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The Sound of High Quality Reel to Reel?


esimms86
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As computer audio advances rapidly with products like the Phasure NOS1a, the Chord Dave and Blu2, the Sound Galleries Music Server, XX High End and HQ Player, various products from Sonore, Uptone Audio, Vinnie Rossi, etc., I was wondering if anyone has had the chance to compare bleeding edge digital audio with the sound of the best of R2R. I'm specifically referring to listening experiences involving music such as products sold by the Tape Project and Analogue Productions Ultra Tape, etc., and played back via tape deck machines produced by companies such as Sonorus, United Home Audio, Jcorder, Otari, etc. I'm fully aware of the fact that the machines can cost as high as multiples of $10,000 and the tapes can run in the $300 to $450 range, and I ask please that this does not turn into a thread to bash the cost of dipping one's toes into such clearly expensive waters. Rather, I am just asking for people to post their subjective experiences in listening to the best that R2R has to offer. I personally look forward to the day when I can finally have the opportunity to sit in on such a demo.

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I haven't been able to compare lately since I no longer own my analog recording gear, but back in the 80s when I was a recording engineer, no CD ever came close to the harmonic density and utter realism of my analog master tapes. Things have probably improved with DSD recorders, but those who still use 16 bits and 44.1k sampling rates are "freeze-drying" the music!

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DSD recorders are used by a minority while digital recording with Pro Tools rules the day. There is also a minority who still record to reel to reel though that is a small group indeed.

 

In the meantime, companies like HDTracks, Acoustic Sounds, Mobile Fidelity and Audio Fidelity are using master tapes(or, in some cases, safety tapes?) to transfer analog to a digital format. This is not a complaint and I am thankful for what they do, so long as upsampling is not part of the process.

 

The owner of Jcorder claims that redbook CD transferred to tape sounds better than redbook played back on a CD player. There are also people who claim that digitally recorded music played back in a vinyl format sounds better. I can't verify or dispute the former claim having no direct experience with that listening comparison. As to the latter claim, I would imagine that it could be the preference of many who have a preference for vinyl for any of a variety of reasons.

 

At the end of the day, I don't see how redbook or hi res digital could sound better than the original tapes from which they are derived. This should be true whether the music is, in your words, "freeze dried" or if the digital derives from tapes that have been "baked"(I couldn't resist).

 

Having said all that, I would imagine that listening to well played and recorded music from a 3rd generation tape copy and on a well maintained and calibrated tape deck would have to be a holy grail type of experience. That's what I would imagine and I appreciate hearing from people like yourself who have the opportunity to listen to the masters.

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I've been an audiophile for over 30 years and attended many related events and shows. The last couple of years at AXPONA I had the opportunity to hear some of these new reel to reel decks and the high quality tapes mentioned here and was completely floored by what I heard. The realism, tonality, and harmonic density of these playback sources was far beyond anything else I've ever experienced with either the best analog LP or digital sources. Personally I can't justify purchasing such a front end due to the limited amount of music available in the format as well as the high cost of the tapes themselves, but it is an experience I will never forget!

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As far as digital sounding better when transferred to vinyl or tape, perhaps the analog process "warms up" the cold digital recording. I can say that most of my favorite CDs and SACDs derive from analog masters. Highdeftapetransfers.com offers hi-resolution copies of analog tapes, in some cases, straight from the masters. I sampled this one (24/96k)--sounds great! https://www.highdeftapetransfers.com/products/beautiful-jazz-christian-jacob-piano-international-phonograph-inc-pure-dsd

 

The best sound I have ever heard was a 30 i.p.s. mastertape made by Mark Levinson Audio in the 80s (when it really was Mark Levinson!). Peter McGrath brought to to my local ML dealer for a great night of audio demonstrations. Nothing has ever equalled the absolute realism of that recording. (He played it back through massive Apogee speakers and ML electronics.)

DALI Epicon 2; SVS SB 13 Ultra; Primaluna Premium Dialogue HP integrated amp; Esoteric K-03; VPI Scout 1.1/Ortofon 2M Black; Audeze LCD-XC phones; JRiver MC22

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Klavier, thanks for the recommendation (and the link with the discount!). I own a handful of recordings purchased from highdeftapetransfers and I agree that they uniformly sound great. I also have a 24/192 download of "The Power of the Orchestra" and I can't imagine it sounding substantially better than that, and yet it's one of the upcoming Analogue Productions Ultra Tape releases so I have to believe that it should be even more impressive in R2R format.

 

As far as "warming up" a "cold" digital recording goes, I view this as the euphony (in the good sense) inherent in vinyl and tape reproduction. In my mind, it's similar to the preference for tube over solid state. Courses for horses, as they say.

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As far as "warming up" a "cold" digital recording goes, I view this as the euphony (in the good sense) inherent in vinyl and tape reproduction. In my mind, it's similar to the preference for tube over solid state. Courses for horses, as they say.

 

Is it really euphony or is it "what I'm used to and therefore prefer"? I wonder how much our hearing over time adjusts (and compensates) to prefer that which we are used to, such that something technically "better" doesn't sound that way to us. It is why I try as often as possible to listen to individual live instruments in order to set a reference point.

 

But, who says that it isn't ok to prefer a sound that may actually be different than the reference? It may make it harder for us to agree amongst each other in defining better vs worse, but otherwise enjoyment would seem to be very much a thing of personal tastes. Sort of like arguing Jazz is "better" than classical...:)

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Is it really euphony or is it "what I'm used to and therefore prefer"? I wonder how much our hearing over time adjusts (and compensates) to prefer that which we are used to, such that something technically "better" doesn't sound that way to us. It is why I try as often as possible to listen to individual live instruments in order to set a reference point.

 

But, who says that it isn't ok to prefer a sound that may actually be different than the reference? It may make it harder for us to agree amongst each other in defining better vs worse, but otherwise enjoyment would seem to be very much a thing of personal tastes. Sort of like arguing Jazz is "better" than classical...:)

 

Live music, of course, is the reference or "absolute sound," as it were. Everything else is a (potentially close) approximation. I would never argue with anyone preferring one media or another but "the master tape," at least in the era of analog recording has always been regarded as the gold standard. Vinyl has it's own sound and people may prefer it for any number of reasons including "that's what I'm used to"(a reason no less valid than any other).

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Whoa indeed! Where was this photo taken(I'm assuming in a shop in China based on the writing on the back wall)?

 

I don't know--I saw it on the "High End Audio For The Passionates" Facebook page.

DALI Epicon 2; SVS SB 13 Ultra; Primaluna Premium Dialogue HP integrated amp; Esoteric K-03; VPI Scout 1.1/Ortofon 2M Black; Audeze LCD-XC phones; JRiver MC22

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I forgot to mention that McGrath played the master tape on a Levinson-modified Studer A-80 deck called the ML-5 Master Recorder.

 

ml-5a.jpg

 

 

847790-mark-levinson-ml5a-halfinch-stereo-master-recorderreproducer-in-near-mint-condition.jpg

DALI Epicon 2; SVS SB 13 Ultra; Primaluna Premium Dialogue HP integrated amp; Esoteric K-03; VPI Scout 1.1/Ortofon 2M Black; Audeze LCD-XC phones; JRiver MC22

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I've been consistently amazed at the sound quality of the vast majority of my 15ips 2 track tapes. Playing through a very fine system (Ampex ATR-102 with Doshi 3.0 tape prepro) the sound of the tapes, especially my safety masters on 1/2" tape, is mesmerizing. They beat out my very fine digital files played back on comparably priced digital equipment, both DSD and PCM at DSD256 and PCM192/24. The major problem is the cost of the media and the very limited selection. I have a very large (and expensive!!) collection of tapes (about 500 reels of 15ips 2 track, mostly 1/4" and some 1/2") and that is a small fraction of the vinyl or digital files that I have. The cost is not a small fraction of the cost of my vinyl collection or digital files.

 

Larry

Analog-VPIClas3,3DArm,LyraSkala+MiyajimaZeromono,Herron VTPH2APhono,2AmpexATR-102+MerrillTridentMaster TapePreamp  Dig Rip-Pyramix,IzotopeRX3Adv,MykerinosCard,PacificMicrosonicsModel2; Dig Play-Lampi Pacific, mch NADAC, Roon-HQPlayer,Oppo105  Electronics-DoshiPre,CJ MET1mchPre,Cary2A3monoamps Speakers-AvantgardeDuosLR,3SolosC,LR,RR

Other-2x512EngineerMarutaniSymmetrical Power+Cables Music-15KRecs(90%classical),1.7KR2Rtapes,1.5KCD's,500SACDs,50TBripped files

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I've been an audiophile for over 30 years and attended many related events and shows. The last couple of years at AXPONA I had the opportunity to hear some of these new reel to reel decks and the high quality tapes mentioned here and was completely floored by what I heard. The realism, tonality, and harmonic density of these playback sources was far beyond anything else I've ever experienced with either the best analog LP or digital sources. Personally I can't justify purchasing such a front end due to the limited amount of music available in the format as well as the high cost of the tapes themselves, but it is an experience I will never forget!

 

+1. I've also had the privilege of listening to the new era ultra high end refurbished and re-engineered reel to reel decks and specially recorded tapes. There is simply nothing else I've ever heard that can touch that quality of analog sound.

 

Back around 1980, a friend had several new Tascam top of the line reel to reel decks still new in box (in lieu of his final paychecks from a chain of brick and mortar audio stores that went under. He was kind enough to sell me one at a virtual gift of a price. I stocked up on then available top quality Maxell 10.5 inch tapes, and stared recording every new vinyl album I bought at 7.5 ips and the sound quality significantly exceeded that of the vinyl itself. When good cd players first became affordable I reluctantly sold off the reel to reel with all the tapes. I had made the stupid assumption that the days of reel to reels were over. I have regretted it ever since.

 

These days, I try to tell myself that the old tapes that sell for mucho money on Ebay are ancient and likely to fall apart after a playing or two, and nothing new (of interest) is available, all of which is true. I try to tell myself that blank tape sells for terribly expensive prices, and there is no selection at all. I try to tell myself that even the refurbished reel to reel decks similar to what I have, on Ebay, are also extremely expensive. But in the end, I still miss owning one.

 

JC

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Whoa!

 

16819126_653532464849694_7122206296551995703_o.jpg?oh=2569dd08607e084a69710436be08d6db&oe=59392338

See my post immediately before this. Putting that picture out here simply causes me severe pain in seeing it. My God what an incredible selection of reel to reel majesty! I suspect pricing would only cause additionally severe pain, to virtually any of us! Oh to be wealthy.

 

JC

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