Well Made Music Vinyl Mastering

Well Made Music Vinyl Mastering

Vintage meets Hi-Tech at Grammy Awarded Vinyl Mastering Studio


Well Made Music, founded in 2010 by Clint Holley, is one of the world’s leading studios for Vinyl mastering. The studio's exceptional work has been multiplied at dozens of vinyl pressing plants worldwide, making it a global player for music lovers. Key equipment is a breathtaking mix of old and new technology: The studio features two fully restored Neumann VMS 70 disc-cutting lathes from the 1970s that have been used to cut over 10,000 lacquer masters for eminent artists such as Fleetwood Mac, the Notorious B.I.G., Billy Strings, and Miles Davis. But for feeding these legendary cutting lathes with contemporary productions, which are usually recorded digitally, Well Made Music relies on the latest converter technology from Merging Technologies. It's this unique combination of legendary Neumann equipment and hi-tech from Merging that sets Well Made Music apart from the competition.

One of the key personnel of Well Made Music is Senior Mastering Engineer Dave Polster, a passionate music fan and an accomplished lacquer-cutting expert. He has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry and has been involved in the creation of several Grammy Award-winning projects. His love for new wave, psychedelic rock, American folk, indie rock, and jazz is evident in his work.

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Polster's career began at Gotta Groove Records in Cleveland, Ohio, where he learned the craft of vinyl record manufacturing. He then joined Well Made Music in 2014, where he had the opportunity to cut master lacquers, the final step in the mastering process and the first in the vinyl record manufacturing process. Polster is motivated by the timeless quality of the recording and mastering process and continues to be a driving force in the industry.

The studio currently utilizes two fully restored Neumann VMS70 Disc Mastering lathes that have been in service since the early 1970s. Which gives testament to the outstanding longevity of Neumann studio equipment. Neumann began producing disk cutting lathes from the very beginning with the AM29, released in 1929, only one year after the company was founded. The VMS70, released in 1970, therefore already incorporated decades of experience and innovation. It was eventually superseded by the VMS80 and VMS82 in the early 80s, before Neumann had to abandon the cutting lathe business in 1993, when the CD had finally taken over. The VMS70 is thus a treasured classic from the heyday of vinyl bliss.

Well Made Music acquired their first VMS70 machine from New Jersey in 2009, while the second one was shipped to the USA from the Netherlands in 2013.
Well Made Music acquired their first VMS70 machine from New Jersey in 2009, while the second one was shipped to the USA from the Netherlands in 2013.

Upgrading to three Neumann lathes in 2023

Ten years after purchasing the second Neumann cutting rig, Well Made Music had the chance to add a third lathe to their gear arsenal, an even older AM32b. “Neumann lathes have been notoriously difficult to track down in recent years, requiring extensive knowledge, capital, and sheer luck to discover. Luckily for us, the stars seem to have aligned, with the added bonus of preserving a huge piece of musical and mechanical history,” Holley says.

This historic lathe was first introduced in 1957. It was one of the early lathes that implemented variable pitch using a series of analog circuits to optimize groove spacing, allowing longer sides to be cut to disc at a higher volume level. The specific provenance of this lathe can be traced back to the Cleveland Recording Company, which was the region’s first professional recording studio.

From the late 1970s it spent its entire life at the legendary SUMA Recording Studio in Painesville, Ohio. As Dan Auerbach guitarist and songwriter for the band The Black Keys pointed out: “That studio's quite magical. One of the most incredible studios in the world,” Their 2008 album, “Attack & Release”, was recorded at SUMA alongside noted producer Danger Mouse and Paul Hamann.

Years later, in August 2023 after several years that the SUMA’s Neumann lathe sat idle, it was taken over by Well Made Music. Now, the AM32b lathe is currently being restored by Holley, Polster, and a stable of Neumann lathe experts, with the intention of making it one of the finest disc-cutting lathes in the world. Well Made Music will post public social media updates online of restoration efforts as work progresses. 70 years after its manufacturing in Berlin, it appears this Neumann AM32b has finally found its new home. It is currently undergoing restoration, and you can track the progress by following ​ Well Made Music's YouTube channel.

Well Made with Merging Technologies

Besides using legendary Neumann lathes Dave Polster introduced digital mastering and restoration to complement the studio's lacquer-cutting services. This transformational move led to the acquisition of a Merging Technologies HAPI unit and Pyramix Native Pro in 2021. ​

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Polster explains how they were introduced to Merging Technologies' cutting-edge kit: "Paul Blakemore, an early pioneer of DSD and multi-Grammy award-winning mastering engineer at Concord Music in Nashville, raved about his Merging HORUS, referring to it as 'the finest Digital-to-Analog conversion he has ever heard.' Having auditioned hundreds of different converters over his 30+ years in professional audio, we knew that if Paul endorses something - it must be incredible!"

Thanks to Pyramix Pro and HAPI, the team - Polster, Holley, and Associate Cutting Engineers Michael Fanos and Harrison Hunt - can now replicate the full resolution of the original source with no signal degradation while feeding material into its Neumann SAL 74B lathe cutting amplifiers. Merging's Pyramix Pro and HAPI combination also allows Polster to send three discrete stereo outputs simultaneously to the cutting rig, conserving lacquer cutting space during quieter musical passages, thus optimizing groove spacing and depth. Additionally, it offers DSD playback ability.

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Polster uses a Cisco managed network switch and the versatile RAVENNA protocol for every cut, from PCM to DSD. In addition, he has set up a second redundant cutting computer system to minimize downtime in case the main computer encounters any technical issues. This setup ensures that he can provide a near “zero downtime” guarantee, making it easy for him to provide accurate project timelines and meet release deadlines.

One of the most significant projects undertaken by the studio using Merging was the creation of the LP, ‘By Myself’, featuring the renowned cellist Abdul Wadud. The album was cut from DSD and the transfer process was done meticulously by Concord Music’s Paul Blakemore, who used a Merging HORUS and Pyramix to transfer the original 1977 master tapes. The reissued album was highly acclaimed by the New York Times and received much anticipation from fans.

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More information about Well Made Music on https://www.wellmademusic.net and on Instagram @wellmademusicvinyl.

About Neumann

Georg Neumann GmbH, known as “Neumann.Berlin”, is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of studio-grade audio equipment and the creator of recording microphone legends such as the U 47, M 49, U 67, and U 87. Founded in 1928, the company has been recognized with numerous international awards for its technological innovations. Since 2010, Neumann.Berlin has expanded its expertise in electro-acoustic transducer design to also include the studio monitor market, building upon the legacy of the legendary loudspeaker innovator Klein + Hummel. The first Neumann studio headphones were introduced in 2019, and since 2022, the company has increased its focus on reference solutions for live audio. With the introduction of the first audio interface MT 48, and its revolutionary converter technology, Neumann now offers all the necessary technologies needed to capture and deliver sound at the highest level. Georg Neumann GmbH has been part of the Sennheiser Group since 1991 and is represented worldwide by the Sennheiser network of subsidiaries and long-standing trading partners. www.neumann.com

About Merging Technologies 

Merging Technologies is a Swiss manufacturer with over 30 years of experience in developing groundbreaking, professional Audio and Video products for a wide range of entertainment and media industries. In July 2022, Merging became part of the Sennheiser group and is integrated with Neumann.Berlin. With a dedicated user base in the elite end of the music, film, television, mastering and performances industries, Merging is committed to developing product ranges with unrivalled quality and flexibility, no matter what the application. Merging builds tools for people who want more from their systems, have an inherent need to push boundaries, and believe that quality always comes first. www.merging.com