Can you believe it? Tape Project is ten years old! Thanks to everyone who has supported us in introducing studio quality tape reproduction to the audiophile community!

Author Topic: Pandora's Box?  (Read 8833 times)

Offline mstcraig

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 64
    • View Profile
Pandora's Box?
« on: October 02, 2007, 03:10:50 PM »
That is what I'm hoping NOT to open here! I have some rather specific questions to ask for the principles, if I may. I was lying in bed this morning thinking about the Tape Project tapes, and had some random thoughts. First, on the tapes that were played in NYC back in May at the hi-fi show. I am assuming these were each 1:1 copies of the actual masters, which means the copies to be sold to customers are another generation removed from the master since a sub-master is being used for them, correct? Second, on the main website the following is stated: Master tapes are created in the Camellia mastering studio at the 1340 Mission studio complex.. Did you mean instead to say master duplicates? Why should another master tape need to be created, since there is, and can only be, one actual master? Forgive my confusion, but I also realize that this statement could mean you are taking actual session tapes and recreating a new master from them specifically for Tape Project use? The reason for all of these questions is the result of thinking about how audiophile LP's are created. Ideally, the actual master is used, and a lacquer is cut from it. It then goes through a minimum of negatives, mothers, and stampers to make the final product. I guess I really need to know which process (audiophile tape or LP) is the closest to having the actual master in my grubby hands? I'm not trying to be difficult or overly picky, but if any business wants me to shell out $300.00 for one album of music, I have the right to ask. Everything else aside, each format does have advantages and disadvantages, this much I know. I believe some clarity would really help me here, since the potential investment would be rather large if I wish to do this. Doc, Paul, Michael: the floor is yours. Craig
Craig Sypnier
(Magnepan, VPI, Sumiko, Shure,
Belles Research, ReVox (A-77 and B-77), Scully 280-B, Teac A-2300SD, Nordost)

Offline docb

  • Administrator
  • leader in spreading disinformation
  • *****
  • Posts: 1345
    • View Profile
    • Bottlehead Corp.
Re: Pandora's Box?
« Reply #1 on: October 02, 2007, 04:13:20 PM »
Quote
I am assuming these were each 1:1 copies of the actual masters, which means the copies to be sold to customers are another generation removed from the master since a sub-master is being used for them, correct?

The tapes at the Stereophile show were made from our 1" running masters, the same way that Tape Project tapes are made.

Quote
? Forgive my confusion, but I also realize that this statement could mean you are taking actual session tapes and recreating a new master from them specifically for Tape Project use?

Yes, the process is that Paul creates a 1" running master (actually two, one for backup) from the original tape. This results in what Paul considers about 1/2 the quality loss of a typical transfer to 1/4" or 1/2" tape - piddlin' nothin'. Besides it would never happen that the owner of an original tape would let us run it 50 or more times to make copies.

So typically the process is that we get the "original" (whatever that may mean) master and Paul "masters" a running master from it. In some cases he does a straight transfer. In other cases, the original tapes need mastering to sound right. That's a judgment of the type that Paul has built his reputation on and thus I consider it an added value.

I say 'whatever that may mean', because the original tape could be a straight take or a mixdown, or even something else. For example, the Reference Recordings stereo tapes were made by Keith Johnson on his custom tape machine. The Tape Project running master is a straight transfer from that exact machine onto Paul's 1" ATR. The albums are made from that running master. In the case of The Number White, the album was recorded to 2" 16 track, then mixed down to stereo on the 1". Two running masters were made from that 1" stereo mixdown tape. The Dave Alvin album came to us in its 1/2" stereo mixdown form. The Prestige titles are all 15 ips 1/4", either stereo or mono, probably recorded as straight takes. The Robert Cray is 30 ips 1/4", almost assuredly mixed down from multitrack tape. These tapes are all the ones that were sent to the mastering engineer when the original LPs were made.

Regarding the LP vs. tape issue it depends on how you want to count the steps. Here's how I see it- basically "how many places can you f*** the process up? -

original to 1st copy - running master in our case, lacquer master in the LP case. Which process has greater loss? I know where I would bet my money...

1st to 2nd copy - in our case, that's your tape! In the LP case, that's the stamper.

2nd to 3rd copy - in our case the less than satisfactory copy somebody makes of one of our tapes to give to a cheapskate friend, in the LP case the actual pressing you buy, which is of course made on a stamper that is deteriorating a little with each album it presses. One might argue that our running master deteriorates a tiny bit with each pass, but we are only running it maybe 50 times.

The best answer to all of this may be, who cares? If one sounds better than the other to you, that's probably the one you should own. Chuck McCalment asked me how much loss there really was in going from the 1" running master to the 1/4" Tape project album. My answer? Only about 3/4".

Another way to look at this is that we could make this stuff in any format we want. There are state of the art tape mastering, lacquer mastering and high res digital mastering systems all within 40 feet of each other at 1340 Mission. When we shot 'em all out and the smoke cleared we were looking at a spinning reel of tape.
Dan "Doc B." Schmalle
President for Life, Bottlehead Corp.
Managing Director - retired, The Tape Project

Offline mstcraig

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 64
    • View Profile
Re: Pandora's Box?
« Reply #2 on: October 02, 2007, 04:44:12 PM »
Thanks for the clarification, Doc. I'm not really a troublemaker, but as I said, this is a significant outlay of cash to do this right. And I mean, right. I'm going to the AES this weekend to pick some more brains about the requirements needed to bring my ReVox B-77 and/or Scully 280-B up to snuff to play these things. That means, modifying one or both for IEC/NAB playback among other things, like learning to align them myself. Steve Puntolillo (SoniCraft) is chairing a workshop on buying, restoring, maintaining and working with multitrack analog machines. It should be very interesting. BTW, what are you asking for your alignment tape? Does it include basic instructions on how to do this? Also, can you tell us how many subscriptions have been sold for your tapes? Just curious. Thanks, Craig
Craig Sypnier
(Magnepan, VPI, Sumiko, Shure,
Belles Research, ReVox (A-77 and B-77), Scully 280-B, Teac A-2300SD, Nordost)

Offline Romo

  • Michael Romanowski
  • Administrator
  • Full Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 69
    • View Profile
    • tapeproject
Re: Pandora's Box?
« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2007, 12:00:50 AM »
....how much loss there really was in going from the 1" running master to the 1/4" Tape project album. My answer? Only about 3/4".

Still love that answer.....

Hey Craig, Paul and I will both be at AES roaming the hall, talking to folks, and taking in some panels. BTW, Paul is on a panel moderated by Bob Ludwig. I highly suggest checking that out.

See you there.

and thanks for asking questions...We aim to please
Michael

Managing Director
The Tape Project

Offline High and Outside

  • Administrator
  • Sr. Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 354
    • View Profile
Re: Pandora's Box?
« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2007, 01:49:09 AM »
Craig,

What Dan said.

Plus:
Why should another master tape need to be created, since there is, and can only be, one actual master?

The HiFi magazines have created such a cult around the word "Master" that it's easy to forget what it really means. And it doesn't really mean "the earliest, most original." It means "the one from which copies are made." When I cut a lacquer from the original two track tape, the lacquer is called the "Lacquer Master." Which it is in fact, though the tape is clearly more original. And the next step after the lacquer is called the "Metal Master." When I make a part for the plant to manufacture CD's, that part is called the "CD Master," and rightfully so, even though the tape I made it from is clearly more original.

When I started working in the studios of Columbia Records in the 70's we called the multitrack tape a work part, and we called the stereo mixdown a stereo work part...it wasn't even referred to as a master because it wasn't ready to make records from. It still needed some editing and it needed to go through a mastering process before you had a part that was ready to mass produce from: the lacquer master. When cutting lacquers we would also run a few tape copies. One was used for making cassettes, and it was called the "Cassette Master," even though it was at least one generation later than the session tape. Some of the copies went to the foreign affiliates and they used them as masters for cutting their own lacquers. So they were a generation down, but still masters.

OK, I know everyone desparately wants to call that stereo mixdown tape a "Master Tape," and I'm not going to argue with anybody about it. I just wanted to put it in a broader perspective, and to show why we are sometimes particular about our terminology. We say we only work from the "original session tape" to make it clear that we aren't working from a copy one generation removed, even though that copy might be called a "master," and rightfully so, by some people.
Paul Stubblebine
Managing Director, The TapeProject

Offline docb

  • Administrator
  • leader in spreading disinformation
  • *****
  • Posts: 1345
    • View Profile
    • Bottlehead Corp.
Re: Pandora's Box?
« Reply #5 on: October 03, 2007, 12:58:43 PM »
Alignment tapes retail for $115 and are free to year 2007 subscribers. The first installment of usage instructions (alignment) are in the latest e-mail newsletter, which can be retrieved from our home page. The second part (polarity checking) will be published in the next newsletter.

My business policy is not to discuss subscription, sales, or production figures publicly. Because of the limited  production nature of the Tape Project I can mention our maximum production potential - we have licenses to make 200 albums of each title (with an option to renew for more). We haven't sold 'em all yet - there are tapes available for 2007. But it's going to take several weeks' production to fulfill existing subscriptions.
Dan "Doc B." Schmalle
President for Life, Bottlehead Corp.
Managing Director - retired, The Tape Project

Offline mstcraig

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 64
    • View Profile
Re: Pandora's Box?
« Reply #6 on: October 03, 2007, 06:59:29 PM »
Once again, I want to say how much I appreciate all the information each of you has given. This is all not just for my benefit, naturally, but for all the readers of this forum. I guess someone just had to get up the nerve to ask :). I also appreciate the forthrightness you gentlemen have taken with my questions. Lesser companies usually dodge stuff like this as back room black art not to be shared. It is to your credit as The Tape Project to step up and share this information with all of us. I find all things related to tape quite fascinating, especially the nuts and bolts of what you're doing to bring music to people in a way that, outside of the studio, many have never experienced. Analog tape is my own canvas of choice for the recording work I do personally. Digital does not interest me. If nothing else, my open reel tapes will be able to be played decades from now. Can digital say that? No. If one were to listen to any of the all-time classic recordings, from rock to jazz to classical, there is one common denominator: They were each done in the analog domain. The technology (hardware and software) has over sixty(!) years behind it and is still going strong even now. It is still, to this very day, being improved. Can you say ATR Master Tape, SoniCraft and RMGI as examples? As for me, I'll take a 40+ year old Studer or 3M Mincom over any new digital gear. 'Nuff said! Craig
Craig Sypnier
(Magnepan, VPI, Sumiko, Shure,
Belles Research, ReVox (A-77 and B-77), Scully 280-B, Teac A-2300SD, Nordost)

Offline ironbut

  • Global Moderator
  • leader in spreading disinformation
  • *****
  • Posts: 2503
  • rs1500>repro amp#1
    • View Profile
Re: Pandora's Box?
« Reply #7 on: October 03, 2007, 08:13:17 PM »
I have to agree with Craig, there's some great info in this thread. I do have another question for the guys. Every so often, I see tapes that are being sold as master tapes. I can see that the term ( even when used honestly) can mean several different things. I've seen a few that are mono full track and some that are mono 2 track. The 2 track monos don't make much sense as a mastering format. Also, so called safety masters come up every once in a while. Is there a standard where along the line these were made or was it up to the studio?
As far as the Tape Project licenses,.. do you have a cut off date for producing particular titles? In concrete terms, can someone that discovers us in 2008 still order tapes from the previous year if you haven't reached the 200 albums?
steve koto
 Sony scd 777es(R. Kern mods)> Vpi Aires>Dynavector XX-2mkll>Bent mu>CAT ultimate>CJ premeir 140>Magnepan 1.6qr(Jensen xover)Headphone Eddie Current Zana Deux>AT ad2000,HD800 ,Metric Halo ULN-2 (battery powered),
 HE Audio Jades

Offline docb

  • Administrator
  • leader in spreading disinformation
  • *****
  • Posts: 1345
    • View Profile
    • Bottlehead Corp.
Re: Pandora's Box?
« Reply #8 on: October 03, 2007, 09:19:18 PM »
I guess maybe Paul has decoded the mystery behind what is sold as masters, safety copies, master dubs, etc. about as well as one can in his post above. Some of these offerings are probably legit, some are probably not. How to tell? I don't think you can. And honestly we don't want to associate ourselves with any of that. We are selling legal, licensed albums, and we wish to distance ourselves from what is essentially a gray or even black market for unlicensed recordings.

Re cutoff dates, yes they certainly do exist. Typically we have a two or three year license, during which time we can sell (and you can buy) up to the number of copies we have paid royalties for in advance (we have to pony some serious geld up front for these tapes!). After that we would have to renew the license, if the owner will allow it. So we could potentially run out of the 200 copies we have licensed before the cutoff, and eventually we run out of time to sell any given title. So I wouldn't necessarily wait until 2009 to buy a title we licensed early in 2007. If we get huge demand for a given title and sell it out early we usually have the option to renew the license for a fairly large additional quantity of copies. Obviously we would only do that if a lot of people were asking for it. If we run out and just three more guys want a copy, we would not be able to afford the license renewal.
Dan "Doc B." Schmalle
President for Life, Bottlehead Corp.
Managing Director - retired, The Tape Project

Offline jdcolombo

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 32
    • View Profile
Re: Pandora's Box?
« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2007, 07:16:58 AM »
Doc, et. al.

I know that you all have settled on 468 to do your transfers.  So let me ask a heretical question.  Some of the albums you are releasing (e.g., Sonny Rollins) are less than 45 minutes in length.  Your plan, as I understand it, is to release these on two reels, split wherever appropriate at the end of a particular track (On the Sonny Rollins, I guess the first three tracks would be on one reel, the last two on the second).

Suppose, however, that one were to prefer having the album on a single reel using LPR35 tape.  I understand the downsides: LPR35 is thinner, ergo more susceptible to print-through, handling damage, etc.; the formulation is based on 911, not 468, which you think is better, etc.  But would you be willing/able to accommodate a request like this?  I suppose one could always take your two-reel original and make a dub to LPR35 using a second tape machine, but then you lose some of the original quality, however small that may be (and it won't be nearly as small as going from the running 1" master to a 1/4" dub on an ATR).  Obviously, this doesn't make any sense for albums over 45 minutes; you'll have to split those anyway.  But I was just wondering . . . Also wondering if you think the downsides of using LPR35 are really horrible and that one would be a total idiot to even think about this.  Understand that I'm in no way questioning your choice of 468; I'm just sort of wondering what the trade-offs would be if one valued a bit of convenience . . .

John C.
John Colombo
Savoy, IL

Offline docb

  • Administrator
  • leader in spreading disinformation
  • *****
  • Posts: 1345
    • View Profile
    • Bottlehead Corp.
Re: Pandora's Box?
« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2007, 09:11:13 AM »
Quote
But would you be willing/able to accommodate a request like this?

I'm gonna let the director of tape production handle this one...I for one wouldn't want an album on anything less than the most robust, print-through resistant tape I could get for the money.

Dan "Doc B." Schmalle
President for Life, Bottlehead Corp.
Managing Director - retired, The Tape Project

Offline jdcolombo

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 32
    • View Profile
Re: Pandora's Box?
« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2007, 11:33:45 AM »

I'm gonna let the director of tape production handle this one...I for one wouldn't want an album on anything less than the most robust, print-through resistant tape I could get for the money.


Actually, no need to follow up.  You're right - one would be crazy not to use the absolute best tape available. 

John C.
John Colombo
Savoy, IL

Offline docb

  • Administrator
  • leader in spreading disinformation
  • *****
  • Posts: 1345
    • View Profile
    • Bottlehead Corp.
Re: Pandora's Box?
« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2007, 01:57:09 PM »
This brings up another interesting topic, John. I don't think folks talk much about the fact that a tape will actually hold up better if you play it through every once in a while. For old tapes you're less likely to have problems with sticking (this should not be a problem with our tapes anyway) and for any tape it reduces print through, which typically occurs when a tape sits unplayed for a long time. Playing it will shift the particles on each layer around with respect to the ones on the adjacent layers as it is wound into a new pack, and reduce the print effect.

And please, slow wind these tapes before you put them away! The reel your album comes on is the take up reel. We pack the tape "tail out" onto this reel, which you mount on the take up spindle, and you rewind it onto the supply reel before you play it. When it has played through it's ready to be put away. Fast winding does not pack a tape as well. It should only be used for rewinding a tape onto the supply reel for play, and for cuing up a particular track. If you do fast wind to cue up a song, I suggest winding the tape back to the start and letting it play out at 15 ips onto the take up reel before storing it.
Dan "Doc B." Schmalle
President for Life, Bottlehead Corp.
Managing Director - retired, The Tape Project

Offline heideana

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 104
    • View Profile
Re: Pandora's Box?
« Reply #13 on: October 11, 2007, 03:13:01 PM »
Although, wouldn't it be wise to dub a copy if your planning on playing a particular album with a lot of regularity and tape shuttling, like we use to do with LP's?
Studer A810 and Otari MTR-15...Klipsch CWIII's, KG2's & RF7's

Truth is a kind of error, so vaporize it to find your way to heaven, or at least to a smile...