Cutting Up: Stereophile's Liszt Piano Sonata LP Stan Ricker talks about cutting Sonata
There's no such thing as a run-of-the-mill disc-cutting job—they're all custom jobs. You have to sit down and figure out how you're going to best accommodate the music into the limited amount of real estate you have on a record.
If we had been using any lesser pressing facility, I would have used the "expander/echo" control—that's an anti-groove-echo control on the lathe that inserts more space between pianissimo and forte passages on the disc—but I've had to give that up when cutting records destined to be 150-180gm pressings. It really aggravates nonfill problems when pressing those "fat" records. Other than that, Sonata was fairly straightforward for a record with such extreme dynamics.
Our big problem was to find a cutting level that was strong enough to give us the optimum S/N ratio without causing mistracking. Sonata has almost as much vertical amplitude as lateral amplitude, so I had to cut deep—and that's another factor that aggravates groove echo. Really, it comes down to nothing more than a study of applied mechanics—in order to use as little space as possible, we cut with a very small basic groove. I think we used 6/10s mil at 600 lines per inch, so that when the signal was quiet we didn't use much space. That recording has quite a hefty dynamic range for a mechanical system to deal with.—Stan Ricker