The legendary Iron Maiden is re-releasing all eight of its albums from the 1980s on 180-gram black vinyl, along with a one-off run of all 19 seven-inch singles released during that era. Helping to promote the reissue campaign, Parlophone Records interviewed Abbey Road mastering engineers Sean Magee and Christian Wright about their work on the project.
Magee, who’s clearly a fan, spells out how a song’s loudness is related to groove depth in the vinyl; the need for different RPM speeds; which “Eddie” is his favorite and, quite cheerfully, what it was like when Iron Maiden played an ear-shattering set at Abbey Road.
Wright, on the other hand, discusses sourcing, taking audio from original analog tapes via a Studer A80 quarter-inch tape machine, and cutting all the singles on Abbey Road’s Neumann VMS80 lathe. As might be expected, the topic of baking old tapes comes up, as Wright explains:
“A lot of the analog tape that we sourced was on the brand of tape stock called Ampex. There was a big issue for all music that was on Ampex tape stock, where the oxide—the glue that holds the particles on the tape—started to shed and it makes the tape unplayable. The way we get around this problem is that we actually put the tape into an oven for about three days at 30-40 degrees [Celsius] if you want to bake your own tape at home, and then it makes the tape playable. So it’s one of the problems that we had to kind of overcome in this instance, and as we’ve gone on obviously, I know that Iron Maiden take archiving their tape stock very seriously, so they make sure as they’re baking these tapes, they’re also then archiving them and protecting the Iron Maiden catalog for the future.”