There are two widely utilized methods of mastering (“cutting”) vinyl records:
Lacquer Cutting: In this method, a lathe cuts the grooves into an aluminum disc coated with a heavy layer of lacquer (similar to dried nail polish). This lacquer disc (also known as an acetate) is then used to create the father, then the mother, then the metal stampers. The stampers are the nickel plates used to press the records themselves. Lacquer is able to be cut deeply by the lathe, allowing higher volume (bigger grooves = higher volume).
Direct Metal Mastering: This method is similar to lacquer cutting, but instead of a lacquer disc, the lathe carves the grooves directly into a copper plate. Stampers are made directly from this copper plate. Because copper is a harder material than acetate, the grooves cannot be cut as deeply on a DMM master, leading to a slightly lower output volume. However, the hardness of copper prevents any microscopic deformation of the grooves, leading to a slightly more accurate “crisper” sounding cut.
With either mastering method, the cutting engineer must make slight adjustments to your audio at their discretion to get the best sounding final product. This can include rolling off some low end or high end, as well as adjusting the final output volume based on the length of each side. The final output volume is determined at the cutting engineer’s discretion, and is not directly related to the volume of the supplied audio. We will use either cutting method at our discretion depending on the particular package ordered and a variety of other factors. It is not possible to specify which mastering method you would like used on your project.