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HRx versus the Tape Project comparison


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FWIW, tonight I finally compared the Tape Project open reel tape "Arnold's Overtures" TP-003 (all analog 15 ips dupe of the original master tape) to the HRx version (24 bit/176.4kHz digital copy of the original master tape) of the same release.....

 

This was a fun experiment. I thought the Tape project version would be superior going in (my bias of keeping things all analog vs. having a digital copy of the analog release notwithstanding), but my thought process was clouded by the fact that Marcia from RR told me that the HRx version would be superior to any "2nd generation analog dub" (read: the TP version I have) available.

 

So, I cued them up to each other---real time, levels matched. On the analog side for the tape I had an Otari console open reel deck feeding a highly modded Bottlehead Seduction tape head amp. On the digital side, I had a Dell laptop feeding a EMU 0404 24/196 USB D/A converter. Obviously, I had this set at the native 24/176.4 that HRx calls for.

 

OK, so what did I hear?

 

On the Tape Project tape:

My notes state, "silkier, smoother, more refined, more extended on top, more relaxing, slightly more hiss, more open, greater transparency"

 

On the HRx version:

"Flatter soundstage, courser, harder sounding, digital glare as compared to tape, more robust bass, very direct and full sound---but lacks openness and soundstage the tape offers"

 

Both sounded great, despite how the above reads. It’s only in comparison to one another I make those comments. I wish that the HRx version had been an actual 24/176.4 master digital recording as that would have been a better assessment. Sadly it is not nor is the other HRx releases in which there is a Tape Project counterpart to compare to. So, nothing definitive can be said here in an analog vs. digital debate. All that can be said is that if you want the best version of "Arnolds Overtures" then seek out the tape project release (said with a grain of salt because you'll need a 6 month plus wait time and possibly unanswered emails for it to finally arrive!).

 

Picture can be seen here:

http://www.audioasylum.com/cgi/vt.mpl?f=tape&m=15083

 

 

Regards,

Joel

 

Regards, Joel

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Very cool! How come my neighbors are so boring! I due have one comment...looks like the analog side is modded and the digital is that cheap emu gadget :) Could this be an issue?

 

I have heard the hrx stuff on a dell with the lynxs and the berleley dac and wow....spectacular!

 

I heard teck was going to offer rebuilt real to reals....know anything about that?

 

jr

 

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First, thanks for your comment. The reel was from the Tape Project:

http://www.tapeproject.com/

 

As for the rest...........Well, my friend and I personally put that "Cheap EMU" up against his reference Apogee/Big Ben setup and while if you put a gun to HIS head he might tell you the Apogee was slightly better then the EMU---- but put the same gun against mine, and I will tell you the EMU was ever so slightly better. And he feels his Apogee walked all over the Weiss he also heard in his own system. All that said, the "cheap EMU" is nothing to sneeze at.....really! In case you haven't seen the big EMU 0404 thread I started here on CA five months back, then see here:

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/24192-USB-20-beer-budget-EMU-0404-mini-review

 

And as far as things go in reel to reel land, my open reel analog setup (even at 7k plus RETAIL) is about on the same tier as the EMU---middle class at best in the grand scheme of $$ (not quality, just pure $ I may add). Heck, many of the hardcore tape folks I know have tape head amps that cost 7k alone, not counting the open reel machine!!! So this I feel is a fair comparison.

 

No word on Teac rebuilt open reels. Just Technics:

http://www.j-corder.com/

 

And some Otari mods:

http://www.tapeproject.com/machines/machines.htm

 

 

 

Regards, Joel

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So this I feel is a fair comparison.

 

I don't think it works like that. It is the fact that the EMU is an oversampling DAC and that "kills" your sound.

Indeed it is so that only at comparisons you will notice (unless you already know), and from there on you can compare OS to NOS and will find the same in favor of NOS.

 

Once you know the difference, you will always be perceiving OS as a "dead bird" for music.

 

Peter

 

 

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Peter ... I know you have stated before a preference for Non Over Sampling DACs, but really I don't think you can fairly say that ALL OverSampling DACs kill the sound. There are many, many respected manufacturers out there who disagree and I don't think that they would produce the hardware they did unless they felt it was the best way of reproducing the music.

 

Another interesting point is how people use monetary value to either beat a product down, or raise it up and champion it depending on what they want to claim.

 

Interestingly based on what the original poster wrote and my interpretation of it ... was it maybe that the digital copy might have been more technically correct, yet the analogue tape sounded better?

 

Or maybe I'm just flogging a dead horse...

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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The EMU 0404 runs native ASIO at sample rates of 44.1/88.2/96/176.4/196. When run through WavLab or a comparable DAW that utilizes the native ASIO drivers, there is no oversampling going on. The EMU automagically detects the HRx material at 24/176.4 and locks on that bit and sample rate.

 

Regards, Joel

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Eloise, sorry, but I can. I carry a sufficient amount of reasoning (which you may have read) to state so, and besides that it is all audible THE MOST easy. No matter what DAC.

 

Funny things is : I still have to find the first reasoning that tries to prove the opposite.

And oh, in this case measurements do *not* count ... because measurements on DACs just flaw completely.

I think I have said enough about that in the past too.

 

Btw, you don't hear me say this is a most easy subject (in fact it is the most complicated). And as usual, if you don't wish to believe me, I'm ok. But I think you would help yourself by grabbing an NOS DAC and listen yourself. But (!!) have a good reference aside, similar to Joel's.

Oh, and before you come up with it : NOS DACs that do 176.4 AFAIK don't exists. Haha.

 

 

Joel, that EMU will be internally oversampling quite a bit (somewhere in the range of 64 - 256 times; I didn't look it up).

 

Best,

Peter

 

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Sorry if this sounds rude ... but I find it amazingly arrogant that an individual who (I believe you said) has built a DAC as a hobby / side project, feels that their opinion is more valid than all the designers at Musical Fidelity, dCS, Naim, Arcam, Bryston, Krell, etc. all of whom build DACs using over sampling.

 

I'm not saying that your experience is wrong - I don't have the experience to argue against it ... only the observations of how others produce their DACs.

 

Eloise

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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I admit I may have been harsh on the gadget, but this is not a fair race. Their are better pruducts suited for the task. I would like to have seen the ayre or the wavelength or the berkeley up at the start line. Could the emu benefit from a reclock? I dont know just asking.

 

Most of us have heard the hrx on good (yes expensive) gear and it did not sound, "Flatter soundstage, courser, harder sounding, digital glare".

 

thanks for the tape links....very interesting!

 

JR

 

PS I will read the emu post soon....again thanks

 

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I just came back here to say I didn't want to be short, but it just takes too much time to keep on explaining the same thing, of which I hope you can see I do that a lot. But each time the same ... no. Of course this goes along with my incapabilities to ever find back something on this forum, where each subject is in each topic.

 

Anyway, taken into account that I explained my thinking sufficiently, why would this be arrogant ?

Why would I not just be one of those manufacturers ? why will they for sure outsmart me ??

Let me be smarter, which btw only comes dow to working things out. Do others ? ... show me !!

 

Besides, and this is a valid reason for normal manufacturers I think, officially the DAC chips allowing for NOS and doing 24/176.4 just don't exist anymore.

So, if I created one anyway, what would that be ? arrogant ? ... I don't get it.

 

If I would be (that supposed !) the only one being able to listen to such a DAC, which implies I would be the only one being able to compare, would *that* make me arrogant perhaps ?

 

Maybe your reasoning is a bit strange.

 

And, maybe it helps you, but this DAC is just going to market. You may have missed that. So I'm not even keeping it for myself.

 

Eloise, for my part it has become time that you stop going against me, while I -again- just try to give answers to someone wondering what happens. Or if you like, who declares digital audio to flaw agains R2R while this is just not so. Not because I say so, but because you must have the comparisons right first.

 

Now please ... you tell me that heavy oversampling DACs do not make sines of everything. Might you think they don't, prove that please.

When you can't, please dive into matters, and tell me how complex music full of harmonics can exist from sines alone. Or, for that matter, how anything of naturality can have left in there.

If you can't find the answers, start wondering what is wrong with you, your ears or your system, at perceiving good sound. Or, prove why you (or we all) won't be bothered by it.

 

When you still fail, we're both up to the question how NOS (not bearing all these negatives) possibly can sound better while carrying the loads of harmonics distortion. I'm ready for that ...

And oh, I did not say you *will* fail.

 

I hope this makes more sense than calling someone arrogant without arguments.

Peter

 

Edit, PS:

only the observations of how others produce their DACs.

 

which is how ?

 

 

Lush^3-e      Lush^2      Blaxius^2      Ethernet^2     HDMI^2     XLR^2

XXHighEnd (developer)

Phasure NOS1 24/768 Async USB DAC (manufacturer)

Phasure Mach III Audio PC with Linear PSU (manufacturer)

Orelino & Orelo MKII Speakers (designer/supplier)

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Peter ... I was going to do a big long post rebutting your comments ... but I think we should just agree to differ. I see what the big manufacturers doing, and you see what you see in your little garage when you are pottering away building your DAC.

 

Eloise

 

 

 

 

Eloise

---

...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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The HRx material sounded great. It was only IN COMPARISON to the tape that the HRx sounded "Flatter soundstage, courser, harder sounding, digital glare". Having NOT heard the tape to compare it to I would have in NO WAY characterized the HRx version in that manner. Far from it. Everything is "relative". I can't help think though that since this particular Arnold release was NOT AN ORIGINAL 24/176.4 bit recording it has hindered its SQ. For example, after the Arnold comparison last night I put on the "Bix" HRx release and to MY ears this one sounded even better then the Arnold. Much smoother, warmer, more relaxed and laid back sound. Was this because it was an original 24/176.4 recording and not some hi-rez transfer of a analog tape? Perhaps!

 

I will also say that if you are going to bring an "ayre or the wavelength or the berkeley up at the start line" (if that makes you feel better) then I would have to bring a modded Studer, Ampex, or Scully up to the open reel start line as well. Where would it end? Never. As I said, there may be better digital dac's out there then the EMU, but there are also may be better open reel setups then what I have as well. You could never make a totally fair comparison between the two.

 

I have every HRx release there is, and I believe that besides my Tape Project tapes, they are some of (if not all) of the best recordings I own. Even when played back through my "lowly EMU". ;)

 

Regards, Joel

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Though In the demos I was at they never played the same exact tape as they did on the server. It was more like, "lets listen to this master digital file we recorded from Natalie Cole first and then after that we'll hear the tape project tape of Robert Cray...."

 

I know the HRx of Arnold wasn't even out yet, did they do the same comparison as I did on that release? I'm curious to read, "The final results were different than yours".

 

Regards, Joel

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Here is another comparison that can be settled at the Berkeley Symposium under good conditions. I would think the studio would have a reel to reel deck and a music server. To be fair you need to have the top D to A converter along with the RR recordings to do a proper comparison. The goal here is to get servers to sound as good as an open reel. See you in Berkeley.

 

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No knock on the event but for $279 plus my ticket to Cali I could buy 5 more EMU's!! Its just not close enough for me to attend.

 

I HAVE a top D to A converter. Have you actually HEARD the EMU 0404?? The EMU is a plenty good DAC. Just because it is inexpensive and comes in a plastic case doesn't mean it isn't any good. I'm sure we have all heard in an honest moment some 1k speakers sound better then 10k ones we've heard, a $300 cd player sound better then a 3k one we've heard, a $6 interconnect sound as good as a $500 one we heard, etc. I know I sure have in my 20+ years in this crazy audiophile world!!!

 

The EMU 0404 was better then my Benchmark DAC1 (which I recently sold), and it also ran with and sounded JUST as good as my friends Apogee Rosetta/Big Ben (which he liked more then the Weiss Minerva he heard in his own system). So I don't lose any sleep over the SQ coming out of my PC setup through the EMU! Sounds just fantastic!!

 

Yep, the "goal" is to approach open reel quality with music servers, and I believe the HRx releases that are TRULY 24/176.4 master digital files are the closest I have gotten to open reel sound. BUT--- IMHO your never gonna get a digital music server to sound "quite" as good as an original analog master tape (such as the Arnold tape I have), as after all the "digital" on the music server will be a copy of the "original analog tape". And my findings above sort of make me believe that although it (the digital copy of the tape) can get really CLOSE, its never going to sound quite as good as the original analog tape does. That's all I was saying in the OP.

 

Regards, Joel

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Hi Joel - Just a quick note, with ticket prices at $279 the sponsors of the event will still lose a significant amount of money. Fantasy Studios is not a cheap place to rent out for three days!

 

As far as your other comments I think we probably agree on more than we disagree. You know what would be pretty cool, is to record to tape and 24/176.4 digital simultaneously. Then have a listen to hear, not which one is better, the pros and cons of each format.

 

Founder of Audiophile Style

UPDATED: My Audio Systems -> https://audiophile.style/system

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Is it surprising that an analogue tape copy of an analogue master should be preferred to a digital copy of the same master? An analogue copy is going to add the noise of the second tape, but, of course, it avoids whatever losses are inherent in digitization. (I know that digital proponents will argue that there are no such losses - at least, assuming top quality d/a conversion and high sample rate, word length - but analogue adherents have yet to be convinced.)

 

Having said all that, where does it get us? Most modern master tapes are digital in the first place, and I don't see how an analogue copy of those can ever, technically, be better than a bit-perfect digital copy. This is not to say that no-one could possibly prefer the analogue copy, but, then some people prefer instant coffee to the real thing...

 

 

 

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Hi Chris,

I should have told my analog versus digital recording story from a few months ago as a backdrop to my OP. One of my good friends here in Michigan is a audiophile, audio dealer and recording engineer (talk about a deadly combo!). Anyhow, he has been recording purely digital for a long time in high resolution. It was only with some prodding from me and other hardcore analog folks that for his last recording venture (which will be commercially released soon) he do it exactly as you state---all analog AND all digital at once.

 

So he did. The only thing he did different than what you proposed was that he did 2 live complete takes----once all digital and then right after all analog. Same room, mics, electronics, etc.

 

Although I wasn't there for the actual recording, I WAS there for the initial playback of the recording, which he had not even heard yet. The recording on the digital side was captured at 24/192 on his Apogee workstation. On the analog side it was a direct to open reel 15 ips 2-track recording recorded direct to an Otari MX5050 B3.

 

Well, as we sat down to listen to what he captured I was feeling like a giddy schoolgirl. In front of me was going to be "the answer" of what was better----hi-rez digital or pure analog!! To save the gory details, BOTH OF US heard right off the superiority of the analog version---smoother, less glare, warmer, better resolution, openness, etc. The differences were FAR FROM night and day. Both versions sounded wonderful, but the analog edition was slightly better and the one we both preferred. Sadly, the version he will sell the most of will be the downrezzed 16/44.1 cd version, but the other options should be available as well. BTW, in closing, he has since switched over to doing DSD recordings for the digital side. I got a chance to hear what he captured from a local orchestra here in Michigan, the Warren Symphony Orchestra, and the results were just amazing!! Here is a look at his site for those who are interested:

http://www.awardaudio.com/

 

Chris, you didn't answer my other question. Did the TAD room demos feature an exact shootout of two of the SAME recordings---one via a tape project tape and one via the music server? If so did they "vote" afterwards or something as to which was better? I certainly didn't witness that. Just trying to figure out more texture on your comment above.

 

Also, no knock on the price of the Fantasy studio event was intended. I'm sure $279 is a deal. It's just the grand I would need to add to that for roundtrip airfare and hotel that is the kicker!! I'm sure you understand that! FWIW, ask those guys though (guest panel) what THEY think sounds better to them on the topic above---all analog or all digital---from recording to playback. I would be curious to hear if they have come to the same conclusion as my friend and I did!!!

 

Regards, Joel

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"I don't see how an analogue copy of those can ever, technically, be better than a bit-perfect digital copy. This is not to say that no-one could possibly prefer the analogue copy, but,"

 

I prefer it sometimes!

 

See the link I provide in the above post to award audio. The particular open reel release for sale on his site was sourced from a 24/192 digital master. Both myself and the recording engineer prefer the high speed analog tape release to the original 24/192 digital file. And if you think THAT'S looney, check out the FAQ section of Jeff Jacobs site and what specifically he states about recording redbook cd's to open reel:

http://www.j-corder.com/-Why_J-Corder______FAQs.html

 

I guess the saying, YMMV applies here!

 

Regards, Joel

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And I have quite a few of the beasts here. Been playing with them since my Grandfather gave me my 1st portable open reel deck, some 30 plus years ago!! And I'm only 37!!

 

It would be one thing if they were "just cool to look at" but the fact that you have the possibility to hear the best sound you've ever heard is a true bonus! Even commercial 7.5ips pre-recorded tapes off Ebay, for instance Miles Davis "Kind of Blue" or Dave Brubecks "Time Out" sound better on the tape then they so on any LP, SACD, you name it, that has ever been released on those same titles.

 

Best machine I could ever recommend to anyone here is an Otari MX-5050. Either a B2 or B3. These are both "endorsed" by the tape project (they will play their expensive tapes stock without modding the deck---a REEL accomplishment) and I linked to them way above. These Otari's are real workhorses, far above what a consumer machine is you will find on Ebay in terms of build quality (read: Teac, Technics, Pioneer, Revox, etc.)

 

The bottom line is that these machines were 5k plus new in the 80's and 90's and sell for between $300-$800 on Ebay DAILY. There are SO MANY OF THEM (they were used in radio stations, recording studios, etc) that right now it is a buyers market. Just make sure to hold out for a nice one as repairs, alignments and such are not cheap on these old machines.

 

Also, in closing the Otari MX-5050 B3 is the last production deck in the world right now. You can buy a new one if you have 6k laying around!!

 

Hope that helps....

 

 

 

Regards, Joel

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From time to time when I am watching old movies I see these machines and cant help to wonder were they all went. I have heard about Teac and Technics, but never about the Otari. My father in law told me the other day he had an open reel to reel when he lived in New Orleans and through it away. I wanted to kill him...hehehe.

 

I am going to look into it becuase I think its good to have options!

 

regards

 

jr

 

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Digital can surpass analog tape..... sometimes.

Case in point. We travelled to Tokyo and recorded the Yamamoto Jazz Trio. The disc just came out on the FIM label titled "What A Wonderful Trio"

The recording was done going to 4 devices.

 

SSL 9000J to DAD AX24 at 24/352.8

SSL 9000J to Pro Tools at 24/192

SSL 9000J to EMM Labs ADC8IV to Tascam DV-RA1000HD at DSD64fs

SSL 9000J to ATR 102 1/4" at 15ips

 

We listened extensively to the recordings over 3-4 months. Everyone that heard the recordings preferred the DXD version. Pro Tools 24/192 came in last.

It just depends on the recording methods, genre and the engineers behind the dials. Tape at it's best.. can win. Sometimes it doesn't

 

 

Regards,

 

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