Buscrates, Hellbender Vinyl's Head of Quality Control, inspects a record

Hellbent on quality. Hellbent on service.

Hellbender Vinyl is one of America's most trusted vinyl record pressing plants. Located in the bustling neighborhood of Lawrenceville on the East End of Pittsburgh, overlooking the Allegheny River, we manufacture the highest quality 7", 10", and 12" vinyl records available today, and our commitment to delivering award-winning customer service is renowned within the industry.

Past clients include Wheatus, Zao, Ghost Hounds, OIlabelle, Beauty Pill, Gaadge, Meeting of Important People, Feralcat and the Wild, Kahone Concept, Alamoans, Buffalo Rose, Animal Scream, Endless Mike & the Beagle Club, Lifeguard, Forestry Division, A Country Western, Danny Rectenwald, India Shawn, townsppl, Moemaw Naedon & C. Scott, Slim Forsythe, Different Places in Space, Chameleon Treat, Elliott Sussman, Silver Car Crash, Brett Boye, Shayfer James, Working Breed, The Beagle Brothers, Millvin and the Etnoids, WarHen Records, Say-10 Records, Chumpire Records, Kill Enemy Records, Crafted Sounds, Willowtip Records, Yellow Couch Management, Play Alone Records, & many more!

Vinyl record with a splatter design, placed on a spindle at Hellbender Vinyl

Why choose Hellbender Vinyl?

We're musicians ourselves, and we started Hellbender Vinyl because we got tired of giving vinyl plants thousands of dollars and then have them not communicate with us for months. When you choose to press your vinyl with Hellbender, you'll have a personal, dedicated concierge who will provide you with weekly updates throughout the entire process!

And because we're musicians ourselves, in addition to helping you with placing your order, we also won't settle for anything less than the best-sounding vinyl you've ever heard! Every record is listened to and approved by our Head of Quality Assurance and Quality Control, Orlando "Buscrates" Marshall, an internationally-celebrated producer and vinyl DJ who doesn't let any order leave our facility until it meets his S-tier standards!

With our 100% test pressing approval rate and our award-winning level of customer service, we guarantee that you'll not only be satisfied, but thrilled with the end result!

Five vinyl records in multiple color variants, created by Hellbender Vinyl for Willowtip Records

The Hellbender Vinyl Process

First of all, it starts with you and your music! When you send your audio to your project manager via sharable link (Dropbox, Google Drive, etc), please send the highest possible bit-depth and highest sample rate available in an uncompressed format (such as WAV or AIFF), and 24-bit masters are preferred over 16-bit.

Other tips:

  • Center bass frequencies such as bass guitar and kick drum (including stereo synths being used as a bass element).

  • High-frequency information can cause distortion and potentially damage the equipment. Pay special attention to "sss" sounds on vocals, hi-hats, tambourines, and extended or prolonged high-frequency content from synths.

  • Avoid "brick wall" limiting and other extreme forms of compression. If a heavily-limited master is required for digital distribution, then this would be a case where a separate "vinyl-only" master might be appropriate.

  • Be sure to make sure your bass/low-end is in phase and/or panned mono. Consider using high-pass filters as well.
Translucent vinyl record on top of an album cover

Side Length

For best results, we recommend a maximum of 18-20 minutes per 12" side at 33 1/3 rpm. We can and do make longer records, but volume-to-disc has a direct correlation with running time - in other words, the shorter your record, the louder it can be made!

Conversely, the longer your side is, the lower the volume might end up to disc. There's only so much room on a 12" record! Louder records take up more space, but if your running time isn’t too long, it will all fit just fine. When you ask us to make a record that is 24 minutes per side, however, sometimes our only option is to lower the volume in order to physically make all of those grooves fit on the disc. As a result, your 24-minute side is closer to the noise floor of the medium, and pops and clicks that are inherent to the format become much more noticeable. Some of the benefits of a louder cut include masking the noise floor as well as other ticks and pops, and for those reasons we suggest 18-20 minute 33 1/3 rpm maximum sides whenever possible.

Remember, you can always put out a double-LP!

Vinyl records featuring a green and red swirl, made by Hellbender Vinyl for Willowtip Records

Lacquering & Plating

Lacquering is the final step in the creative mastering process and the first step in the vinyl record manufacturing process. Your sound recording is transferred onto a nitrocellulose-coated aluminum disc called a lacquer using a fully-restored vintage Neumann VMS-70 mastering lathe rig.

The lacquer then undergoes an electro-forming process in a bath of liquid silver and nickel (referred to as "plating") in which the stampers that will actually press your records are created!

Part of the reason that you may be able to find cheaper vinyl record pressing options from other manufacturers is because we never use a DMM (direct metal mastering) process to create your stampers. While the cost is less expensive for records created using DMM, they are often criticized for lacking the "warmth" that music fans expect from vinyl audio. Additionally, DMM cuts are not ideal for records that may be re-pressed many times over the years, because the copper disc deteriorates over time. Lacquering is the preferred "old school" method of vinyl enthusiasts!

150g black vinyl record on top of LP jackets

Hellbender Vinyl Standard Weights

The "standard" weight of a vinyl record will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. While other facilities may settle for 140 grams, or even 130 grams, Hellbender Vinyl sets its standard weight at 150 grams! A heavier record is more durable and will generally sound better for a longer time. To us, it’s all about durability and quality. We want to ensure the best possible audio quality and to provide the best possible listening experience for your vinyl records!

Press operator Derek inspects a smoke-colored vinyl record at Hellbender Vinyl

Hellbender Vinyl Quality Control

Quality control is not uniform across the vinyl record manufacturing industry, but Hellbender Vinyl is proud to be leading the way by listening to more records per order than anyone else!

As we press your vinyl, we inspect and test the physical elements of the records, as well as the audio of the finished product. After each record has been pressed, we allow it to cool under the weight of special plates in order to ensure that they remain perfectly flat. Once they are fully cooled, we insert them by hand into sleeves for protection and then assemble them into jackets, add inserts, download cards, posters, shrink wrapping, stickers, and any other elements of your final packaging.

Notes are kept and mechanical adjustments made are made during the process as necessary. Common issues such as imperfections and off-centered records are caught and removed from your order so that the records that arrive on your doorstep will be as close to perfection as they can be!

Black and clear variants of an India Shawn record made by Hellbender Vinyl

Your Test Presses

Every customer at Hellbender Vinyl receives 5 test presses to review at no charge (additional copies are available for a small fee). Play your test presses as you would any other record that you’d enjoy, listening for the overall sound and balance. It's important to note that vinyl is an imperfect medium. You may here the occasional ticks and pops but those are just a function of the material itself. We take many steps throughout the process to minimize those and create the best reproduction of your audio possible, but there are some elements of vinyl’s sound that are inherent to the medium.

If you're experiencing any sort of skipping issue, the first thing to do is to check that your turntable is calibrated properly. Does your turntable have a tonearm counterweight that you have adjusted properly to make sure your stylus is tracing correctly? Does your turntable have an anti-skate adjustment? If your stylus is tracking too lightly, it may result in skipping or skating across the grooves. It may also create false, additive noise that is not there in the test pressing itself. Please try adjusting these to ensure that the turntable that you’re listening on is able to play your test pressing correctly.

Please also make sure that your stylus is not old or worn down. If you are experiencing any noise issues, clean your stylus and the test pressing that you are testing with a liquid cleaning solution made for vinyl LPs.

We recommend listening to your test presses on multiple turntables.

If you find any issues, please examine the other test pressings to see if that issue is occurring across all 5 of the copies. If it is an issue that occurs across all copies consistently, please let us know. The whole point of pressing test copies is to make sure that you're happy with the way your record will sound and we want to work with you to make sure everything is great!

After you’ve determined that everything sounds good, please let us know and we’ll get your project into production for its final run! Please email your project manager to let us know your test pressing is approved and we’ll get to work!

Hellbender Vinyl project manager Pam poses with a delivery of records at a customer's house in Western Pennsylvania, just outside Pittsburgh

Local Pickup/Delivery

When your records are complete, how will they arrive at your home? If you're in the Pittsburgh area, we can come to you! Or feel free to swing by our facility at 5794 Butler Street in Upper Lawrenceville and get a tour of the plant while you're there!