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really overengineered and built like tanks, especially Scully lathes.  New record presses are being made, however.

Kevin stated that when remastering older material, his goal is to match the sound of the original, rather than re-equalizing.  Mastering for playback on computers and phones basically isn’t done.  The discs are made to create two audio channels in one groove, with full frequency response.  Cutter head is fairly accurate and small.  The larger playback needle can’t track all the indentations in a groove, but if it were smaller, it would cut a new track every time.  A faster RPM disc lets a playback system reproduce more accurately and sound better, while slower discs put a lot of “data” in a short space, making it harder to track.  High frequency energy is harder to track than low frequency energy, hence the creation of the RIAA curve.

Does quality suffer because of a linear cutting system versus the pivot arm in the playback system?  The tracking error will be there, the trio said, although the better designed systems skew the geometry to minimize detrimental high frequency loss and distortion.  “When the curvature of the groove is greater than the diameter of the playback stylus, you’ve got distortion and high frequency loss,” said Kevin.  
Independent artists are keeping 7-inch 45 RPM vinyl alive as well. There are additional challenges for 45s, in that the groove largely starts where the 12” LP stops.  The playback geometry is even worse, although the higher RPM helps a bit.  For LPs, a 20 minute side or less is preferable.  Bernie said it depends somewhat on the type of music.  Hip hop really can’t go above 17 minutes, while classical can allow longer pieces.

Recordings in the past skimped on bass response because the groove needed to produce it would cause needles to skip.  Computers now can cut the grooves better, so the skipping problem is reduced and space on the disc is preserved better. Punchy bass with a high frequency transient leading edge can potentially throw the stylus out of the groove if the groove isn’t deep enough.  

It was a great evening with three of the best and most experienced vinyl mastering engineers in the business.  The AES-LA community wishes to thank them for their time and willingness to share stories.

......Recap by Kevin Salger


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