AUDIO FORUMS >> Analog Tape   >> A Review of two recent recordings

Message started by Steve Deckert on 06/30/20 at 06:27:21

Title: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Steve Deckert on 06/30/20 at 06:27:21

Ed was kind enough to send me a pair of recordings recently done in Feb and Mar of this year.  Tonight I am listening to the first reel for the first time.  It will take many times to digest it, but I thought to start I would do things a little different and put the tape on one of my large transports and use the tape machines headphone jack to drive my LCD2 planners to deafening levels.

I have to say, I have noticed a common theme with Ed's tapes, and that's dynamics. They are so far beyond what is normal to hear, that it is nearly impossible to properly set the levels of your playback gear.  It's like getting in a drag car for the first time, something with 1100 ft lbs of torque and your only experience is a Camaro from 1980... Before you even know what happened your head hits the back of the seat and the skin on your face peels back from the G forces and you've wet your pants... it takes a few runs down the track to get yourself dialed-in.

So far this tape is just killing it!  Alena Baeva on the violin commands it in such a way that her skill actually has headroom.  Lot's of it.  In fact when she is completely blowing your mind she is not even trying.  Effort would destroy it.  Her expression is too pure, too fast for thought.  She's a conduit to a higher consciousness.  I know this from hearing the tape.  I would also know it from seeing her in person.  That said, I have watched and listened to many of the Youtube videos of her with great amazement, but never with this kind of insight.  And it didn't take the whole tape to figure this out.  Only about 5 minutes was needed.  Tape is the only thing that can mimic the feel of real.

Anyway, back to equipment.  Headphones plugged into a 168 lbs tape machine should be more than adequate to hear how good the tape is no?  No need to put on tube playback electronics and pipe it into the listening room on Zen reference gear and speakers, right?


In fact if a cassette copy of this tape didn't make me jump for joy played back in my car UltraAnalogue would be nothing special.  

Of course it is passing the test.  However it is so dynamic that with headphones like these and the ridiculous drive of the headphone amp in that tape machine, I feel like I got my head slammed between the lid and the piano a few times.   That said, all I can say tonight so far, is holy crap!  It's so good.  I realized with this tape on this first listen on an old machine with a few cobwebs, that Ed has invented a new equalization standard!  You can get your tape in either IEC, NAB or ISG.  ISG stands for It's Sooo Good!

So in the coming evenings I will expand on what I am hearing in these tapes, tonight was just getting the tape out of the box.


Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Geno on 06/30/20 at 19:31:05

I've ordered one of Ed's Tapes. I'm very excited that I will finally get to experience the magic of 15 ips tape. To be continued...

Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Ed Pong on 07/01/20 at 01:12:09

Many thanks for your order!
I'm so happy for you Gene. Once you taste this tape, "Tatsuki Narita", it will mess you up in a good way!
It's shipping tomorrow!


Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Geno on 07/01/20 at 01:17:26

Many thanks Dr. Ed!

Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Steve Deckert on 07/03/20 at 04:42:41

ULTRAANALOGUE RECORDINGS 15 IPS MASTER TAPE - Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and Tchaikovsky Melodie with Alena Baeva on the Violin and Vadym Kholodenko on the Steinway Grand Piano.

So round one was with the big tape machine with the butterfly heads and relatively stock electronics.  As you may have noticed there are direct RCA jacks for all three heads on the machine, but were not used for this evaluation because frankly the majority of listeners will not have tape machines that are that pimped out.

Round two, is this bone stock machine, that I primarily use as a transport as setting on top of it is a tube tape head amplifier. The RCA jacks on the head block are connected to the playback heads, both 2 track and 4 track.  Again, these are not used for this evaluation, only the stock tape machine electronics.

While the electronics are stock, the tape path has been modified by myself so that everything the tape contacts is ball bearing rollers with the exception of the ceramic posts which drink all vibration in the tape before it passes by the tape head.  This virtually eliminates tape wear during playback as well as makes possible playback of older tapes that have gotten a touch squeaky without any squeal.

That's certainly never going to be a problem with Ed's tapes, as this is fresh, new, best there is tape with perfect balanced aluminum reels and an incredible thick high quality box that doesn't cave in or have to be taped shut.  It's just quality.  He obviously has these made for him somewhere because I can never find tape boxes this good...

Anyway let's get into it.  You now know the machine, and the reason behind it.  The headphones are LCD2, the original ones that motivated me to create the Taboo Headphone Amplifier to properly drive them.  Of course these tape machines are from the 1970's and 80's and were a commercial product so the headphone amplifiers in those will easily drive a planer headphone like this to simply deafeningly loud levels.

Speaking of levels, I have listened to the tape on this machine twice, once at ultra low levels, once at medium levels, and once at live levels where I am standing 10 feet away from the Piano.  That is the levels I have it at tonight.  

This is a NAB recording and the playback level was set to zero DB with the Tone.  Ref Flux set to high, even though we are on playback many machines use different playback EQ as well so where this is set often makes an audible difference.

OK So here we go!

Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Steve Deckert on 07/03/20 at 05:45:15

After the tone, which btw, there is no way you can listen to at zero dB in the headphones.  Don't confuse this with the loudness level of the music on the tape, it is not the same.

So, set to zero, you wait for the tone to pass, and then you put the headphones on and immediately the fresh sound of the space comes into your head before any sound whatsoever, you hear the space.  It's open, it's large but not too large.  

Then refreshingly, this tape starts out with Alena talking to the live audience about what she and Vadym are about to play.  This is an engrossing and essential part of this tape as it connects you to the person before you hear any music.  Very important.

Listening to Alena speak is for an American or Canadian very enticing due to the charming accent and raw intelligence that shines through when she speaks.  This honestly several minute introduction is in the running for the best part of the tape and missing from nearly all other production masters.  Usually you have to listen to working masters and out-takes to hear any commentary but remember, this is LIVE, TWO TRACK with no edits.  Only the very best can pull it off and make it sound like a highly manipulated studio multi-track recording.  Please don't take that as an insult because that would have no where near the transparency or dynamics of this level of recording.

I love the background sounds outside during her talk.  You would never hear that on a 16 bit CD.  Yes, that's right, I can hear the sound outside the building, cars going by and even stuff in the air all in the background.  Just as if you were actually there -- imagine that.

Her story about the corrections on Mendelsons work was entertaining and enlightening.  Fun to hear.  

The clapping after she spoke defined the space with haunting right-nowness.  Instantly you knew where you were, how big the space, how many people, where the walls are and what to expect.  All with only 3 seconds of clapping.

Then the music starts. The piano has a lot of upper midrange weight in this recording with this machine and these headphones.  The overall balance is quite reasonable.  The upper midrange from 500 on up get more an more glorious on both the piano and the violin.  

God she plays so feminine and in the most glorious and strongest sense of the word. A man can't play like this. It is the female that shines through. And then the incredible balance from the male on the piano... wow. Be careful, you can easily become flooded with emotions when you become fully conscious of what is going on... This is where the intimacy of headphones with the right electronics can be so rewarding.  No distortions from loudspeaker cabinets, room boundaries, and oh...  it's sooo hard to think and write while this is playing.  It's like a ski boat and your the skier. You can either hang onto the rope (listen) or let go and crash into a log (write).

Boy, her drive, spirit and ability to rip your brain from it's stem and control the now is impressive. It wouldn't want to piss her off. Not to overlook Vadym who is just killing it on the piano. As someone who was lucky enough to play drums in 560 sessions of which at least 1/3 had respectable musicians, I know the best drummers are much like this piano player who sneak around behind the front man, or in this case woman. It's a real art not to become the foreground. Total mastery over ego on both ends of this incredibly balanced interplay between two musicians with more skill than most of us will ever see in two lifetimes.

I'm just glad I'm not hearing this on my reference tube tape machines right about now because I would be pissing myself with the textures. This stock tape machine keeps it to a level where you don't have to wear a diaper to listen to it.  Dumbed down just enough that it's just a lot fun with out any life changing trauma.  Likely the DSD downloads of this tape assuming there are some, would with a really good DAC be more stimulating than this bone stock tape machine, but not as smooth or as dense. Nevertheless I'm sure some would like it better.   This is to say if you have a really good digital front end, the DSD downloads from UltraAnalogue Recordings would probably set somewhere between what I am hearing now, and my tube based reference tape machines.

The tonal and dynamic balance of this recording on this tape machine is simply flawless.  The piano sounds a bit heavy around middle C but the clean lines drawn by the violin create a very satisfying contrast and everything is just dripping with tone.  Must be those 300B's.  Word is that some the Western Electric engineers who have passed over the years reincarnated as elves that live in Eds microphone preamp.

I can't believe how good these two are!  Wow.  Everyone claps,  a nice fade, and then a final Melodie by Tchaikovsky...

The vibrato is so perfectly done... she is so damn good.  So light, so strong.  A force to be sure.

The piano really shines with this.  It has a different balance at middle C in this piece, so it must be the touch, not the piano or acoustics.  Pretty amazing really.

HAHHAHAHA. I just had a great mental laugh when I tried to imagine what this would sound like on a 16 bit CD with all the associated jitter.    HAHAHAHAHAH.

AHHHHHHHHHH,,, what a way to end a tape.  Great stuff Ed!  If you want to record all the clapping at the end you're obviously going to have to move to 12 inch reels.

God bless you and thanks for a simply wonderful tape.  I'll do tape two after I recover from this one.  And after that I will probably do both again on my best gear and really wreck myself.

You see folks, the tape machine I used tonight is an industry standard radio machine and the tapes sound as I described them.  I could listen to many tapes on this machine with similar raving comments...  But I can tell you right now that when you move up in playback gear, ie, tape heads, better transports, tube electronics... the differences between regular studio production master tape copies and UltraAnalogue tapes becomes huge.  Again on this machine the differences are certainly there but not huge.  However on reference gear the differences become huge to very huge.  It echos what Ed has always said, that the tapes contain perhaps 10 to 100 times more information than the playback equipment can reproduce. So the better your playback gear the better the tape keeps getting.  No end to it because a microphone diaphragm's moving mass is about 1000 times less than a woofer or even a tweeter for that matter.  You will never reach the potential of the analog recording with any form of playback gear that exceeds the moving mass of a microphone diaphragm.

Thanks again Ed.  Good Stuff.


Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Brian on 07/03/20 at 08:40:22

It is off topic, but I love the figured oak cabinet you put on that tape machine!
Oak is classy.


Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Ed Pong on 07/03/20 at 15:06:10

OMG - I love your way with words!

It’s more fun reading about your journey with this tape than listening to it..!

I hope your readers realize what great insight & entertainment they are getting!

Bravo to you!

Just a couple of tidbits on this recording that underlies some of your comments about their talents...

This tape of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto is a very popular concerto & I’m sure Alena has literally played this 100’s of time… Realize, the piano reduction, for the orchestra, is not a “normal” piece of piano repertoire for a solo pianist like Vadym…However, if one listens carefully, he can fully mimic the orchestra with just the piano…

At concerts, we of course, focus on the perfomers, but one of the most nerve racking jobs is given to the pianist’s page turner. I once did that & can fully attest to that, one is so concentrating on turning, there is NO time to listen & “enjoy the music” It’s compounded when there are repeats & sometimes one has to turn back TWO pages…(quickly I might add!) This time, I noticed Vadym brought an Ipad…(I had visions of the battery running out…or haven knows what else can happen!) Have a look at the video of this tape starting at 3:44-3:50…

Here you see, John the page turner, who is a medical doctor, pianist & all round very calm, cool collected guy, miss a turn…. But what is amazing, Vadym, without the right notes in front of him, never misses a beat on the right hand melody notes… while he does the proper turn twice with his left hand! THAT is a true testament to his talent, under pressure… the sound of this bobo is barely noticeable in the tape & only if one watches the video does one know something is slightly off….

Of course Alena is the star in this concerto…Vadym is there to make her look good. Something I have watched him be so focused to do….(he obviously knows who’s the boss!)

Vadym’s talent is from another planet… one last tidbit about him.. We all know he won the Van Cliburn Competition 7 years ago, but in that competition, on his flight from Russia to Texas, he composed his cadenza to the Mozart Concerto he was to play in the competition…. Here is the note to that video:

This is the astonishing cadenza composed for Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21, played publicly for the first time at the Cliburn Piano Competition in 2013 This cadenza was not archived by the Cliburn Website because of contractual agreements with the orchestra. Thus, we feature the piano part only. Vadym Kholodenko composed this extraordinary cadenza during the flight from Moscow to Dallas/Fortworth, on his way to compete for the first time in the Cliburn Piano Competition. Composed entirely in his head, this cadenza has never been written down. Surely this is one for the history books and it deserves to be heard by all.

I’m speechless after digesting that feat…
I feel so blessed to have these 2 artists in my sphere…

I hope you will enjoy their music…


Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Geno on 07/03/20 at 15:44:50

I’ll add to this that watching the videos on the UltraAnalogue YouTube channel of Alena is a wonder in itself. She flows with the music as she plays. This coupled with her talent as a musician totally immerse you in the music. Poetry in motion.

Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Steve Deckert on 07/04/20 at 05:53:41

Ed, I appreciate the supplemental information about the tape.  The fact that you can reference a video of the tape being made that is available to all for free on youtube makes the tapes and or downloads far more valuable than tapes without these references.  I have not watched the video yet, and I am glad because during the tape I imagined something that I knew if there were a video I would see I was right... now if I could only firkin remember what that was, dammit.  No worries, it will come to me when I listen to the tape again.

My advise to your customers is as follows:

When possible listen to the actual download or tape first and perhaps many times and THEN watch the video for the first time.  This will certainly cook your head pretty hard.

Also, good headphones are a very viable choice for reel to reel tape playback or the DSD downloads.  I recommend it.  Then try to get your speakers in the listening room to sound like it did in the headphones.

I'll be damn... I remembered! ... A rug under the piano!  I could hear a rug under the piano!  Let's see the video...

I was close, the rug is next to the piano under Alena.  ;)

Now think about that people... yes, really ponder it... can you hear a rug under a musician on your stereo?  Why not?  Is it the stereo, or perhaps is it the recording?  

Let's not forget that the only valid measure of imaging is live two track recordings with only two microphones. That means the average audiophiles entire music library with few exceptions is make believe because it went through a console, was digitally molested / manipulated (however you spell it) and mixed down to a digital master that was likely processed multiple times to normalize dynamics and stay competitive in the volume wars.  HEHE , it you want to win the volume wars just record analog tape at 15 IPS and 320 NWM and you can accidentally blow the back wall out of your listening room with any amount of real power.

Ed, you are the Zen Triode of Recordings, and when customers play your tapes on Decware gear they truly hear what is actually possible.  That excites me, especially today in this musically handicapped generation of compressed pop music being MP3'ed into plastic ear buds through pathetic wire and toy jacks... I mean what can you say.

There is really nothing more meaningful on this planet than music.   If you remember the Memes of the kids from the 1960's playing in the mud at the side of a creek contrasting a picture of today's kids standing next to the creek looking at their phones, or should we say blinded by their phones... It's a nice analogy of todays commercial recordings and Ed's tapes which are like jumping into the real mud on a hot summer day with all your friends.  I think it's important to preserve this quality of life so Ed's job is to record it and my job is to make playback equipment that can reproduce it.


Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Ed Pong on 07/04/20 at 14:08:55

Some good news in this Covit time... Alena & Vadym just had their 1st live concert in Luxembourg & it's on her FB page... unfortuneately the video & sound are not in synch... just watch or just listen... both are wonderful!

The mic is very close to the violin, (just behind the music stand...) fiddle sounds so immediate... if you can, listen to the whole concert, as Vadym plays 2 incredible short pieces.....or at least listen from around 41:00 to the end... the sound of the e string is to die for... enjoy!


Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Ed Pong on 07/05/20 at 22:50:12

I completely agree Steve, it's a sad situation of this generation's sense of music & how they "listen" to it... MP3 thru earbuds...

I used to do a lot of photography using an old 8x10 view camera... lugging around 10-20 lbs of gear, changing sheet film holders in the field... thinking about each shot, noting the amount of development, based on the contrast visualized... Ansel Adams style... It was a real creative process... so unlike my Iphone. I actually have many shots in Yosemite, & created my own 8x10 enlarger to print..

The appearance of an 8x10 contact print, is something to behold. That's why all the old prints by Edward Weston are so beautiful, as he only did 8x10 contact prints... I know I'm way off topic here, but just thinking about this makes me feel like a dinosaur...

Now there is almost no 8x10 film to be found... in 1 generation, we lost analogue film, analogue tape recording....  and they call that "progress"...

Certainly digital has many advantages, but these are all related to convenience & speed...

I'm very happy Steve, you continue to make gear that can play the best that tape can offer, we need to keep this analogue world going as long as possible...

Funny you talk about "jumping into muddy puddles" as I remember that was one of my favourite pass times...


Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Steve Deckert on 07/06/20 at 03:39:43


It's is enjoyable to hear about your passion for photography.  You also make violins, and the worlds most technically pure recordings, retired a successful doctor...  nice.

As long as we're off topic,

Now there is almost no 8x10 film to be found... in 1 generation, we lost analogue film, analogue tape recording....  and they call that "progress"...

That same feeling is why I make tube amplifiers, analogue and tubes is the best it ever got.  We all know it, but what happens when we're dead.  In my case there will be many amplifiers that just refuse to die and sound better than everything else.  In your case it will be tapes and digital DSD transfers with the same credentials.  The reels will last about the same amount of time as the amplifiers if well cared for, but the digital copies will last forever as will the videos.  We live in a world where computers archive everything six ways from Sunday, so it will always be there.  Since it is data, it is likely also being stored off planet for safe keeping.  


Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Ed Pong on 07/06/20 at 13:13:32


Humbling thoughts...

Let's keep it going, while the sun is still rising...!


Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Ed Pong on 07/08/20 at 16:48:46

Alena just sent me the link to her new video of the Sibelius Violin Concerto....

Please, when you have 1/2 hr. listen to this... it is AMAZING music & AMAZING performance & sound....

And to think, you can have her on a new 15ips 2 track tape recording!
We're all in dreamland... I think I will ask her to record this next...

Steve, I think this is going to mess with you....


Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Geno on 07/09/20 at 15:39:08

I received my tape yesterday. Tatsuki Narita - I played it through once. Unbelievable! I had to hear it again, so I rewound and played it again. Unbelievable!!!  Just one more time!  I rewound and played it a third time. This is definitely a reference for the very best audio possible. Great job, Ed and team. Can't wait to get another selection.

Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Steve Deckert on 07/09/20 at 18:26:00

I received my tape yesterday. Tatsuki Narita - I played it through once. Unbelievable! I had to hear it again, so I rewound and played it again. Unbelievable!!!  Just one more time!  I rewound and played it a third time. This is definitely a reference for the very best audio possible. Great job, Ed and team. Can't wait to get another selection.

Well, there you go, exactly what I said would happen -- happened. ; )  

Congratulations on a new reference!


Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Ed Pong on 07/10/20 at 12:57:39


I'm very happy to hear your 1st impressions of my tape "Tatsuki Narita" was "unbelievable".... as Steve has been saying all along, tape brings something to the sound, no other format can... mass, density, "real" air... ultimately - naturalness to the sound.

It's much more meaningful for an audiophile to describe this, than myself. I'm not a salesman, but if I told you, "this tape will be the best violin sound you've ever heard..." it's just advertising, promo hype... no one believes it...

So thank you for posting & sharing your ears with us!

As for another selection... many possibilities - maybe the easiest would be to hear what Steve has to say, after he's listened with his, all out tube powered tape deck on these 2 tapes... either one of these (or both) would be great tapes to follow "Tatsuki Narita" with, as the cello tape is the wonderful Beethoven Cello Sonata No.5. It’s pared with a very virtuosic piece, Popper Hungarian Rhapsody.

All of Beethoven's Cello Sonatas were composed late in his life & have a special character not found in his earlier works - timeless music!
I'll let Steve describe how Narek & Noreen play it...

One more experience you may enjoy:
I'd like to extend an open invitation to you to come to one of our live concerts & have the chance to hear the real master tape after... (I call live - ultimate audio!)

Thank you Gene for trying my tape!


Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Geno on 07/10/20 at 14:42:41

Thank you so much for the invitation, Ed. It would truly be a wonder to see the whole process from start to finish. And to see the performances live would be fantastic!

And thank you for the recommendations for another tape. I especially love the Cello, so the Beethoven Cello Sonata #5 it shall be.

Very best,


Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Ed Pong on 07/10/20 at 15:34:05

You will love this tape, Beethoven No.5 is so gorgeous, it has a slow 2nd movement to die for & Narek & Noreen lay this in front of you with unmatched musicality...  please login my website to order it when you want it! Narek Hakhnazayan & Noreen Polera.

This is not a sales pitch, but shipping 2 or 3 tapes are only a few dollars more than shipping costs of 1 tape...  I would suggest, if you like Violin & cello, the tape of Beethoven’s Ghost Trio which have all 3 solo instruments...
Again, amazing timeless music...



Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Ed Pong on 07/11/20 at 21:56:19

I'd just like to give some perspective on what's happening in the tape scene, at least, the bit I've seen personally.

Last fall, I was asked by Dave Denyer, the Reel to Reel Rambler, to be part of his room at the Ascot Hi-Fi Show in London. I met the owners of 2 other tape companies, one Italian & one British. I also saw the new Ballfinger tape deck. It fares well for tape as i can see more & more software companies making new recordings & with new hardware joining in, this tape resurgence is quite real. I believe the Ballfinger deck was engineered completely from scratch, not a small feat...

As you all know, unfortunately, this 15ips 2 track format is not cheap, however, it can deliver a truly stunning soundscape, with endless potential, depending on ones system. I saw tapes (1 reel) selling for 380 Eur & 350 GBP.... the equivalent of 430-440US...!

I also learned there are companies selling tapes as the "master tape" not a copy of the master tape. This puzzled me, but it turns out it's a tape copy of the DIGITAL master recording... I'm not saying this is bad, but the "master" recording was not analogue... I'd just like you all to be aware of this & understand what you may be buying when you read "you're buying the real master tape, not a copy of it..."

I recently had a new customer in Europe tell me his daughter married a Torontonian & could I drop his tapes to her to bring... absolutely perfect!

On hearing these first 2 tapes, he ordered 6 more & told me his son-in-law was coming the next week... could I drop....

What I'm getting at is, shipping costs to Europe are out of sight! To send 1 tape to Europe costs about $90 CDN, 6 tapes would have cost $190 CDN. (He saved over $200 CDN on these 2 orders) Shipping to Asia, even worst...

So when you add the cost of shipping into the equation, you've got to love the music! Fortunately, shipping to the US is very reasonable...!


Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Ed Pong on 07/15/20 at 18:29:55

Something very exciting just arrived...

About 1.5 months ago I came across some 1950 NOS D-getter WE437a tubes... after hearing what the 1956 NOS WE300b did to the sound, I just had to try these....

This morning I placed them carefully into the playback amp for the Studer & listened... I really was not prepared for what I would hear... the sound perspective became even more pure & refined, there was more low level detail, but overall, it was even more dynamic, or true to the source... unbelievable...& this is after a 70 year nap!

This was a tape I'm very familiar with, but the presentation was so beautiful, I got goosebumps throughout & the hairs on my neck got a real workout! I really hate to talk in these superlatives but I think, "there really is no free lunch in audio..." All the original tubes, gear, was designed to be lasting & the best they could be...

This WE437a was a tube they used in the transatlantic telephone cable so had to be tough. It was not an audio tube...

I will put this pair into the mic-pre amp to keep the 1956 WE300b company!

Can't wait till the next recording session!


Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Steve Deckert on 07/16/20 at 03:56:22


Letting people get to know the real audio fanatic and artist that is Ed Pong here on his forum is a real privilege.  

The closer to the microphone in the grand signal path you can upgrade a tube the bigger the difference will be. In recording electronics the microphone preamp is everything which is what Ed is demonstrating with these posts.



Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Geno on 07/16/20 at 12:37:44

This subject brings to mind what engineer Roy DuNann did with Contemporary Records in the late 50’s. I can’t help but think Steve and Ed should read this article. The article is long, but I think very interesting, especially for them being so closely involved with similar techniques:

Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Ed Pong on 07/19/20 at 19:59:08

I know you mentioned you'd like the same Beethoven Sonata No.5 tape we're waiting to hear from Steve about...

Another possibility, is Narek's tape of:
Albeniz – Asturias
Shchedrin – Imitating Albeniz
Tchaikovsky – Nocturne & Pezzo Capriccioso
Sollima – Lamentatio

These are all shorter show pieces, absolutely stunning in its music & virtuosity... in fact the last piece was an encore with an interesting story...

It was the day of the world cup soccer finals & Narek told me, if he wasn't a cellist, he would've been a soccer player!

He told me he would play 2 encores with the Sollima last...
He only played 1 encore & dashed out - (I think to see the last of the soccer game...) When I asked him what happened to the Sollima, he said, "if my team is ahead, I'll play it..." The whole crowd was out enjoying the post concert food & he watched the last part of the game...

Then he jumped up & said, "my team won! let's play the Sollima..!"
I gathered the remaining people back into the pool room & we recorded this Sollima... This will explain his words at the intro for this piece...

This is one of his signature encores, as only he can play it...
Here's a link to it, recorded in 2014.... let me know what you think!

I feel Narek is THE cellist of this young generation...& we have him on 15ips 2 track tape!



Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Steve Deckert on 07/21/20 at 06:35:11

The first thing I was taken by was the difference in how the piano recorded vs. the Cello.  The Cello was far warmer, kinder, more textured.  The piano sound is puzzling.  The Cello has so much more bass weight it makes the piano sound like a piano without any bass strings.

It’s hard to believe it’s the same piano I have come to know and love over the years…

The page turning after the song was over was killer.  I heard the whole room.

The cello is sooo good sounding and the player, Narek, is a master as he and the cello become one.   He makes the space between the notes almost more interesting than the notes themselves, like the way a whisper draws you in and silence opens you.


Time for a different headphone.  The hard to drive planners I was using is causing the headphone amp in the stock tape machine to sound hard on the piano, and it was making me hate the piano player.  Another example of how we as audiophiles tend to shoot the messenger.  I knew this couldn’t be.  But the beating on the keys, and the disjointed timing was making me thing frankly I could play the piano better than that!

Now, when you realize that you’re thinking you can play piano better than Noreen Polera, something must be wrong.  And it was.

So now, let us try again with the proper headphones for the amplifier and see what magic is in here.  I’m almost scared now.  Narek sounded good even with the highly distracting piano, so now things should be very much improved.

SIDE NOTE:  I actually thought the piano player sucked.  It was my gear.  How many times has this happened in the audiophile universe I wonder?  My guess would scare us all.

Alright, lets press play:

Well right off the bat there is a balance that wasn’t there before.  The piano is no longer hard and in fact layers behind the cello for much of the track.  The timing is so much better now.  Hmm, so strained audio gear can mess with timing…. Because it’s flawless now.  Cohesive is the word.  We went from WTF to Holly Crap!  Sorry if that’s a little earthy for you, but I’m not writing to please anyone, just communicate in the rawest way possible.

Yes, I’m into in it now.  The piano sounds great and the cello is becoming one with the piano.  So in the first try, Narek became one with the Cello, probably to hide from the piano, and in this iteration Narek and Noreen have not become one, but dissolved into the music which has become conscious.  

It’s nirvana when this happens, and here we are at the page turn again.  Interestingly, this short 10 second interlude seemed to take about 4 times longer this time.  I’m hearing so much more complexity in the paper folding and echoing out into the room, and the air and space around the microphones that time lost it’s linearity.  This used to happen to me when I played drums, giving me what seemed like minutes to think of what I should do next when in reality it was only microseconds.  We called that dream time.

So as you can see, with proper playback gear my fascination with the page turn went from one sentence to one paragraph.  Need anything more be said?
Track two - the tone of both instruments and the touch of both musicians is like watching flowers bloom.  

Somehow Narak makes his Cello sound like he is hitting the low string with two bows at the same time…

I feel like I’m there.  The breathing is well, too clear to be coming from behind a mask.  The microphones are placing the cello on the right at about 25 degrees or so, and the piano reaches from about 10 degrees right to probably 45/50 degrees on the left, so a nice span.  It interestingly lets the piano have the same loudness as the cello while remaining less loud because it is bigger and slighter farther back.  

I can count the hairs on the bow, the slow parts and silence between the notes that allow the space to simply be there are what (get this) define the space.  I call it horizontal headroom.  It’s what draws you into the music.  It lets textures and decays happen.

I mean really with this current headphone rig, I can smell the bow as it drug itself across my forehead… it was like experiencing everyday things under a microscope.  

Yup, the applause.  It was well done.  Boy the clapping couldn’t be more perfect.  It just doesn’t lie, and that was the best clapping I’ve ever heard.

OK, next track.  Holly cow, what an intro — explosive texture on both instruments.  A little more dynamic than before.  Those hanging notes from the cello, and the way the piano chords attach to those notes, ….   Holy crap this is good!

I love tape.

It’s hard to believe something so simple can be so complex with the dynamics, the tone, the timber, the attack, the push, stretch and pull of time, the point where music pushes into the visual cortex and you start to see shapes. This is the very reason why I have never enjoyed classical music on 16 bit CD’s played on 3 digit audio gear.  It’s all lost, leaving only an imprint of what was once there, like a firkin fossil.  I didn’t set down to listen to fossils, I want to experience the flesh and blood of it.

And that’s what just happened.  Damn that was good.  Crap it’s over.  I hate it when that happens.  I really do.

And now that it’s at least 2 hours past my bedtime the only logical thing to do is play the first tape again on these better headphones.

OK, on the first tape again now.  Her introduction and the overall sound of the room, and the audience chuckling is more relaxed and less awkward sounding than the first time I heard it.

She starts playing and I am hearing more texture from the bow as well as more cohesiveness with the piano… but everything is a little forward and get this, the violin is getting a touch hard!

So let me put back the other headphones and see….   Hmmm…. Everything sounds great now.

Damn I hate this hobby sometimes.  

Fine, I can play this game…. Back and forth between the two.  Each has merit.  Let’s just grab a third headphone.  This one is complimenting the presentation the best overall while each other the other ones did certain things better.  And if you don’t think the human ears a a million times more sophisticated than any microphone/DSP/ consider this…. If I was standing there live for both recordings they would have both sounded exactly the same from a contextual point of view, the same recognizable piano in the same space with the same room and never once would the thought go through your mind that something to too forward, or hard, or anything else, because it would… guess what… sound right.  Real always sounds right.

These phones are friendly…. What the hell, let’s try another pair.

OK, with each pair I move farther back in the audience.  This last pair I am at the back of the pool and everything sounds completely real.  

If I’ve learned anything tonight it’s why serious headphone listeners have so many different pairs.

This pair is exquisite from this perspective.  It lets me move up closer if I want to, and instead of getting beamy it’s just like I’m not wearing headphones.  

It’s dreamy good now.  Much more real.  I am no longer the microphone, but the audience.

Damn, it’s so good.  And to keep all things equal, the same stock tape machine that was used for part 1.

So there you have it,  moving around in the room by simply switching from one headphone to another….  

Thank-you Ed.

Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Steve Deckert on 07/21/20 at 06:49:39

This is one of his signature encores, as only he can play it...
Here's a link to it, recorded in 2014.... let me know what you think!

I feel Narek is THE cellist of this young generation...& we have him on 15ips 2 track tape!


I don't suppose you have that on tape do you?

Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Ed Pong on 07/21/20 at 08:23:28


YES! It’s on that Asturias tape!
I’m glad you liked the cello sound... Narek is beyond amazing...


Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Ed Pong on 07/21/20 at 13:51:59

I was in a deep fog late last night, when I replied, YES, the Sollima is on tape!
Just digested all your comments on the headphones, very interesting!

I don’t really get the complete sound character & soundscape when I listen on the Stax headphones. I have to play the tape on my big system to hear the real characteristics...

I can’t wait to hear your journey when you fire up your main deck, tubed playback amp, & your reference system!

Some thoughts on the recent 1950 NOS  WE437a tubes... in my playback tape amp, on my headphones, I thought, OMG, it’s even more dynamic! The highs of the violin was resolved into layers I don’t recall hearing before... on my phones, the bass did not seem to be carried along in the same way as the treble...(maybe that’s just my headphones..)

On the big system: everything was laid bare what this tube did... Holly cow, dynamics was actually scary & I’ve heard this master tape many times...! It is at least 2-3 db more....The focus, density & intensity was over the top... I marvelled at the top end but I could sense, for some systems which are a bit hard, this would be too much of a good thing... interesting the low end was as I heard on the headphones....

Now this WE437a is an indirect heating triode, so we’re working on a WE300b based (direct heating triode) tape playback amp, for my other pair of 1956 NOS WE300b... this should have likely the best of all worlds of response across the whole audio spectrum... just as it had in the mic-Pre amp.

I will try these 1950 WE437a tubes in the mic-pre amp... to keep the 1956 WE300b company! Logically, this should be the ultimate, with the tape playback using a WE300b amp.... exciting!

As Steve says, you never know, till you try...

One further thought was, the master tape has so much information that we’ve never retrieved... the better the playback amp, the more you will hear! One thought where to “put your $$$” for the biggest bang!

Will report back when the WE300b amp is up & running!


Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Ed Pong on 08/04/20 at 21:58:59

I'm happy to let you know Alena Baeva recently played a "real concert" with audience, in Slovenia just before the end of July. A piece rarely played in concert but amazing... Richard Strauss Violin Concerto:

Please have a listen:

Imagine this virtuosity in all the violin sonatas we've recorded together:
Beethoven Violin Sonata No.3,4,5
Schubert Grand Fantasy, Rondo
Mozart Violin Sonata No.27
Schumann Violin Sonata No.2
Mendelssohn Violin Concerto

Many wonderful repertoire with amazing musicality & sound...



Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Ed Pong on 08/22/20 at 21:58:33

In this Covit time, I hope you are all staying safe!

On a happy note, Alena & Vadym just played an incredible concert in Warsaw Poland at the Chopin Festival... it has some of the best camera work and SOUND I've heard on Youtube... it's a long concert, but please have a listen... I watched the live stream on August 18 & it already has 5000+ views!

The last piece, Beethoven Kreutzer Sonata is likely the best I've ever heard this played... Vadym is a revelation & a perfect duo for Alena's musicality..

I'll record this on tape, the next time they are at my place... can't wait!



Title: Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Post by Steve Deckert on 08/24/20 at 03:02:48

We have seen a 300% increase in amplifier orders alone... and are carrying the same staff, so you can imagine there is precious little time.  That said, we will be closed for the week of DECFEST 2020 despite the fact that we had to cancel it.

I plan to use that time for a little time off with friends.  I'll be spending 3 days listening with Bob and Randy.  During that time I will be spinning the tape and will report back.


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