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The Reel-to-Reel Tape vs LP Paradox

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  • The Reel-to-Reel Tape vs LP Paradox

    There's been something happening here as I continue to upgrade my tape front-end. Tapes that were so-so all of a sudden start to bloom as the equipment is improved. Some tapes that were veiled, murky, average transparency, closed-in all of sudden sound magical. And great tapes become aural heaven.

    Funny thing is that I don't necessarily find or experience the same sort of improvements with the turntable front-end. Here good albums continue to improve but average albums continue to sound well average. What gives or am I crazy?
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
    ________________________________________

    -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
    -Goldmund Telos 300 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. 6, 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 3 racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA OHIO Class 2.1+ platforms.

  • #2
    Well, there is that point of diminishing returns on every curve in Audio reproduction. When I got my current (now for over 5 years!) vinyl playback system, it was a noticeable step up from what I had, but the final piece, an upgraded phono pre, didn't yield as big a difference in several tries as I had imagined it might after I went to the Benz LP-Smr cartridge.

    But I was somewhat surprised how much better my Studer A807 sounded than my Tascam BR-20. Both were calibrated and aligned but the Studer was also recapped. I'm having the BR-20 fully redone and then we will see. So I guess my experience, although on a lower level and more limited base than yours, is somewhat similar. For me though all of my 15 ips 2-track RTRs - the two mentioned and a Revox B77MkII and a Tascam 3030 - all sound pretty fantastic almost all the time
    TAPE: Studer A807, A810; Revox B77 MkII; Technics RS-1700; Pioneer RT-707, RT-909
    VINYL: Denon DP59-L/Hana ML/ModWright PH 9.0; Pioneer PL-50LII/Dynavector 20xH
    DIGITAL: Bryston SP-3, Marantz NA6006/Pioneer N-50, Schiit Bifrost
    SPEAKERS: B&W Nautilus 800, Pioneer DSS-9, Velodyne FSR-15
    AMPS: Cary SLP-05/Sunfire Signature 600, Pioneer SX-1980

    Comment


    • #3
      Neither your or Rob's comments surprise me. It seems like tape has the most information which can be revealed by system changes. At least that's what my ears tell me for my system.
      Speakers: Vandersteen Model 7s, 4 M&K ST-150Ts, 1 VCC-5; Amplification: 2 Vandersteen M7-HPAs, CI Audio D200 MKII, Ayre V-6xe; Preamp: Doshi Audio Line Stage v3.0; Phono Pre: Doshi Audio V3 Phono Pre; Analog: Wave Kinetics NVS; Durand Telos and SME 3012R Tonearms, Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement v2; Miyajima Zero; Reel to Reel: Technics RS-1500; Doshi Tape Pre-Amp; Studer A810; Studer A812; Tascam BR-20; Multi-channel: Bryston SP-3; Digital: Custom PC> Lampizator Pacific

      Comment


      • #4
        Could it be a case as well whereby tape gear hasn't matured as much as vinyl gear?
        Dynavector DV20x2L MC cartridge - Genesis G7.1f speakers - Marantz Reference PM-KI-Pearl Int. Amp. - Oracle Audio Paris MkV turntable - Various Morrow & Valab/King cables

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Johnny Vinyl View Post
          Could it be a case as well whereby tape gear hasn't matured as much as vinyl gear?
          I have given this thread a lot of thought and I would agree John that maturity is a significant factor. I would describe this variable as evolution rather than revolution. Tape has not had the intense attention that vinyl has had especially in recent years. I would say that tape stopped serious evolution after the Studer A820 time period. If tape continued to evolve since then and with a "DARPA" sized budget, tape would be even more amazing. Products like the external preamps such as Doshi, etc., are moving the medium forward.
          Speakers/Amps: Genesis G2.2 Jr with Powered Servo-Sub Bass, Genesis GR1440 Mono Amps, 5,000 watts total power
          Preamp: SMc Audio VRE-1C Preamp (fully balanced inputs and output)
          Phono 1: VPI Signature 21 Belt-Drive Turntable with 10” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Windfeld Ti Phono Cartridge driving Lehmann Decade Phono Preamp
          Phono 2: VPI HW-40 Direct-Drive Turntable with 12” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Anna Diamond Phono Cartridge driving Genesis Gold Phono Preamp
          R2R Tape: Studer A810 with Bridge Console
          Digital: Lumin Network Player with Lumin NAS
          Cables: Genesis Advanced Technologies/Absolute Fidelity Interface Interconnects, Speaker, Phono and Power
          Power: Audio-Ultra Power System, IsoTek Super Titan Passive Power Conditioning for Amplifiers
          Accessories: Custom Acrylic Equipment Stands, Klaudio Ultrasonic RCM

          Comment


          • #6
            Not really a surprise as development of turntables/arms/cartridges/phono-preamps has been a continuous process while further development of pro/prosumer/consumer R2Rs pretty much stopped in the late 70s. Basically thirty years of new and improved technology is being applied to the 30+ year old base machines.
            This reflects on not only the improvements made, but the initial build quality of the original decks.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post
              There's been something happening here as I continue to upgrade my tape front-end. Tapes that were so-so all of a sudden start to bloom as the equipment is improved. Some tapes that were veiled, murky, average transparency, closed-in all of sudden sound magical. And great tapes become aural heaven.

              Funny thing is that I don't necessarily find or experience the same sort of improvements with the turntable front-end. Here good albums continue to improve but average albums continue to sound well average. What gives or am I crazy?
              Myles, as I improve my vinyl system, previous poor recordings/pressings get better. Turning lemons into lemonade.

              1. Tape has the highest resolution. I think there is a fairly big gap between vinyl and tape as it regards absolute resolution or data. IMHO, tape has the highest real data storage compared to vinyl and digital at this moment in time. You can only go so far with poor LP's. If you are starting with more potential resolution with a poor tape, maybe get a bigger gap in performance with tape.

              2. There are several major advantages to tape as Myles has pointed out before. Vinyl is a much more mechanical process involving plain old physics. The vinyl transducer, the stylus is subject to limitations due to mass and it's maximum acceleration, which limits the leading edge/transients of music etc.

              3. Tape and vinyl are fundamentally different in how they work over time. Tape is constant tape speed or CLV technology (constant linear velocity) and much easier to maintain near perfect speed and pitch stability with it's capstan refinement. Vinyl on the other hand rotates at a fixed speed in what is called CAV technology (constant angular velocity) which results in the stylus seeing a constantly varying linear speed from the outside-to-inside groove. A signals physical length gets shorter as it approaches the inner groove (less resolution/data). It's almost impossible to accurately mimic the original cutting lathe speed at any point in time. You could say vinyl is never actually at the correct speed... Tape is more pitch perfect and stable over time. Where most music hits its climax at the end, vinyl is at it's worst performance capability (inner grooves), whereas tape is still at it's best.

              Vinyl compared to tape is apples and oranges.

              Speakers/Amps: Genesis G2.2 Jr with Powered Servo-Sub Bass, Genesis GR1440 Mono Amps, 5,000 watts total power
              Preamp: SMc Audio VRE-1C Preamp (fully balanced inputs and output)
              Phono 1: VPI Signature 21 Belt-Drive Turntable with 10” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Windfeld Ti Phono Cartridge driving Lehmann Decade Phono Preamp
              Phono 2: VPI HW-40 Direct-Drive Turntable with 12” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Anna Diamond Phono Cartridge driving Genesis Gold Phono Preamp
              R2R Tape: Studer A810 with Bridge Console
              Digital: Lumin Network Player with Lumin NAS
              Cables: Genesis Advanced Technologies/Absolute Fidelity Interface Interconnects, Speaker, Phono and Power
              Power: Audio-Ultra Power System, IsoTek Super Titan Passive Power Conditioning for Amplifiers
              Accessories: Custom Acrylic Equipment Stands, Klaudio Ultrasonic RCM

              Comment


              • #8
                While tape has a higher resolution ceiling, vinyl has an advantage in that a 65 year old LP can be played without fear of it decomposing.
                Analog: Holbo Turntable, Transfiguration Proteus; Forsell Air Reference, Transfiguration Phoenix S; Rega RP-8, VdH Crimson XGW; VPI Prime Signature, VAS Nova Mono, VAS Nova Signature, Symphonic Line RG-8
                Digital: Mac mini 6,2 with YFS PS-12M LPS; Exogal Comet Plus, Exogal Ion PowerDAC
                Electronics: Aurorasound Vida, Channel D Lino C; Merrill Cara, Gryphon M-100 Mkii (pair)
                Cables: Morrow, Gryphon interconnects; YFS USB cable; Morrow, XLO, Channel D phono cables; Morrow, Gryphon, Goertz speaker cables

                Comment


                • Bruce B
                  Bruce B commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Tape, stored correctly, will have no loss....

                • Marcus
                  Marcus commented
                  Editing a comment
                  How do you store tapes correctly Bruce? Can't they be put on the same shelf as LP's?

              • #9
                Originally posted by MylesBAstor View Post
                There's been something happening here as I continue to upgrade my tape front-end. Tapes that were so-so all of a sudden start to bloom as the equipment is improved. Some tapes that were veiled, murky, average transparency, closed-in all of sudden sound magical. And great tapes become aural heaven.

                Funny thing is that I don't necessarily find or experience the same sort of improvements with the turntable front-end. Here good albums continue to improve but average albums continue to sound well average. What gives or am I crazy?
                this reads more like a rhetorical question, I think we all know the answer in absolute terms, tape is better than vinyl and at the highest level the disparity is even greater. I think there are many well founded and accepted technical explanations for this and if your vinyl is cut from tape--as most are--its now just a copy of a copy with all of vinyl's shortcomings piled on top.

                This isn't what some 'philes like too hear because they've spent so much time and money reaching their own apex of vinyl appreciation. I've been chasing vinyl rainbows for a long time, with all manner of vinyl playback set-ups and everyone of them has brought many hours of sonic bliss. when access to good tape repro entered the scene (for me) all bets were off, tape is just so much closer to the real thing.
                TechDAS | Graham Eng | ZYX | B.M.C. | Boulder | Magico

                "Listening to Analogue music is an act of rebellion in a digital gulag" - Simon Yorke

                Comment


                • #10
                  I wanted to point out that ultimate LP potential is with direct-to-disc with no tape recording and thus no multi-generation losses. However, LP's limitations of CAV versus tapes CLV and the mechanical limitations of LP's due to physics and other factors, even the best LP can't match the best tape.

                  It isn't a paradox so much as it is a question of compromises and economy.
                  Speakers/Amps: Genesis G2.2 Jr with Powered Servo-Sub Bass, Genesis GR1440 Mono Amps, 5,000 watts total power
                  Preamp: SMc Audio VRE-1C Preamp (fully balanced inputs and output)
                  Phono 1: VPI Signature 21 Belt-Drive Turntable with 10” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Windfeld Ti Phono Cartridge driving Lehmann Decade Phono Preamp
                  Phono 2: VPI HW-40 Direct-Drive Turntable with 12” 3D Printed Fatboy Gimbal Arm and Ortofon MC Anna Diamond Phono Cartridge driving Genesis Gold Phono Preamp
                  R2R Tape: Studer A810 with Bridge Console
                  Digital: Lumin Network Player with Lumin NAS
                  Cables: Genesis Advanced Technologies/Absolute Fidelity Interface Interconnects, Speaker, Phono and Power
                  Power: Audio-Ultra Power System, IsoTek Super Titan Passive Power Conditioning for Amplifiers
                  Accessories: Custom Acrylic Equipment Stands, Klaudio Ultrasonic RCM

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    Joe, post #10 makes me think about the Sheffield reissues from a backup tape recorded at the original direct to disc sessions. The qualifier "best tape" may not have been the case in the Treasury reissues. The example I could use is the Dave Grusin reissue which I found ordinary. Also would a vinyl disc read by a laser eliminate mechanical limitations?

                    Comment


                    • #12
                      Originally posted by Joe Pittman View Post
                      I wanted to point out that ultimate LP potential is with direct-to-disc with no tape recording and thus no multi-generation losses. However, LP's limitations of CAV versus tapes CLV and the mechanical limitations of LP's due to physics and other factors, even the best LP can't match the best tape.

                      It isn't a paradox so much as it is a question of compromises and economy.
                      Agree with Joe's comments and Johnny's. A few fine points and elaborations.

                      First, commercial tape releases from the '50's to late '70s (7.5ips 4 track stereo) have many shortcomings that are different from vinyl, but nonetheless lower the quality. They are closer to apples to apples with regular vinyl, certainly closer in the much larger number of titles and the price (only two or three times the retail price of the equivalent record). I only have accumulated a fair number of classical tapes, but from what I have accumulated, it appears that for the big labels, they released most albums in both vinyl and R2R in the late '50's to the late '70's.

                      Second, Johnny's point about the development of tape playback vs vinyl playback are IMHO true. The goal of the companies making pro tape machines in the analogue era (1950's to early 1980's) was to produce superior recording equipment and electronics, while playback electronics were secondary. Today, most all of the companies who issue 15ips 2 track tapes are using vintage electronics in their record chains. If they use newer electronics and heads, it is in the playback stage. Second generation tapes (safety masters) recorded in the 1950's and 1960's can sound astoundingly good when played with the top playback equipment. Through an excellent current audiophile system, the sound quality is certainly better than the playbacks done in the recording studios of 40-50 years ago.

                      Two companies which release both vinyl and 15ips 2 track R2R are Yarlung (I have several of their albums in both) and Opus 3 ( here the vinyl is from the '80's and '90's and the R2R are copies of the running masters of which I have a few of both). So direct comparisons can easily be made.

                      Third, many people complain about the lack of media available in 15ips 2 track. At last count there are a few hundred titles, including some by the top artists of their day. However, this swamps the number of direct to disc albums, of which I have many (like all of the D2D Sheffields which I think did more D2D than just about anyone else). So, even for standard audiophile pressings, we are talking about a fifth generation copy from the running master (lacquer, father, mother, stamper, record), while a tape is usually a first generation from the running master, and sometimes the same generation as the running master.

                      Super TT/arm/cartridge/phono pre combinations will usually far exceed similar R2R/tape prepros, but, of course, that difference in money will quickly go to buying a nice collection of R2R tapes.

                      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


                      • #13
                        Myles,

                        Over your lifetime, you've spent immeasurably more hours listening to vinyl.

                        I submit you have "gotten used to" the medium along with its the INCREMENTAL improvements.

                        Along comes tape. Perhaps your internal hearing mechanism is still reacting / adjusting to what I'll call the "quantum perceptual leap" offered by this "new" medium. Continued listening / re-listening undoubtedly alters initial impressions. Good - isn't that what life is all about?

                        I'm certainly still, and hope to remain, a "kid in THIS candy shop"!

                        Charles

                        Comment


                        • #14
                          Originally posted by Rob View Post

                          this reads more like a rhetorical question, I think we all know the answer in absolute terms, tape is better than vinyl and at the highest level the disparity is even greater. I think there are many well founded and accepted technical explanations for this and if your vinyl is cut from tape--as most are--its now just a copy of a copy with all of vinyl's shortcomings piled on top.

                          This isn't what some 'philes like too hear because they've spent so much time and money reaching their own apex of vinyl appreciation. I've been chasing vinyl rainbows for a long time, with all manner of vinyl playback set-ups and everyone of them has brought many hours of sonic bliss. when access to good tape repro entered the scene (for me) all bets were off, tape is just so much closer to the real thing.
                          My intent wasn't to denigrate vinyl per se but to point out an interesting difference between the two analog mediums.

                          It just seems that upgrading the tape front-end results in greater sonic improvements than to the vinyl front-end. And the same goes with sources with average sounding tapes all of a sudden sounding much better relative to vinyl. Now I just wish I had more tapes.
                          Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                          Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
                          ________________________________________

                          -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
                          -Goldmund Telos 300 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. 6, 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 3 racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA OHIO Class 2.1+ platforms.

                          Comment


                          • #15
                            Originally posted by Joe Pittman View Post
                            I wanted to point out that ultimate LP potential is with direct-to-disc with no tape recording and thus no multi-generation losses. However, LP's limitations of CAV versus tapes CLV and the mechanical limitations of LP's due to physics and other factors, even the best LP can't match the best tape.

                            It isn't a paradox so much as it is a question of compromises and economy.
                            I've often read about D2D being the ultimate analog source but I think that's more in theory than reality. D2D is still subject to the basic cutting and playback issues you mentioned earlier for normal LPs. Also I think D2D are also very subject to the electronics used with making a D2D disc. And of course other things related to the basic musicianship.
                            Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                            Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
                            ________________________________________

                            -Zellaton Plural Evo speakers
                            -Goldmund Telos 300 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. 6, 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 3 racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA OHIO Class 2.1+ platforms.

                            Comment

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