Everybody’s releasing vinyl!

28 Jun 2013

Well, maybe not everybody, but in the last week we’ve mastered four albums at Hafod Mastering, and every single one of them is going to be released on vinyl. Hooray!

VinylCian Ciaran of Super Furry Animals fame has recovered from the thoughtful introspection of his first solo album, “Outside In”, and this follow-up, “They are nothing without us”, is an exhilarating, distorted, multiple-drum-kit extravaganza.

Welsh-language best-sellers Yr Ods’s third release and second album, “Llithro”, is a fantastically rich collection of synth-pop anthems, with respectful nods to 1970s and 1990s psychedelia.

Gareth Bonello, aka The Gentle Good, spent 7 weeks in China jamming with folk musicians and recording anything that moved, and has come home and created a sublime new record around these sounds and influences, called “Y Bardd Anfarwol”.

And finally, The Weary Band from Bristol crossed the Severn Bridge with a big warm hug of a record, “You can get lost”, which was a real joy to master.

And all of these artists have come around to what we old cynics have been saying for the last few decades, which is that vinyl as a format sounds amazing, and that an album has more presence and gravitas if it’s on an actual record.

If you’re considering vinyl for your next release, please consider these few pointers:

– Record and mix at high resolution, ideally at 96kHz 24 bit. We will then do the mastering and deliver files for the cut at that same high resolution. That means that the record will have all that beautiful, subtle detail that you gain from working at higher resolutions, and it’ll sound better than the CD, which will have been re-sampled and dithered down to CD’s standard 44.1kHz 16bit, let alone all the compression to tiny mp3 files for online distribution and streaming.

– Pan all your low frequencies (bass, kick, deep synths) dead centre; keep your vocal sibilance under control; and keep everything in phase. Get any of these wrong and you’ll cause problems when it comes to cutting the vinyl and they can have detrimental effects on the finished record.

– Pick an engineer you trust to cut the vinyl. If your budget will allow it, our man John Dent is one of the best cutting engineers in the business and will make sure the mastered files are transferred beautifully to the record.

– If the cut is included in your vinyl production package, please please make sure that they know what they’re doing with the cut. Ask your contact whether they’ll cut directly from high resolution files, and try and sense whether they’re telling the truth when they say, “Yes, of course we do”!

It’s not unusual for the high resolution files to be burned to an audio CD, and that CD then played into the cutting lathe. Obviously that throws away all that lovely high resolution detail that we’ve all worked hard to maintain, and your record will sound no better than the CD master, in fact probably worse because they’ll have used some bog-standard re-sampling and dither algorithms when burning the audio CD. (Can you sense that it makes us quite angry when this happens to our clients’ records?!)

– Get a test vinyl pressing. It costs a little bit more and you’ll have to allow some extra time, but it’s the only way to make sure they’ve done a decent job with the cut. If it doesn’t sound right, send it back for another cut. If the second cut’s no good, bail out and choose a better supplier!

– And finally, leave plenty of time in your release schedule for this. Producing vinyl is a more complex and considered process than pressing CDs for release, so you’ll need to plan some contingency into your schedule to allow for it taking longer in the first place and also re-cuts if necessary.

And most of all, enjoy how awesome it sounds 🙂