recording directly to vinyl

Get that song on tape! Errr... disk?
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Plumerai
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recording directly to vinyl

Post by Plumerai » Sun Oct 04, 2020 6:46 am

Went to a studio last weekend in Brooklyn that records directly to vinyl. The control room has a lathe in it. I was too concerned with the band to really check out the set up/process (working with a fill in drummer who we only rehearsed with the prior weekend). If I remember correctly the lathe is from the 50's & had been updated. Through the window I could see the machine with a little monitor above it showing the grooves.

Downside to all this is having to play the same song numerous times. We did two songs at least 10 times each. Every record is unique (mistakes, variations, amp randomly distorting). I'm sure I made at least two mistakes out of 20 takes. No do overs.

I just received a new phono preamp, so I'll listen to the copies I have soon; but from what was played back at the studio it turned out well.

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Re: recording directly to vinyl

Post by marqueemoon » Sun Oct 04, 2020 7:27 am

Sounds fun. I know vinyl can be very picky about low end and transients. How did it turn out in that respect?

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Re: recording directly to vinyl

Post by øøøøøøø » Sun Oct 04, 2020 9:15 am

Direct to disc is cool! Scott Hull has a direct-to-disc setup in Peekskill, but it sounds like you were somewhere different (his lathe is a VMS-80/82, so definitely not from the 50s!)

Whose studio was it/where?

One thing I'm curious about: you said, "direct to vinyl." Are you absolutely sure it was PVC, and not a lacquer disc (of the type used to make masters for pressed vinyl records) or a polycarbonate disc (of the type used to do short run lathe cuts)?

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Re: recording directly to vinyl

Post by my bloody television » Sun Oct 04, 2020 9:35 am

Was that Leesta Vall? I did a session there with a group last year. Was pretty cool for sure but like you said, it’s definitely tedious recording the same song over and over for each pressing

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Re: recording directly to vinyl

Post by Plumerai » Sun Oct 04, 2020 12:01 pm

It was Leesta Vall studio in Greenpoint. I assume it's a lacquer. The disc is pretty heavy for a 7". I'll need to get out a previous lacquer master to compare, but it definitely doesn't feel like a typical record.

Will be having a listening party in a few when our singer arrives.

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Re: recording directly to vinyl

Post by Plumerai » Mon Oct 05, 2020 4:13 am

We listened to three discs. Not a lot of low end. The bass & drums were mixed low. It would probably have been better if there was a separate recording source, so the band can hear a general mix before commiting to the first disc.

The records also took a few spins to sound good, so maybe it will improve. The first record played well. The second kept skipping, but improved after cleaning. Probably debris in the grooves or I need to add more weight to the tone arm.

Forgot to compare lacquers, but the studio's site says its vinyl. I'll check later.

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Re: recording directly to vinyl

Post by øøøøøøø » Mon Oct 05, 2020 6:11 am

Direct to disc is very hard to do. I don’t envy anyone who tries.

Disc cutting involves some pretty challenging physics—difficult to manage even when that is the sole focus. I can’t imagine trying to engineer a record and cut a good side at the same time.

The hardest things to manage are level, low end, and sibilant frequencies. It’s likely that some things were done in a “safe” way. Getting it really good involves carefully-managed risk. Going just over the line with one factor or another can destroy the side or even smoke the cutter head. Very likely the side was done in a way that prioritized a playable result and safety of the equipment above all

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Re: recording directly to vinyl

Post by jvin248 » Mon Oct 05, 2020 9:04 am

.

Sure you can't do a studio recording and then lip sync as you play it back to cut the record? ;)

Jack White set up two of these, one in Detroit and the second in Nashville.
https://www.thirdmanrecords.com/

Overview of the process
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PF4A4wdnXkU

.

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Re: recording directly to vinyl

Post by Plumerai » Tue Oct 06, 2020 5:45 am

I guess I don't have a lacquer to compare unless it's in a random sleeve somewhere. Would test pressings be on lacquer or vinyl? I have a few of those.

Anyways, it was a cool & easy experience. The backline was already set up & they had guitars/bass available plus separate headphone mixers for everyone. Pretty much plug & play & play & play...

Hopefully who ever bought copies know to clean it before use. If I get around to digitizing my copy I'll post a link.

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Re: recording directly to vinyl

Post by øøøøøøø » Tue Oct 06, 2020 6:00 am

Test pressings are vinyl.

If it mostly acts like a normal record In terms of weight and smell, it’s probably not a lacquer.

A lacquer master is an aluminum disc that’s essentially painted with a very thick coat of nitro lacquer. Grooves on one side only.

It’s possible to lathe cut other plastics. Usually polycarbonate

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Re: recording directly to vinyl

Post by Plumerai » Tue Oct 06, 2020 1:39 pm

Okay, then definitely not lacquer. since these are clear. They're definitely thicker & feel more plastic like than typical records.

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Re: recording directly to vinyl

Post by øøøøøøø » Wed Oct 07, 2020 9:29 am

Almost certainly polycarbonate from what you describe. Typical short run lathe-cut stock, most likely.

(polycarbonate is the same plastic CDs and DVDs are made of, for the record... and also many eyeglass lenses, and those disposable drink cups that are stiff, brittle, and can crack if you give them a stiff squeeze in your hand).

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Re: recording directly to vinyl

Post by shadowplay » Fri Oct 09, 2020 1:33 am

øøøøøøø wrote:
Wed Oct 07, 2020 9:29 am
Almost certainly polycarbonate from what you describe. Typical short run lathe-cut stock, most likely.

(polycarbonate is the same plastic CDs and DVDs are made of, for the record... and also many eyeglass lenses, and those disposable drink cups that are stiff, brittle, and can crack if you give them a stiff squeeze in your hand).
I buy quite a few lathe cut small run (20-50 records) each year (often on the absolutely wonderful Polytechnic Youth label which also does regular vinyl) and they are always polycarbonate. IMO they never sound that great but generally respond well to a pre-cleaning but that's not really the point (the point being niche physical releases). You do have limited plays as they wear out, some say as low as 20, some as high as 100, so ideally a digital bundle would be good. I've personally tried to limit physical plays, which is a bit joyless but I still like getting in on these releases.

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Re: recording directly to vinyl

Post by øøøøøøø » Fri Oct 09, 2020 5:10 am

Yeah, lathe-cut records are not really a “high fidelity” (or high-longevity!) format.

But like flexi-discs, picture-discs and other things (cassette tapes?) they have a certain esoteric, souvenir-like charm that many audiences find to be appealing.

Their relevance exists in that jagged crevasse where medium and process become part of the expression of art itself; where significance of the medium chosen is intended to confer something about the work or artist

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Re: recording directly to vinyl

Post by mbene085 » Fri Oct 09, 2020 7:51 am

Yeah, I only have a few polycarbonate lathe-cut disks. They were part of "artist in residence" and "artist enabler club" releases from Joyful Noise records, which are sort of meant to be like patreon for people who like vinyl and physical releases from independent artists.

It's not a format I'd choose for practicality or fidelity, but I think they were included for the novelty because of their small-run, limited-released nature. I'm glad the majority of the releases in those series were on vinyl. I got a couple of cassette tapes from Lou Barlow's Artist Enabler Club, too, which similarly are not the most practical or enjoyable in terms of sound quality, but in that case (unreleased songs and demos from the cassette tape era), the physical format becomes part of the experience.

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