Tape Project Albums > Waltz for Debby

'Waltz' revisited, 6 months later.

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back in October i did my initial listen to TP-008 'Waltz for Debbie' and also a direct comparison to the AP 45rpm pressing on the Rockport tt. it was clear that the tape was better across the board.....but as the recording and performance are on the polite side of things some of the differences were more of a subtle nature......or at least that is what i thought at the time. other listeners even posted that there was not that big an obvious difference between the tape and the 45rpm Lp.....or obvious winner.

since then 2 things have changed in my system. i recently got the new Allnic H3000 phono stage, and in November i decided to leave the Studer turned on 24/7....i had been turning the Studer on and off for each use. the Studer has been 'on' for 6 months now.

so the vinyl is better......and tapes are now waay better.

so today a friend was visiting and we decided to do the 'Waltz for Debbie' 45rpm Lp--Tape Project tape comparison....again.

there is really no comparison at this point; TP-008 wipes the floor with the 45rpm Lp. the Lp only hints at many musical lines which are fully realized on the tape. on the tape Evans' piano has presence, air and decay. it occupies space. it blooms. on the vinyl it is much reduced in size and definition. the Lp has the action but not the body. and the Lp now has tubes in the signal path and the tape is all solid state....even so the tape is much more natural and has a richer tonallity.

LaFaro's Bass and Motian's drum kit are similarly more present and defined and the noise floor of the tape is much lower than the Lp....

i know that comparisons are not valuable to everyone; but for many this is what causes people to make the plunge into tape.....when Icon recordings like 'Waltz for Debbie' can come alive in your room like no other format. i feel damn lucky to be able to enjoy this tape.


Thanks for the kind words, Mike. Maybe when I get my Repro built for my Nagra I can bring it by and try it in your system? By the way, how did the PNWAS meeting go? Sorry I was unable to be there, I bet it was fun.

MikeL-I have been reading your posts with great interest and I read the audiogon chatter about the latest listening session that was held at your place. I want to be friends with the guy who copies all of the master tapes that he gets his hands on!  Anyway,  I have come full circle on what I think of tape now and what you are saying has validated my conclusions.  Tape simply sounds better than vinyl and vinyl does have a higher noise floor than 15 ips 2 track tapes.  Your system and my system are quite different and your components are much more expensive, but the conclusions are the same.  No contest there.

The first time I listened to tape, it was kind of like an epiphany and somewhere on audiogon is a rant I wrote about being duped all these years into thinking vinyl is superior after coming to the realization that tapes sounded superior to LPs.  And that was 4 track tapes at 7 1/2ips.  Then I came to the realization that even though 4 track tapes sounded better, there were other issues.  Even though vinyl has a high noise floor, the 4 track tapes played back on my Revox A-77 were even noisier due to the tape hiss/noisy electronics and the sound of the reverse side of the tape bleeding through.  So I sold my Revox A-77 and I have said several times on this forum that I was going to sell the 4 track tapes I have.

And then one night recently I was down in my listening room and I was wishing I could hear some of my really good sounding 4 track tapes again.  I had this conversation with my brother and last Friday he showed up at my house with 4 different 4 track machines to let me use for awhile.  I haven't made it past the first one that I put in the system that day.  And that deck is an Akai GX-266D.  This was the first time I have had an auto-reverse deck in my system.  I can tell you that the Akai reduced the amount of bleedthrough from the other side of the tape by an order of magnitude over other 4 track decks I have listened through before.  I don't know if that is just because the heads are really aligned well (and my Revox A-77 had the heads aligned twice), or if there is something to do with have separate heads for each direction of the tape.  The machine handles tape like a dream and I haven't found anything to fault about it.  I found the Akai to be a far better machine in every respect compared to my Revox A-77.

Some of you have read past posts that I have written telling you that if you make a copy of an LP to 15 ips 2 track tape it will sound better than the LP when the tape is played back through the Ampex 350 repros-and I still stand by that statement.   I have made at least 10 tapes now for my brother where I coped LPs over tape and they are all outstanding.  However, as MikeL pointed out, you can clearly hear that the noise floor of the tape is way lower than the noise floor of the vinyl playback rig.  You can clearly hear the sound of the cartridge in the groove and apparently even $100K turntables and very expensive cartridges won't fix this. 

Now on to the next experiment.  My brother asked me to pick out some 4 track tapes that I also have on LP and he wanted me to record back to back songs onto a new tape at 15ips 2 track. And so we did.  The tunes I picked were Spinning Wheel from Blood Sweat and Tears second album (this is an outstanding 4 track tape with really good dynamic range), Lucky Man from Emerson Lake and Palmer, several cuts from Cat Stevens Tea for the Tillerman, and Let Your Love Go from Bread.   Of course as we were recording each song both from LP and tape we were hearing the actual playback straight up through my system.  Upon playback from the tape we just made, several things became clear.  All songs sounded better when played back at 15 ips on both vinyl and tape.  I knew from previous experience that LPs were going to sound better when recorded at 15 ips and played back through the Ampex 350s-pace Steveo...but I wasn't expecting there to be such a difference between the sound of a 7 1/2ips 4 track tape recorded and played back at 2 track 15 ips.  Again, the difference in noise between LP and tape is no contest.  The tape has a much quieter noise floor.   All of the songs that originated from tape sounded better than the LP versions.  The songs from tape just sounded more real, more alive.  The timing, the snap, focus, air, -you name it, it all sounded better from the tape source.  And again, the songs from tape had a way better noise floor than the LPs.   My brother took the tape home and called me the next day to say that it was 0/4 for LPs against the tapes at his house too.

One thing I can tell you is that without the Ampex 350s, the magic mojo wouldn't be there.  I happen to think that the Otari MX-55 is a very good transport (and for $8K it should be) but the playback electronics are nothing special.  I know I have said this before, but there is something magical that happens when the 350s interpret the information.  The soundstage expands in every dimension, the bottom end sounds like it has gained another octave of extension and just has more punch, and everything just seems to snap into focus and make sense.  You should hear Lucky Man played back at 15 ips through the 350s-simply stunning.  There were things going on in that song that I had never heard before and I have listened to this cut a zillion times over the years.  I have two copies of the LP and the one on Cotillion label smokes the Atlantic version.  The LP has great bottom end punch, but not as good as the tape.  The tape was clearly better than the LP in every instance.  Cat Stevens songs from the Tea for Tillerman tape all sound really good.  My brother never took Cat Stevens seriously before he heard his songs played back from the tape I made for him.  Now he is a fan.

For the small percentage of you who have access to 4 track tapes and a 4 track deck, a 15 ips deck that you can record on and you have tube repro electronics, I encourage you to try my experiment and tell me what you hear.  Unless you have some really kick-ass SS repro electronics, I don't think you will hear the magnitude of difference that I hear.  I really think there is something special about the sound of the Ampex 350s and I know that I feel lucky to own a really nice pair of them.  Music played back through them is in another whole league from music played back without them.  And Steveo, if that is distortion, I wish I could buy more of it.

My brother and I are going to do some further taping.  He has every Beatle album on tape and some are still sealed.  We are going to record some of those next and see if the differences we heard on the other songs we copied from tape carry over to the Beatles stuff.  It would be a real hoot if I heard all of the Beatle songs presented in different way-meaning more information than I have ever heard before.

In conclusion, I am back to being bummed at LP in comparison to tape and more bummed that I didn't buy into r2r tapes when they were new and cheap.  And I am more bummed that new music isn't available on tape anymore.

One thing I forgot to mention in my above post.  My brother is able to play his 4 track 7 1/2 ips tapes through the Ampex 350s (actually, he has two tube gain stages, the first being dual mono Crown units before the Ampex 350s).  He said that there is no comparision between hearing the original 4 track 7 1/2 ips tape compared against the 15 ips version I made for him listening through the same electronics.  So, it appears that somehow the tape benefits from being converted from 7 1/2 ips to 15 ips even though the logical side of your brain says it can't be so.  And, Ampex 350s by themselves can't make the original 4 track tape sound as good as they are capable of sounding when they are recorded to 15 ips.  Tis a conundrum said the king.

My brother and I are going to do some further taping.  He has every Beatle album on tape and some are still sealed.  We are going to record some of those next and see if the differences we heard on the other songs we copied from tape carry over to the Beatles stuff.  It would be a real hoot if I heard all of the Beatle songs presented in different way-meaning more information than I have ever heard before.

Mep I am going to try your little expirement, I have 4track tapes and a 2track recorder@15ips. I do want to warn you about the Beatles tapes, if they are on (Capitol Full Dimensional Stereo) I find these tapes to really sound well recorded; but you may find them a little on the bright side as I did.



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