In order to remove any substantial dirt, dust or grease stains, we use a simple vinyl record vacuum cleaner.
First, the record is scrubbed with our homemade isopropyl alcohol-based cleaning liquid using a goat hair brush. The hairs are fine enough to enter the grooves and clean them out. The vacuum wand then sucks up the fluid and diluted dirt.
Traditionally used for cleaning jewelry and industrial parts, this technique only recently found its way into the vinyl cleaning business.
From the label down, the record gets submerged in a bath of our homemade isopropyl alcohol-based cleaning liquid. A spindle holds it in place and rotates at a constant speed for about 15 minutes while the container mechanically agitates the liquid at a low frequency. A phenomenon called cavitation occurs, producing millions of tiny air bubble explosions being shot in every direction. The air bubbles find their way into the grooves, effectively removing any fine dust, gunk, grease or other contaminants still remaining after the vacuum cleaning process. The result, apart from any physical scuffs and scratches that are of course irreversible, is a perfectly immaculate record as if it were brand new.
Having also removed any static from potentially charged records, this whole process greatly improves the quality of the recordings afterwards. The stylus has fewer obstacles to overcome on its path and is able to track the groove much better. The resulting recordings will sound more defined and contain less clicks, crackles and noise. It goes without saying that we prefer to eliminate this undesired sonic debris before capturing the analog signal. If we don't, not only can they mask parts of the signal we actually do want to capture, but we also have to find techniques and lose time trying to remove these artifacts digitally afterwards.
The goal of the transcription process is to produce the most accurate digital representation of the original analog signal. This way, when the file is played out and converted back to analog, the resulting sound waves are as close as possible to the ones resulting from playing the real deal.
We use professional grade equipment through the entire signal path. Since the particular choice of stylus, tonearm, turntable, cables, preamp and A/D can affect the accuracy of the recording, there is no single setup that is optimal for any piece of audio. One stylus/tonearm combo might be better at tracking the bottom end of a certain record, while another combo might be used to better control an emphasised higher frequency range.
It's important to realise that because the setup is chosen to capture the analog signal in the groove as truthfully as possible, any flaws such as scratches and scuffs on worn records potentially also become more audible in the resulting recording compared to recording the same record with a lower grade setup that is unable to pick up those details. Thankfully a lot is possible in the digital clean up phase: we can digitally remove any sonic artifacts with high precision without compromising the quality of the recording. You'll find more details about this process in the next segment.
Besides the playback and studio (in case you wish to digitally process the files yourself afterwards) standard, we also offer the following recording formats:
PCM audio format (BWF - extension .wav or aiff) in
44.1kHz @ 16/24 bit
48kHz @ 16/24 bit
88.2kHz @ 24 bit
96kHz @ 24 bit
176.4 kHz @ 24 bit
192kHz @ 24 bit
1-bit audio format in
2.8MHz @ 1-bit
5.6MHz @ 1-bit
DSDIFF format (extension .dff)
DSF (extension .dsf)
WSD (extension .wsd)
Once we transcribed the record, the resulting recording may hold undesired sonic artifacts.
This primarily depends on the condition of the record. The washing and ultrasonic cleaning will have removed all external contaminants but any scratches, scuffs or dents in the record can still produce clicks, crackles, noise or other unwanted elements.
We use professional software to remove these artifacts and are able to do so with high precision, without compromising the quality of the recording. We normally try to avoid using algorithms. They can save time but hold the risk of removing valuable information. A click, for example, can easily be mistaken for a quick-attack snap of a kick drum or conga hit which we wouldn't want the algorithm to suppress. Cheap DIY software or DAW plugins are often used nonchalantly, resulting in a significant loss in clarity and definition.
Generally, recording a vinyl copy that is unplayed or has been played with care (or in Discogs terms: M, NM or VG+) are easy to restore and give the best results. However, a clean copy isn't always available in which case the restoration process takes longer but can still give very pleasing results. In the worst case that a record is practically unplayable, it's often still possible generate to a perfectly acceptably sounding rip.
The aim of our transcription process is to produce the most accurate digital representation of the original analog signal engraved in the vinyl record. However, after having successfully removed any undesired sonic artefacts in the digital restoration process, it is always possible to take the further step of remastering the resulting recording if necessary.
It goes without saying that any remastering is done with the greatest respect for the original production and is considered from a functional perspective, not a musical one. We generally embrace the wide dynamic range more commonly found in pre-90s productions. At your request however, we can compress and limit certain recordings to make them sound more loud but we strongly recommend doing this only when absolutely necessary.
Occasionally, the original master can hold flaws we wish to get rid off such as an unbalanced L/R distribution, distortion, a harsh sounding higher frequency range, essing etc. Additionally, when transcribing multiple records, selective remastering can help us realise a coherent sounding set of recordings. For DJs specifically, this can be very beneficial. In a club environment there isn't always enough headroom to comfortably level and equalise two consecutive tracks. Playing out vinyl rips with a consistent volume and a coherent sound will save valuable time and energy that is better used creatively rather than practically.
Once available in a high quality digital format, a song becomes much easier to manipulate and rearrange. While in the past reel-to-reels needed to be spliced and taped, software now has made it easy to manipulate the audio to the finest detail while maintaining the quality of the original file.
Although often clients are happy just with the original recording by itself, some like to go one step further and choose to have the song edited to their liking. A wide range of tools and the necessary skills are available to get the most out of your recordings so we're happy to sit down with you to make your own personal extended, quantised or rearranged versions.