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Poll: DMM (Direct Metal Mastering) vs Lacquer Mastering vs DtD (Direct to Disc)

Discussion in 'Music Corner' started by Stefano G., Apr 22, 2014.

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  1. Stefano G.

    Stefano G. Ab alto, speres alteri quod feceris. Thread Starter

    I realized that here was missing this poll ....


    A brief description of the three processes:

    1 - Lacquer Mastering: the contents of the “master tape”, word that defined the backing on tape in which the artist had taped all his songs, was transferred by a process called “lacquer-cutting” and by a specific instrumentation (namely the “cutting-lathe”), through which it is possible to work on a level of equalization and compression, on a disc called “lacquer: it is an audio container which looks very similar to any normal record as you can find in shops, but in reality it is made by a lacquer-coated aluminum disc. The lacquer, once it has been cut, is put in baths and electroplated with nickel; this coating, once removed from the lacquer itself, reproduces a metal “plate” (that has some “bumps” instead of the usual grooves), or as to say the two matrices (whose technical name is “fathers”) which are electroplated again giving so origin to the mother plate that generates, as consequence of a further plating process, the stampers.

    2 - DMM (Direct Metal Mastering): unlike conventional disc mastering, where the mechanical audio modulation is cut onto a lacquer-coated aluminum disc, DMM cuts straight into metal (copper), utilizing a high frequency carrier system and specialized diamond styli, vibrating at more than 40 kHz (i.e. 60 kHz) to facilitate the cutting. The DMM copper master disc can be plated to produce the required number of stampers using the one-step plating process. Rather than having to electroform a master (or "father"), mother and then stampers (the traditional "three-step process"), the DMM copper disc serves as the 'mother". Bypassing the silvering process and two electroforming stages reduces the risk of introducing noise that can be generated in the electroforming (galvanic) process. In cases where hundreds of stampers may be required, the DMM disc is often plated to produce a master and mother, from which many stampers are then made.

    3 - DtD (Direct to Disc): in order to make a direct-to-disc recording, musicians would typically play a "live" set in a recording studio using professional audio equipment. The recording would be made without the use of multitrack recording, and without overdubs. The performance would have to be carefully engineered, and mixed live in stereophonic sound. During the performance, the analog disc cutting head engages the master lacquer used for pressing LP records and is not stopped until the entire side is complete.
    Such a direct-to-disc recording was often simultaneously also recorded onto a two-track master tape for subsequent pressing in the traditional manner: such tapes were often made to preserve the recordings in case the direct-to-disc process failed, or the master disc became damaged before the final product could be produced.
    More than a mastering method, it is a recording method that anyway affects the final result.

    ...which mastering method allows us to produce the best-sounding records? ...and why?
     
  2. rxcory

    rxcory (out on medical leave through the end of 2020)

    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    I've never heard any of these AFAIK, but have read about DMM and DtD. I hope some recommendations and comments will follow as this thread develops.
     
  3. Metralla

    Metralla Joined Jan 13, 2002

    Location:
    San Jose, CA
    There is nothing quite like Direct to Disk recordings.
     
    McLover likes this.
  4. Stefano G.

    Stefano G. Ab alto, speres alteri quod feceris. Thread Starter

    Of course, in the procedure called "Lacquer mastering" is included the process called "half-speed mastering" in which both the master-tape and the cutting lathe are run at half speed; therefore this is a process that takes twice as time compared to the "standard" lacquer mastering: the ultimate goal should be to get more definition in the final sound.
     
    Sneaky Pete likes this.
  5. ssmith3046

    ssmith3046 Forum Resident

    I own examples of all three that sound great and some that don't.
     
  6. Bruno Republic

    Bruno Republic Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto, Canada
    The question doesn't make sense. DMM and lacquer are different processes for cutting a disc, but DtD has nothing to do with that. A DtD disc could be lacquer or DMM (though all the ones I own are lacquer).

    It's like asking "Which is better for movies: film, digital projectors, or movies consisting of live theater?"
     
  7. Stefano G.

    Stefano G. Ab alto, speres alteri quod feceris. Thread Starter

    Some additional infos, found on the web, about the DMM:

    The advantages of DMM (hard surface material) over acetate lacquer cutting (soft surface material) are both sonic and practical: because of the rigidity of the master disc medium, no groove wall bounce-back effects take place after the cutting has been completed. This preserves the original modulation details in the groove walls much better, especially those involved with sudden fast attacks (transients). The improved transient response, as well as the more linear phase response of DMM improve the overall stability and depth-of-field in the stereo image. In addition, disturbing adjacent groove print-through sounds (groove echoes) are reduced in DMM. Also, there is no need to rush the finalized master disc directly into a refrigerator for groove preservation, as in conventional lacquer disc cutting, before processing the master disc to produce matrices for the pressing of the records.

    With the groove being cut straight into a metal foil, this removed a number of plating stages in the manufacturing process. This gave rise to more upper frequency levels and less surface noise. Additionally, groove pre-echo problems are significantly diminished.

    DMM LP pressings are sometimes described by some as having a harshness or forwardness in the high frequencies. The fact the groove is cut to copper, a hard metal, and not to soft lacquer, nitrocelullose, supposedly endows DMM vinyl LP with a very different tonality to traditionally manufactured vinyl LP pressings.

    Direct Metal Mastering requires a radically different cutting angle than traditional (lacquer) cutting, almost 0 degrees. However the playback cartridges will always have the standard playback angle of 15–22.5°. Thus, the DMM process includes electronic audio processing so the records can be played with a standard cartridge despite having been cut at a substantially different angle. This electronic processing might account for the supposedly different high frequency "signature sound" of DMM records.

    Along with mechanical audio recording and vinyl LP pressing in general, DMM is now more or less a thing of the past (certainly not in the mainstream of the sound recording industry any longer): as at 2009 there are six or seven DMM cutting facilities left in the world - all located in Europe. The USA lost its last DMM cutting facility in 2005 with the demise of New York City based record manufacturer Europadisk LLC.

    There is a difference between the two processes (DMM and Lacquer Mastering) , but there is a consensus that lacquer mastering simply has a better, warmer sound. DMM works well with long LPs – there is better pitch control in the system (for those that have not been back-converted to lacquer as most have), which is better for longer lengths (albums etc.). There is also higher frequency response and, because of this, grooves cannot be cut as deep and there is sometimes a tin-type sound to DMM. For warmer, deeper sound and better base response, lacquer mastering is the way to go. Lacquers can also be significantly louder on EP’s or singles than DMM. Have you ever wondered where dubstep gets that explosive bass that shakes your entire body? That’s lacquer mastering at its finest. -( See more at: http://www.recordpressing.com/2010/03/top-ten-vinyl-record-myths-2/#sthash.S1MZ9eIi.dpuf )
     
  8. Stefano G.

    Stefano G. Ab alto, speres alteri quod feceris. Thread Starter

    As I have already stated, more than a mastering method, it is a recording method that anyway quite a lot affects the final result: in practice it was the method of recording (and mastering) used up to 50s, ie before the invention of the magnetic tape; although rarely, it is a process that is still used today.
     
  9. motionoftheocean

    motionoftheocean Forum Resident

    Location:
    Margaritaville
    I'm not sure there is a correct answer to this. I've heard different mastering engineers claim lacquers were the way to go and cutting to metal was garbage, and also heard mastering engineers say cutting to copper is the only way to get a top quality record while cutting to lacquer results in inferior records. Personally, I've heard great results from both of those options, and heard terrible results from both of those options. personally, I think most of it is down to the quality of the person doing the cutting.
     
  10. motionoftheocean

    motionoftheocean Forum Resident

    Location:
    Margaritaville

    I'm sure 99% of the records you've heard came from lacquers
     
  11. oxenholme

    oxenholme High Quality Posts™ a speciality

    I have but one LP in both DMM and Lacquer - the Russian Melodya DMM of A Hard Day's Night vs the UK Parlophone. I prefer the sound of the Melodya.
     
  12. Sheik Yerbouti

    Sheik Yerbouti Forum Resident

    Location:
    Germany
    All three processes have their advantages and their disadvantages. What I dislike most about DtD is that it seems to be unable to capture big scale orchestras and ensembles in an appropriate way. These records simply don't sound as good as they should with DtD while small ensemble recordings can have excellent sonics.

    Europadisk pressed some DMM albums that sounded really terrific. If you have the chance to get Thilo von Westernhagen's "Pleasureland" do yourself a favor and take it home with you. This is one of the best sounding LPs on planet Earth.
     
    Stefano G. likes this.
  13. yasujiro

    yasujiro Forum Resident

    Location:
    tokyo
    IMO it is pointless to compare d-to-d with the other two.
     
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