How to optimise audio files for vinyl

Please remember that a vinyl record is an analogue medium! On CD (or another digital medium) you can get away with almost anything, an analog vinyl record has limitations.

Remember vinyl-rule number one: longer sides means lower volume levels

If possible, please balance the duration of the sides, i.e. not side A: 7 minutes, side B: 20 minutes.

Beware of extremes

Low frequencies take more space on the disc than mid- and high frequencies , so they will fill the disc sooner, i.e reducing the available playing time at the choosen level or forcing the cutting engineer to reduce the level to fit the track(s) on the side of the vinyl record. Excessive high frequencies may give rise to distortions on playback forcing the cutting engineer to limit or lower the amount of top or lower the overall level. (For those who really care: remember the RIAA curve gives about 18 dB boost at 18 kH)

Do not try to compensate for possible losses; it will usually make matters worse.

Use a Phase Corellation Meter

Keep your bass (all instruments with lots of low frequencies) in the middle of your mix, avoid excessive stereo separation and watch out for bad phase-relationships. Excessive stereo separation and out of phase signals, particulary at low frequencies, can result in grooves on the vinyl record that have large vertical excursions.

Listen in Mono

Extreme left or right panning results in large out-of-phase signals and complex grooves wich may create playback problems.

Most of these problems can be avoided by checking your mix in mono and making small alterations to make your mix better mono-compatible, a better mono-compatible mix usually also sounds better in stereo.

Avoid Distortion

Beware of distorted sounds, they will maybe still sound OK to you om your digital master but by the analogue nature of the viniy record any distortions might increase during the processing and end up totaly unacceptable on the final cut. We sometimes receive files with heavy overloads. Overload still means DISTORTION. This distortion increases with every digital or analogue processing or copying/disc-cutting.

Peak level on your master vs peak level on the vinyl

The digital level on your track has nothing to do with the Loudness of your future vinyl record. Remember they are two completely different media. The level of your vinyl disc depends on the total playingtime, the frequency-content and the dynamics of your music.

18 February 2020