Replication or Duplication – What Is The Difference?

Although both words have essentially the same meaning, in the CD & DVD industry, there is a big distinction in the terms, and how they refer to the manufacturing process of the final discs.

Duplicated discs are manufactured using blank disks (CD-R for duplicating CDs and DVD-R, or Blu-ray-R (BD-R) for duplicating DVDs) onto which the digital data, audio or video is copied with robotic duplication machines similar to the CD or DVD writer built into your home computer. With the exception of some Blue-ray discs that use a slightly different technology, blank media is made of a polycarbonate disc with a reflective surface and a photo sensitive dye. The write head or laser in the duplication machine ‘burns’ the digital information into the photo sensitive layer during duplication.

There is no difference in the sound or data quality of a duplicated or replicated disc – in fact many replicated CD’s and DVD’s are made from duplicated masters. However, many professionals argue that the data integrity on a replicated disc is better due to the way in which they are made.

Replicated discs are manufactured using a high temperature injection moulding process and glass mastering. The glass mastering stage involves the data from your master being transferred onto an optically ground and polished disc. This digital information is etched into a coating on the glass, which is then used to make nickel stampers in an electrolytic bath. These stampers are then used in the moulding process during replication. This process is the same for CD and DVD replication.

So… The pros and cons?

Duplication is more cost effective on short run orders – or when very fast turnaround times are required. This makes them very suitable for promo projects and demo’s. However, on order quantities of 500 upwards, replicated discs become cheaper per unit to manufacture and as recognised by the industry, if you are looking to manufacture a professional, commercial quality product – the replicated disc is the way to go.

Hundred Seventy Split Set For New Album Release

Bass player Leo Lyons from the legendary rock combo Ten Years After talks about his early career with the band and a new record from his latest act – Hundred Seventy split.

“Ten Years After is probably best remembered for the bands performance at the historic 1969 Woodstock Festival and featuring in the subsequent film of the event. Original guitarist Alvin Lee sadly passed away in March 2013 and will be missed, as Alvin and I started out together and shared many of life’s experiences, he was like the brother that I never had. After many Gold and Platinum Albums and thousands of concerts under our belts TYA is still going strong and, with the addition of new guitarist/vocalist Joe Gooch, the three original members are still touring and have recorded three new CDs.

Aside from my career as a bass player I have done many things since starting out on my musical journey way back in 1960. I am a recording engineer and record producer and was studio manager of Wessex Studios, London in 1975. I have also owned my own studios. Songwriting is also a passion and in 1998 I moved to Nashville where I was a staff writer for a country music publisher. I lived and worked in Nashville until 2011 before moving back to my now European base.  

I first worked with Cyclone back in 2002 when my own label Corner House Records re-released the CD ‘Tough Trip Through Paradise’ – a solo project that I did with rock band Kick which was first released ten years earlier in the 1990’s. Graham at Cyclone was very helpful in putting together the re-packaging for me. The CD pressing was excellent and the delivery spot on time. Since then I’ve worked with Cyclone on releases with my new project ‘Hundred Seventy Split’

HSS is a three piece Blues/Rock trio featuring  guitarist/vocalist Joe Gooch, Damon Sawyer on drums and myself on bass. Joe and I still work with TYA but we wanted to do something different that rocks outside of the TYA box. Don’t get me wrong, I love playing with TYA and I always enjoy playing the old songs that people still want to hear. However, that leaves no room for new material – hence the new project.

We are now mixing our second studio album called simply ‘HSS’ ready for release in October to be followed by a European tour in November and once again Cyclone will be taking care of the CD and vinyl manufacturing. The vinyl pressings of the last record were superb thanks to Graham and his team.

I have been in the music business for over fifty years now and have never lost any enthusiasm for what I do. Success doesn’t come easy and there have been many ups and downs since the early days. If I were asked to give advice to someone starting out in music today, I would say ‘Believe in what you’re doing, be prepared to make sacrifices and never give up. That way you will eventually succeed in realising your dreams.”

Leo Lyons

Recording Tips Prior To Mastering

Mastering engineer Graham Semark answers some of the questions often asked about getting recordings best prepared for the mastering studio.

How do I ensure that my recordings are best prepared for mastering?

“Take care not to record too loud – we all want to achieve the best possible signal to noise ratio, but allowing recordings to peak at 0VU on some equipment does risk digital distortion being a major problem in mastering. In my view, it is always best to allow 3 or 4 DB headroom to allow for any peaks that your meters aren’t able to show and ideally 6DB as this still gives you plenty of signal to noise ratio on modern digital equipment. Also, use dither when you can – this will aid audio quality across the spectrum, but is particularly beneficial to quieter signals.

Try to avoid unnecessary processing, copying etc. as even digital adjustments on high quality processors can still incur small errors that may effect the overall sound quality – the cleaner it is, the better the CD will sound.”

What is Dither?

“Dither is a process that adds low level high frequency signal to digital files during processing to combat the problems of truncation errors – benefits include a greater dynamic range and improved purity of sound in natural ambience and reverberation.”

What about compression and normalisation?

“As mentioned earlier, I always prefer to work from as cleaner source as possible and would recommend that these processes are left until the final mastering session where at all possible – even though modern equipment allows excellent results to be obtained in home studios any gain alterations even in digital workstations can cause some degree of audio deterioration.”

How should I supply my masters and do the songs need to be in the correct order?

“We can work from all of the common formats, including digital files and analogue tapes – CDR is very common, although we still have jobs coming in on DAT, analogue open reel tape and vinyl records.

If you are using a DAT machine, always record 2 minutes of silence at the beginning of the tape and allow the machine to record for 4 – 5 seconds before the start and after the end of each track. Tidying starts/ fine-tuning fades and sorting the correct gaps between each song can all be left to the final mastering session and you don’t have to worry about supplying your songs in the correct order, as long as you supply a track sheet specifying which mixes you wish to be used, where you want them on the CD and their running lengths.

Finally, I always recommend making a safety copy of your tracks before send them out to the mastering house. A lot of modern systems are pretty secure, but none of us want our music disappering into cyberspace!”

Collision Time Is Here Again

Collision Music started life in 1989 in the Medway Towns, born of a need to give a base to indie/alternative music to an area already renowned for the success of the 60’s influenced sounds of The Milkshakes, The Prisoners, The Dentists, The James Taylor Quartet and The Claim, there was a need for another outlet. 

As a label, through the 90’s, we were involved in releasing music, promoting venues and club nights as well as being involved in the early years of music blogs with The main acts released in the early years were The Love Family, Somersault, Spawn and Fortune West. The releases were all comprised of 7″ and 12 ” vinyl, a number of which received airplay on Radio 1 evening sessions and good coverage across the national music press, most notably for The Love Family who went on to tour around Europe having released two 12’s and a 7″ single on the label. Unfortunately, the band took a break during the recording of their debut album in 1995 and entered a long period of hibernation. In 2001 the label took it’s own break as we all had other projects to work on.

Now, a decade on, and relocated to Reading, the label has been resurrected in 2011 by founder Mark Wrangham and Producer Tom Anderson, this time with our own studio, offering complete control over the creative process. The first offering was from Reading based Americana outfit Jack Cade and the Everyday Sinners in the form of the bands debut album ‘This Fiery Road’. Closely followed by releases for Steve Morano, his single ‘Donna’ receved over 250k hits on YouTube, and the final emergence of the debut Love Family album ‘Out Of Reach’ in 2012.

2013 has been a busy one and we’ve drafted in the production talents of Bob Bloomfield (Does it offend you, yeah) to help deliver a long list of releases throughout the year by the above artists and a couple of new artists added to the roster.

During the labels life, from the very first release to the present day we have used Graham at Cyclone for all our mastering and production, whether that be for the Vinyl releases of the early years through to CD mastering and production and digital releases of the present crop of artists. Graham brings a great ear, attention for detail and knowledge to the art of mastering and we are always blown away by the subtle enhancements brought to the final delivered tracks. Add to that the competitive pricing and great delivery schedules, why would we go anywhere else.

Ten21 working with Cyclone

Record producer Sean Kenny talks about his art and links with Cyclones mastering facility

To most gigging musicians a recording studio is a completely alien environment?

For the uninitiated, the studio session is a hand holding exercise with reassurance and assistance the main priority. From help with instrument tuning and intonation set up, to the unthinkable… “pointing out playing inaccuracies” and helping them adjust their style for the sake of the recording. Dangerous ground this may be, but when handled in an easy going matter of fact way, most players will readily take on board this kind of information when it makes sense and it’s coming from a player.

So how do I know? Because I’m a player.

Having done over 2000 gigs in the past 30 years and been a recording enthusiast for almost as long, you tend to pick up a thing or two along the way.

The classic reply I’ll get from guys is “it doesn’t sound like that when I play live” and as I readily point out to them, without a rewind button,… how do they know? Indeed, I always stress the point that the recording session is a degree of navel gazing that most players have never experienced before. The resultant shock to their self confidence has to be handled in a reassuring and diplomatic way.

My objective on any session is that by the time we’re set up and everyone’s loving the sound and happy with monitor mixes, the atmosphere should be both a relaxed and inspired one. To this end I installed CCTV in every area of the studio, which in spite of the cost and the existing large windows throughout, really helps players with that extra close up visual feed back by displaying a matrix of all camera views in each screen, so that in one glance players can see everyone else comfortably.

Whilst I’m happy to work to a click track, in my experience tracks groove a lot more without it, especially if players aren’t used to them. Playing to a click and learning to allow for your own timing idiosyncrasies is a skill in itself. Throwing that at a band for the first time can be counter productive and waste time. A common argument for the click track, “..then we’ll be able to cut and paste the vocals”.

Whatever happened to the performance?!

If the players are good enough to play to the click, then they probably don’t need it and if they’re not, then they DEFINITELY don’t.

You’ve probably guessed by now that my favoured approach is F…orget the click track!

Our in house Pearl Masters Custom kit is popular with most clients. As well as offering a top quality drum kit, the advantage of not having to haul their own drum kits in, set them up and hope that they sound any good is a big plus to most clients. The fact that my son and I are both drummers and we re-skin and tune the drums prior to each session is a huge time saver for the bands and ensures a great drum sound every time. Subject to the player of course.

As well as “delivering the goods” for the client, the studio experience should be an enjoyable and inspiring one that leaves them in no doubt as to where to record their next session.

Then comes the mastering stage.

Mastering is a fine art and a skill best acquired by doing it for about 20 years.

When you need to delegate the extremely important and specialist task of mastering to a third party it’s reassuring to know that not only do they have the same quality control standards as yourself, but also an accurate acoustic environment, the right gear and a good ear.

By now you’re all thinking that this is just a mutual back scratching “flower throwing” arrangement (oops pardon the pun) between myself and Graham.

Well, yeah.. you’re right…BUT… (and this is the God’s honest) about six years ago, when I was trying to find a company to design my new studio and had already discounted most of the cowboys that advertise in many of the popular music tech magazines, I went and asked someone whose judgement I valued (largely because of his own facility and the results he’d delivered for me in the past), “who should I use to design my studio”?

That person was Graham Semark and the company he recommended was Recording Architecture.

Good call? Take a look for yourself.

I always recommend Cyclone to my clients.

Sean Kenny – Ten21 Studios