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Drum & Bass / Jungle New Releases Vinyl Records - Redeye Records
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Yes please! No thanks, don't send me any special offers or updates. Think of a highway running through gently rolling hills — cruising along at high speeds is easy. Now imagine trying to maintain that speed on a tightly winding mountain road. Even the best driver would lose control.
With vinyl, the groove is the road and the turntable stylus is the car trying to navigate complex and rapidly changing terrain.
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Fortunately, there are a variety of ways to make that journey a smooth one — and to avoid driving off a cliff. As noted before, vinyl can reproduce sounds well beyond human hearing. When that happens, distortion and even skipping can result, as the stylus will jump right out of the groove. All of these things — the level of the song, the low bass of a kick drum, the highs from crashing cymbals — are happening at once, with different frequencies superimposed on top of each other in the groove walls.
Vinyl can reproduce incredibly deep, powerful bass. However, in this case there can be too much of a good thing. This issue can be tackled by making sure the low end of your mix is controlled and tight. Finally, make sure bass heavy sound sources are centered in your mix. In addition to very low frequencies, there are two other things to consider for your vinyl record: stereo and out-of-phase information.
Drum and bass
Stereo bass content requires a great deal of vertical movement in the stylus, as the groove rapidly changes in depth. This radical groove geometry can easily cause skips. To solve this issue, you should center all low-end frequencies below Hz and refrain from hard-panning bass information. In reality this out-of-phase material, especially on the low end, pulls the cutting head in two directions at once, collapsing the cut.
You lose your groove and create a skip. To avoid this issue entirely, keep everything under Hz in phase. Extreme high frequencies, like extreme lows, come with their own unique set of challenges. Audio information above 20 kHz can overheat the cutting head, leading to noise and distortion on your record.
Instruments such as hi-hats, tambourines and cymbals are especially problematic.
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Be mindful of how instruments with lots of high-end information are placed in your mix. Pay specific attention to the harshness in drum overheads, percussion, and the high-end of distorted guitars, among other instruments. In addition to percussion, vocal sibilance can also result in distortion if not handled properly.
A de-esser works like a narrow band dynamic equalizer, targeting only those frequencies in the range of sibilance — approximately 6 to 12 kHz. De-essing should be handled during mixing, for if your album reaches the mastering stage without properly addressing sibilance, the only way to reduce these sounds is to apply a de-esser to your entire mix, which can have negative effects on other components of the song. Though a de-esser will remove sibilance from your tracks, it will not remove only sibilance.
This one-size-fits-all solution is hardly desirable, but will be necessary to protect your album from the harsh and crispy sounds of untouched sibilance. Because bass information takes up so much space and surface noise is such a potential problem with vinyl, these engineers developed something called the Recording Industry Association of America RIAA curve. Essentially, the RIAA curve reduces bass content and boosts treble when cutting the record. In addition, boosting the treble at this stage dramatically lowers the high-frequency surface noise that even the quietest vinyl would otherwise produce.
Starting at 1 kHz, bass gets rolled off by 6 dB per octave. By the time you reach the incredibly low 20 Hz, the level has been lowered by 20 dB. Additionally, the curve boosts all frequencies above 1 kHz, increasing the level by 20 dB at 20 kHz. Top to bottom, this is an overall difference of 40 dB.
By reducing the volume of bass information and making the treble louder, the RIAA curve creates more space for music on your record, with the added benefit of greatly reducing surface noise. As we touched on before, you must pay careful attention to volume when preparing your album for vinyl. Avoid using brickwall limiters or finalizers in your mix.
While limiting does increase the average level of a digital track, it can ironically cause your vinyl album to be cut at a quieter volume to keep it from being overrun with distortion. By peaking your levels between -3 and -6 dBs, you leave space for your mastering engineer to create a clean, dynamic, undistorted cut. Also remember that while the overall volume of your album can be adjusted in the mastering stage, individual instruments and vocals are nearly impossible to isolate in the mix.
This fact backs mastering engineers into a corner, forcing them to change the level of your entire song to combat problems with extremely low bass or harsh sibilance. Beyond the specific changes that must be made to ultra-low and high frequencies, your vinyl release has a few other important considerations involving speed, distance and time. A record spins at a fixed rpm, regardless of which part of the record the needle is reading.
This means that while two seconds of music travels about 36 inches around the outside of a record, that same two seconds is jammed onto Groove distances. Consequently, an album begins to lose some high-end frequencies about halfway through an LP. One good way to compensate for this degradation in quality is with the strategic ordering of your songs. You can maximize sound quality by placing your hottest, most dynamic tracks at the beginning of the album. Conversely, a soft, gentle ballad will survive the danger zone around the label much better than a loud, banging dance wrecker.
Another aspect of time involves the length of your album sides. The shorter the side of a record, the more space there is for grooves, meaning that a mastering engineer can cut sounds louder and with more dynamics without worrying about groove collisions.