Working together is a must to press a great vinyl record. And that requires you, our dear client, to review your vinyl test pressing—the right way!
In this article, we’ll be discussing this critical steps of the vinyl manufacturing process.
Well, whatever you do in this step, will decide the quality of your vinyl records…so it’s extremely important. If you don’t catch any errors, then those errors will be in all of your records!
We hope you read through this thoroughly and do help us in this collaborative work.
Let’s get started!
Table of Contents
TEST PRESSING REVIEW
Before we actually go and press your vinyl records, we need to have your approval for it. This step is called “vinyl test pressing”.
After we receive the metal stampers, we first a few copies and send them to you.
These copies are what we call test pressings and they’re the ones you listen and review. You have to make sure to thoroughly check all the test pressings because this will help us improve the stamper before we start the actual pressing.
If you find no flaws in them, you can give your approval and we’ll then start the production of your vinyl records.
But if you find problems, you have to tell us about it and we’ll fix the problems before sending you another test pressing. And so on.
HOW ARE TEST PRESSINGS DIFFERENT FROM THE REGULAR ONES?
Test pressings are the first pressings of your album on vinyl format. That’s all.
They technically don’t have any difference from the regular ones, because the other ones are based from this.
But unlike the regular pressings, these test pressings will only have white center labels and are stored in generic vinyl sleeves…because their main purpose is only for you to check them!
And even if you ordered colored vinyl records, they will usually be in black vinyl at first because the purpose is for you to check audio quality more than anything else.
WHAT DO I LOOK FOR AND FOCUS ON WHEN I LISTEN TO THE TEST PRESSINGS?
#1. UNUSUAL NOISE
Noise is a usual problem in the vinyl format so you have to be extra vigilant.
Surface noise, clicks and pops may occur because of the phenomenon called “cold pull” which is due to the press not in 100% optimum temperature.
The noises mentioned above are not a problem, though, as long as they don’t occur in the same places. Make sure to look out for loud pops, excessive static, and skips, too.
Due to the format’s tactility, the test pressings have its limitations.
By that I mean, it’s possible to not hear warp in the test pressing, yet…we can’t guarantee that the other records won’t have any kind of distortion. Every pressing is still unique and 5-10% will have distortions.
But there’s one thing you must know when you check the test pressing.
Keep in mind that their inner grooves are susceptible to distortions. So just take note of it if you hear distortions outside of it…and tell us.
#3. SONG ORDER
There are instances when you might have given us the wrong file or we’ve made a mistake, so you should listen to the pressing in its entirety.
This will also allow you to check if the songs are in the order you want them to be.
#4. SPECIAL DETAILS
Last on the list is the special details like locked groove or loop.
You have to listen and ensure that they perform the way they should.
HOW DO I INSPECT THESE TEST PRESSINGS THE RIGHT WAY?
There are a lot of ways you can go with this but here are the general steps you can follow:
WHAT SHOULD I NOT DO WHILE LISTENING TO THE TEST PRESSINGS?
#1. DON’T GET DISTRACTED
You have to focus while listening to your whole album. Period. I don’t care how busy you are, it’s simply a MUST.
As mentioned earlier, you have to listen to the whole album thoroughly. Don’t visit your social media or even use any gadgets at all.
Focus on the task at hand. If you get distracted, you might not be able to catch minor glitches or the spaces between tracks.
#2. DON’T TEST ON CHEAP VINYL PLAYERS
When you do test pressing, you have to play them on a decent vinyl player.
If you use a cheap one for this, then you will definitely hear skips that are originally not there…and will cause us all unnecessary stress and delays.
#3. DON’T TEST ON IMPROPERLY CALIBRATED TURNTABLES
Lastly, make sure that you’re not playing your test pressings on an improperly calibrated player.
These turntables will definitely expose new clicks and pops that would not be there if the player was well calibrated.
And just like cheap vinyl players, they will cause skips.
Adjustments we can do at the test pressing stage:
As a vinyl pressing plant, we will fix all the defects you might find and minimize the natural imperfections brought by the format’s nature.
And these adjustments are free of charge.
However, if we’re talking about problems in the master file, like low quality mixing and incorrect song order, then there will be additional costs, of course.
So you see, you really have to be meticulous from the start.
If you need guidance in any step of your vinyl pressing, you can call us anytime and we’ll guide you every step of the way. 🙂
James Hill is a veteran of the music industry. He first worked at Warner Reprise Records then later joined Interscope/ Geffen Records where he managed producers and songwriters and got his first platinum record for Keyshia Cole’s The Way It Is. He is now helping indie artists with branding and manufacturing through his company Unified Manufacturing, a CD/DVD/vinyl and merch company in LA.