Neumann VMS 80 #GearThatMadeUs

12th May 2022

In today’s Gear That Made Us we feature the Neumann VMS 80 lathe. These sophisticated cutting machines were first designed around 1980, used to create master discs for vinyl record reproduction.

Using a groove spacing computer and cutting head they cut a spiralling groove into the disc that stores the vibration of a recorded sound.

 
 

This complex and delicate process takes a lot of knowledge and skill to carry out:

“If I cut it too loud there can be distortion. If I’m not watching the ‘ess’ sound of the vocal you can get sibilance and that can crack up on the record. If I get the grooves too close to each other they can over-cut and you’ll have a record that jumps. If I don’t cut it loud enough there’s noise… It’s kind of like spinning plates. That’s what makes it fun because you’re constantly watching five, six, seven things all at the same time. Any one of which if it goes wrong would spoil it.” - Abbey Road mastering engineer Miles Showell

 
Miles Showell

Miles Showell

 

Abbey Road’s history of disc-cutting and mastering began with engineer Alan Blumlein’s custom cutting head in 1931.

Before magnetic tape became commonplace around 1948, masters were cut “live” directly to disc. Once tape recording came about, masters were dubbed and engraved into a lacquer disc, which would then serve as the template to press vinyl copies.

 

Engineer recording Elgar's opening ceremony 1931

Engineer Ken Scott in the cutting room 1960s

 

Disc cutting from both digital files and tapes continues today using four lovingly maintained Neumann VMS 80s, one of which having been further modified for half-speed mastering.

 

Learn more from engineers Miles Showell and Geoff Pesche in Cutting Vinyl at Abbey Road presented by Sound on Sound magazine.

 
 
#VMS80 #CuttingLathe #AbbeyRoad90 #AbbeyRoadMastering
 
 

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