How a Dub is Made

  • We want every dub to sounds its best when it leaves the studio, so if a track needs mastering we use the finest quality gear and ten years of experience to get the audio sounding just right before its cut.

    First we send the signal through an M/S matrix and out to the Cransesong HEDD for conversion to analogue. Then the signal flows into a Millennia Media TCL-2 twin topology compressor. This allows us to control the stereo field dynamically, and we can choose either Class A Vacuum tube or Solid State circuitry. Then the signal flows back into the HEDD and because its a harmonically enhanced device we can add measured amounts of warmth.

    Once its back in the digital domain we use a DMG Equilibrium EQ to adjust the tonal balance and a DMG Compassion compressor for more fine tuning of the dynamic range. Then its on to the lathe for final processing.

  • Transferring audio onto disc is a tricky process! Its a mixture of mechanical, acoustic and electronic processes, and each part needs to be just right to avoid the disc skipping or distorting. Even if the audio needs no mastering at all, chances are it will still need some processing in order to get it to cut well. So we separate the two processes... the first stage is to get the audio sounding right, the second stage is to get it playing well on disc.

    We use high-quality signal processing gear to ensure a linear frequency response, and then we use a DMG Essence de-esser to ensure the top end stays under control. The cutting head features a feedback system which allows us to monitor the signal and get the level right before we start cutting, and we do a test cut if we are not sure how the dub will come out. Once we start cutting, we are not afraid to abort the dub if it doesn't sound quite right... its all part of the quality control process here at Dub Studio.

  • We cut lots of different types of dub here at the studio, and each one needs to be prepared individually. First we look at how long the track is, and what size dub we are using, and then work out how much space it will take up on the plate. Then we can work out how loud it needs to be. Once that's done we clamp a dub onto the turntable and get ready to cut.

    If its an acetate, we fit the cutting head with a heated sapphire stylus, which is like a tiny razor sharp chisel with a heating coil around it to help it cut into the disc as smoothly as possible. The cutting head consists of two drivers, one for the left axis, and one for the right. The head vibrates left and right, and up and down as the stylus scores the groove into the disc.

    Vinyl dubs are a little more tricky, they need a heated diamond stylus, and the discs themselves need to be lubricated and heated to the exact right temperature to get a nice clean cut.
  • One of the hardest problems we face in the studio is spacing the grooves while cutting. If the grooves are too far apart they take up too much space, and if they are too near they overlap.

    The traditional way to solve this is to use a "look-ahead" buffer, where the signal is delayed by one revolution of the turntable so there is time to work out how far the needle needs to move to make space for the waves its cutting. This works pretty well, but it doesn't take into account that the grooves are different on the left and right hand sides, and also that they can sometimes be nestled into each other if the phase relationship allows it. So we developed our own processor which could handle this task, and it works perfectly!
  • Once all the final preparations are complete, its time to start cutting. First we get the disc spinning at the correct speed, 33rpm for LPs and EPs and 45rpm or 78rpm for singles. Then we cue up the cutting head, and gently lower it onto the disc. Now the head is traveling quite quickly across the gantry, so that there is a nice safe area for the playback stylus to land. This is called the lead-in groove. Once the disc has gone around several times, we send the audio to the cutting head, and slow the head down.

    First, the signal passes through the RIAA processor, which converts the signal to the most efficient waveform for vinyl. Then its on to the cutting amp where the signal gets boosted, giving the head enough energy to move with the music. The pitch controller changes the speed at which the head moves across the gantry, so the lathe can save space on the disc during the more quiet patches. Once the program is complete, we do a super fast lead-out groove which brings the stylus to the locked groove at the end.
  • Mastering
  • Processing
  • Prepping
  • Pitch Control
  • Cutting