Mastering for Vinyl 2

From the Desk of Steve Smart: Mastering for Vinyl – Part 2

This is the 2nd part continuing on from last week’s post, where we sat down with Senior Mastering Engineer, Steve Smart to chat about his experiences working with Vinyl.

This is the second of a three part series:

To book Steve Smart for your mastering project, click here or contact Lynley on 02 9698 5888 or

What should be considered during recording and mixing to get the best out of the Vinyl release?

It all starts in the recording and the mixing process to always have in mind, what you can and what you can’t get away with. Specifically if you’re going to do it for vinyl, you have to seriously keep in mind the restrictions that the music will be placed on through the process of being physically cut to vinyl. So you know, stereo bass lines are not gonna cut it. If you’re doing dance music, you can’t have that hi-hat as loud as that kick drum. It’s just not mechanically or technically possible to be able to get away with that on vinyl.

If you don’t intend for it to be released on vinyl at all, you can do whatever you want really, as long as in your opinion you think that sounds good. It’s not really fair for everyone to say, well, “that’s not good because I think so”. If it’s your music and that’s how you wanted it to sound, then so be it. That’s the way it comes out.

Tell us about some interesting cuts that you did back at CBS


We had a lot of fun doing some really interesting records. I remember one we did, Severed Heads “Petrol”, where Tom Ellard (from Severed Heads) really wanted to experiment with the 7” format. We tinkered with the Neumann cutting lathe, so that when we cut the single it wouldn’t cut a run-out groove. We got the lathe to actually stop and then we lifted the cutter head and dropped 5 or 6 concentric little grooves in the space where the run out groove usually goes – then we put loops in there so that you could play the loop and have it play over and over again. The song would end forever on a loop, and then if you actually physically lifted it off, there would be 4 or 5 little loops there after that. I wish I still had a copy of it…

Tom was always into experimenting, he was fascinated by it all. Someone else that was also fun to work with was an engineer called Nick Mainsbridge. We worked on a band in the mid 80’s called Tall Tales and True. We cut one side as a 12” 45, so that basically, it was a 12” inch single. But on the B-Side were another 5 tracks, cut at 12” 33. It was a 12” single, but on the other side was half of an album as well.

You mentioned something about Blue Monday a while back…

One of the first 12” singles that I ever cut was “Blue Monday” by New Order. It was a luxury to have that much real estate to put one song on. It was just out of this world, the whole single format was completely blown out of the water. It was something like 7 minutes, at the time it was completely unheard of. But clubs were on the ever increase and DJ’s just wanted extra long versions of a song so they could play with it. To this date, I think that song is the biggest selling 12” single of all time. I think it started to revolutionise the way that record companies saw the marketing of the single as such. You weren’t necessarily stuck to the constraints of the 7” single’s purpose, for sticking in jukeboxes, they were on the decline. It was basically radio stations and clubs that were their new market, so all the record companies were all requesting extended versions done as 12” singles.

Severed Heads album that featured 'Petrol'
Severed Heads album that featured ‘Petrol’
New Order 'Blue Monday'
New Order ‘Blue Monday’

….Read part 3 of this interview with Steve, in which he explores vinyl in more technical detail.

[Steve Smart is one of the senior mastering engineers at Studios 301]

To book Steve Smart for your mastering project, click here or contact Lynley on 02 9698 5888 or