- Make sure you have read these FAQS and prepared your audio to be uploaded before you place your order.
- Choose your vinyl format and the number of tracks you would like on each side. Add up to 19 additional copies to your order at a lower cost (contact us via email if you require more).
- Place your order via the online shop, then transfer your audio files (via WeTransfer etc) in a zipped folder named with your order number.
- Make sure you let us know what order you would like your tracks in by including a text file with any special instructions.
- We will send you a receipt to confirm that we have received your order.
- Our cutting engineer will check your audio files are suitable for cutting and contact you to arrange payment.
- After we have received your payment your order will enter the queue to be cut. See the home page for current turnaround times.
- If you require more copies of the same order at later date, you can get them at a reduced rate.
Postage is calculated based on location and weight. UK postage is included in all orders under 20 pieces (except the 50x square cut deal). Sometimes we use a courier (usually DPD, UPS or Parcelforce) and sometimes Royal Mail. UK remote areas, Highlands & Islands may incur a surcharge. Larger and high value orders are always sent fully insured. We ship worldwide and customers outside the UK should get in touch for a shipping quote before ordering.
We’ve cut thousands of sides on our machines and we can count complaints about the sound quality on one hand. The main lathe we are using is, for all intents and purposes, home-made. The lathes used to master pressed records are not – they are (or were in the early 80’s when the last handful of new lathes were made) incredibly well engineered, precision manufacturing equipment. Mastering lathes such as the Neumann VMS series have helium-cooled transducers with negative feedback, capable of cutting frequencies well beyond 20kHz (though find us a record with transcribed audio in that range, a cartridge to reproduce it and ears that can hear it in a double-blind test and we will cut your records for free for life). The transducers in our lathe are nowhere near as fancy -they colour the sound somewhat and we do what we can to reduce this with corrective EQ.
Then there’s the discs themselves. Plastic is a lot harder than nitrocellulose lacquer, ergo the noise floor is a little higher.
There are other little quirks and certainly areas where our set-up can be (and over time will be) improved when funds permit, but for now we’re quite happy with it and so are the overwhelming majority of our customers. Just don’t expect ‘audiophile’ records… though many self-proclaimed sets of ‘golden ears’ have been very happy with our cuts.
Lathe cut records should not really be thought of as being the same as mass-produced pressed records, more as a hand-made alternative.
Digital audio is very linear, i.e., what you put in, you get out. It allows you to record full-scale audio at 20kHz and beyond, out of phase sounds, sibilance and various other undesireable things. Records are a physical medium – we are dealing with grooves in plastic, cut by an extremely sharp diamond, not ones & zeros, so records are governed by the laws of physics. This results in several ‘limitations’.
Records will never be as loud as ‘brickwalled’ digital audio can be. Trying to cut audio that has had all of the dynamics squashed out of it just results in distortion, if it can be cut at all. It does not result in louder records. If anything, it will be cut quieter.
You may also notice some slight high-frequency loss if your sounds contain very loud high frequencies, though this is partly due to the use of spherical playback styli and can be improved to some degree by use of an eliptical stylus (this comes with it’s own set of problems however). Excessive high frequency levels and sibilance can cause a spherical playback stylus to mis-track the groove walls, resulting in audible distortion. Many of the physical limitations of vinyl are related to playback.
There is also the matter of the energy required to accelerate the cutting stylus to the velocity required to cut a loud, high frequency groove. This creates excessive heat in the cutterhead transducer coils and can permanently damage or even destroy them.
To prevent damage and excessive distortion, frequencies above 16kHz have a 6dB/oct low-pass filter applied to them. Similarly very low frequencies (below 30Hz) have a 6dB/oct high-pass filter applied to prevent excessive lateral stylus excursion and allow more recording time on the disc.
The duration of the supplied audio has a significant impact on the overall quality of the cut. Longer sides, cut at 33rpm, will typically have to be cut much quieter than shorter sides cut at 45rpm. Surface noise becomes more noticable at lower cutting levels. Distortion increases as the recording approaches the centre of the disc. This is true of all vinyl records, not just lathe cuts.
If you would like to know more, please contact us for some recommended reading.
Care should be taken to avoid high levels of out of phase stereo information (where left and right channels are a ‘mirror image’ of each other), particularly in the low frequencies – see ‘how should I mix my music?’
If you require records cut at extremely high ‘club’ levels, stereo effects should be kept to an absolute minimum – most club systems are mono anyway.
Avoid psychoacoustic stereo processing and ‘enhancements’ such as widening altogether.
Our stereo lathe can also cut mono discs.
You may notice that the discs themselves are more flexible than pressed records.
7” = 4 min a side (up to 7 min possible at ‘EP’ level)
10” = 7 min a side (up to 10 min possible at ‘EP’ level)
12” = 10 min a side (up to 15 min possible at ‘EP’ level & up to 18 min possible at ‘LP’ level)
Throughout this site, the following terms are used when referring to cutting levels (reference 0dB = 5cm/sec @ 1kHz):
LP level = average peaks -4dB to 0dB
EP level = average peaks 0dB to +4dB
‘Single’ level = average peaks 0dB to +4dB
‘club’ level = average peaks +4dB to +6dB
All bass instruments should be dead centre. Out of phase low frequencies may cause the playback stylus to jump out of the groove or track incorrectly. Also, avoid frequencies below 20Hz – not only are they acoustically redundant, but the resonant frequency of a tonearm is deliberately set there and this will cause problems on playback.
Check your mix for phasing problems by summing your mix to mono and listening out for disappearing instruments. Phase cancellation may cause a disappearing or interrupted groove on vinyl. If the groove disappears, the playback stylus will skip.
Avoid sibilance! Use a de-esser on vocals if necessary. Records accentuate sibilance.
Avoid high levels in the >16kHz range altogether and also significant boosting in the 8 to 16k range, you won’t get it back on the record. Not a lot of music happens above about 12k and boosting here just creates heat in the coils of the cutterhead, resulting in distortion.
Go easy on the limiting and compression across the whole mix. Less really is more in this case as dynamic audio can actually be cut louder. Light compression can make a good mix sound great, but it isn’t good for cutting if everything gets squished so that every single transient is hitting full-scale – ‘brickwalled’ mixes have to be cut quieter to avoid distortion.
Leave some headroom. Aim for peaks of around -6dBfs and certainly no higher than -3dBfs. There is nothing to be gained by sending files normalised and/or brickwalled to -0.1dBfs. Average levels in the -20 to -12dBfs range will keep your audio sufficently out of the noise floor.
44.1 to 192kHz, 16 or 24-bit WAV is preferred.
We can use mp3 if that is all you have (320kbps only – the compression artifacts on lower bit-rate material do not sound too good on vinyl), but please do not ‘convert’ mp3’s to lossless formats expecting them to sound better – they won’t, all you are doing is increasing the file size and probably losing a little more quality in the conversion. An mp3 will always sound like an mp3. Similarly, if your session is all, say, 48kHz material, don’t resample it to another sample frequency – just bounce or export your final mix in the same format as the session. Please bear in mind that there is no advantage in sending us 32-bit files.
We are confident that you will be as happy with our records as many other people before you have been, however, if you are in anyway unsure about this, it is recommended that you order a one-off cut.