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Vinyl Mastering Notes

A question that is often asked is, “How should my audio be mastered for a vinyl project?”

How to master the audio for vinyl: Don’t overthink the mastering process or try to edit the audio too much. Also, ignore most of what you might read on forums. The best chance for a successful cut is to avoid the use of any compressors or limiters on the final mix (light compression on individual tracks before mixdown is ok). The audio should look like the ‘GOOD’ example below. The ‘BAD’ example looks like mountains with their peaks cut off.

Normal (high-fidelity) vs LOUD cut:

For a high-fidelity cut absolutely no distortion is accepted and the engineer will reduce cutting levels where possible instead of applying EQ or other tricks to prevent damaging the cutter head. In this case the overall volume is limited absolutely by the loudest peak in the audio, even if it’s extremely brief.

When the LOUD option is selected parts of the EQ range are cut out and the audio is optimized for a club style cut with emphasis on bass over mid-high frequencies. Also distortion is considered acceptable as long as it does not risk damaging the cutter head.

So what should I prepare/send?:

It is usually recommended to send totally unmastered audio direct from the desk or sequencer output, before any post mastering is done. No compression if possible. Normalize the audio (no clipped peaks or compression) and our engineer will take care of the rest in the cutting studio.  If there is anything that would make the audio impossible to cut, the engineer will not do the cut and we will work it out with you.

About heavy bass and mono bass

The dangers of trying to use stereo effects lower down is that when the stereo components are combined to mono they can act against each other and make parts of the mix disappear. This is called phase cancellation.

You should check for phase cancellation through your whole mixing and mastering process. Even the most basic mastering consoles have mono sum as the most important feature. If you don’t have a mastering console you can pan your left and right channels to center for a similar effect.

If you already finished your mix and realized you have a bunch of phase issues you can try using something like a phase inverter plugin or a stereo delay so the out of phase peaks don’t line up with each other. The easiest way to do it is nudge the tracks and/or apply filters in a sequencer while the mono sum is applied.

Read this SOS article on phase for more detailed explanation.

We generally prefer that clients send us the regular stereo mix and we will apply the correct mono summing on bass frequencies as appropriate.

Very heavy bass (constant dance / sub woofer type bass) might have to be summed mono at 600-800hz for good results. 600-800hz is a very safe figure intended to stop mastering amateurs completely screwing up their vinyl with out of phase bass. Very generally speaking, for most amateurs keeping everything from 0-600hz mono will make a record ‘punch’ more due to the physics of how a cutting head works. We understand that this is somewhat higher than the 300-400hz some plants recommend, but in our experience an out of phase or excessive stereo bass is much more damaging than a well done stereo bass is pleasing.

Sometimes we can avoid mono summing any frequencies at all (although this is rare with modern masters). Basically we use two pieces of equipment for dealing with problem bass – the ‘absolute stop’ to protect the head for stereo bass is an elliptical equalizer with anything between a 75 to 300hz crossover depending on the music and how it’s mastered. For most tracks these days both extremes are rare and usually the 150hz setting is chosen. If we mono sum the track on our console during pre-listening and find phase issues we will simply ramp up a second mono summing box.

If in doubt and if you don’t have the budget to make several test cuts it’s really better to mono stuff like kick drums and drone bass instead of forcing us to mono sum a bunch of unnecessary frequencies. For more musical bass recording and cutting in stereo is certainly no problem but it does take some careful mixing, mastering and mic’ing.

We would treat anything under 150hz as a total ‘no go area’ for stereo bass. 150-300hz be very careful – absolutely make sure your stereo channels are in phase. Beyond that you should be ok unless you go crazy. When we really want some psychedelic stereo effects or hard panning a simple trick we use is to double up the tracks in a sequencer, apply a curved low pass EQ to the first group panned mono, then apply some light compression/volume boost/separate EQ curve and high pass EQ to the second stereo group. With separate fine grained control over the mono and stereo parts you can really make a mix pop on vinyl.

With regards to stereo:

It’s impossible to get a 1:1 stereo separation on vinyl because the cutting is done with 2 coils arranged in a V shape. Apart from the fact that there will always be some bleed between channels the absolute limit is always in the vertical aspect of the groove. When stereo separation exceeds a certain level certain EQ ranges have to be panned to center to avoid the needle physically jumping out of the groove. That’s a physical limit of vinyl.

Final files should be .WAV in 44.1kHz or 48khz/24bit sampling.

To know how much you could (or should) fit on vinyl, check our interactive wizard at http://www.mobineko.com/vinyl-time-per-side-wizard

For any technical questions not covered in this entry, please contact us: martin@mobineko.com

 

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New Support System – Online Proof Approval

With Mobineko’s new Online Support system you can now view and approve or decline artwork proofs online! Here’s a step by step guide to approving your first proofs. You will receive an email from our system whenever you have new proofs to approve, or if something needs attention on your order.

Step 1: click the ‘need your response’ tab then click on your order ID.

Step 2: when proofs are  issued you can expand and drill down into the proofs menu.

Proof Approval Step 2

Step 3: if you are happy that there are no mistakes in your artwork just click the green ‘approve these proofs’ button. All done! Your artwork will instantly be queued for the next prepress operator to work on.

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CD onbody printing

A question that is often asked by clients is how we do our CD onbody printing. Here is an explanation in a nutshell:

Firstly we do not and have not ever used a digital printing process. For CD onbody we use two types of printing technology: 4 color offset printing from lithographic plates, or up to 5 color automated screenprinting. We use printing equipment from Hanky and Kodak, no inkjet printers here.

We give the option to our customers to either print on a clear transparent base or white base. Many customers do choose to print full color artwork onto a transparent base because it allows a futuristic metallic look through the semi transparent offset inks. Usually if a customer has a specific request about partial transparency they would contact us to make custom arrangements.For true screenprinting you can supply us with a separate vector (Illustrator, InDesign etc.) file for each screenprint color including a Pantone color number marked on the file.

Finally, as with all artwork submitted to us by clients, our pre-press design team will check then issue proofs (by email) for approval before going into print. This is an important step of the process since once the client approves these the printing process will commence. All artwork proofs must be viewed in CMYK compatible software (with calibrated monitor) for accurate colour representation.

 

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A few more projects we worked on – Algunos proyectos más

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No nos olvidemos de los vinilos de 7″!!!

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Estos son algunos de los artistas que confiaron en nosotros para en lanzamiento de sus producciones en vinilo…y tú, estas listo para el lanzamiento de tus producciones?

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Ahora en Mobineko también hablamos Español!!!!

Grandes novedades para todos nuestros amigos de habla Hispana. Ahora en Mobineko tenemos una linea de comunicación directa en la lengua de Cervantes. Sí porque a partir de este mes de Octubre, en Mobineko también se habla Español.
Comuníquense con nosotros a enrique@mobineko.com que estamos para atenderlos!!

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New Office Extension

We just completed the new office extension at Mobineko HQ but we are still waiting for some specialist power hookups in the mastering studio (Taiwan power is 110V @60hz but we mostly use European/UK gear that needs 220-240V @50hz).

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Lacquer Mastering Studio

We recently added more space to our Taichung, Taiwan office and we’re about half way through building a new lacquer mastering studio there. Check out the pics below!

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Mobineko Vinyl Promo Posters

We are back from the holidays with a new look, featured on these posters.

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