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Brought up on a varied musical diet, thanks to a record shop owning family, Miles began his career at Utopia Studios in 1984, where he learned the fine arts of disc cutting and tape copying, as mastering used to be termed.
After a spell at Copymasters/Masterpiece he moved to Metropolis Mastering where he became well-known for his attention to detail and his determination to improve the vinyl format. Miles brought all that experience to Abbey Road when he joined us in 2013.
Using a mix of both vintage analogue and digital technologies, Miles is skilled in mastering all genres including dance, ethnic, folk, pure pop, guitar-based indie or crossover classical. He’s worked his magic on many of the world’s best-known artists, including Underworld, The Beatles, Disclosure, Iggy Azalea, Queen, Gareth Malone, Dido, ZHU, Eric Clapton, Faithless, The Staves, CeeLo Green, The Who, Lana Del Rey, The Rolling Stones, Gallant and The Sugababes.
Miles is an expert in half-speed mastering which he refers to as the holy grail of vinyl cutting By cutting at half speed you give the cutting stylus as well as the whole system twice as long to record the mechanical groove, which hugely improves the quality.
He’s also in demand for his live direct-to-disc work. In 2014, he demonstrated this technique in front of an audience with Gorgon City and Underworld performing live in Studio One as their music was simultaneously cut onto a 12″ 45 all live.
With his attitude in all things of good enough is not good enough; Miles has continued to push not only mastering, but the vinyl format further when he acquired his very own Neumann VMS 80 lathe. Typical of him he had it extensively restored, customised and rewired with the finest cable before he would use it. He describes it as the greatest sounding vinyl disc cutting system of his career – and he has used some very good ones in the past.
About half-speed mastering, from (musictech.net), June 20, 2016:
MusicTech: Tell us about half-speed mastering – how does it differ?
Miles Showell: Half-speed mastering is a vinyl-cutting process where both the source is played out and the cutting lathe is running at half the real-time rate (effectively the source and the disc cutting lathe are locked together, but both are running at precisely half the correct speed). The advantage of this is the system is not stressed.
The cutter-head draws somewhere between a quarter to a third of the current from the drive amplifiers than would be required for real-time cutting, and the recording stylus has twice as long to carve the intricate groove into the lacquer master disc. All the difficult-to-cut high-end frequencies become relatively easy-to-cut mid-range frequencies. This results in cuts that have excellent high-frequency response (treble) and very solid and stable stereo images.
Remember, the only way a pressing plant can press a really high-quality record is if the process starts with a really high-quality cut. Unfortunately, however, it’s not as simple as running everything at half rate. There is an EQ curve (RIAA) applied to all vinyl records and by running the lathe at half speed, all the frequencies are wrong.
Abbey Road have installed custom designed and built RIAA filters into the cutting amplifiers that feed the modified VMS 80 lathe. These custom filters apply the correct EQ curve when cutting at half-speed.
MusicTech: How did your relationship with Universal Records begin, and why did they choose the half-speed mastering route?
Miles Showell: Universal own Abbey Road, as it was one of the assets they acquired when they bought EMI. I am freelance here, but shortly after starting, I was able to persuade the management that half-speed mastering was worth the investment.
Initial feedback from my early clients was so good that it was the management who approached Universal and said, “you have a fabulous library of recordings and we have a world expert on half-speed mastering in the team. There is resurgence in vinyl sales and a demand for good-quality pressings.
Therefore, why do we not get together and create the highest quality vinyl records possible, by pooling our resources and playing to all of our strengths?” Universal thought it was an excellent idea and here we are […]Miles Showell – From musictech.net, June 20, 2016
Such a fantastic album. The songs are sounding better every year. I was beyond thrilled to be asked to do this.Miles Showell – from Twitter, April 1, 2021
Last updated on April 2, 2021
Albums, EPs & singles which Miles Showell contributed to
By The Beatles • LP
Contribution: Mastering engineer • 13 songs
By The Beatles • 7" Single
Contribution: Mastering • 2 songs