What is a test pressing?

Before final vinyl production, after lacquers, metal parts, and electroplating, we meticulously test the quality of the stamper on our presses, adjust for perfect manufactured records and make a few copies with generic white labels for testing and archival purposes. The focus of these pressings is on maintaining the quality of the sound reproduction as close to the supplied 24-bit up to 192 kHz WAV masters as possible to your specifications.

A test pressing is a final step in your vinyl project that ensures that your audio content sounds correct on vinyl as you intended. Our lacquer engineers will transfer your audio content to the highest standards. Test pressings give you the ability to listen critically in a studio and home environment on professional or properly calibrated equipment before final production begins.

What are reference acetates?

If you want to reference your supplied content master before galvanized plates, electroplating, and stamper creation, reference acetates may be cut at an additional cost for review before the output of production stampers. This avoids the cost of replacement for lacquers and 2-step stampers if the tests are rejected due to incorrectly supplied masters.

How do I supply my source audio files for vinyl?

24-bit up to 192 kHz WAV files are the vinyl pre-master standard. Supply a single WAV file for each side, with pregaps and track spacing, included exactly as you intend on the finished records. Your mastering engineer should also supply a PQ sheet, indicating track IDs, pregaps, and run-times. Content masters are received in final form with no need for track spacing or audio modification. We recommend working only with reputable experienced Vinyl mastering engineers when outputting masters for Vinyl to avoid risking the quality of your vinyl project.

Can I supply 16-bit 44.1 kHz files?

We won’t accept 16-bit files. The whole point of vinyl is an excellent immersive listening experience with the highest quality audio available and a 16-bit file will not offer this to your fans. Your masters will be rejected.

Why we won’t press Vinyl without them:

Test pressings are extremely important – it’s the first time audio content gets transferred to the vinyl. Even with rigorous testing and QC at every stage: mastering, lacquer cutting, electroplating, stamper production, and test pressings ensure that there have been no errors introduced in the pressing process. Vinyl pressing is an art as much as a science and unlike CD replication no 2 records are identical. While pops, clicks, and noise are a normal part of vinyl, at the press improvements can be made to mitigate sound artifacts and imperfections such as background noise. This is to ensure mechanical integrity and tracking harmony.

After adjustments are made for a specific stamper, our press operator checks the vinyl tests for physical and audio anomalies literally under the microscope. We QC each test for noise floor issues between and in songs, skipping on properly calibrated high-end record players, pops that appear in the same location on every test, and make adjustments before issuing final tests for review.

While pops, clicks, and noise are a normal part of vinyl, at the press improvements can be made to mitigate sound artifacts and imperfections such as background noise. This is to ensure the mechanical integrity and tracking harmony of the final tests before they ship out for final review by the customer.

Why 5 test pressings?

Each vinyl record is a unique pressing, no 2 are identical! This is why we issue 5 tests with your pressing order. Don’t make the common mistake of sending one to each band member to have a listen. The 5 tests should be played on 3 different properly calibrated manual turn tables in a proper listening environment without distractions. Test each record in the set for noise floor issues between and in songs, skipping on properly calibrated high-end record players, and pops that appear in the same location on every test. Pops, clicks, and noise are a normal part of vinyl, but if they appear in the same location on each record this could be a physical artifact that was introduced during the pressing that was not caught by our rigorous QC process. Please bring this to our attention so we can put the location under a microscope to get it sorted out.

Should I clean the tests before listening?

Absolutely! A record is an electrostatically charged dust magnet. The simple act of removing the record from the sleeve or even brushing the record will cause static electricity so static needs to be removed or the dust will remain. Find a clean lint-free piece of fabric (a placemat, cheesecloth, linen) and lay that down on a level surface. Start with a brush with carbon bristles to neutralize the static and clean the record sweeping the dust off towards the edge of the surface towards the floor. Switch to a classic flat velvet record brush and then a rounded brush to remove the remaining dust particles. Make sure to clean your brushes after to avoid dust from collecting on their surfaces.

Controlling and Eliminating Static:

  • Make sure your turn table is properly grounded.
  • Anti-static ion guns, low static record sleeves, or anti-stat liquids.
  • Platter Mats with conductive fibers

 

How do I calibrate my record players for testing?

Do not use cheaply made players without a tonearm adjustable counterweight to listen to your tests! Use quality turntables grounded with a properly calibrated tone arm and a clean needle to avoid the common issues that stem from a poorly designed or improperly calibrated turntable.

Balance your tonearm:

Establish a tracking weight of 0 grams by following the instructions below:

  • Set anti-skating to zero.
  • Unhook the tone arm yoke (armrest)
  • Move the rear-mounted counterweight until the arm lifts off the yoke and freely hangs in a level position.
  • Locate the arm tracking weight dial (or use a tracking weight gauge to confirm the desired tracking weight). Move the counterweight backward and forward to the suitable tracking weight based on the manufacturers’ recommendations. We recommend between 1.5-2.0 g but this may change depending on your unique stylus so refer to the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Return and secure the tonearm.
  • Set the anti-skating device to the same figure as your arm’s tracking weight.

What do I look and listen for on a test pressing?

Test Pressings can sometimes be noisier and slightly warped owing to the limited quantity run. The focus is on the sound quality of the tests. Once approved the press is fine-tuned to ensure consistently high-quality pressings.

Make sure the track order, track transitions, and A/B side layering match your supplied Master content. Your Test Presses are made with the same stampers as the final run, so your completed goods will sound the same. If a problem does occur due to an error in cutting or plating, do not worry we will produce new metalwork (stampers) or re-press the tests. However, if the fault is due to an inadequately prepared master or incorrectly supplied tracks, new cutting, plating, and test pressings charges will apply.

Once you have properly cleaned your test pressings, start with a visual inspection for imperfections, and mechanical defects; finally, check for audible imperfections such as clicks, pops, and noise that appears in the same location on all tests. Pops, clicks, and noise are a normal part of vinyl so if they appear in different locations on the supplied tests take note of the locations of any sound artifacts, clean the records properly and listen again as this could have to do with dust or static in playback.

 

If you have a question about vinyl pressing, mastering, packaging, or print please feel free to call us today and speak with an expert!