All about test pressings

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1 - What is the purpose of a test pressing?

A test pressing is a crucial step in the production process of a vinyl record. It is kind of a first draft, a "trial" version of the final product. The objective of this step is to offer the producer or the group, the opportunity to verify the overall quality of the recording and the matrix that will be used to press all the discs.

During this phase, the pressing plant generally provides the client with a limited number of test pressings, which are black vinyl discs bearing blank white labels. These must be listened to and approved by the client before proceeding with full production.

If the client is not satisfied with the test pressings, it is then necessary to determine the cause of the issues encountered. If these are due to a mistake on the part of the manufacturer, they usually commit to producing a new matrix or redoing the lacquer engraving, if necessary. On the other hand, if the defect is due to a client error (for example, a poorly prepared master), the client will have to bear the costs of the new production if they wish to obtain new test pressings.

2 - How to properly listen to a test pressing?

Listening to a test pressing requires particular attention. It is recommended to listen to all the test pressings, as a defect may be isolated. If the same defect is present on all the copies, it should be precisely indicated, specifying the timing of the defect.

It is also advised to listen to the test pressings several times and on different listening systems. Noises can indeed be due to static electricity or dust. It is also necessary to ensure that the state of the cell and diamond is good and that the stereo of the system is not reversed.

Finally, one should handle the test pressings with care, as vinyl records are fragile objects.

3 - What defects to spot on a test pressing?

Several types of problems can be encountered when listening to a test pressing:

  • Tracklist problem: silences between the tracks, markers, side A/B reversed, missing track.
  • Crackling, pops (crackles louder than others), hissing.
  • Low volume, increased perception of the natural background noise of vinyl, flat sound.
  • Non-compliance with playback speed, off-center, cell wobble.
  • Groove jump, warped disc, distortion, saturation.
  • Pre and post-echoes, crosstalk.

If a defect is detected, it is important to verify if it is present on all the test pressings and if it does not appear on the digital files. In case of doubt or comments requiring in-depth listening, it is recommended to contact the manufacturer's quality service.

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