How To Define A Pressing Of A Record


If you have ever seen or, better yet, held a vinyl record before, you will likely notice the texture on its surface, with grooves so defined you can feel them at every caress. Just like any curious mind, you might want to ask how these patterns are implemented into the vinyl record. We also had the same question as we had to ask ourselves: how do they define the pressing of a record?

There is an intricate process dedicated to defining the pressing of a record. The pressing of a record involves many smaller, intrinsic processes, and it requires heat and a master disc. (1)

What is a master disc, and how exactly are vinyl records made? We will talk more about that in this article and the importance of the “first press.”

How To Define A Pressing Of A Record

You may be thinking of doing a homemade vinyl pressing service, or you are probably just curious. Either way, the fact remains that pressing a record is a complicated, intricate process involving a lot of technical knowledge, especially if one desires to mass-produce a record.

First, we may want to talk about why we need to define our records before asking how to define a record’s pressing. I mean, we could observe how compact discs work without grooves. Why do vinyl records need defined patterns, unlike compact discs?

One significant difference between a vinyl record and a compact disk is that a compact disk is a digital format, meaning that it relies on data stored as ones and zeroes to replicate music. For the case of a vinyl record, however, they utilize the patterns within the disc. The reason behind this is that vinyl records need the pattern to transcribe the stored data into audio.

At this juncture, let us talk about the main point, which is”how to define a pressing of a record” once again. Undoubtedly, the manufacturers don’t use needles by hand and start scratching the vinyl surface, do they?

In this article, we will talk about the process of defining the pressing of a record. We have formulated a step-by-step list to help you understand the process thoroughly.

1. The Audio

Before we get to the part where we define the pressing of a record, we should first settle the audio. After all, no one can create good vinyl records without good audio. Because of this, specialized audio engineers collaborate to create a perfect blend of music, specifically mastered to fit with the vinyl record’s standards.

There must also be precision and passion other than the instruments or the vocalists used in the audio. Moreover, a constant mindset of attention to detail is needed while working with vinyl records. While the vocalists and instruments need to be pitch-perfect for their job, the audio engineers must also be very meticulous to avoid errors, distortions, and audio skips. (1)

2. The Formation Of Master Discs

Next, we look at the master discs. Master discs, or lacquer, are like molds that enable vinyl records to be mass-produced. It would imply that no, vinyl records do not get scratched by hand at a recording studio.

What happens first is a master disc must be produced to quickly replicate vinyl records, ensuring that each one that goes out of the recording company is up to standard and are up to par with industry standards. (2)

Before producing the final master disc, it goes through multiple test cuts to ensure no problems arise, creating a domino effect on the production chain. Fun fact: instead of grooves, master discs have creases instead.

During the cutting process, problems may arise, especially when it comes to the range of the audio on hand. For example, powerful basses and trebles may create technical issues. Moreover, powerful basses can heavily hamper the recording time and reduce it significantly, as basses require deeper grooves. (1)

However, if you think that that is all with the process, the truth is that we are far from it. At this stage, the master disc is too vulnerable to damage and is, therefore, reinforced with strengthening materials.

Going back to the process of pressing a record: now you know that to define a record, you must first use a master disc.

3. The Pressing Stage

Now we are in the most awaited part: the pressing stage. However, before we proceed, engineers must first test out the master disc to mitigate possible errors. If the errors fail detection, then errors after mass production will incur heavy losses to the record companies.

After the testing phase, the pressing and the manufacturing stage follow. Liquefied pellets help to produce the vinyl, creating a patty-like form.

After this stage, the master disc is ready to be put to good use. Using stampers from the top and the bottom, they stamp the creases from the master disc and reinforce them to create grooves in the vinyl records. They may use pressure that can rise to more than a hundred tons and heat the presses at temperatures higher than 200 degrees Celsius. (1)

4. Labels And Packaging 

Label and packaging are one of the most manageable parts of the process as they are not as volatile compared to, say, the vinyl records themselves.

First, they will need to contact artists that may do the label’s artwork or a graphic designer that will incorporate designs together to create a coherent piece. More often than not, this process will happen way earlier compared to the whole “pressing” process.

After the design, labels and packaging are printed, cut, folded, glued, and sealed to be ready for shipment. Despite not being a relevant answer to: “How to define pressing a record,” it is still a very integral part of the vinyl record experience.

What Is The First Press And Does It Matter?

So what is the first press exactly? The first press refers to a set of vinyl records produced using the first pressing of a master disc. The definitions of the first press vary heavily and are a cause of debate within the vinyl community.

Some may refer to the first press as the “first pressing,” while some may refer to it as the “first issues.” However, one thing that stands clear is a point of agreement between these parties, and that is that the first presses “sound way better” than the latter presses.

Another reason collectors and audiophiles prefer first pressings can boil down to another variable: the materials. These determined collectors have noticed that the materials used for first pressing vinyl records are significantly more durable than later pressings. They have justified this as they have pointed out that first pressings contain more material than later pressings. 

The Frequently Asked Questions On Defining The Pressing Of A Record

How Do You Define The First Pressing Of A Record?

Some savvy audiophiles are very determined to find out whether a specific vinyl record is the first pressing or not. They have many ways of doing so. One of the key takeaways that will tell us whether something is first pressing or not is the labels.

Since each manufacturer uses a different labeling format, we cannot give you a magical guide for first presses. It means that if you are determined, you might need to do a lot of heavy research regarding the origins of your vinyl records, together with their manufacturers.

How Many Vinyl Records Can Be Made Within A Day?

A company in New York named Brooklynphono has claimed to have made 300 records per hour. However, the numbers will heavily vary per company’s resources. (2)

Can Vinyl Records Be Stereo, Despite Being Analog?

Yes, vinyl records can both be mono or stereo. Analog signals can be split into dual channels, or a stereo signal in other words.

Sources

  1. https://www.trainrec.com/pages/vinyl-pressing-process
  2. https://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/audio/a29110647/pressing-vinyl-records/
  3. https://www.mootzproductions.com/how-do-we-define-a-first-pressing-or-pressed-vinyl-record/

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