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Curved Pressings, The Green House, 49 Green Lanes, London, N16 9BU

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300 x 12” Printed Labels

300 x 12” Printed Labels

Offer 2: £729 (ex VAT and delivery)

Includes:
Professional mastering
Printed centre labels
Plain card sleeves

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300 x 7” Coloured Vinyl With Printed Labels

300 x 7” Coloured Vinyl With Printed Labels

Offer 20: £729 (ex VAT and delivery)

Includes:
Professional mastering
Choice of stock colour vinyl
Printed centre labels
Plain PVC sleeves

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Production of a record

The production of vinyl records is split into 3 main areas:

Mastering & Cutting / Galvanics & Processing / Pressing

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– Mastering & Cutting

Once the music is complete and recorded onto a CD or DAT, it will be sent to a vinyl cutting suite.  Here, the audio is first mastered.

The mastering involves playing the audio through a series of EQ’s (where treble, mid-range and bass content can be altered) and compressor/ limiters (where level is controlled by reducing the impact of peaks/transients in the audio, so as to increase the average peak volume, so a louder sounding signal is perceived /cut).

Multiband (the signal split into treble/ mid/ bass) compressors/ limiters can also be used.  If for instance, there are one or two loud crash cymbals or sibilant vocals, these can be reduced with careful set-up, so as to not reduce the specific frequency for the whole track.

Once a good mastered sound is achieved, the audio is cut onto a master lacquer. This is an acetate coated aluminum disc, 14” diameter (larger than the finished product, so as to be handled in the production process).  This is achieved by sending the mastered audio to the cutting amp rack.

Here the signal is first passed through the RIAA curve system (see How a Record Works), then into 2 power amplifiers. Imagine these as high quality audio amplifiers, around 600watts per channel (left and right).

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This amplifies the audio from the line level input and sends the signal to the ‘cutting head’. Imagine the cutting head as two very accurate, small, loud speakers, but instead of driver a paper cone as in a speaker, the magnets/coils drive 2 metal rods (1 per channel).  These two ‘drive rods’ meet at the cutting stylus, which can therefore be driven in both the horizontal (level) and vertical (stereo) axis.

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The master lacquer is rotating at the specified playback speed, and the cutting head is lowered onto it. The cutting head is pushed across the rotating lacquer by the ‘vari-groove’.

This piece of equipment listens to the audio signal, and pushes the head across the lacquer, at a higher or lower rate depending on the audio level. This is to ensure that cutting grooves in the record do not crash into each other, and that disc space is maximised in quiet passages.

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The cutting head, tipped with a sapphire cutting stylus, cuts the soft lacquer out of the rotating disc, by moving up and down, left and right, as the lacquer rotates beneath it, tracing out an exact waveform representation of the music/ input. (see How a Record Works).

– Galvanics & Processing

Once the master lacquer has been cut, it has to be ‘processed’ into metal ‘stampers’, that can be put into the pressing machines. Clearly a soft lacquer would be destroyed by the extreme pressure/ temperature in a record press (see Pressing section).

This is achieved by a very delicate and complex process. Firstly, the lacquer is cleaned carefully using a washing system where no physical contact is made with the lacquer, other than with liquids. The lacquer is then ‘sensitised’, again a liquid ‘dip’ so as to prepare the lacquer for ‘silvering’.

This is where the lacquer, placed on a slowly rotating vertical turntable, is sprayed with a very fine silver nitrate spray. This penetrates the lacquers grooves with exact accuracy, and prepares the lacquer with a now metal surface, ready for the electro-plating process.

This process involves the silvered disc being submerged in a nickel sulphamate electrolyte solution, and being connected to the ‘rectifiers’ as one of the electric terminals in a plating procedure, which deposits nickel onto the silvered disc. This goes on for one and a half hours or so, after which, thick enough deposits of nickel have been made on the disc to support itself, and it is ‘separated’ from the original disc. This is called a ‘negative’, as it is a mirror image of the lacquer.

This negative is cleaned, coated with passivator (this stops the coming ‘positive’ from bonding to it ) and then goes back into the plating baths again, to make a ‘positive’, by the same electro-plating process previously outlined. This is the positive, and exact, and nickel metal, playable, copy of the master lacquer.

After separation from the negative, this again, goes into the plating baths, same process, to make a ‘stamper’.  This is a direct copy of the negative.  Several of these can be made from the positive, as many as needed, depending on the quantity of records required (generally one stamper is good for around 1,000 records, before it splits in the press or is worn out / discoloured (see Pressing).

After separation, the stamper is trimmed and ‘formed’, ready to be fixed into the press.

– Pressing

Vinyl records are pressed by introducing the raw material, (PVC), into a press, where temperature and hydraulic pressure squeeze the raw vinyl into the shape of the stampers, to leave the imprint of the original master lacquer.

The stampers are fixed to ‘moulds’ in the press, one for each side of the record. These steel moulds contain a labyrinth of tunnels inside them, where steam or cold water can be introduced under high pressure, to control the temperature exactly during the pressing procedure.

Firstly, the raw vinyl is heated and formed into a ‘puck’. This is a hot, soft slab of raw material, with a weight/ content a little more than that in the finished record. This is introduced into the middle of the press. The record labels are introduced above and below this puck on a ‘label arm’, and then ‘centre pins’, top and bottom, come through the centre of the moulds, to hold the labels in the centre, and stop vinyl filling the centre hole. The moulds are heated with steam to around 140 degrees, the press closes utilising a hydraulics system, to around one ton of pressure.

Under this pressure and heat, the puck is squeezed out and fills the space exactly between the stampers. After a few seconds, the steam is replaced with cold water. This allows the record to become firm enough to be removed from the press.

This record is then placed on the ‘trimming turntable’, where excess vinyl is cut away to leave a 12” disc. This, once cooled, is ready to play.

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