Making vinyl is not as easy as you may think, you want to make sure absolutely every element of the record is perfect from the labels and jackets, to the sound quality of the records themselves. One of the most important parts of this process is checking your test pressings.
Test pressings are great as they provide artists the opportunity to listen to the quality of the records, flag any sound issues and ensure that their records are going to be pressed to a high quality standard.
If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re thinking about pressing some records or you are currently waiting on test pressings already, very exciting stuff!
We here at Suitcase Records work tirelessly to make sure we are pressing the best quality on all of our vinyl pressings. However, as the artist you have the responsibility of checking and ensuring you are happy with the product. To make things easier, we’ve outlined some of the top things you should know when you listen to your test pressings.
1. Listen to your test pressings as a set
Typically, when we send out test pressings we send them in a set of 4, there is an important reason for this. It is critical when checking for issues on the records that the test pressings be kept as a set and listened to one after the other. If you do hear an issue on one of the records such as a skip, excessive crackle etc. It’s important to check if it also occurs in the same place on all of the other records. This tells us that there is something wrong with the pressing process that needs to be addressed. If you only hear small issues on one or two of the records, this is likely an anomaly such as dust, static or issues arising from handling.
2. Turntable set up
To ensure you are able to accurately listen and check the test pressing you are going to want to make sure that your turntable is set up correctly. Things to check include making sure the tone arm is calibrated properly and is balanced, the stylus needle is clean, and that it is set to play at the RPM that your record has been pressed in.
3. Visual checks
Although listening and checking the sound quality of the test pressings is important, visually checking the records is a crucial part of the process also. Similarly to when listening to the records, you will want to carefully check both sides of each record to ensure there are no scratches, bends or other anomalies, if there is, ensure then that it doesn’t appear in the same place on all of the other test pressings.
4. What to listen for
All vinyl records contain a small amount of surface noise, it’s one of the quirks that audiences have fallen in love with! The soft crackle as the needle hits the surface of the record is both nostalgic and defining of vinyl records iconic sound. Considering this, it can sometimes be difficult to dictate when listening to your test pressings what’s normal and what’s something to be flagging with us as the manufacturers.
The main thing to be wary of and to listen for is excessive or loud surface noise such as skips, crackles, pops, and or ticks. Surface noises like this can be continuous through the record, or isolated to a short abrupt noise sounding like a pop or a click. Generally these are only a concern if they are appearing in the same place across all test pressings. If you hear something that you feel is out of the ordinary, make a note of the side, track number and timing of the issues and check it isn’t appearing in the same section on all of the other test pressings.
Extra things to note
If we are doing a pressing for you, the most important thing to do if you detect any issues at all is to let us know as we will work to ensure you are getting the best possible quality for your vinyl records.
There is a lot that has to happen in order to press a record from developing the lacquer, to then using this lacquer to develop stampers, safely transporting said stampers back to the warehouse, ensuring the Allegra Press is working correctly, making sure there’s no external factors such as climate that’s affecting the pressing process and so on. All issues that are related to this; pressing, lacquer cut, stamper issues etc. are issues that we can fix. Unfortunately though, we are unable to fix issues contained in your master files, if the tracks are in the wrong order or the mix and mastering of the tracks are wrong, the only way to fix this is to redo the master file and then re-cut the lacquers and stampers which will add extra cost and delay on production.
If you’ve gone ahead and checked all of these things, congrats! You’ve successfully checked your test pressing.