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My Trip to UltraAnalgoue Recordings: Part 2 (Read 3166 times)
Jeff of Arabica
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My Trip to UltraAnalgoue Recordings: Part 2
08/14/18 at 07:41:19
 
Well, I will admit…  This took much longer to post than I had ever anticipated.  But, in all honesty, I had no desire to rush it for the sake of rushing it.  It was too wonderful of an experience to not give it proper thought, turned into words.  

Summer is always a challenge for me.  Travel with family as well as work are in full swing.  Any moment to gel in “music and thought” are a rarity.  Opportunities to listen turn from the usual immersive, connected, observational, emotional experiences to simply therapeutic.  When life comes at you from all angles, that musical therapy is what brings me back to a peaceful state.  I am thankful for its existence.

Part 2 is all about the concert.  As sweet as the pre-concert experience was, I came to Toronto to experience Ultra Analogue (UA) in the raw.  There is nothing better than live, unamplified performances.  And Narek is a freak of nature when it comes to his cello deftness.  If you have not clicked on the link provided by Ed, you need to stop right here and now and do yourself a favor… click on it.  It will set stage for everything hereafter.

Going into this, I knew Ed’s studio was intimate and modest.  There are a few images on the website to give you a sense of the space.   It is not a commercial facility.  It is a residence – Ed’s residence.  His prior career, being a dentist, and no doubt a great and likable one, provided him the resources to do what he does at UA.  His house is impressive in all regards, and the area in which he resides is simply stunning.  It is situated 45 mins at best outside of the hustle and bustle of Toronto.  The dichotomy was pretty spectacular.  We definitely took full advantage of everything Toronto had to offer during our short stay, but getting out of Dodge for the time spent in Ed’s neck of the woods was certainly pleasant.  

Now, when I say residence, there is plenty of square footage to spare for all of Ed’s UA needs.  This includes the Recording Division ,the Playback Division, and the Replication Division of UA.  Despite these three monumentally important features of UA, remember what I said first and foremost – it is intimate/humble.  As a matter of fact, the space is very representative of Ed himself, much of which I described in Part 1.  

Now onto the venue itself.  Yeah, Ed makes tapes and has a killer system, but where in the heck do these World-Class performers actually perform within UA?... you might ask.  Great question!  What was originally designed and built as Ed’s indoor pool area (remember this is Toronto), is now repurposed - on an as needed basis - as the concert hall.  I kick myself for not taking more thorough pictures of the space but I was distracted by all the awesome things happening all around me. Ed sent me most of the images below.  I will let Ed tell the story with better accuracy but the discovery of how great accoustically the pool space ended up being was purely curiosity at work.  That beautiful grand piano depicted in the image below is Ed’s and it originally resided indoors – until Ed decided to see what it would sound like in his swimming pool room.  This room has a huge vaulted ceiling with its highest point above the newly designated stage.  It then slopes downward toward to opposite side of the room which during performances, becomes the back row.  I had the fortunate opportunity that Friday before concert day to experience the venue while Narek was playing.  It was really neat to hear how moving about the space, even in such a small venue, created different listening experiences.  It had the added benefit of allowing me to choose the section I preferred for concert day Smiley

I know I am stating the obvious here, but regardless of how great Ed’s equipment is, and how acoustically majestic the pool hall ended up being, none of it would express its grandeur had Ed’s selected musicians not been at such a caliber as to make any of it worth investing in.  The musician-to-speaker journey must always start with a stellar performance.  The goal of everything thereafter is to capture and replicate the experience in the most honest fashion.  From the samples I had heard prior, I was going into this journey knowing that no matter what tape I purchased from UA, or what concert I attended at UA, it would involve performers with undeniably freakish skills.  The concert I attended of Narek solidified this preconceived notion I had by being present and able to fully consume all that Ed and UA represented.  It was a truly special concert experience.  

Coming from sunny (and often hot) Southern California, I was really looking forward to some moderate temperature in Toronto.  Of course I show up on a weekend in which Toronto was experiencing some of its hottest weather of the year.  To top that off, I showed up in a suit and tie for the concert in a room in which air conditioning is turned off so as to not create any undesirable background noise in the recording.  I should have known better and asked Ed.  What I loved about the experience in general was the laid back and accommodating atmosphere.  Shorts were fully acceptable and encouraged that day due to the heatwave.  I ditched the jacket and tie, unbuttoned my shirt a bit and off I went.  

There was a great turn out.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was packed!  Luckily I got there at a decent time and was able to get inside a pick the area I had identified the day prior as the best for my ears.  Facing the stage, I sat in the right section.  The back row against the glass was a bit acoustically “hot” for me as the ceiling sloped down and created a megaphone effect.  The area left of stage sounded very good, but I preferred the right section since the piano was positioned behind Narek on Cello.  Also,  the mics were positioned between me and Narek – which was important considering my intent to purchase the tapes of this concert.  I felt this position was most similar to what the two microphones recording the concert experienced.  I sat down and anxiously awaited the performance.  

Aside from the equipment, the venue, the euphoria of being in Toronto for the first time, Narek Hakhnazaryan and the pianist Benjamin Smith absolutely crushed it!  Watching Narek’s finger and hand movements – his utter command of that instrument – was nothing short of hypnotizing.  I’ve experienced impressive live performances before in venues that qualify as engineering feats, but Narek displayed a level of oneness and sublimity with that cello that left me awestruck.  There is no wonder why he received the numerous awards and accolades.  He travels about and regardless of where he performs, you have to see this guy.  I know he is coming back to UA in 2019 I believe.  I am tempted to come back for another dose.  

What was so special about this experience was how unfiltered the performance played out.  I was probably 20 feet from Narek.  I could hear his every movement, his breath and contacts between his bow with the strings and neck of the cello.  You could literally hear a pin drop whenever a moment of silence.  The compactness of the space, the geometry of the walls and ceiling, the wood finishes, all made for a very transparent, dynamic, and personal experience.   The program consisted of:

•      Brahms Cello Sonata No. 2, in F major Op.99
•      Albeniz Asturias - Shchedrin Imitating Albeniz

----Intermission------

•      Tchaikovsky Nocturne
•      Tchaikovsky Pezzo Capriccioso
•      Shostakovich Cello Sonata in D minor Op.40

----Encore------

•      Elgar Salut d’Amour Op.12

----Special Encore----- (which I regretfully missed)

•      Sollima Lamentatio

The time flew and before I knew it, the encore came and went and everyone was “back stage” enjoying wine and tasty kibbles with Narek that were provided by Ed and his lovely wife Amy.  Like all things great, it passed too quickly.  

Part 3 will be my evaluation of the concert tapes that Ed recorded and I later purchased from UA.  A significant motivator for me was to experience the concert and then own the tapes of that very concert – recorded with a 100% analog chain.  That is what I got.  And Ed so graciously produced my copies of all three tapes from the master itself, not from a copy of the master which is how it is always done elsewhere.  Pretty darned special!

View of the stage from the back row


View of the back row from the stage


View of Narek and Benjamin from my seat


The after-concert reception with Narek and Benjamin


Narek and his incredibly special, ancient cello
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Ed Pong
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Re: My Trip to UltraAnalgoue Recordings: Part 2
Reply #1 - 08/14/18 at 13:36:37
 
Good things come to those who wait...!

Thanks Jeff!

Ed
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hdrider
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Re: My Trip to UltraAnalgoue Recordings: Part 2
Reply #2 - 08/18/18 at 18:56:26
 
Great write up Jeff, more please.
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Steve Deckert
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Re: My Trip to UltraAnalgoue Recordings: Part 2
Reply #3 - 11/28/18 at 04:08:02
 

Wohoo!  I finally got the tape and am looking forward to listening to it when everything is warmed up and just asking for something really good to play!.

Steve


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Re: My Trip to UltraAnalgoue Recordings: Part 2
Reply #4 - 11/28/18 at 04:10:00
 
I need to read part III before I listen to it though, so I guess the balls in your court Jeff.
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Jeff of Arabica
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Re: My Trip to UltraAnalgoue Recordings: Part 2
Reply #5 - 11/28/18 at 04:21:51
 
Grin Oh man!  Based on what I heard out of the three tapes of the concert I attended at Ed's place, I am not sure there is enough time in the day to thoroughly describe all of their splendor.  I do however need to get Part III on the books.  There were too many system changes these past few months for me to commit to this last post because it is the most important of all, which is what UltraAnalogue is all about.  I can honestly say that my Decware system is set, stable, cranking out mind blowing sound waves and I am finally comfortable re-evaluating these tapes and putting my thoughts on "paper."  I can say this, brace yourself Steve!   Smiley
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Re: My Trip to UltraAnalgoue Recordings: Part 2
Reply #6 - 12/20/18 at 00:41:35
 
Hi Jeff,

Hope you are well. Time just seems to fly faster since I retired...

I just want to tell you I've just set the date for Narek's next concert at my place... Sunday May 19, 2019

But I also want to alert you of an incredible concert coming up with violinist Alena Baeva & pianist Vadym Kholodenko... she won the Wieniawski Comp at 16 & Vadym won the Van Cliburn 5 years ago... both with international solo careers...

Saturday March 16, 2pm...

alenabaeva.com        vadymkholodenko.com

Program will be: Beethoven Violin Sonata No.5 (Spring)
                        Mozart Violin Sonata K.379
                        Schubert Grand Fantasy
                        Schubert Rondo Brilliante

I just returned from London to hear Alena played the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the London Philharmonic in Royal Festival Hall... amazing performance.... incredible sound.... wish I could try to record orchestra some day...

Looking forward to your Part 3....

Ed
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Re: My Trip to UltraAnalgoue Recordings: Part 2
Reply #7 - 12/20/18 at 02:55:41
 

I have gotten to listen to one of those reels myself and was struck by the tonal beauty and, believe it or not, the textures in the bass on both the piano and the cello were better than I've heard to date.  It's one hell of a tape!  I'm looking forward to playing it several times over the holidays!

Steve
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Re: My Trip to UltraAnalgoue Recordings: Part 2
Reply #8 - 12/20/18 at 14:40:33
 
I've just had a solo piano recording session with Yun-Yang Lee... 2 new tapes to follow soon..!

I was struck by the timbre of the whole sound spectrum... all the treble textures, are completely there... from the striking of the hammer on the strings & subsequent bloom of the treble sound - it's all laid bare, as I know this piano to sound....the focus & DENSITY of sound was almost scary. The dynamics are effortless, on both ends of the scale... the very low level details are resolved & the range builds linearly to unrestrained fortes..
There was a tiny squeak in the piano bench, in the Haydn recording... (bothersome for some, but for the audiophile, maybe a good test of your system's sensitivity...)

It was like, suddenly the piano, with ALL it's colours & textures was in front of me.. I also found, there is an optimum volume level where the sound, "snaps in"... a little more or less & the reality factor is diminished. (I fine tuned the volume level adjusting the output pots of the Studer) Turning the volume up or down, has the effect of moving the soundstage forward or backward... like the sound perspective of sitting closer or further in the concert..

These are the effects of the vintage WE300b in the mic-pre amp & battery supplies to the record & playback stages of the Studer A80.

The wonder of audio - you don't know what it can be, until you try it...!

It sounds sooo good now, - can it be better? Tony-san is working on a WE300b based playback amp for the Studer (with all silver transformers..etc)... I have 1 more pair of vintage NOS 1956 WE300b's.... I think it should be better... just don't know how... (that amp now is using WE437a's...no slouches...)

Stay tuned..!

Ed
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Jeff of Arabica
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Re: My Trip to UltraAnalgoue Recordings: Part 2
Reply #9 - 12/20/18 at 16:15:25
 
Hi Ed,
Thank you for the concert update!  I would love to swing another trip up there to see Narek.  He is such an amazing musician.   This time I will be sure to make it to the post-concert dinner with the man-sized lobster.   Grin

I know you have been singing Alena's praises so I am sure seeing her perform at your place would be nothing less than breathtaking.  

Aside from the concert, I was so impressed with your setup.  It was a bit of sensory overload trying to keep up with all your gear since much of it was custom built!  I could use another couple days just taking in your system and hearing more master tape through it.  

Now that my system changes/upgrades have settled, I will get that Part 3 on "paper."  Especially since I will have a new speaker system in place soon, so don't want to have to acclimate to those speakers before posting!  

Out of curiosity, at what level did you dupe Steve's tape at?  I am curious how the max dB tapes would sound in my system.  

Thanks for the concert updates and thanks for your incredible work at UltraAnalogue!  

Cheers,
Jeff
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Re: My Trip to UltraAnalgoue Recordings: Part 2
Reply #10 - 12/20/18 at 16:53:10
 
Hi Jeff,

Well, you are welcome to come & spend a day or 2 just listening to tapes... maybe once I get Narek's travel dates, you can plan to be here after he leaves for the listening time... more relaxed than before the concert. You can then also listen the just recorded concert tapes...

Let me know, if you're serious about coming up again... will plan something fun for you. I will also have the concert & recording tapes from Alena & Vadym's  concert which I feel will be on a different artistic scale... by that I mean, not playing to impress, but very refined & true to the composer....

New speakers... congrats!

Steve's tapes have all been at the 396 nW/m level.

As I mentioned to you earlier, your Narek tapes are at 350nW/m, but I'm happy to rerun them for you at 396. The Narek tapes are quite strong in a few spots & did not want you to have an issue.

You're welcome at either upcoming concert - Please let me know as Aena's has 60+ people already....!

Ed
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Re: My Trip to UltraAnalgoue Recordings: Part 2
Reply #11 - 01/16/19 at 01:31:53
 
Hi Jeff,

It's amazing how fast time seems to fly by...

It's 2 months before Alena & Vadym's concert but there are 70+ people already booked..! so I just want to see if you want me to save you a couple of seats, before it gets sold out... It's March 16, 2pm

Program: Beethoven violin Sonata No.3
             Mozart Violin Sonata K.379
             Schubert Grand Fantasy
             Schubert Rondo Brillant
             Encores...

These will be amazing tapes as I heard a clip of her recent London concert, with the London Philharmonic playing the Tchaikovsky Concerto.

Ed
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Jeff of Arabica
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Re: My Trip to UltraAnalgoue Recordings: Part 2
Reply #12 - 01/16/19 at 06:07:32
 
Hi Ed,
It sure does!!  Can't believe we are in week 2 of 2019 already! 

As much as I would love to venture up there again soon, 2019 is going to be extremely busy for me as we already have four new retail locations opening planned to open this year - the first one in about 5 weeks.  

I know it will be a stellar concert with equally amazing tapes to follow.  I am still amazed by what I experienced at your studio, especially all of those Tony Ma custom 300B devices with N.O.S. WE tubes.  

I will get up there again.  It will just have to be one of those timing things...  

Until then, I will keep enjoying the Narek tapes  :)

Good luck with the upcoming event and I wish you and Amy the best.  

Cheers,
Jeff
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Re: My Trip to UltraAnalgoue Recordings: Part 2
Reply #13 - 01/16/19 at 13:51:21
 
Hi Jeff,

Wow - 4 new locations! All the best in your new stores!

For sure you're a busy guy.... but remember to keep some time aside for music fun!

Ed
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Re: My Trip to UltraAnalgoue Recordings: Part 2
Reply #14 - 01/17/19 at 15:13:36
 
Hi Jeff,

Are we close to hearing Part 3 of your Narek visit - the tapes???

Ed
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Re: My Trip to UltraAnalgoue Recordings: Part 2
Reply #15 - 04/14/19 at 20:06:07
 
Hi Jeff,

Is Part 3 in the oven???

Narek will be here for his 2nd concert soon, in about 4 weeks!

Hope all you new coffee locations are doing well...!

Best
Ed
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