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What Is A Test Pressing?

two test pressing records

Chris |

Have you ever stumbled across a vinyl with test pressing emblazoned across it, and wondered what that really meant (or just ‘oh my word, does this mean I’m rich?)!' 


In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve deep into the world of test pressings, exploring what they a test pressing is, why they matter, and answer some frequently asked questions.

Two test pressing records

Understanding Test Pressings

A test pressing is a vinyl record created during the production process to ensure the quality and accuracy of the final product. It serves as a quality control step before mass production begins. 


Test pressings are made in limited quantities and are typically sent to artists, producers, record labels, and other key stakeholders for evaluation and approval.

The Test Pressing Process

To produce a test pressing, a mastering engineer will create a lacquer master disc, which contains the audio of the record in its final form. This lacquer master is then used to create a set of metal stampers, which are the molds used for pressing vinyl records. Instead of using these stampers to create a large batch of records, a small number of test pressings (usually between 5 and 10 copies) are made first.


These test pressings are usually devoid of artwork, labels, or any other decorative elements. They are plain and utilitarian, focusing solely on the audio quality and potential manufacturing issues. 


The purpose of this step is to identify any imperfections, such as surface noise, distortion, or other anomalies in the sound.

gwen guthrie miss my love test pressing label

Why Test Pressings Matter

  1. Quality Control: Test pressings are essential for ensuring that the final vinyl records meet the highest audio quality standards. Any issues detected at this stage can be rectified before mass production.
  2. Artist Approval: Artists and producers often receive test pressings to verify that the audio matches their expectations. This step allows them to catch any discrepancies between the master recording and the actual vinyl.
  3. Manufacturing Checks: Test pressings help identify problems that might occur during the pressing process, such as improper stamping, off-center holes, or excessive surface noise.
  4. Collector's Items: Due to their limited availability and connection to the production process, test pressings are highly sought after by collectors. They often command high prices in the secondary market.

Test Pressings At Atlas Records

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are test pressings valuable? 

Test pressings are often considered valuable by collectors due to their rarity and connection to the production process. The value of a test pressing can vary widely depending on factors like the artist, album, condition, and demand among collectors. Some test pressings have fetched substantial sums at auctions, while others are worth little more than the main release.

2. How many test pressings are made?

The number of test pressings made for a vinyl record can vary, but it typically falls within the range of 5 to 10 copies. However, this number is not set in stone and can vary depending on the record label, production process, and specific quality control requirements. 

3. How do test pressings differ from regular vinyl records? 

Test pressings usually lack artwork, labels, and other decorative elements. Their sole purpose is to evaluate audio quality and manufacturing issues.

4. How are test pressings different from promotional copies? 

Promotional copies are often produced in larger quantities and are intended for promotional purposes. They may have artwork and labels and are distributed to DJs, radio stations, and music industry professionals to generate buzz and airplay. Test pressings, on the other hand, are primarily for internal quality control.

5. Can I buy test pressings? 

Yes, you can sometimes buy test pressings, but they are relatively rare and usually not available to the general public. Collectors and enthusiasts sometimes acquire test pressings through auctions, record stores, or directly from artists and labels. You can view our collection of test pressings here

6. Do test pressings sound different from regular vinyl records? 

In theory, test pressings should sound identical to regular vinyl records when properly manufactured. However, if there are issues with the lacquer master, stampers, or pressing process, test pressings may exhibit audio problems not present in the final product. That's why they play a crucial role in quality control.

7. How can I tell if a vinyl record is a test pressing? 

Identifying a test pressing can be challenging, as they often lack distinctive markings. Look for labels like "test pressing" or "white label" on the record's center label. Additionally, some test pressings may have handwritten or stamped information, such as catalog numbers and matrix numbers, as opposed to printed labels.

8. Are all vinyl records subjected to a test pressing stage? 

Not all vinyl records go through the test pressing stage, especially in smaller or independent releases. Major labels and established artists are more likely to utilize this quality control step due to the higher stakes and larger production runs. However, it's not a universal practice for all vinyl releases.

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