Independent Vinyl Pressing
Preparing Masters for Duplication

There are several things you need to bear in mind when preparing your masters for duplication. These guidelines and information are designed so that you can meet the technical specifications a manufacturer will require and should be helpful to remove any potential problems that could be encountered with your project.

PCM 1610/1630
Exabyte CD Masters
Sony PCM 601 VHS or Beta (F-1)
Analog Tape
Noise Reduction
Additional Notes

DAT (Digital Audio Tape) has become the predominant format in the audio industry in recent years. While it is an inexpensive and convenient medium, it is also a fragile one. Tips for avoiding problems with DAT.

  • Always record at least two minutes before the beginning of the program. If a DAT tape is going to stretch or break, it will usually be at the beginning of the tape.
  • Always keep a safety copy. Never send your only copy of your material. Independent Pressing Co. cannot be responsible for your master.
  • Use quality tape. Many of the inexpensive brands of tape are also the tapes we discover the most problems with in the mastering room.
  • Clean your DAT recorder regularly. Use cleaning tapes frequently, and have a professional clean your DAT recorder approximately once a year, depending on use.
  • Remember that "0" on your DAT recorder's meters is the absolute maximum level recordable. Average levels should be approximately -12 to -18dB (decibels below full scale).

Guidelines to help us master your DAT accurately and quickly.

  • Always use A-Time. A-Time, or Absolute-Time, is an accurate time code that is recorded onto DAT tape by all DAT recorders currently made. It must be recorded from the beginning of the tape without fast-forwarding over any unrecorded sections of the tape. Any tape without A-Time will be automatically cloned in order to create a tape with A-Time.
  • Please list all song titles, clearly denote side breaks, list side lengths and start and end times for each side.
  • Please indicate the make and model of the DAT recorder on which the tape was recorded. There are slight alignment differences between various DAT decks, and this will allow us to replay your tape on the same brand deck it was recorded on.
  • Please leave a blank space between sides for cassette masters. The longer the better. If original program is continuous at the side break, please give explicit instructions as to the fade out of side A and the fade in of side B.
  • Please record a 1kHz reference tone, but only if it relates to the average level of the program as read on a VU meter (not peak). Tones recorded above -12dB are generally useless.
  • Please record indexes at the beginning of each cut, or at least the first cut of each side. Whenever possible, include the cue sheet from the digital session with the DAT master. When assembling directly to DAT, be careful not to clip off the beginning of the songs when the machine is put into record.
  • DATs that are prepared for cassette manufacturing only can be recorded at 48K or 44.1K. DATs that are prepared for CD manufacturing should be recorded at 44.1K. If your DAT is recorded at 48K, a pre-mastering charge may be applied.

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  • Recordable CD's must conform to Red Book standards to be used as a master.
  • Please list all song titles, clearly denote side breaks by track number, and list side lengths.
  • Always keep a safety copy. Never send the only copy of your material.
  • Whenever possible, include the PQ coding cue sheet from the digital edit session with the CD master, containing lengths, and start and end times.

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PCM 1610/1630

1610/1630 tapes are accepted as CD Masters. A format conversion charge will be applied if they are to be used as cassette masters.

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Exabyte CD Masters

A properly encoded Exabyte tape pre-master may be used as a CD master only. Please include information regarding the mastering facility at which it was prepared.

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Sony PCM 601 VHS or Beta (F-1)

A format conversion charge will be applied for any F-1 format tapes.

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Most pressing compaines accept the following analog tape formats:

  • 1/4" open reel
  • 7 1/2ips
  • 15ips
  • 30ips
  • (IEC or NAB EQ)

E.g. Independent Pressing Co. will accept 1/4" & 1/2 " masters, but a format conversion will need to be done.

The standard tones which we require for each analog master are... 1K, 10K, and 100HZ. Additions to these three tones are acceptable but not necessary.

If a master tape is submitted without tones, the mastering two-tracks' azimuth and playback EQ will be aligned with STL alignment tape. Your master is then run with those playback EQ settings.

The mixdown two-track manufacturer should be noted since some analog machines require being aligned with NAB record EQ and others with IEC record EQ.

All master tape boxes should be clearly marked with song titles and times of each cut. The total time for each side is also acceptable. Each master reel should be marked with the album title and whether it's side A or B. The tape speed, flux (record level) and configuration (four-track or two track) should be marked. Also, note whether the program material is mixed in mono or stereo.

The heads and tails of each analog master tape should be leadered out. There should also be leader between the alignment tones and the first beat of the program material.

Never send a master tape loaded only onto a hub. Please load all master tapes tails out onto a take-up reel. We can accommodate master tapes loaded onto take reels up to 12". Always store the master in a properly marked tape box.

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Most pressing companies accept the following noise reduction formats:

  • Dolby A
  • Dolby B
  • Dolby C
  • Dolby S
  • Dolby SR
  • DBX I

The type of noise reduction that has been encoded on the master tape should be marked. Accompanying tones for each type of noise reduction should be included with the standard alignment tones (e.g., Dolby A...Warble, Dolby SR...Dolby Noise, DBX...DBX w/1K).

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Sending Cassettes as masters:

Cassette tapes will be accepted as masters, but a pre-mastering charge will be charged in order to generate a clean DAT copy. Please note what record EQ was used, 70ms or 120ms, and if Dolby B or C noise reduction was used.

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Additional Notes:

Please note how the indexes are encoded on the master. Each cut should have its own index number, or at least the first cut of each side should have an index number. Whenever possible, include the cue sheet from the digital edit session with the DAT master. When assembling directly to DAT, be careful not to clip off the beginning of the songs when the machine is put into record.

Masters that are un-sequenced or need to be assembled from multiple sources, either analog or digital, can be edited entirely in the digital domain. An edited DAT is generated at 44.1K which is then used as the cassette master. That same DAT can also be used to make the 1630 for CD manufacturing. Studio time for digital editing is 125/hr plus materials.

All masters are transferred "As Is". The mastering engineer will contact the client if there are any obvious discrepancies. Otherwise, a master tape is considered ready for production. Any EQ, de-essing, limiting/compression, level changes, or other artistic treatments that are perceived should be properly noted when the master tape is sent in for mastering.

Any tape that is not "ready to master" and requires editing, re-sequencing, tightening of space between songs, or assembly from different masters, will be mastered at an hourly rate of 110.00/hr. A master tape that requires no extra treatment is considered "ready to master" and will only be billed the standard mastering charges. Re-mastering to correct or to make additional changes in level, EQ, etc. will be billed as an additional mastering charge.

Any master tape that is being prepared for mastering should have a safety copy made that is stored at your facility. This guards against loss in transit or damage to the master sent in for production. Independent Pressing Co. will exercise every bit of care in the handling and storage of your master, but we are not responsible for any loss, theft, or damage of a client's master. Master tapes should always be sent overnight express to our facility, never mailed. A DAT safety copy can be made at Independent Pressing Co. for a fee.

Please specify if you desire Dolby B to be encoded onto your finished cassettes. Professionally, we recommend the use of Dolby B to reduce cassette background noise, but some clients have justifiable reasons not to use it (e.g., educational, spoken word, motivational, etc.).

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