Test cuts are not test pressings. Actually, they are a few steps before test pressings, and are never suggested to be a replacement for physical test pressings. Test cuts (available on 12″ orders only) consist of portions of your submitted masters being cut into an actual lacquer, and then played on a turntable and recorded into wav files for easy transfer via email. When possible, the cuts are made on the exact same part of the lacquer as where the grooves will ultimately land on a pressed record. Since these are actual grooves cut into a lacquer and then played on a turntable, it is about as close to a “pre-test pressing vinyl preview” you can get, outside of full reference lacquers. The $40 we charge helps cover a portion of the costs of materials (lacquers, in particular).
An even better option (albeit more expensive) is to have each side cut into a “dub plate” or reference lacquer/acetate to reference the entire master cut prior to even cutting the master lacquer. Please contact us for pricing on this option.
We recommend one of these two options for every order. There is no other way to make sure your masters are going to translate to vinyl how you want them to — it is very expensive to make changes to mastering by the time test pressings are created.
In either the case of test cuts or reference lacquers, they are not intended to be a replacement for physical test pressings, which are included by default on every order (except for re-pressing orders, a waiver must be signed for orders specifically requesting no test pressings). Put very simply: test cuts (or reference lacquers/dub plates) are for checking how masters are translating to vinyl. Test pressings are checking for manufacturing issues such as track order, side placement, skips, loud pops, etc.
Call us with any questions! (800) 295-0171