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Interview With Rene Laflamme

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  • Interview With Rene Laflamme

    From the Open Reel to Reel Facebook page.

    We sit down with Rene Laflamme to talk about his experiences of reel-to-reel and why his preference of using this system of recording over others! With 20 years in the industry, he covers his personal journey with the recording process and why his preference will always be reel-to-reel. Read on to find out his key recommendations!

    In your opinion, why does music recorded on tape sound so good?

    There are many reasons! A lesser-known reason is that a full analogue recording set up will preserve a clean and pure AC line (electric power) at the recording session with a natural harmonic in the sound. What I mean is that a computer and converter create noise on the AC line that could bring some bad harmonic to the sound. Some put an AC filter to filter the digital noise of those units but it is fragile. For me personally, my best recording was made only om analogue using battery power.

    Another reason is that you can have a signal path with only discrete analogue devices with no op-amp or no chip. A third reason is a little compression that the tape can give to the music which makes a bigger sound with beautiful high frequency, and the easy one is that you stay in the analog domain, that is the way the hearing system works!

    From your answer, I can safely assume that you are you, analog creature?

    Oh, yes!

    How do you record music on tape and the process of original mastering, and equipment and gear where was used?

    Most of my own recordings are recorded on location with the right acoustic for the music style. I normally use Nagra IV-S in Nagra master EQ curve with tubes microphones. The choice of the microphone depends on the style of music and the hall or church that we are in. Some microphones that are good to use are Fidelio custom tube microphone, Neumann SM-69 tube, Neumann U-67, Neumann U 47, Neumann km 86, Schoeps M222.

    How are you duplicating a copy of the master tape, which source and using which technology, equipment, gear and some process?

    I am a big fan of NOS tubes design circuit, as the copy is made from Nagra T. However, for the playback we use a Vacuum tube tape head. After recording, if it is well-balanced, I use a battery power Nagra IV-S to do the copy. If the master needs EQ, I will use an on point to point tube electronic EQ and or compressor before going to the IV-S.

    Your studio promises to audiophile on your recording, why do you seem to have a preference for recording music on reel to reel tape?

    There are many reasons but one that speaks for itself is that most of my analogue recordings from the last 22 years are still alive today and can be remastered, which is amazing. This is not the case with my own digital recordings as most of them won’t be as good today as when they were first recorded and can’t be improved.

    Which analogue sound console and gear do you use on recording the tape and duplication and why you choose them?

    Most of my recordings use stereo with only two microphones and no mixer. Microphone preamplifier can be DW Fearn, Nagra IV-S, Sonosax, EQ: Pultec, Compressor: DW Fearn, Custom Other Reel-to-Reel Telefunken M-15 1/2 » 30 IPS, Ampex 351.

    Which blank tape type do you use for mastering sound?

    I did a test 25 years ago with my Nagra IV-S and selected the SM-468 because I like the low-level information and texture of it, as well as the low print-through. This was confirmed when I recorded some of the best sounding recordings when I remastered “Jazz at the Pawnshop”.

    Which blank tape type do you use for duplication of master-tape and why?

    The same RGMI SM-468 for sound and low print-through.

    When did you start to do analogue recordings on tape and what was the first recording or track?

    My first recording was Fidelio FACD001, which was recorded at the famous Morin-Height Studio in the north of Montreal. Beautiful acoustic. It was the jazz player Art Johnson on electric guitar and Frederic Alarie on acoustic bass. It was a Blumlein tube stereo tube mic with Millennia HV3 microphone preamp and the IV-S

    Does every tape have a unique number with a limited edition?

    There are a couple things to know. The titles we release are only new recordings recorded on new master tape or master tapes that are in great shape. I have access to a lot of great master tapes but many of them will not work for a specific project because the tape is not in good shape. Secondly, the Nagra T is very gentle on the tape and most of the time there is no oxide when I clean the machine after the playback. Each master is in different shape and uses different tape company so the maximum quantity of playback will change from master to master. It will be around 40 to 70. I do have high-quality safety copy in Nagra master (4 dB better signal to noise) in analogue for the protection and to compare if the master is still in good condition. I did play on High-end audio show some of my masters 100 times and still sound better than digital 😉

    Do you do any kind of remastering during duplication of master tape as the copying process?

    Yes, some are more complex than others. I note the volume and use a little EQ that needs to be changed. As an example, the Boddy Tate sound great but the muted trumpet is thin so I use the EQ with the Pultec only when the trumpet plays. Another example is Shirley Horn. It is recorded directly to two tracks in a living room so when the drum relaxes it can be recorded with more volume so less noise floor but when the drum becomes crazy it will be a way to load so you need to modulate a bite.

    What about copyright, are master tapes duplicated legally?

    Oh yes, because of all the contract we signed for the digital part of 2xHD (300 albums released) it was easy to add that new format to the contract.

    Do you plan to expand the range of music genres and artists in your recording catalogue, what is your 2020 mission and basic plans?

    We are a big fan of Jazz. US and California have some of the best jazz players so we will be releasing more new recordings live from those great musicians. We will also release my Fidelio recording on analogue collection Vol.2 that is Jazz, World music and Classical. All tracks were selected for both emotion and sound.

    Can you explain in your words why is the piece of music recorded on tape so much higher than vinyl LP record?

    There are many reasons. First vinyl is pressed so you do one master and you are done. Your 1000-ed copy will be pressed in a day by that one cutting master.

    For a tape copy, you create a master every time, which means no press and saves time. Also, the quality of high-end equipment needed to record that tape copy is higher. Just one recorder NOS costs more than the profit of one year of tapes sales. I have 6 refurbished recorders plus all the mastering gears. Also, all the head and NOS tubes are new conditions and the heads are expensive. The RGMI with metal reel is very expensive with the shipping cost. Plus, we do handmade booklet in Montreal that is amazing for that can of work, cover and back cover with high-quality paper.

    Any recommendation on open reel to reel tape decks on which your recording sound better, or any advice to newcomers for the analogue world?

    For low cost a Revox A77 or G36. Ampex 351, Ampex 354, Philipps Pro 36, Telefunken m12, m15. If you are willing to spend a little more, I would recommend the Nagra IV-S/QGB, Nagra T with tube tape head, Studer with Tube tape head.

    Please provide your background on analogue sound engineering or recording music on tape! Which your own track or release you like most and can recommend to others?

    For high-end sound with great music, I would say the album analogue collection Vol.2, which is my own recording, and most of the tracks were selected as Audiophile album of the year by Soundstage magazine (edition 2001 and 2003). Another high-end sound album is the Piltch and Davis the Holly Cole musicians recorded at 30 IPS 1/2 »
    But all other albums sound great, like the live sound of Salt City Six or the A & R recording of the sax player Buddy Tate and the historical aspect to the Bill Evans or the Shirley Horn.

    How you calibrate your recording tape decks?
    MRL tape

    Do you like the slogan "Long Live Analog”?
    Very nice

    Thank you Rene for your time!

    +++++++ - Feel The Warmth ++++
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor,

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