When people say "let's cut a record," this is where that expression originated. Mastering and lacquer cutting is the first and most delicate step in the record-making process. This stage involves audio engineers using a lathe machine and a very sharp gemstone to carve your music (originally on CD, DAT, analog tape, etc.) onto a flat, waxy lacquer-coated metal disc. These discs are the original copies of your music. We take your A/B lacquers and turn them into the durable metal copies for the actual pressing stage.
We work with all mastering studios so you are free to send in your lacquers, but to help you out, we do offer this service in-house and can handle all of this for you. United will master your lacquers to RIAA standards, but the actual Mixing, EQ-ing, etc., should be done prior to sending your source music to us to press your records. The source you send to United should sound like you want the music to sound on vinyl, sequenced in order with the correct spacing between each song and a longer space between sides. More details about music preparation here.
Now that we have your lacquers, it's time to take them through Plating. Picture a mad-scientist's galvanics laboratory, where we spray your lacquers with silver and then place them into a series of nickel baths. As your disc rotates inside these tanks, a new layer of metal is created and once it's peeled and separated, we have the Master/Father plate. This is the negative surface of your music and it's very important so that we are able make many more copies of records when needed.
The metal family continues as we do this process again to make your Mother plate, and then again to make stampers (aka Child plates). These stampers are what are actually bolted onto the presses and used to stamp the vinyl at over 60 tons PSI. Each set of stampers can make approximately 1,000 records. These parts are inspected, cleaned and cataloged after each new part is produced. We offer Two Step and Three Step Plating and have a little more info about that here.
Printing & Packaging
Moving onto artwork and packaging...United can handle most, if not all, of your printing and packaging hopes, wishes and dreams. Our art guidelines and templates are helpful, but we're here to answer any questions you might fave regarding our print options.
Did you know that center labels have to be baked before going onto press? This is so that all the moisture is removed and can adhere directly to the vinyl. Many think labels are glued or stickered, but they actually help hold the shape of a record. That said, we require records to have labels, unless it's an etched side which is another story.
For each order, we produce test pressings so that you can preview the audio quality of your records and approve them before we begin full-on production. We send five (you are able to order more if you'd like), but before we send them, the music is audio tested to ensure copyright clearance. Please make sure you are own all the rights to the music; otherwise, it doesn't get pressed.
Upon your approval, all we need is the balance paid and your order will move into production!
Vinyl Pressing & Quality Control
United has been pressing with many of the same hydraulic machines throughout the company's existence, and our mechanics and operators know our machines through and through. We house both automated and manual presses of which can produce 7",10" and 12" sizes in 130g, 150g or 180g weights.
Once we have your stampers and all of your components, it's time for production! Our premier PVC compound is the material used to make records and it comes in many different colors and in the form of tiny pellets or beads. We pour these beads into the machine's hopper and they are melted down at about 250 degrees into the shape of a "hockey puck" or "biscuit." Then, with the power of steam and hydraulics, your A and B grooved stampers press and flatten this shape using over 60 tons PSI. The record is then trimmed using a sharp blade and we call this excess "flash" of which regrind and recycle this.
The record lands onto a spindle where it is cooled and inspected by the operator, who of course is wearing protective gloves.
QCs check these records to make sure they sound consistent with your test pressings and that they don't have any unexpected ticks, pops, scratches, warping, etc. Once they're been cleared, your records are sent through the assembly and finishing line who takes care of all the insertion and packaging.
Yay. Your order is almost complete! We've pressed, inserted, finished, and packaged your records! We'll confirm payment and your shipping instructions and boom! Records are on their way.