Quiet Vinyl, CD ’82 Mastering & Single Speed Quality
So what is this all about?
Here at Red Manor Records, we pride ourselves in releasing the best sounding products currently available.
But this isn’t just hyperbole, there is evidence to back this up.
Quiet Vinyl for Record releases
CD ’82 Mastering for CD / MiniDisc & Digital file releases
Single Speed Quality for Cassette releases
Let’s explain why this matters…
Most modern music is mastered for digital release, be it through streaming, download or CD.
As such, people attempt to make the music sound as “loud” as possible by using compression and limiting when mastering. This is known as “brickwall” limiting.
Look at that picture. See how the sound is almost in “blocks” see how it is mostly flat at the top and bottom?
This is fine for digital. As long as it doesn’t go over 0db in volume and clips, it will be fine…but it isn’t for vinyl.
Vinyl is a groove that a needle bounces around inside. Music like this will make the needle bounce all over the place, as the grooves cut will be very wide, and this affects distortion and quality.
Also, very low (sub 20hz) and very high (17kHz and above) frequencies will also have this effect, as will lots of sibilance (sharp “S” sounds, usually on vocals)
When we master for vinyl, we ask the artists to give us non limited, non compressed versions of their music. We then master them individually so that they will sound their best when cut to vinyl. This means that they often sound a bit different to the digital version, but still sound superb.
We then run them through a vinyl simulator, so that we can check before a metal master plate is made for the vinyl to be pressed from.
Here is what the same song looks like AFTER we have mastered it for vinyl:
It’s quieter, but more importantly it’s no longer got the straight edges. Non of the frequencies have been “squashed” in to place by limiters. It can breathe.
Sure, it’s quieter…but the fix for that is simply to turn up the volume on your amplifier.
Once we’re happy, we then get it pressed on to 180g, heavyweight, vinyl.
Not everyone does this. You get a thin vinyl that distorts at high and low frequencies…it was pressed directly from a digital master by people who only cared about getting your money, or didn’t really know what they were doing.
CD ’82 Mastering
When the first CD was made in 1982, it was made from the same masters as contemporary vinyl records.
Then, sometime in the 90s, the “Loudness Wars” began.
CDs sounded louder, but at the expense of dynamic range being squashed out, due to the overuse of limiters & compressors on the masters.
Unique to RMR, CD ’82 Mastered tracks stay true to the original way to master digital tracks…keep it quiet but keep all the detail.
Look at the above picture of the same track.
The top one is how the artist mastered it for digital release, the bottom one is the CD ’82 mastered version.
Quieter, but look how it isn’t squashed. All the subtlety and details are there.
SSQ : Single Speed Quality Cassettes
Cassette Comeback (www.cassettecomeback.com) was the worlds biggest independent compact cassette retailer, and is part or Red Manor Ltd.
We were dismayed by the quality of modern pre-recorded cassettes. The reasons they sound so bad?
- Duplicated at up to 96x speed! That mean they do one side of a C90 in about 30 seconds!
- Single head duplication machines
- Using Chinese / Italian shells
- Using remnants of New Old Stock tape, but mostly new Chinese tape
- Type 1 – Normal position
- No Dolby noise reduction
This creates audio quality that is lower than is fully capable with compact cassettes and creates a “cookie cutter” product, that is seen simply as a cheap novelty.
We use our own in house professional 3 head duplication decks for our cassette releases. Nobody else does this as it's so time consuming...but you can hear the difference.
“Single Speed Quality” makes the most of the compact cassette medium by providing the highest audio quality through:
- New Old Stock (NOS) cassettes from recognisable brands likes of TDK, Maxell, Sony, SKC, BASF with high quality shells which give a real visual impact as well as nostalgia
- The option to use, not just Type 1 “Normal” position tape, but Type 2 “High / Chrome” position tape or even Type IV “Metal” position tape
- Single speed duplication – This maximises the sound recorded to the tape
- Direct “digital bin” duplication: direct from digital source, through a dedicated external DAC, to cassette in one “hop” – no generational degradation
- Utilises high end, 3 head, duplication decks that were designed to record studio masters, which are then individually tuned to the tape’s formulation
- Recorded with Dolby HX Pro headroom extension for better high frequencies
- The option of encoding with Dolby B / C noise reduction (not recommended really…let a cassette sound like a cassette!)
This will ensure that the cassettes sound BETTER than any mass duplicated cassette, from now or even in the heyday of cassettes.