Below you will find a brief guide to Vinyl Record & Stylus Care.
Please visit our dedicated section of our shop for our current range of cleaning & care products HERE
So when you’re not playing them, where is your vinyl going to live? And what are the best ways to store them? Ideally, you’ll want to keep them in a clean dry place, avoiding extreme temperatures and humidity (so not in the bathroom or sauna if that’s what you were thinking…) What you’re doing is trying to avoid warping the record. Warping is when the record bends out of shape which often leads to unplayable vinyl. There are methods of unwarping but prevention is the best cure, so keep them away from direct sunlight and high heat.
Another way your records can warp is by stacking them, so NEVER store them horizontally. Compared to other formats vinyl are pretty heavy, so the weight and pressure will eventually warp them over time. The more vertical the record stands the better. While on the subject of weight, you’ll want to make sure whatever they’re standing on is sturdy. An average 12” can weigh between 140 and 220 grams so bear that in mind as your collection grows. There’s plenty of specialist units and storage racks you can get for vinyl too.
So, we’re stating the obvious here, but seriously, be nice to your vinyl. Always handle them at the edges or by the inner label at the centre. Much like how it’s sacrilege to touch the data side of the CD the same applies to vinyl. When you touch the playing surface, you’ll transfer oils from your skin into the grooves, which dust will stick to and affect the sound quality. You’re also running the risk of scratching the grooves with your fingernails.
You don’t want your vinyl rattling around inside the jacket. There are a few different types of inner sleeves made from different materials available:
- Paper – The most basic and cheapest option is to use paper inner sleeves and are commonly included with the vinyl when you first buy it. However, these sheets can scratch records as you slide them in and out as well as create paper dust. Plus, with them being paper, they rip and deteriorate much easier and much quicker. Hardcore collectors will also note that some of these paper sleeves come with pressing dates, record company logos and other interesting quirks, so double check before you bin them. We don’t recommend paper sleeves over any other types but it’s better than no protection at all.
- Poly – Poly sleeves (or polypropylene) are more durable than the paper sleeves previously mentioned but are also more expensive, but if you’re serious about collecting you might want to invest in these. It eliminates the issues of dust and scratchy paper damages when taking it in and out of the sleeve. It’s also much easier to remove and insert it into the album jacket. Some also have rounded corners making life even easier.
- Paper with poly lining – As you can probably guess, a mixture of the above. The outside paper makes the sleeve much more rigid whilst the poly lining inside lets the vinyl slip in much smoother with a lower risk of scratching and collecting dust.
Again, hours of Googling can be had here and you might find some weird and wonderful suggestions too (if you’re brave enough to try the dishwasher or toothpaste suggestions we found, we salute you). But to begin with here's a few simple tips:
- Dry Cleaning – Use a carbon fibre brush to clean your vinyl before and after every play. Brush lightly along the grooves and this will help prevent the build-up of dust and other dirt. The carbon strands (on the outer surface of the cleaner) reduce the static charge on the vinyl (which attracts dust) and the inner part (usually a cloth material) then collects the dust on the second wipe after the static is reduced. Remember to regularly clean the brush too. This should be a regular practice in your listening sessions.
- Wet Cleaning – Highly recommended when you want to give your records a deep clean. A mixture of record cleaning fluid and water (distilled, not tap!) works well. Clean with a micro-fibre cloth and dry with a separate micro-fibre cloth.
- Cleaning Machines – Once you have a big collection, cleaning records by hand might be a lot of effort. There are vacuum cleaning machines that automatically apply a cleaning solution and then vacuum the liquid off again. There are also spin cleaners that clean the record with the solution as it spins with the brushes cleaning off the dirt. Although effective, they can be expensive.
- Wood Glue – Yep you’ve read that correctly, using wood glue is an age-old secret to pristine vinyl. As it’s chemically very similar to the material of a record it won’t stick to it, but it will stick to everything else clogging it up. Spread on the glue, wait for it to dry and peel away. Try this out on an old vinyl first before applying to your entire collection.
The threats to your records are numerous and each can affect your discs in different ways: from impairing the clarity of the audio to skipping and even, in a worst-case scenario, rendering them unplayable.
But before we focus on the threats to your records themselves, we should highlight the importance of looking after your player, and more specifically, your stylus.
The stylus is the part of the player that runs through the groove, generating the electrical signal that results in your audio – therefore, it’s fundamental that you don’t allow your stylus to become caked in dust, grime or, well, anything really.
It’s often best practice to give your stylus a clean with a dedicated solution and fine brush regularly, if not after each play.
There are many different types of stylus cleaner around which you can pick up affordably, they’re worth their weight in gold.
Be sure to always run your brush over the stylus in the same direction that the record spins.
Be liberal with your application of the liquid but remember to clean and brush your stylus regularly. Also, check (as much as you can) that there isn’t anything nasty affixed to it.
Eventually, no matter how frequently you clean it, your stylus will naturally start to wear and need replacing. We’d recommend you purchase a brand-new cartridge after around two -to-three years of regular playing.
Replacing the cartridge also combats the possibility of the suspension stiffening, which tends to happen with poorer quality cartridges after around four years. Bear in mind that even if your needle is spotlessly clean, a cartridge with degraded suspension can damage your collection. So, to reiterate – get your cartridge changed after a couple of years.
Phoenix Vinyl FAQ's
How do I get my tracks to you?
Details on how to send via "we transfer" can be found:- HERE
Please do not attach audio files to an email or emails and send to our email address, these will be automatically deleted without a reply.
What about copyright?
With a change in the law a few years ago if you have bought a selection of songs, then you can transfer them to any format you like be it CD, vinyl, MP3 or whatever - this is called 'fair use' and is legal, however streaming services such as “spotify” does not qualify for this and should not be used as the audio has not been purchased. If the client does not have the ability to send audio files, on rare occasions audio can be purchased on request specifically for the client, this is always however a "last resort" option due to variations in track versions it is sometimes difficult to purchase the exact version wanted by the client , IF we agree to do this the cost for this would be included in a final invoice.
If you want more than one copy of a song (that you don't own copyright to) then we / you have to pay the PRS (Performing Rights Society) so the artist gets paid. This is only £1 or so per track, so this can be added to the price of the vinyl cut.
If the content is fully owned by you, and you require multiple copies for commercial release, then your order can be processed immediately by accepting the interim Declaration for Release when you complete your order. For information, PRS guidelines stipulate you should also make an application for a ‘License of No Claim’.
(see guidance to UK copyright law here).
What format would you prefer audio in?
In simple terms, the highest quality possible, preferably 16bit/44.1Khz WAV or AIFF or FLAC as a minimum. If you only have it in a compressed format (MP3, AAC etc.) then when you send it to us, we will try to check the file and email you if the overall anticipated quality is too low for cutting to Vinyl, please note compressed files will never produce great results, changing the format (for example MP3 to WAV) using software or online options will not increase the quality of the file and will be detected in our systems, if you do decide to send us compressed files MP3 or files originally derived from a compressed format etc you are therefore accepting the results will be as good as we can get with no guarantees of quality.
Are there any other format’s you accept?
Yes, the studio is geared up to accept Vinyl Records, CD audio, USB sticks, DAT Tapes and Cassette tapes, in addition to this we will be adding Minidisc and Reel to Reel in due course, please email us before sending any physical media.
It is music I have bought, does it need to be mastered for Vinyl?
Not always, if the tracks were originally released on Vinyl then it will have been mastered for Vinyl already, however, a word of caution, although transcription to Vinyl may be easy if the audio has been re-recorded with different EQ (tone) settings it may produce unwanted results, Sibilance for example... (where "S" sounds or cymbals etc sound harsh or distorted) Unfortunately we do not know if this will be the case until the actual record is cut but we do use filters to try and reduce any potential problems.
Tracks that were never released on Vinyl pose a completely different set of issues, with digital files the level of bass & sub bass signals is not detrimental to the recording as its a digital file, however on Vinyl excessive bass or any sub bass will result in unwanted results, distortion or even the stylus jumping out of the groove, again this is not apparent on cutting the record as the cutter head will cut the signal, it's the playback system that cannot handle the bass, causing a needle to jump.
There is a detailed article on our website :- HERE this explains some of the limitations of Vinyl that other formats do not have.
If you are un-sure we recommend checking if the audio was only available on "digital release" then asking us for a quote for re-mastering any tracks specifically for Vinyl to be on the safe side.
Mastering for Vinyl is not included within the pricing, this means if your audio has not been mastered for Vinyl it may produce varied results, we do use filters and processing of the audio to enable it to be cut to the Vinyl, however there are huge differences between a digital audio file and one “mastered” for Vinyl.
Audio supplied that has not been checked that caused any unwanted issues on playback is not the responsibility of Phoenix Vinyl and not cause for a re-cut under our guarantee.
It is my own music, how should it be mastered?
If the music is your own you probably have the original master and can re-master it. mixing for vinyl is different from digital releases, there are many articles and links as to what you should do, but for the basics please follow these rules:
Excessive variants in levels can cause issues so compress the tracks a bit to keep the levels a bit more consistent.
Don't pan too much especially the bass instruments, keep these in the middle - Kick Drum, bass guitar etc. the cutting stylus can't cope with large movements - if I think it's too much I'll ask you to re-master it, or I can make adjustments for you if required.
'harsh' instruments that start to produce square sound waves, such as rasping saxophone's can also cause some issues so please try and reduce these.
De-Ess the vocals, and reduce the level of high hats etc. vinyl accentuates these frequencies - again we will listen to your track before cutting and advise any adjustments required.
Signal / frequency restraints should also be noted, there are limitations when cutting Vinyl that are not normally an issue when using digital media, bass frequencies below 20 Hz provide playback issues and should be avoided, there is a full interesting and detailed article available HERE
What are blank Vinyl discs made from?
Unlike traditional ‘dub-plates’ that are made with soft acetate, and will deteriorate significantly within a very short time, Phoenix Vinyl only uses harder professional grade polycarbonate, (1.5mm or 2mm). This ensures that, like pressed vinyl, the final product is far more durable and retains its original playback quality over time.
Can your records be used for scratching?
Yes, they are very durable and hardwearing.
What are the maximum recording times?
7" (per side)
45rpm: 4 Minutes
10" (per side)
33rpm: 10 Minutes
45rpm: 8 Minutes
12" (per side)
33rpm: 20 Minutes
45rpm: 11 Minutes
Exceeding the maximum time listed above is sometimes possible with additional work, this may incur a surcharge at the studio's discretion.
I’ve had records before with 25 or more minutes a side in duration, so why are your's limited to 20 minutes?
There are a number of reasons for this limit, here are a few of them…
1, Vinyl cutting engineers making Lacquer cuts for pressing Vinyl will “plan” the sides with the loudest tracks first and the quieter ones last to achieve a higher running time, this is a carefully considered process to ensure maximum cutting time, please ask yourself, did you consider the running order in relation to the limitations of Vinyl?
2, The more you try to fit on the record, the less groove width you have so you need to reduce the volume levels to achieve this, with our lathe cut records the volume is already reduced to around 75% so reducing it further will cause the end user to increase the volume level, this will result in the surface noise of the disc or “noise floor” coming through, clients would then think the record is faulty when it is not.
3, In a professional lacquer cutting setup the lathe will have a “variable groove speed” controlled by a computer, this adjusts the groove speed for the quieter sections and adjusts the speed again for the louder sections to allow more cutting space, these machines cost in excess of £150,000.00, consequently these are a completely different setup, so unfortunately it would be like comparing a F1 car with a 3 Series BMW .
4, On a lacquer cut the engineer can produce multiple copies of the album until its right, it is then used for making stampers to create hundreds of copies, so time and money are not necessarily a consideration to achieve the “one master copy”, In a single cut environment we cannot test cut multiple copies of your project until we achieve your goal as there is not enough profit to cover this so we limit the time to 20 minutes to keep the parameters realistically achievable.
How many tracks can I fit on each side?
One track per side
Single - One track per side
EP - Up to Two tracks per side
Single - One track per side
EP - Up to Two tracks per side
Album Cut - Up to Five tracks per side
If you require more than Five tracks per side but the total duration is still under 20 minutes each side please contact us for a quote.
Why are there limits on the number of tracks, I’ve had albums before with 8 – 10 tracks on a single side!
The track limitations are dure to the amount of processing needed and time taken to create the VTMs (visual track markers) between the tracks, to keep the project realistically achievable for the price consideration we need to ensure these are not exceeded unless the additional work is reflected in the price, also each VTM will take up valuable recording space on the record, therefore for each VTM we add, the available recording time will be reduced.
How good do these hand cut records actually sound?
Hand / Lathe cuts will always have some degree of surface noise/pops/crackles, this tends to disappear once the music starts, especially for full, loud recordings, lathe cuts however are not audiophile records, they are not intended to be comparable to standard pressed records.
They will sound slightly different than the audio master, as plastic reacts and cut’s to certain frequencies differently. They are made from materials that were never originally intended to be records. Sound quality often varies slightly from one record to the next, and some audio tracks translate better than others. There are many factors that determine the sound of the record; the material, the number of records that have been cut by the stylus, the climate, etc… But we test cut most orders and throw away any that are not up to a high standard. These are all totally listenable, but intended to be used more as unique playable hand cut records. These lathes cuts are a unique way for you to own your music on vinyl and every effort will be made to keep the audio quality as high as possible.
The plastic that is used is harder than a lacquer that is used to master a pressed record, and the cutting head has to work much harder, resulting in less volume (about 75% that of a modern record). So, you may have to turn up your amplifier volume slightly higher than where it usually sits.
There can be problems you may experience when using a subwoofer while playing lathe cut records, one problem is you may be summing the left & right signals to create the bass, this is then adjusted on a crossover point, however it may cause phasing issues, another is rumble as the resonant frequency from the lathe cut vinyl transmits through your system, add to this the increase in volume levels you make as the sound is recorded at a lower volume and you may get unwanted noises,
If you get unwanted noises from the subwoofer, we suggest it may be better to switch it off for playback of your vinyl, subwoofer noises are not necessarily a fault on the lathe cut record.
Lathe cut records might also require tonearm and anti-skate adjustment in order to track correctly due to the hard plastic having slightly shallower grooves than a traditional record.
Is there anything I should know about the picture disc's, label's & custom cover's creation process?
Yes, our picture discs, custom covers or custom labels are created from the images or files supplied by you, if the resolution of the supplied images is too low for the size of print it will affect the clarity of the image on the print, this may show as pixelated if stretched too far, we will try our best to advise before printing if this is the case, so you are aware,
One of the other factor's is the image colour, the image you see on a PC, phone of tablet may not print exactly as it looks on your screen, your display settings play a part in the image you see, on print red's & whites can appear a whole range of colours, dark colours usually appear darker on print, dark patterns on dark colours can sometimes totally disappear!, we need our customers therefore to understand, we cannot be held responsible for perceived colour or accuracy on prints where the image has been supplied by you, we do not adjust any colours or brightness of the supplied images prior to printing, they are "as is" when printed, if you are unsure please print the images at home first to check before sending,
If you plan on adding text around the circumference or near to the edge of your project, Cover, labels or Picture Disc, please allow at least a 10mm bleed area, (the text should be inside a border, not right to the edge of the print area) allignment of text is not adjustable by us therefore not covered within our normal satisfaction guarantee,
Please also factor in the following if you are purchasing a picture disc, there is a layer of adhesive between the picture and the vinyl disc, this may make the image appear "cloudy" or "patchy", especially the darker colours, these image quality & colour match issues unfortunately are outside of our control and also consequently do not fall within our normal satisfaction guarantee.
Please also note, if you are submitting a square or rectangle image for use on a circular or shaped vinyl we will apply OUR interpretation of "best fit" for the image without sending the results for confirmation / approval prior to printing, please remember the records are round or shaped (heart for example) so a square image may have edges cut off or we may shrink the size to fit, beware if there is text on the image you may lose the text if close to the edges.
Please note :- We do not get involved with graphic design or artwork creation, it is the clients responsibility to provide the artwork for all Picture Discs, Labels or Covers.
How long will it take to process my order?
During normal periods we say 7 to 10 Days from order to dispatch.
We strive to meet our delivery targets at all times, however, any timings given are estimates. This service can be very busy and at times of exceptional demand there may be further delays in the processing time. In the case of any unreasonable delay we’ll email you with updates on progress, Priority orders are available as a small cost, and in the case of Priority orders not being met, we’ll refund the Priority order charge.
What are your postage charges?
Standard Royal Mail first class post for single items, for batches or multiple orders clients can use a prefered carrier if required.
Do you ship to International destinations?
Our website is specifically for customers based in the UK, however shipping to an International destination or purchases made from an International buyer can be done with specific variations to our terms and conditions, here is a summary of the main adjustments,
1, No guarantee is made against loss or damage when shipping outside of the UK, we will provide when requested “proof of postage” but once the purchase has left the via the post office we will accept no further liability or responsibility for the delivery or claims regarding the condition of the purchase.
2, Strictly no paypal for any International delivery or purchases, bank transfer only.
3, The value of the goods for declaration to us is the manufacture cost, to you it is the purchase price, making a declaration on a customs form that the item is a gift with a low value is not recommended, if this is done to try and avoid paying import fees it will also reduce the postal services liability against a claim, if you declare the package having a value of £10.00 , that will become the postal services limit of liability if it is lost or damaged, please be aware of this.
4, The additional postage cost and forms to complete for an International delivery is not covered within our pricing, please be aware you may be requested to pay the difference once the full costs are known.
5, By placing an order outside of the UK or for delivery outside of the UK you agree to these adjusted terms and conditions.
6, We reserve the right to cancel any non UK orders, placing an order outside of the UK does not form a guarantee of supply or service.
I’ve received my Vinyl but unfortunately I have a problem.
We always try hard to ensure every aspect of your order goes according to plan. However, in order to keep our costs to the customer as low as possible, we are unable to monitor and review 100% of every order. Due to the complex and delicate nature of vinyl cutting a flawed cut can occasionally occur. We are pleased to say, this rarely occurs in most of our orders, however, in the unlikely event that something does go wrong with a single product,
Upon our confirmation of an issue we are responsible for, Phoenix Vinyl will either offer the option to rectify the issue, or alternatively we will provide a full refund (including any return post),
(The above is at our discretion)
Please note the following:-
Residue or marks on the record are not a problem or cleanliness related, this is residue of anti-static cutting spray that dries when cutting leaving marks, we did previously clean this off prior to dispatch, however our customers said this made the Vinyl attract dust so we now leave it in place, you may use your normal record cleaning methods if you prefer a clean looking finish.
Although we try to keep the levels consistent on an album cut the files you send often have varied levels of volume, our system will not automatically increase or decrease the levels if they are varied, you may want to check the levels of your tracks prior to sending to us and ensure they are roughly the same, although we will try to tweak the level if it is obviously too low, the level of the individual tracks is not the responsibility of Phoenix Vinyl, they are cut as supplied to us by yourself.
By placing an order with Phoenix Vinyl you are hereby agreeing to all of our terms and conditions detailed on our website HERE, have read and agree with all the instructions or directions raised in our FAQ's
Our usual 100% satisfaction guarantee does not apply to the 1.5mm "no frills" budget cut's or any product discounted from our usual retail price.