Find out more about the Mastercut (Mastering and Cutting) process which is the first step in the vinyl production
The first stage of creating a vinyl record is the mastering. The mastering engineer will take the provided audio master and if necessary, he will make adjustments to ensure that it is appropriate for the cutting and the production of the vinyl records.
When we receive the audio masters, we consider them to be ready for vinyl production, meaning that the client is aware about the dynamics and the frequency range. Our aim is to achieve the most accurate transfer of the provided audio material to vinyl while preserving the intended sound.
In case the client wants a louder cut, only basic modifications can be made to the supplied data in order to conform to vinyl record characteristics and parameters, while minimizing the risk of distortion and preserving the full range of audible frequencies.
Once the vinyl master is ready, it is used to create a master plate which is commonly known as “lacquer”. Lacquer is an acetate coated aluminium disc with a 14” diameter. This is achieved by using a dedicated cutting head, consisting of two moving coils positioned perpendicular to each other, to capture the left and right channel information. The movements of both coils are then transferred to a cutting stylus, which has a sharp triangular tip, to cut a spiral V-shaped sound groove into a nitrocellulose layer covered on an aluminum disc. The stylus is heated to facilitate the cutting process.
This process creates a physical version of the sound that can be used to create the metal stampers needed for the pressing stage. It is recommended to begin as soon as possible this process with the already cut lacquers to minimize the potential deformations of the grooves which can be caused by environmental factors such as heat.
Pros and Cons
- A lacquer cutting can accommodate more out-of-phase low frequency signals (such as bass guitar or a kick drum placed only in one channel). However, this also increases the risk of mis-tracking during playback.
- The grooves with such cutting are wider and deeper and more tolerant of surface damage. It provides a better resistance to skipping caused by poorly calibrated turntables. However, excessively wide and deep grooves can create difficulties during galvanic and pressing processes, often resulting in more noise, crackles, and pops.
- Lacquer mastering is particularly suitable for shorter and louder recordings, such as those used in dance music and in DJ scratching tools due to the softer lacquer material which is used in mastercut. This allows very high cutting levels which can result very loud records. However, this also increases the risk of distortion and mis-tracking on some turntables.