This is one of Lucky’s specialties. Having restored hundreds of “classics”, from award winning 60s, 70s Soul albums and 45’s to your local and international legendary punk and new wave acts, for official digital and vinyl release. These are the problems I see the most of from other studios.
1) Over brightening – Similarly to over-compression, many seem to think that if they add couple DB of treble, they’ve helped restore the audio. But more often making other subtleties of an older recording more obvious and the audio less vinyl friendly than it was in it’s natural state. You can hear this poor technique used as far back as “audio restoration” came about. My recommendation is to maintain the original EQ as much as possible, as that is the definition of restoration.
2) Out-of-phase playback stylus or cartridge – This issue is much more common than it should be. I dont know if the stereo-wide effect that an improperly installed cartridge, headshell or needle, is what attracts some studios to let these issues pass through. But this will immediately make your recording “vinyl unfriendly”, require much quieter cutting and more than likely distort on many turntables on playback, even cause phase issues on some TT’s. this can also be an intermittent issue, if your gear is loose or improperly installed.
3) Using the wrong tools to fix pops and clicks – More often than not. I hear studios using tools more similar to de-essers and noise cleaners to fix clicks and pops. There are special tools for clicks and pops, and hitting them with the wrong tools only creates more transients. Especially in the higher frequencies. A washed out, underwater sound, similar to those created by low resolution MP3. And the pops and clicks are merely muffled, not cleaned out entirely.
4) Flat out failing to locate and restore pops and clicks. – You have to listen to locate them all, often more than once. Sit down and listen, clean each one individually, do not blanket your tools across the entire program. And if you need visual tools to locate them all, use them. One of the many subtle differences between digital and analog playback is that analog is more accurate and revealing. If you are fixing with cheaper gear for some reason or another, they certainly may not come through your monitors. Visual monitors are available for a reason. Use them. If you don’t fix them all you’re going to confuse a lot of people down the process. And you’re going to get returns.
5) Limiting / Hard compression – It’s often really sad when all of the above is done pretty well, but for some reason they felt the need to crush the audio down to 5 DB before sending off for cutting, but it happens too often. Especially when you are restoring a 7″ at 33RPM. Fyi – You just ruined it. I’ve seen and heard the biggest names in the business make this mistake and continue to scratch their head, over and over, while they continue to beat their head against the wall. Unable to understand why their restoration sounds like a distorted doodoo, when playing back the new cut on vinyl, as it’s no longer vinyl friendly. Once again, like the Treble issue mentioned above…. Restoration is meant to maintain the original EQ and Compression, as much as possible, as that is the definition of restoration. Stick to those rules and you should be okay.
6) Other tips,
* Find the best copy.
* Use discogs or personal libraries if you have to.
* Choose a studio that can record your album back to digital through the same kind of amplifiers used to cut the record. Not some random fancy amp that will further alter the wave forms.
* Choose a studio who uses a 14″ tone arm to record the audio back and has high end and extremely flat Analog to Digital converters.
* Clean the record first!
Happy New Year and Best of luck! There is still tons of great re-issue potential out there! I can think of a few right off the top of my head!
— Dave @ Lucky