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Author Topic: I need some help from the vinyl cutters.  (Read 8718 times)

Thomas W. Bethel

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I need some help from the vinyl cutters.
« on: July 25, 2011, 08:55:01 am »

Here is an email I got from the vinyl engineer that is cutting a record of some Cajan music I mastered...

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I am cutting your new project for vinyl and have a few concerns about the masters.

The biggest issue is the balance between how the music is mixed.  The vocals are mixed significantly louder than the backing music.  If I try to cut the music at a level that is good for commercial releases, the vocals distort badly.  If I drop the volume level to a point where the vocals do not distort, the backing music is very quiet.

I have attached two samples for you to hear. (MP3s ARE NOT ATTACHED TO THIS POSTING)

The first is a sample that is cut at a level that most commercial releases are cut at.  The vocal is distorted badly.

The second is a sample where the entire volume has been dropped.  You will notice the vocals still showing some distortion, but not as bad.  If I continue to drop the level to get rid of the distortion, you will have a record that is very quiet overall.

Thanks for listening.
---------------------------------------------
The music was Cajan/Zydeco and was delivered to the vinyl cutter with peaks at -5 dBFS and RMS at about -12 dBFS. It is acoustic music and was recorded live in concert. The client and the mix engineer liked very much what I did. When a vinyl cutter talks about "commercial levels" what is he really saying? I think most of what this particular vinyl cutting engineer cuts is rock and roll. This is not rock and roll. As to balance so the vocals are not mixed in with the music why is this a problem??? Zydeco relies on two main elements the washboard and vocals. They should both be heard.


Suggestions???? comments????? Thanks in advance...
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Thomas W. Bethel
Managing Director
Acoustik Musik, Ltd.
http://www.acoustikmusik.com/

Doing what you love is freedom.
Loving what you do is happiness.

Celebrating 25 years in business in 2020

SafeandSoundMastering

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Re: I need some help from the vinyl cutters.
« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2011, 09:51:06 am »

Hi there, I am not a vinyl cutter but do a fair amount pre mastering work for vinyl, if I had a choice (and you sometimes do not) I would not have sent a 24bit master file at -10RMS for a vinyl cut. A little hot for comfort.
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Barry Gardner
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Viitalahde

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Re: I need some help from the vinyl cutters.
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2011, 10:00:22 am »

Hi there, I am not a vinyl cutter but do a fair amount pre mastering work for vinyl, if I had a choice (and you sometimes do not) I would not have sent a 24bit master file at -10RMS for a vinyl cut. A little hot for comfort.

..Which has nothing to do with Tom's problem.

I would assume that the cutting engineer can't get his head around with level expectations. Does the client want it loud? If it's mixed that way, it should be cut that way.

I had a kind of an opposite situation, a really really great album with a rich mixture of swamp blues, zydeco, rock'n roll, ragtime stuff.. You name it. The client wanted it to distort just right on vocals (that were mixed on top), and we went through three test pressings to get there.

Anyhow, I would just talk with the client and the cutting engineer. It sounds to me that the client would understand the situation and that for the best results, the records shouldn't be cut too hot.

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Thomas W. Bethel

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Re: I need some help from the vinyl cutters.
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2011, 10:19:04 am »

When I was interning in Nashville sometimes we would do a flat cut meaning that the tapes came in already EQ'd and compressed and our job was to just put it on an acetate and send it out. This is basically what I was doing here. Not sure why the vinyl cutting engineer is getting involved in more mastering. The last time I sent some stuff to this same person he said my levels were too low when I sent them at -10 dBFS.

Trying to sort this all out....
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Thomas W. Bethel
Managing Director
Acoustik Musik, Ltd.
http://www.acoustikmusik.com/

Doing what you love is freedom.
Loving what you do is happiness.

Celebrating 25 years in business in 2020

SafeandSoundMastering

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Re: I need some help from the vinyl cutters.
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2011, 12:08:24 pm »

I could have sworn -10 RMS was in the post earlier. Oh well must have been edited.

Quote
Not sure why the vinyl cutting engineer is getting involved in more mastering.

Thats because it's a specific format that needs a lot of care and attention to get right and
it seems those who have not had much experience with it get it wrong, like V man and yourself. He is trying to help you out, I would get on the phone and speak it through with him, try and understand what he is saying and make adjustments.
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Barry Gardner
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Gold

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Re: I need some help from the vinyl cutters.
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2011, 12:15:05 pm »

I don't think the level (in dBfs) you deliver it at has any bearing at all. The disk level is set by the cutter. If the vocals are at all "peaky" it will be a problem to cut. In your first post you said it has a crest factor of 7dB. If the vocal is regularly jumping out 7dB I could see how this could be difficult to cut.

I don't think "commercial level" has much meaning in its self. If the side is short and he is trying to get the level as loud as it "should be" it may not work.
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Paul Gold
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JTransition

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Re: I need some help from the vinyl cutters.
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2011, 04:16:20 pm »

Here is an email I got from the vinyl engineer that is cutting a record of some Cajan music I mastered...

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I am cutting your new project for vinyl and have a few concerns about the masters.

The biggest issue is the balance between how the music is mixed.  The vocals are mixed significantly louder than the backing music.  If I try to cut the music at a level that is good for commercial releases, the vocals distort badly.  If I drop the volume level to a point where the vocals do not distort, the backing music is very quiet.

I have attached two samples for you to hear. (MP3s ARE NOT ATTACHED TO THIS POSTING)

The first is a sample that is cut at a level that most commercial releases are cut at.  The vocal is distorted badly.

The second is a sample where the entire volume has been dropped.  You will notice the vocals still showing some distortion, but not as bad.  If I continue to drop the level to get rid of the distortion, you will have a record that is very quiet overall.

Thanks for listening.
---------------------------------------------
The music was Cajan/Zydeco and was delivered to the vinyl cutter with peaks at -5 dBFS and RMS at about -12 dBFS. It is acoustic music and was recorded live in concert. The client and the mix engineer liked very much what I did. When a vinyl cutter talks about "commercial levels" what is he really saying? I think most of what this particular vinyl cutting engineer cuts is rock and roll. This is not rock and roll. As to balance so the vocals are not mixed in with the music why is this a problem??? Zydeco relies on two main elements the washboard and vocals. They should both be heard.


Suggestions???? comments????? Thanks in advance...

It seems to me that what the Vinyl Mastering Engineer is saying is that if he cuts the audio at his normal level it distorts and if he reduces the RDL to a level where the distortion has disapeared the backing music is near or effected by the natural noise floor of vinyl.The genre of music or the genre of music that he normally cuts has no relevance,It's a problem because he is in a no win situation.Why not call him and discuss?
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dietrich

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Re: I need some help from the vinyl cutters.
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2011, 04:58:19 pm »

Sounds like issue for artist to decide to do new mixdown or cut quiet.
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Laarsų

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Re: I need some help from the vinyl cutters.
« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2011, 06:34:44 pm »

I agree with Dietrich, Completely.   8)   Tom, your premastering work should have cast in stone the crest factor of the premaster that the mastering clerk will be transferring to disc for you.  A premaster has _already been_ premastered.  It, therefore, needs carefully, and advisedly, to be transferred flat - even without diameter EQ, iuam.  Furthermore, according to Digital Domain's old web site's FAQs, the crest factor of classic vinyl is on the order of 14 dB - twice that of your leapy Zydeco live (ugh) vocals, as mixed.   What's the problem?  It shoudn't be competing with >+4 dB/ref 5.5 cm/sec stereo singles, anyway...  His lathe is either too noisy (stylus heat?  Transcos?), or he doesn't have good monitors, or doesn't understand the engaging dynamism of audiophile styles (which I consider Zydeco to be), and/or he doesn't know how to attenuate the signals he is transferring very effectively..

How many years has the clerk been cutting lacquers who wrote you this?  If fewer than 2, I'd say he is still learning and should not be working on something which you - a seasoned premastering and mastering clerk - have touched unless there's a master masterer, there, to guide him.   Could be the cutter is still an apprentice. 
If he's so sure he is right, then he could always apply a parametric limiter (analog de-esser) and control the issue he's talking about, as if by magic.  But, he seems to realize that he's over his head-room, and has called the premastering clerk (you) for advice.  ):   Your client should cut and run!  (l;

Laarsų
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Laars Oglethorpe, V
Space Camp CD Premastering
Pivot dub lab vinyl products and consulting

Patrik_T

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Re: I need some help from the vinyl cutters.
« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2011, 06:57:52 pm »

..
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JTransition

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Re: I need some help from the vinyl cutters.
« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2011, 07:38:21 pm »

I agree with Dietrich, Completely.   8)   Tom, your premastering work should have cast in stone the crest factor of the premaster that the mastering clerk will be transferring to disc for you.  A premaster has _already been_ premastered.  It, therefore, needs carefully, and advisedly, to be transferred flat - even without diameter EQ, iuam.  Furthermore, according to Digital Domain's old web site's FAQs, the crest factor of classic vinyl is on the order of 14 dB - twice that of your leapy Zydeco live (ugh) vocals, as mixed.   What's the problem?  It shoudn't be competing with >+4 dB/ref 5.5 cm/sec stereo singles, anyway...  His lathe is either too noisy (stylus heat?  Transcos?), or he doesn't have good monitors, or doesn't understand the engaging dynamism of audiophile styles (which I consider Zydeco to be), and/or he doesn't know how to attenuate the signals he is transferring very effectively..

How many years has the clerk been cutting lacquers who wrote you this?  If fewer than 2, I'd say he is still learning and should not be working on something which you - a seasoned premastering and mastering clerk - have touched unless there's a master masterer, there, to guide him.   Could be the cutter is still an apprentice. 
If he's so sure he is right, then he could always apply a parametric limiter (analog de-esser) and control the issue he's talking about, as if by magic.  But, he seems to realize that he's over his head-room, and has called the premastering clerk (you) for advice.  ):   Your client should cut and run!  (l;

Laarsų
That is actually quite funny

But on a serious note I would advise that the client attends the cut and listens to the test cuts, What some people seem to be forgetting here is that the person who cuts the lacquer is doing the mastering everyone else is guessing (including me).I get jobs all the time that someone else could not cut but i get more jobs that were allegedly mastered for vinyl that will not transfer flat , some people will think they know better until you invite them over to have a listen to a test cut.
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Laarsų

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Re: I need some help from the vinyl cutters.
« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2011, 03:04:53 pm »

Quote from: JTransition
That is actually quite funny
Uh... "Acually?"    For the record, it was duly imbued with both mirth and earnestness.  (;
Quote from: JTransition
But on a serious note I would advise that the client attends the cut and listens to the test cuts.

Forcibly.  The client may well like the master better than the premaster.  But it would be wisest of all for the client to play an acetate of the premaster before having a master of it finished and pressed.  How else can the plating and pressing, later, be proofed?

As it happened, the Zydeco client - who may or may not have attended the cutting session - is not in this dialog of peers (between premasterer and masterer).   The masterer has e-mailed the premasterer for advice: whence his enquiry, here.

Quote from: JTransition
What some people seem to be forgetting here is that the person who cuts the lacquer is doing the mastering everyone else is guessing (including me).


I'm sorry you feel that way.  I happen to believe the opposite is so.  We are, in my opinion, all _quite aware_ that the cutter is the mastering clerk (the one who cuts the defacto "master"),  and that the OP is the premastering clerk (the one who recaptured the premaster(s)).   Mastering is only the transfer of a premaster to lacquer (full stop).   Often a mastering clerk will need to premaster the master (as in mix) tapes, him/herself  - involving splicing of masters to a common reel, setting of transfer eq, etc...   But when s/he does this, s/he is premastering prior to the cut.  So, mastering clerks do _both_, routinely, but the mastering clerk in Thomas's e-mail box sounds as if he's flummoxed for no good reason.

Quote from: JTransition
I get jobs all the time that someone else could not cut

What audio band signal can't be cut by a lathe (built after, say, 1956)?  If it's audible on tape or CD, some part of it must be able to drive the coils and thereby make modulated grooves that can be reproduced by J. Q. Pickup.   The parts that are too quiet to be heard on an acetate due to extreme micro-, and macro-, dynamics are not going to be heard, but the premaster which has only a 7 dB crest factor has every chance in Christendom of being cut at a decent level...  (+0 dB / ref 5.5 cm^2, stereo, is a mighty fine place at which to start.)   Quiet components of music are the most delightful, imo.  Toothpaste will make you sick if you try to eat it.  I hate peppermint, due to toothpaste, btw...

Which brings us to the principle fault of the cutter's dilemma:  He thinks the master should have an arbitrary RMS that is "competitive" ( ::)) with other, contemporary vinyl.   Whereas, all he was apparently asked to do is transfer the premaster, essentially, as-is.   The mastering clerk is, in truth, _not_ the decision-maker of such parameters.  When he is also hired to wear his premastering hat, he can worry about compression and expansion, all day.  However, when merely mastering (without also premastering), he should only be debating what is the ideal idiosyncratic level for the premaster, as well as matters such as the appropriate base pitch, tracing compatibility eq, and whether his head requires protective filtering (static and/or dynamic) for the extreme low (as for Ortofon pivoting cantilevers' susceptibility to being maimed by very big 808-like excursions) and artificial amounts of treble (addressed by acceleration limiting).   If the level at which the macrodynamics are just below distorting causes the RMS to be faintly low, it is the fault of the premaster.   However, it is implausible that a well-tuned lathe, with quiet lacquers, good stylus, with blank-tuned heat, can't deliver cleanly (enough) what both the cutter and our own Thomas, here, describes, unless the mastering clerk is trying to wear his premastering hat while being paid to do a flat transfer (and (paid to) wear only his mastering hat).
 

Quote from: JTransition
...but i get more jobs that were allegedly mastered for vinyl that will not transfer flat , some people will think they know better until you invite them over to have a listen to a test cut.
 

If it had been mastered for vinyl, there would be nothing left to cut.  ;)  If it has been premastered for lacquer cutting, there still needs to be determined a reasonable amount of console attenuation for the drive amps, and possibly the other brute force measures, cited above, for compatibility.  No one has asked the cutter to make aesthetic decisions beyond that which is germane to not destroying his head or not getting an ugly sound out of a beautiful premaster (which I'm certain Thomas has delivered). 

Thanks,
Laarsų
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Laars Oglethorpe, V
Space Camp CD Premastering
Pivot dub lab vinyl products and consulting

Thomas W. Bethel

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Re: I need some help from the vinyl cutters.
« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2011, 07:37:05 pm »

After talking it over with the producer we decided to go with one of the members of this board - Paul Gold. I know his work and I know how good he is.

End of story...

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Thomas W. Bethel
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Acoustik Musik, Ltd.
http://www.acoustikmusik.com/

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Patrik_T

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Re: I need some help from the vinyl cutters.
« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2011, 06:12:59 am »

...
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Thomas W. Bethel

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Re: I need some help from the vinyl cutters.
« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2011, 09:04:45 am »

Why not take the opportunity to make this the beginning of a story?

Maybe Paul could briefly share with the board the difficulties or troubles he finds with this stuff, not only from a crest-point-of-view. I guess everyone could learn something from it.

GREAT idea if Paul is willing to do it...thanks!
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Thomas W. Bethel
Managing Director
Acoustik Musik, Ltd.
http://www.acoustikmusik.com/

Doing what you love is freedom.
Loving what you do is happiness.

Celebrating 25 years in business in 2020
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