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RMAF 2016 Tape Seminar: Analog Tape: The Ultimate Format

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  • RMAF 2016 Tape Seminar: Analog Tape: The Ultimate Format

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    The panel from Analog Tape: The Ultimate Format Seminar (left to right): Myles Astor, Positive-Feedback (moderator); Dan Labrie (ATR Services); Chris Mara (Welcome to 1979 Studio and Mara Machines); Michael Romanowski (The Tape Project and Coast Recorders); Chad Kassem (Analogue Productions and Acoustic Sounds).

    Be wary of tape provenance was one of the main take home messages from Saturday afternoon’s Analog Tape: The Ultimate Format at RMAF seminar. This session marked the third year (to my knowledge), the last presentation being done by Charlie King of King-Cello, that RMAF had hosted a tape seminar. And the tape quartet of Dan Labrie (ATR Services), Chris Mara (Welcome to 1979 Studios), Michael Romanowksi (The Tape Project) and Chad Kassem (Acoustic Sounds) hit it out of the park! This year’s session was as well attended as any that I’ve been a part of and the enthusiasm, energy and eagerness of the crowd filled the make-shift amphitheater on Saturday.

    I kicked off the afternoon session with a brief introduction to reel-to-reel tape concentrating particularly on the medium’s addictive magic as well as a few tape recommendations. Chris Mara followed on the dais discussing how to get into the reel-to-reel game and choosing the right equipment. Coincidentally, Chris also debuted during RMAF in Tower Room 9028 his new turnkey, warrantied and rebuilt MCI machine. He also brought up some of the medium’s advantages including tape machines unlike turntables, are not as sensitive to feedback and the sound of the recording is the same from the first to the last track unlike vinyl. Chris’ take home message was that operating a reel-to-reel machine is not any harder (and I’d add even easier since practically the only think need to do is demagnetize every so often and clean the heads at the beginning of each day’s listening session) than a turntable. All owners need to do is rewind the tape and hit play. Doesn’t get any easier than that.





    Next up was Dan Labrie of ATR Services who covered the ins and out of machine operation focusing in particular on his specialty, Ampex ATR machines. One fact that Dan shared with the audience was that over the last couple of years, ATR Services deck sales has gone from 80 percent pro/20 percent consumer to 80% consumer/20 percent pro. Chad added that if Dan was being truthful it’s now probably 90 percent consumer/10 percent pro surely pointing to the increasing demand and interest in the reel-to-reel format among audiophiles.

    After Dan, Michael Romanowski took the stage and shared tales with the audience about how he, Dan Schmalle and Paul Stubblebine got the renaissance in reel-to-reel tape rolling now more than ten years ago. A few of us remember how most people thought The Tape Project trio had lost their minds and gone totally insane. After all, why would anyone in their right mind want to resurrect an obsolete medium? Well it seems that Dan, Paul and Michael had the last laugh. In addition, Michael shared with the attentive and rapt audience how the trio met over a few dinners—and more than a few gin and tonics—before finally throwing caution to the wind and getting into the tape business. Among other topics Michael covered were the difficulties with securing the rights to different titles including signing all the legal documents to procure the tape and finding out the master was missing or damaged, how the trio comes to choose titles for release, costs involved in producing tape reissues and working with people like Keith Johnson on the Reference Recording’s reissues!

    The last speaker (and far from the least) of the afternoon session featured a person who didn’t need any introduction at all: Chad Kassem. Chad’s has with the announcement of his first 12 reel-to-reel releases now turned Acoustic Sounds into a one stop shopping experience for all audiophiles. Whether you listen to vinyl, high-rez digital or reel-to-reel, two or all of the aforementioned, there’s something for everyone. He brought along to RMAF the first two of his announced dozen 15 ips/2-track reel-to-reel tape releases. Seriously hot off the ATR machines (Brian Tucker was finishing assembling the flanges the night before the show began!) were Janis Ian’s Breaking Silence and Ben Webster’s Gentle Ben. Chad shared about how the requests that he had received over the years from tapeheads to release 15 ips tape finally made it a reality. And each of the first two releases has its own story behind it. The Ben Webster is one of his last recordings ever. Breaking Silence was lost for a long time and wasn’t one of the tapes that Janis Ian sold to Sony. It turned out that the rights to Breaking Silence was owned by a film company that hadn’t ever paid any royalties to Janice ever for the recording. So in lieu of paying back royalties and to make her whole, the film company just gave Janis the tape back. As a result, Chad was able to get the rights to Breaking Silence without the usual rigmarole that goes with procuring titles to release.




    Finally, Chad (as well as The Tape Project) emphasized the importance of knowing the provenance of the tape one is buying. As all tapeheads know, there’s plenty of high priced junk of dubious origin and unknown generation number (some I think are 4th and 5th generation) floating around on the market. Chad emphasized that each tape he releases is guaranteed to be sourced from the original master tape—whether that master is stored on the East or West coast. For instance, RCA tapes are stored in NY and RCA won’t let them be shipped anywhere but Sterling Sound. So a company based on the West Coast without any East Coast assistance is most likely not dealing or starting with the original tape but a safety.

    A great afternoon was had by all and several rooms at the show including Von Schweikert/Skogrand Cables, UHA, Jeff Jacobs and a couple of other rooms demoed Chad’s (among others) reel-to-reel tape as a source material. In fact, Leif Swanson and Damon von Schweikert of von Schweikert Audio ran downstairs to Chad’s booth after hearing the Janis Ian and Ben Webster tapes to corner a couple of copies of the releases. Knut Skogrand of Skogrand cable and a co-exhibitor in the room, pondered long and hard about finally taking the plunge into reel-to-reel tape. And Gary Koh’s Thailand distributor, Wuti Larnroongroj, owner of Audio Excellence in Thailand, tried to corner the market and buy every copy Chad had brought to Denver!
    The session was recorded and I’ll be sure to post the link as Marjorie and RMAF makes it available.
    Attached Files
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
    ________________________________________

    -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
    -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
    -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
    -Doshi EVO and Goldmund PH3.8 phonostage
    -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
    -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
    -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga Mk. 2, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
    -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
    -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
    -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

  • #2
    What wasn't "hammered home" during the seminar (and which I mentioned to Myles afterwards) was the fact that, for the most part the musical offerings we are talking about were ORIGINALLY RECORDED on analog tape.

    Up to now you have had to "settle" for a record; created using the "Byzantine Process" of transferring an electrical signal on an analog tape to a mechanical signal in the record's grooves, and then back to an electrical signal via some type of transducing mechanism. I continue to maintain that if you think about the process(es) involved, we are SO LUCKY that the result sounds anywhere as good as it does. In the early stereo era, we were SO lucky to have had the confluence of great microphones; tape decks / lathes and and recordists with "great ears" to create many of the masterpieces we are now talking about. Homage must be paid to these original developers and the man-millenia of efforts since spent improving all facets of (primarily) the playback chain.

    Sometime; hopefully this year, you will be able to buy a copy of (for example) Reiner's Scheherazade that is 2 GENERATIONS down from THE TAPE subsequently used to make the record! Tell me this isn't HUGE!

    And don't complain about the cost - especially those of you with multiple copies / generations of the LP. Be happy just to be able to own the "closest" version of this (and other) musical masterpiecees.

    Charles

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by stellavox View Post
      What wasn't "hammered home" during the seminar (and which I mentioned to Myles afterwards) was the fact that, for the most part the musical offerings we are talking about were ORIGINALLY RECORDED on analog tape.

      Up to now you have had to "settle" for a record; created using the "Byzantine Process" of transferring an electrical signal on an analog tape to a mechanical signal in the record's grooves, and then back to an electrical signal via some type of transducing mechanism. I continue to maintain that if you think about the process(es) involved, we are SO LUCKY that the result sounds anywhere as good as it does. In the early stereo era, we were SO lucky to have had the confluence of great microphones; tape decks / lathes and and recordists with "great ears" to create many of the masterpieces we are now talking about. Homage must be paid to these original developers and the man-millenia of efforts since spent improving all facets of (primarily) the playback chain.

      Sometime; hopefully this year, you will be able to buy a copy of (for example) Reiner's Scheherazade that is 2 GENERATIONS down from THE TAPE subsequently used to make the record! Tell me this isn't HUGE!

      And don't complain about the cost - especially those of you with multiple copies / generations of the LP. Be happy just to be able to own the "closest" version of this (and other) musical masterpiecees.

      Charles
      Great points Charles. I have a few safety masters from that era as well as the original vinyl and the top reissues. Nothing like the tape! Looking forward to Chad's releases. This potentially is the mother lode for the golden era of analogue recording - the best news for R2R lovers since Tape Project.

      Larry
      Analog- VPIClassic3-3DArm,SoundsmithZephyrII+MiyajimaZeroMono, 2xAmpex ATR-102,Doshi3.0,Merrill Trident Master Tape Pre,Herron VTPH-2A
      Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,Mykerinos,PacMicroModel2
      Dig Play-mchNADAC, LampiPac, Roon, HQP, Oppo105
      Electronics-Doshi Pre,CJ MET1mchPre, Cary2A3monoamps
      Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR
      Other-2x512Engineer/Marutani Symmetrical Power, AudioDiskVinylCleaner,AirTightRecordFlat, Scott Rust Interconnects,
      Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1.3KR2Rtapes,50TBrips

      Comment


      • #4
        One thing that I forgot to mention is that Mike Romanowski and I talked about the possibility of TTP re-releasing some of the OOP titles--take for instance the Decca tapes--where their license has expired. Michael said that they are indeed working on it and there may be some news down the road.

        BTW, we also talked about the Tape Project's next release. Some may have heard or read that the 29th tape release from TTP is a new, original release (only the second original tape in their catalog--the other being the first release of Jaqui Naylor) and indeed that's true. The new release due out around the end of the year will be the very last recording of the Cypress String Quartet. It's currently in the can and being edited. I forgot to or forgot what pieces will be on the tape. Perhaps Larry has some more info?

        http://cypressquartet.com/cypress-st...n-june-2016-2/
        Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
        Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
        ________________________________________

        -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
        -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
        -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
        -Doshi EVO and Goldmund PH3.8 phonostage
        -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
        -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
        -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga Mk. 2, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
        -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
        -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
        -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post
          One thing that I forgot to mention is that Mike Romanowski and I talked about the possibility of TTP re-releasing some of the OOP titles--take for instance the Decca tapes--where their license has expired. Michael said that they are indeed working on it and there may be some news down the road.

          BTW, we also talked about the Tape Project's next release. Some may have heard or read that the 29th tape release from TTP is a new, original release (only the second original tape in their catalog--the other being the first release of Jaqui Naylor) and indeed that's true. The new release due out around the end of the year will be the very last recording of the Cypress String Quartet. It's currently in the can and being edited. I forgot to or forgot what pieces will be on the tape. Perhaps Larry has some more info?

          http://cypressquartet.com/cypress-st...n-june-2016-2/
          The Cypress was a very fine quartet. One of my consultants, engineer Mark Willsher is married to the leader and first violinist of the Cypress, Cecily Ward. I last talked to Mark in August and he said that he and Cecily were moving to England, where Mark is from originally. Mark did a lot of work on movie soundtracks and was one of the main recording engineers for the Lord of the Rings Cycle (recording the London Philharmonic for the scores of the three movies).

          A few years ago, Mark invited me (and Pearl) to one of the recording sessions of the Cypress Quartet up at Skywalker Ranch in Marin county, where they were recording their "American" album, including the wonderful Barber string quartet, which was being recorded the day of our visit. Mark was the recording engineer for the project as well as most (all?) of their other recordings, which have gotten very good reviews. It was fun to be in the recording booth (a very expansive booth in the case of Skywalker) and seeing the immense sound stage (which can accommodate an entire symphony orchestra). There were sound panels on the stage which make the space much more intimate. Mark is a trained musician and was handling both the producer and engineer role. He is an expert in using Pyramix, the Merging Technologies software, which he taught me how to use for my ripping project. He also was using a bank of three Pacific Microsonics Model Two A to D converters to create the digital album, the same Model Two that I used in my ripping project.

          We were having lunch during the break with the quartet and Mark. I mentioned to the violist, Ethan Filner, that he looked familiar. I asked him about his musical training. It turns out that he was in the same Suzuki violin group as our daughter when he was about 6 years old, a Suzuki group that I as a Suzuki parent participated in for several years.

          I did not know about the Tape Project album, but will follow up with Mark as well as Dan, Paul and Romo. I am guessing it may be a Beethoven String Quartet, since they ended their career together playing the Beethoven Quartets in different venues last Spring and Summer. Sounds exciting.

          Larry
          Analog- VPIClassic3-3DArm,SoundsmithZephyrII+MiyajimaZeroMono, 2xAmpex ATR-102,Doshi3.0,Merrill Trident Master Tape Pre,Herron VTPH-2A
          Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,Mykerinos,PacMicroModel2
          Dig Play-mchNADAC, LampiPac, Roon, HQP, Oppo105
          Electronics-Doshi Pre,CJ MET1mchPre, Cary2A3monoamps
          Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR
          Other-2x512Engineer/Marutani Symmetrical Power, AudioDiskVinylCleaner,AirTightRecordFlat, Scott Rust Interconnects,
          Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1.3KR2Rtapes,50TBrips

          Comment

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