After a great high end show in Munich, visits to the Ruf and FalkenOhr factories, we finally arrived in Vienna. Why Vienna? Yes, it's a great city with unsurpassed musical heritage, but the real reason we went to Vienna was to see one man, Florian "Doc" Kaps.
Doc is an analog maverick unlike anyone I've ever met. He doesn't just appreciate analog items for their nostalgic value or inherent qualities, he views analog as essential to the human experience. Why on Earth would I, The Computer Audiophile who has never owned a turntable, be interested in visiting with Doc? Because Doc is a brilliant guy with impeccable character, who views the world differently than most people, and when he speaks, there is much to be learned. In addition, Doc is responsible for the Supersense Mastercut Editions records. Nobody on the planet is doing what Doc is doing.
When I first met Doc, he asked what I did in the industry. It was interesting, to say the least, when I told him I founded the website Computer Audiophile and I'd never owned a turntable. In a witty manner that I came to graciously expect from Doc, he said, "Then we have nothing in common." I followed up by expressing my love for shooting medium format film using my Hasselblad 503CW. Doc perked up, with a big smile that made me feel like I'd finally delivered the secret code to enter the club. It was all in good fun though. Doc wouldn't have cared if I was all digital all the time. He's a great person with a passion for analog, who enjoys extolling the benefits of analog in our lives, without forcing people to accept his world view, as compelling as it may be.
To get a feel for who Doc is, watch this trailer for his documentary called An Impossible Project. In two minutes and thirteen seconds, viewers will get a great sense for his style, intellect, and humor. Note: He was previously a leading expert in the world on the topic of spider eyes.
The entire documentary its available to buy or rent on YouTube here.
The first evening in Vienna, Doc and I had dinner at the restaurant that's also housed in the same space as his analog operation called Supersense. I call Supersense an analog operation because it has a lacquer cutter for records, letterpress, the worlds largest instant camera (20x24), and a performance space for musical guests. The dinner was fantastic, but the conversation was something I'll always cherish. I felt honored to be Doc's guest, and wish I would've recorded the entire evening. Doc drops so many nuggets of extraordinary information during a conversation, that it's impossible to remember everything. I guess this is a good reason to visit him again.
The following day I felt like a kid in a candy store. I visited Doc and his team as they put the finishing touches on a limited Mastercut Edition box set. One of the items to be finalized was the creation of a 45 RPM single for the box. I was in awe as Doc's team fired up the old analog recording console, tape machine, and lacquer cutter. This was analog from end to end.
The master tape was cued up, a test lacquer was put in place, and the magic began. Watching a lacquer being cut from a priceless master tape, and listening to it it realtime is truly a treat for the senses. The sight, sound, and smell all combine for a remarkable experience. The master tape being spun was Getz/Gilberto, and the track was Girl From Ipanema. We've all heard this one a million times, but we all haven't heard it like this. I could hear this magical recording and also feel the weight of being in the presence of such musical history.
The digital audiophile in me wanted to ask for a high resolution tape transfer to 24/192 PCM, but that would've been a clear signal that I just didn't get "it." The vibe at Supersense is analog and it's human. Everything is tangible, and effects as many of our senses as possible. Even though I don't spin vinyl, or lacquer in this case, I learned a lot from the experience. I walked a way not questioning my love of digital audio, or feeling like I'm missing out without a turntable, but rather with an appreciation for how people enjoy whatever it is that they enjoy.
Days after my visit to Supersense and talks with Doc, I still think quite a bit about the analog experience, and how to bring more of it into my digital audio life. I'm a firm believer that digital audio is more accurate than vinyl. However, digital doesn't involve our senses of touch and smell, like a vinyl record. To a certain extent I don't want my music to consume the space that a vinyl collection would consume in my listening room, but I still want the expansive album art, liner notes, and the smell of the whole package. Those of us in the digital world need something, other than big VU meters, to raise the bar a bit. Immersive audio definitely envelopes the listener in a way that nothing else can do, but there's still something else out there. I'm unsure what that is, but there's a market for it.
Click for video of the Getz/Gilberto master tape being loaded, in preparation for the lacquer to be cut.
Click for video of the lacquer being made from tape.
Click for video of the final lacquer inspection.
Doc and his team assembling a Mastercut Edition lacquer.
The pure analog recording console, lacquer cutter, and tape machine playing Getz/Gilberto.
Finished Mastercut Edition lacquers.
Original Heidelberg letterpress machine
Screen print poster of Gregory Porter.
Instant film area, with Gregory Porter images.
Doc and I outside Supersense in Vienna, Austria. Shot on instant film of course :~)