How to choose a pressing plant for your release

Choosing a pressing plant can be confusing as there are so many options:

  • How do you distinguish between them and choose the best one for you?
  • Should you press them in the UK or abroad?
  • How does the quality of pressing plants differ?
  • I will attempt to answer these questions and more in this article.

For CD

There are two main options when pressing your release to CD:

  • The first is called duplication, which is better suited for smaller runs of up to 100 or possibly more. Duplication involved a process which is similar to burning a CDR on your computer. Turnaround times for duplicated CDs are quick, but the price per unit is usually more expensive.
  • The second is replication. This option is better suited to larger runs of CDs, usually 500 or more. The replication process requires a glass master to be produced first, which is a solid template which the CDs are created from. Turnaround times for replication is often longer, requiring a week or so before the finals are delivered.

If your release is intended to be sold in small quantity, for sale on your website or to sell at gigs for example, then duplication is the way to go. If you require a larger quantity due to more demand, perhaps to sell yourself or through a distributor, then you would choose replication.

Your choice of pressing plant would depend on whether you go for duplication or replication, as some plants will only specialise in one or the other. Therefore before choosing, make sure you know what services they provide. The standard method to produce a commercial release is replication (for any release that requires a barcode).

You may want to check the quality of a plant’s output before you go ahead with your order. A great way to do this is request a sample. They will usually send you a few examples of CDs they’ve produced by post. If you do this with a few plants, you can compare the quality which will make the decision easier.

What formats do the pressing plants require

In terms of submitting the material to the plant, there are a few options:

  • WAV files in 44.1kHz 16bit format: You could use a file sharing site such as Dropbox or WeTransfer to send these to the plant. This is the quickest option, but you would have to specify how long you want the gap between songs to be. Also you would have to specify and split points between tracks that are continuous.
  • Master CD: Send them a master CD by post. This is slower, but would allow you to customise the CD template yourself and encode track information such as song titles (Redbook compatible format)
  • DDP format: This is a special type of file that a lot of pressing plants require these days. It’s basically one large digital file that contains all the same information as a master CD. This would give you all the advantages of a master CD combined with quick delivery speed. Your mastering engineer should be able to provide a DDP file for you.

Artwork would need to be supplied at the same time as the masters. A popular format to use is TIFF, which is a high quality uncompressed format. Another option is PDF (Acrobat) or PSD (Photoshop). Most plants allow you to download artwork templates from their website, which you would then pass on to your graphic designer to compose the final artwork.

For Vinyl

Vinyl tends to vary more than CDs do in terms of quality, so requesting samples would not be a bad idea. Some factors to consider for vinyl pressings are:

  • Turnaround times: If you require a quick turnaround then choosing a plant in the UK or wherever you are based would be wise. However if this isn’t so much of an issue then it is often cheaper to get records pressed out of the country and have them shipped over.
  • Weight: Vinyl usually comes in two weights, 140g or the more bulky 180g. Check if the plant offers your preferred option.
  • Colouring: If you prefer coloured vinyl or picture disk, make sure the plant offers these as well. You can expect to pay more for these options.

Checklist

  • Do you have the master files? They should be in either WAV or AIFF format, 44.1kHz sample rate and 24 bit resolution
  • Is your artwork ready? It should be in PSD or PDF format
  • Do you have ISRC codes?
  • Have you decided on the track order?

We can supply masters for you in any format you wish, ready for pressing. Talk to us about managing the whole process for you.

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