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A Review of two recent recordings (Read 539 times)
Steve Deckert
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A Review of two recent recordings
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?

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.

Steve

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Geno
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Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #1 - 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...
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Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #2 - 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!

Ed
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Geno
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Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #3 - 07/01/20 at 01:17:26
 
Many thanks Dr. Ed!
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Steve Deckert
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Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #4 - 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!




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Steve Deckert
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Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #5 - 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.

Steve






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Brian
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Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #6 - 07/03/20 at 08:40:22
 
Steve,
It is off topic, but I love the figured oak cabinet you put on that tape machine!
Oak is classy.

Brian
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Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #7 - 07/03/20 at 15:06:10
 
Steve,
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…
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boWAZCxwuis&t=232s

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yaDRh4r9UYk

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…

Ed
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Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #8 - 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.
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Steve Deckert
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Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #9 - 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.

Steve




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Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #10 - 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!

https://www.facebook.com/philharmonie/videos/306324897170835/UzpfSTIxODU4MzI4MTU...

Ed
 
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Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #11 - 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...

Ed
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Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #12 - 07/06/20 at 03:39:43
 

Ed,

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,

Quote:
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.  

Steve
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Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #13 - 07/06/20 at 13:13:32
 
Steve,

Humbling thoughts...

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

Ed
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Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #14 - 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....
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_3IpA7afLI&feature=youtu.be

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....

Ed

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Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #15 - 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.
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Steve Deckert
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Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #16 - 07/09/20 at 18:26:00
 

Quote:
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!

Steve

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Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #17 - 07/10/20 at 12:57:39
 
Gene

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!

Ed
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Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #18 - 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,

Geno
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Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #19 - 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...

Thanks!

Ed
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Ed Pong
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Posts: 82
Re: A Review of two recent recordings
Reply #20 - Yesterday 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...!

Ed

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