Do I Need to Consider Vinyl When Mixing?

By October 22, 2023 May 19th, 2024 Mastering Studio

The Art of Vinyl Mixing: Embracing Dynamics and Balance

In an era dominated by digital formats and streaming, the vinyl record has made an impressive resurgence, and for good reason. Vinyl offers an analogue charm that captivates audiophiles and music enthusiasts alike. But crafting a mix that will sound amazing on vinyl requires a ittle thought, respecting the medium’s quirks and embracing its distinct advantages.

Let’s explore the key considerations that mix engineers need to keep in mind when preparing music for this timeless format.

1. Bass, the Heartbeat of Vinyl

One of the defining characteristics of vinyl is its sensitivity to bass frequencies. Unlike digital formats where you can spread bass-heavy elements across the stereo image, vinyl prefers a more centered approach. The reason is simple—extreme stereo movements in the low end can lead to tracking issues, potential distortion, and even skips on the record.

To ensure a smooth vinyl listening experience, it’s crucial to keep bass-heavy elements centered in the stereo image. This not only enhances playback compatibility but also ensures a more stable groove for the stylus to trace.

Instruments with frequency content below 40Hz content should also be carefully considered. Sudden bursts in sub sonic content can cause un-wanted playback issues and may require specific attention. Talking to a mastering engineer about these issues is highly recommended.

2. Dynamic Freedom: Embrace the Space

Vinyl is celebrated for its dynamic range, providing ample room for music to breathe and express itself. This is where vinyl stands apart from many digital formats that have succumbed to the loudness and over-compression trends. Mix engineers working on vinyl releases can revel in the freedom to preserve dynamics, allowing music to ebb and flow naturally.

By avoiding heavy-handed compression and excessive loudness, you enable the vinyl medium to shine. Let the music’s natural dynamics flourish, creating a listening experience that feels authentic and unaltered.

3. Precision and Craftsmanship

Vinyl records are a testament to craftsmanship and precision. Every detail, from the grooves etched into the disc to the quality of the vinyl itself, plays a role in the final sound. Mix engineers should strive for the highest quality source material, ensuring that any imperfections are minimized before the mastering stage.

Moreover, consider the impact of sibilance, plosives, and other audio artifacts. These details can become more pronounced on vinyl, so careful attention to vocal and instrument placement is essential. Even track order can have an impact on the final product. Artists often place more gentle songs at the end of sides as the likely hood of distortion increases the closer you get to the centre of the disc.

4. Collaboration with the Mastering Engineer

The collaboration between mix engineers and mastering engineers is paramount. A mastering engineer with experience in vinyl releases can fine-tune the mix for optimal vinyl playback. This may involve adjusting EQ, fine-tuning dynamics as well as performing Quaity Control on test pressings.

In conclusion, mixing for vinyl is an art form that celebrates the medium’s distinctive character. It’s a return to the essence of sound, a world where dynamics reign supreme, and music is free to take its natural course. Mix engineers who embrace these considerations will help create vinyl releases that captivate audiences with their warmth, authenticity, and true musicality.

You can read more on preparing your mixes for mastering here:

Grammy nominated Mastering engineer

Written by Joe Carra`

With over 30 years of experience in the mastering field, Joe is the sole director & chief mastering engineer at Crystal Mastering. A Grammy nominated audio engineer, Joe is also a founding member of MPEG (Music Producer & Engineer’s Guild of Australia). Over the years, Joe has had the privilege of mastering numerous ARIA award-winning albums, and his work has amassed over 3.5 billion streams. Aside from his regular mastering duties, Joe can also be found giving guest lectures at various audio colleges in his area.