We make custom vinyl record manufacturing seem easy but it is actually quite a delicate, multi-step process that could be complicated to understand. This is the format that is the trickiest to manufacture and unlike making CDs and USB drives, we simply can’t rush vinyl pressing or else it could be a disaster. There are so many points at which the process could go wrong because unlike digital, it’s an analog format which requires information to be stamped to an actual thing (that is vinyl) and although we find the imperfections of vinyl charming, it has its limits. We have to make it as best as we can.
So it’s tedious and it takes a while. It is like pregnancy, we take the time it needs—usually 8 weeks— because that’s what it requires to make a good vinyl record. Period. If a custom vinyl pressing company promises you that they can press your vinyl faster, it’s either they’ll make a bad record or they’re outright lying to your face.
So how is vinyl record manufacturing done?
First, let’s say hello to this beauty that is vinyl pellets.
Vinyl pellets are the main raw material of vinyl records. We have many bags of virgin pellets in almost all colors which then gets melted and pressed with your masters. We offer different kinds of opacity (transparent to solid colors), with almost all kinds of designs (splatter, glitter, ash, etc).
Now, I’m sure you want to see more of these pellets and cute vinyl but it’s important to know how we process your orders from start to finish.
Here is how we do vinyl pressing here at Unified:
#1 CHECKING OF MASTERS
The first step is actually coming from you. Once you’ve sent us your masters, our engineers will check them to ensure they’re done right or else there might be errors and distortion. Vinyl prone to have slight imperfections like distortion and noise that is why you have to be very meticulous in mastering your vinyl. Follow our Unified vinyl mastering guide to make sure you send us good masters.
#2 PUTTING YOUR MUSIC ON LAQUER DISC
With the use of a lathe machine, our engineers will cut/etch sound onto a lacquer disc. Music is recorded from start to finish so it becomes one long continuous grove in the lather. They will then inspect everything under a microscope — to see if there isn’t anything too funky with the cut. This lacquer serves as the mold to make the stamper.
#3 CREATING THE METAL STAMPER
The lacquer is sprayed with tin chloride and liquid silver. For rigidity the metalized lacquer is dipped into a nickel bath, where an electro charge fuses the nickle to the silver. The metal layer from the lacquer is the metal stamper used in pressing hundreds and thousands of vinyl after.
#4 TEST PRESSING
In steps 1-3, we tried our best to make sure everything is done right. With our experience in vinyl mastering and pressing, we try to make sure there will be no major flaws in the final record. This step is where we will find out if we actually did a good job. We will press a few records and listen to them to check if the masters are translated well on vinyl. This is also the step we let you listen to them and give us a go signal to do the full run.
#5 PRINTING LABELS
The labels on your vinyl records are actually applied within the press. Once you’re happy with your artwork, we will print them using our state-of-the-art printers and set them aside for the next step.
#6 VINYL PRESSING
Now it’s time for the real deal. Vinyl pellets are fed into a hopper, then the liquefied pellets are fed through an extruder creating hot rubbery plates aka “biscuits.” The labels are then placed at the top and bottom of the biscuit the then pressed down together with the stampers using 100 tons of pressure at 200 degrees Celsius.
Check out this vinyl pressing video by Insider. This is exactly how we do them in our plant:
The newly pressed vinyl is then cooled and checked for quality control.
#7 PUTTING THEM IN JACKETS OR CUSTOM PACKAGING
We are the go-to company when it comes to creative box sets and custom packaging. We can design any badass packaging you want and even bundle them with other items like merch, posters, custom flash drives, cassette tapes…what have you! We can build them for you from the ground up then deliver them directly to your customers.
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.