What makes an audiophile vinyl record?

Qu'est-ce qu'un disque vinyle audiophile?

Have you ever wondered what makes an audiophile vinyl record? In this expert advice, we'll help you understand the people and technologies behind audiophile vinyl records. We've also included a comparator that lets you compare with your own ears. 

The Human Touch

Bernie Grundman
Bernie Grundman is one of the most prominent names in the mastering world. He was directly or indirectly, through his team of studio engineers, responsible for hundreds of gold and platinum disc recordings. In addition, he has worked with recognized artists in the music industry, such as: The Carpenters, Herb Alpert, The Doors, Joe Cocker, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Supertramp, Rod Stewart, Fleetwood Mac, Janet Jackson, Quincy Jones , Outkast, Mary J. Blidge, Jack Johnson and Macy Gray.

Chris Bellman
Chris Bellman developed an appreciation for music and theater through classical piano. In 1984 Chris joined Bernie Grundman's new mastering studios. Joining the Grundman team allowed him to work with artists such as: Neil Young, Carole King, Duran Duran, Van Halen, Elton John and many more. Chris has evolved his talents to deliver the best possible mastering.

Keith O. Johnson
'Prof.' Keith Johnson has spent over 50 years developing a reputation for innovative thinking and technical achievement that has elevated him to a position in the audio industry occupied by only a handful of visionaries. He has been Technical Director of Reference Recordings since 1980. From the start, he applied his time-tested recording methods, combined with half-speed mastering, to produce exceptional phonograph records that have received numerous awards to be the best of its kind and continue to be enjoyed.

Kevin Gray
At the age of 18, Kevin Gray was the youngest mastering engineer in the United States when he began cutting records at Artisan Sound Recorders in 1972. Over his forty-year career, Kevin has mastered the music from all major record labels, in all genres. He has over a hundred Grammy-winning recordings to his credit. In 2010 Kevin opened his own mastering facility, Cohearent Audio.

René Laflamme
In the high-end audio world, audiophile sound engineer René Laflamme has carved out a reputation for definition of excellence. René has won over 70 awards for Best Sound in the Audiophile market, as one of the foremost innovative recording and mastering engineer.

Ryan Smith
Ryan Smith began his journey in the audio world when he moved to New York in 1995. In the late 90s, he worked in various recording studios and other "odd jobs" in New York City. This eventually led to a job as an assistant engineer at Right Track Recording in Manhattan, where Ryan had the opportunity to work alongside legendary engineers. In 2002, Ryan moved on to mastering. He joined Sterling Sound, where he has worked for over 15 years. With the current vinyl resurgence, Ryan has become one of the most sought after vinyl specialists.

Where things are done well

Abbey Road Studios
Abbey Road is the most famous recording studio in the world. Originally a Georgian townhouse built in 1831, Number 3 Abbey Road was purchased by the Gramophone Company in 1929. The latter built the world's first recording studios in 1931. Since the engineer Alan Blumlein patented stereo at Abbey Road in 1931, the studio is renowned for their innovation in recording technology. The studio's most notable client was the Beatles, who used the studio to implement many of the innovative recording techniques they adopted.

Cohearent Audio
Cohearent Audio is a relatively new facility with vintage roots. It's the achievement of renowned mastering engineer Kevin Gray. Kevin has turned 38 years of experience and proven equipment into the dream facility he has always wanted to build. Their client list includes all 3 major labels (Sony, Universal and Warner), Acoustic Sounds, Concord, Impex and Music Matters, to name a few. Reissues for the audiophile community are a specialty.

Optimal Media
Optimal Media, located in Germany, is a media producer. About 20 years ago, Optimal decided to open a vinyl record pressing plant, which today has the capacity to press more than 25 million records annually. The combination of printing and disc pressing allows Optimal to produce high quality box sets such as the Beatles mono box set, among others.

Karl Neumann founded Pallas GmbH as a vinyl record pressing factory in 1949. The industry has come a long way over the years, and Pallas has been at the forefront of many advancements in record pressing. Creating a more consistent and stable pressing environment has allowed Pallas to produce high quality vinyl records.

QRP (Quality Record Pressings)
Quality Record Pressings are completely focused on the goal of pressing the best records the world has ever known. They have improved the standard for vinyl pressing machines and rebuilt their presses equipped with the newest technology in the record pressing industry. All Analogue Productions reissues are pressed at QRP and the pressing facility also handles work from several other labels, including Reference Recordings.

RTI (Record Technology Incorporated)
RTI is a renowned pressing plant for vinyl records located in California. 12″ records have been manufactured there since 1974. RTI has a reputation for very good manufacturing technique as well as quality control. Audiophile LPs from Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, for example, are pressed there. They also produce Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab's One-Step Ultradisc releases and Impex Records' 1step series.

Sterling Sound
Since 1968, Sterling Sound has been home to some of the world's most talented and experienced mastering engineers, including famed Ryan Smith. Every year, Sterling engineers master hundreds of projects, including groundbreaking projects for artists like Led Zeppelin, The Eagles, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Coldplay, Green Day, Maroon 5, Arcade Fire and Adele.


45 RPM
The slower a record spins, the more it's sound quality is affected. In order to deliver the best possible sound, the record must spin faster (45 RPM). However, when a record spins faster, the amount of information it can hold is reduced. The desire to improve sound quality, while ensuring adequate playtime, is a problem that still persists today. Obviously, the "convenience" drawback isn't an issue when you're willing to pay more for two 12-inch records instead of just one.

D2D (Direct-to-Disc)
To make a direct-to-disc recording, musicians typically play a 15-minute "live" set in a studio for each side. During the performance, the analog record cutting head engages the main lacquer from which the sides of an LP record are ultimately derived. Technically, direct-to-disc recording is supposed to allow for more accurate and less noisy recording through the elimination of up to four generations of master tapes.

DMM (Direct Metal Mastering)
Direct Metal Mastering is an analog record mastering technique jointly developed by two German companies, Telefunken-Decca (Teldec) and Georg Neumann GmbH. Unlike conventional disc mastering, where mechanical audio modulation is cut from a lacquer-coated aluminum disc, DMM cuts directly from metal (copper). This results in more precise high frequency levels and less surface noise.

Half Speed ​​Mastering
Half-speed mastering is a technique used when cutting lacquers from which vinyl records are produced. The cutting machine platter operates at half the usual speed while the signal to be recorded is sent to the cutting head at half its normal playback speed. By halving the speed when cutting, hard to cut very high frequencies become much easier to cut since they are now mid frequencies.

To understand what makes "One-Step" so special, let's compare it to the usual process. The lacquer is transformed into a first father stamp with an inverted groove structure. This is then transformed into a mother stamp with the correct groove structure. It is only in the next step that the press stamp used to produce the disc is made. With the One-Step, the lacquer itself is converted directly into a press stamp. The result is a disc that sounds closer to the original master tape.

Vinyl reissues for audiophiles

Acoustic Sounds Series
Acoustic Sounds Series is an audiophile jazz reissue series launched in 2020, overseen by Chad Kassem of Analogue Productions. The LPs are mastered from the original analog tapes, cut at 33 ⅓ RPM and pressed onto 180g vinyl by Quality Record Pressings.

Blue Note Classic Vinyl Series
The classic vinyl reissue series is the sequel to their acclaimed Blue Note 80 vinyl reissue series , which was created to celebrate Blue Note Records ' 80th anniversary in 2019. The series features affordable, high-quality reissues in a standard packaging, which are mastered by Kevin Gray of Cohearent Audio and manufactured on 180g vinyl at Optimal Media in Germany. The pressings are all analog when an analog source is available, with Gray doing the mastering directly from the master tapes. The series reissues the best-known Blue Note classics of the 1950s and 1960s, but also goes further, exploring the many different eras and styles from the legendary label's eight-decade history, with the aim of telling their story and representing fully the motto of Blue Note : The Finest In Jazz Since 1939.

Tone Poet Series
The Tone Poet audiophile reissue series is Blue Note's premium vinyl series. Produced and curated by Joe Harley, the "Tone Poet", the series features audiophile-quality, all-analog, 180g vinyl reissues from the Blue Note Records catalog and their family of labels, which also includes Pacific Jazz, United Artists and Solid State. Tone Poet vinyls are mastered by Kevin Gray of Cohearent Audio directly from the original analog master tapes and manufactured by RTI. Every aspect of these Blue Note releases is made to the highest possible standards.

Verve By Request Series
Verve Records and Third Man Records have teamed up to resurrect the popular series, Verve By Request. Focusing on rare gems and fan-requested jazz albums. Records includes both long-out-of-print titles from the vault as well as the first-ever vinyl pressings for albums released in the ‘90s.

Original Jazz Classics Series
Since its inception in 1982, Fantasy's Original Jazz Classics® (OJC) series has quickly established itself as a must-have for collectible jazz reissues. Its goal was simple: to reissue influential jazz albums with the greatest care and respect for the originals. Given Craft Recordings' shared passion for meticulous preservation and quality, it was a natural fit to relaunch Original Jazz Classics within the Craft family.

The Orginal Source Series
Deutsche Grammophon The Original Source is a new series of celebrated albums reissued on vinyl. The renowned Berlin-based Emil Berliner Studios are remastering 4-track recordings from the 1970s, using their own cutting-edge analogue techniques to create versions of the highest possible audio quality.

Compare with your own ears

This comparator should only be used with a pair of good quality headphones.

Under section 29 and 29.1 of the Copyright Act (RSC, 1985, c. C-42) , copyright permits "fair dealing" for the purposes of education and criticism.

Materials in this comparator are used for educational and critical purposes, also citing sources and authors' names. Less than 10% of the original work is used.

Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers – Moanin'
Blue Note (Audiophile) 00602507465681
DOL (Standard) 889397218805

Moanin' (Audiophile) Moanin' (Standard)