk or in your hardware, try reversing the phase of one side of your mix and listen to the result in Mono, panning both sides to the centre. If the mix is entirely in phase and the levels match, then the result will be almost silence. Reverbs and flanged/phased sounds won’t entirely cancel because they rely on being a bit out of phase to work. As long as the result is mainly high frequency, there won’t be a problem. If heaps of bottom end still comes through, there will be a problem and the record may need a remix in order to be cut at all.

Hint: Many mixers invert the phase of the signal from the Aux sends, so you can send one side of the mix from an Aux send, return it to another channel and then mono it as above to check the phasing.