What is One-Step Mastering?

One Step Mastering describes the process of LP manufacturing in which the pressing stamper is produced in only one step (One Step). To understand what makes it so special, let us compare it to the usual process used in the mass production of records. For regular LP productions, the lacquer is transformed into a first father stamp with an inverted groove structure. This is then turned into a mother stamp with a correct groove structure. Only in the next step is the actual (very hard) press stamp made, which is now used to produce the LP. In this way, almost any number of LPs can be pressed from one lacquer.

The One Step Mastering process is completely different. Here, the steps after the cut of the lacquer are omitted and the laquer itself is directly converted to the press stamp. However, since lacquers are very soft, only a few hundred LPs can be pressed from each laquer. If more LPs are to be produced, several lacquers are necessary.

This is how Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab describes the manufacturing process of its One-Step Ultradiscs.
This is how Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab describes the manufacturing process of its One-Step Ultradiscs.

MFSL, for example, presses 500 Ultradisc copies with one stamper. With a print run of 9,000 copies, as with Bob Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks, 18 sets of each of the four lacquers (for two LPs with two sides each) are used – that sums up to 72 lacquers. If something goes wrong – something always goes wrong – correspondingly more. Each lacquer is made from the master tape in a half-speed mastering process and checked with a test pressing.

So all in all, it’s an insanely complex process that, at best, results in very good LPs whose sound is closer to the master tape than would be possible with most industrially produced records. Last but not least, One-Step Ultradisc LPs are pressed at the RTI pressing plant on Super Vinyl, a vinyl granulate without carbon colourants, which is supposed to produce less background noise when played.

One-step LPs are usually available from record labels that specialise in audiophile audiences, such as Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab or Impex Records.

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