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Topics - astrotoy

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Hi folks,

I now have a much better understanding of what a recording producer/engineer does. I was able to spend a good part of this afternoon in the recording booth of the Skywalker Ranch Scoring Stage in Marin County, witnessing part of a recording session with a string quartet. The quartet was recording the Barber String Quartet (including the famous Adagio which is usually performed separately). The recording engineer was not only controlling the computers recording (in both stereo and 7.1) at 96-24, but also closely following the score measure by measure of all four parts and making appropriate comments about intonation, ensemble, accents of grace notes, as well as determining with the artists whether the take was satisfactory and/or what needed to be rerecorded. After the sessions were completed (they began yesterday with the placement of various baffles and exact location and balances of the different microphones) and continued with 10 hours of recording today, the engineer will edit all the parts of the various takes and do other digital magic to remove extraneous sounds until the CD and hirez digital files are ready. Wow!  The engineer/producer in question had invited me and Pearl (who coincidentally runs a concert series in San Francisco where the quartet has performed) to the session. I had hired him to teach me how to use the software used in my digital recording project. It is same pro software which he was using for the recording sessions (although he was recording on 10 channel (2 stereo and 8 channels for the 7.1) and I only use two channels. Skywalker Ranch Scoring Stage is also an amazing place, much nicer and larger than any studio that I have ever been in.  The stage itself can accommodate up to 125 musicians - a full orchestra and has 30 foot high ceilings.  The monitoring speakers are B&W Nautilus 802, better than any that I have seen except for Paul Stubblebine's Focals and his prior Magicos.

Interestingly, I learned that much of the software being used for denoising and declicking (I am using Izotope RX2) was developed for the film industry - where digital restoration of old film prints and negatives is not dissimilar to the removal of clicks and pops from an LP.

Again, watching and listening all that goes on in a recording session was a real education and gave me a much greater appreciation for people like our own Paul and Romo.

Thanks, Larry

Events / Bay Area TPers - April 30 1PM - Save the Date!
« on: April 19, 2011, 10:57:13 PM »
Hi folks,

We are having a special guest coming to the Bay Area - Xavier Cortes - our favorite Mexico City TP member.  We are planning to have a get together at Chez Toy in Orinda on April 30 at 1PM to meet Xavier and to talk and listen. Because of his complex schedule, we won't know for sure until next Monday whether we will be able to have the gathering. Please save the date and time. As usual we will have a pot luck lunch at the gathering.  We can listen to the newest TP018 and the vinyl versions of Respighi and Copland for comparison.  Please email me at [email protected] if you can make it. I will post again and send out PM's to those who respond.  Hope to see a bunch of you on the 30th. PS In addition to his analogue system, Xavier is building a digital system very similar to mine - a Pacific Microsonics Model Two ADAC, driven by Pyramix software (Version 7) using a Mykerinos card - by Merging Technologies. 

Take care, Larry

Saxophone Colossus / New Book on Sonny Rollins
« on: August 28, 2010, 02:46:34 PM »
I just read a review of "Saxophone Colossus: A Portrait of Sonny Rollins" by Bob Blumenthal and John Abbott. It is being released on September 1, published by Abrams.  The book got a rave review - only 160 pages long, but with over 90 photographs by famed jazz photographer John Abbott.  The review is in today's (August 28) Financial Times.  The story is told in 5 essays, each one named for a track in the SC album. Also according to the review, the story of how the album was recorded is told.  I checked Amazon and the price is $23.

Tape Project Albums - general / TAS Review of TP - September 2010 Issue
« on: August 10, 2010, 01:44:23 AM »
I Just got my September 2010 Issue of The Absolute Sound (TAS) today. On pages 104 and 107 is a review of the TP and the United Home Audio Tascam Deck by Jonathan Valin, who usually does the super high end reviews for TAS. Although he says that every TP tape is not "across-the-board sonically superior to the Walker Black Diamond Mk II record player" (which sells for $57K !! installed) "it is certainly spectacularly lifelike on the better titles, and on the very best Tape Project titles, it is without question the most realistic source component I've tried." He goes on to say "you will still get more dimensional imaging, finer low-level resolution, somewhat truer timbres, simply phenomenal dynamics, astonishingly wide and deep soundstaging, and greater overall realism on select 15 ips tapes, and on the best of them, such as the Arnold Overtures, you will ... get a sound that comes closer to the sound of a full orchestra in a real hall than any other recorded medium I've heard."

Wow! Congrats Fellows. 


Reel to Reel Tape Machines / Changing the Head Block on my MX5050 B3
« on: June 30, 2010, 02:09:10 AM »
Hi folks, I would like some help. I have a 5050 B3 which came with a 2 track head block - no 4 track playback head.  Due to an alert from a list member (thanks, Joel) I was able to snag a 2/4 track head block - looks mint to me - on Ebay for about $130.  Now I am trying to switch head blocks. It looks like there are only two screws to remove to switch the head blocks. I took them out and the old head block doesn't want to move. I don't want to force things, just in case there is something else I need to remove.  Help!! Thanks, Larry

Stage Fright / The Last Waltz
« on: June 24, 2010, 06:14:48 PM »
I had really not heard much about "The Band" before TP-016. I didn't even know whether they sang or just played instruments (like other bands). However, after getting TP-016, I saw a release of "The Last Waltz" on blu-ray at Costco (for $9!), so I bought it.  I'm sure that you all know (but I didn't) that this is the acclaimed Martin Scorcese film of The Band's last concert in 1976. In addition to playing many of their top hits (including "Stage Fright") there are a host of celebrity guest performers in the concert. Anyway, it is a semi documentary and concert film, with interviews of The Band members, mostly Robby Robertson, and gives some insight into their formation and playing. I was very impressed by the quality of the playing of all of the members and that the lead vocals were shared among three of the five members.  It also shows that even with PCM 5.1 multichannel sound on bluray, the sound is nothing like the TP tape!

PS. If you don't have bluray, the package contains both bluray and DVD versions of the film. 


Hi folks, just got my new issue of the Absolute Sound - June/July 2010 issue. On p.55 Mr Valin chose the TP tapes and the UHA Tascam Tape deck as one of his Golden Ear Awards. He says the review is coming.  It is highlighted in grey, which I think means that this is his top choice - of his three picks.  Each of the audio reviewers gets to choose two or three (in one case four) for their annual Golden Ear awards.  Congratulations Dan, Paul and Romo.   Larry

Horenstein-Hindemith / The Story Behind the Recording
« on: February 18, 2010, 09:57:23 PM »
Over the weekend, I stumbled on a treasure trove of information about the famous Decca Recording Studios, based in London, responsible for two of the initial 10 TP titles (the ones whose licenses run out in a couple of weeks.)  It is in the form of an over 1500 page long essay completed in 2009, documenting almost all of the classical music recording sessions from the late 1920's to 2008. This includes the golden era of Decca stereo analogue recordings from the mid 1950's until about 1980. The website which is from Imperial College in London (thanks Steve) gives a link to the downloadable files - the complete Decca file is the one I downloaded. You can also see other files including the recorded history of the Academy of St. Martins in the Field and the London Symphony as well as other documents. The Decca file is quite large, over 5 MB. The core of the analogue LP era is in the file called Decca3 (part of the total file) and is still some 504 pages long and 2 MB. 

In my comments on the TP issue, I noted that I thought the Hindemith recording was the better than the Bruch sonically. Now I know why they sound different. Note that in the file notes, that the two were recorded in two different venues, with different engineers, and different conductors. Hindemith himself conducted his concerto, while Jasha Horenstein was brought in to conduct the Bruch and that originally there was to be a different coupling with the Hindemith - the famous Mozart Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola.  It looks like that sometimes things happen during a recording session and it isn't always magic.  Maybe Paul, Romo or Dan can comment on recording sessions they have done.   

Here is the file on the Oistrakh-Hindemith recording:

Pr: Erik Smith Eng: [ab] Arthur Lilley / [c] Alan Reeve
[ab] 13,14 Sep 1962 West Hampstead Studio 3
[c] 24 Sep 1962 Walthamstow Assembly Hall
David Oistrakh (violin); Paul Hindemith (viola); London Symphony
Orchestra, [ab] Paul Hindemith / [c] Jascha Horenstein
[a] HINDEMITH Violin Concerto
(b) MOZART Sinfonia Concertante in E flat K364 (K320d)
[c] BRUCH Scottish Fantasy Op.46
 (b) Unpublished: on hearing a playback Hindemith expressed disgust at
his own playing and [c] was hastily arranged as a replacement coupling.
[ac] (Feb63) LXT6035 = SXL6035; (Mar63) CM9337 = CS6337,


Prerecorded Tapes / Quinton Tape Review
« on: February 06, 2010, 01:53:00 AM »
I recently received my first (and at this point only) Quinton Tape. It arrived shortly before Christmas and is the Sabina Hank Blue Moments title. I ordered it with the same spec as the TP tapes - 15 ips, 1/4 inch, 2 track, CCIE EQ. You can order 7.5 ips and/or NAB EQ. Shorter tape is cheaper.  It is a bit difficult to determine from the write up which is all in German the exact dubbing process. They mention Studer and Telefunken equipment It has really great sound. Sabina Hank is an Austrian jazz vocalist and plays with a trio - similar in many ways to Jacqui Naylor. The instruments are all acoustic - piano, bass and percussion. None of them appear to have quite the chops of Jacqui's trio. The album which is all sung in English - with no discernible accent, is a mix of a few standards - "For all we Know" is my favorite in the album, along with "Caravan" and "On the Street Where You Live" along with quite few songs that Hank has apparently written. Again, difficult to decifer the German. The album was recorded in 2001 when she was in her mid 20's. Bio information is in the German Wikipedia. I am not a jazz person, but the album for me was very enjoyable - she has a really good voice. You can sample some of the tape on the Quinton website. I listened to samples of the other dozen or so tapes that are available and none of the others struck my fancy. They appear to be local artists in Germany or Austria - all jazz or pop. 

Now for a few comments.  Tape packaging is pretty nice - not the same level as the TP. Two separate 10.5 in tape were used - SM468 tape, sames as the TP. I'm guessing the total length of the album is around 45 minutes or so.  The perspective is very close - the piano and percussion images are huge - spreading to both sides of center - where Sabina and the bass are located. However, Hanks' voice is not sibilant or very breathy.  There is a certificate in the album which apparently states that a limit of 50 copies for each of the tapes. I got number 47 of this album. Each tape seems to be copied one by one on order to the specifications of the orderer. There appears to be one main person who does the copying, Tom, whom I think one email said he is a student - and it is a part time activity. So my major issue was that I ordered and paid for the tape back in June or July and it took several emails to finally get my tape made (on December 9th) and sent off to me. I also had to pay in euros - which meant having a bank transfer - no credit cards are accepted. At one point I was thinking that my 164 Euros were gone.

At this point Quinton appears to be the only other entitiy that is making tapes similar to TP. They are not really trying to compete with TP - having only local artists recorded in Germany or Austria. If they only make 50 of each title, then there may not be an opportunity to even get the Sabina Hank title. BTW, I first heard parts of the Sabina Hank tape when Phillip O'Handlon played it on his Arian Jensen modded PR99 at a demo I attended.

I know we had one of the principals of Quinton as part of the group maybe a year ago. I couldn't find his comments. If he sees this, maybe he can comment on my thoughts.  Again, a very enjoyable tape of fine sonic quality.  Larry

Tape Project Albums - general / What's shipping next?
« on: January 25, 2010, 07:45:31 PM »
I just got my UPS notification that a package is coming - due for arrival on January 27th.   Any hints as to what it is?   Thanks, Larry

General Discussion / "Doc B." 15 Years ago
« on: August 17, 2009, 05:08:16 PM »
I just stumbled onto the website and their mid-month review. They have been featuring old articles from Dan's "Valve Magazine" from the early '90's, well before Bottlehead or the TP were born.  You'll get an idea of what got Dan into the business and what musical passions drive him. Both enjoyable and enlightening to read.   Larry

Exotic Dances from the Opera / Comparing Exotic Dances - TP vs. HRx
« on: July 03, 2009, 01:58:44 AM »
AS many of you know, Reference Recordings has been releasing HiRez files of some of their titles. They are about 3-4GB in size, and produced as wav files. That means they are about eight times the size of the typical CD. Reference sells them burned onto DVD's with no DRM encoding. You cannot play them directly (although I heard this weekend that there is a new device that can play them). You download the files to a hard drive and then send them to a DAC that can decode the 176/24 that they are recorded at. So far there are nine titles, including two which are the same as the TP series 1: the Arnold Overtures (TP-003) and the Exotic Dances (TP-007). I have done some extensive comparisons between my TP copy and the HRx file of Exotic Dances, which, like the TP tape, was derived from the orignal analogue master. That was also true of the Arnold Overtures. All the other RR releases so far have been from more recent issues which had no analogue master. Those are bit perfect copies of the master files from those recordings. (Much of this detail comes from a discussion I had on Sunday with Marcia Martin, the VP of Reference Recordings, who was at the Computer Audiophile Symposium along with Paul, Dan and Romo as well as Steve 'oneobgyn" Williams.

Now for the comparison. First, both are superior in sound to resceptively vinyl and CD. I would be very happy with either one, and would not know the difference without hearing them side by side. However, there are real differences. First, the tape is more spacious, has more air, particularly with solo instruments. Listen to the first section of the Dance of the Seven Veils - the second track. When the music quiets down, there are some solos first in the strings - I think it is a viola, and then woodwind. The sense of acoustical space is palpable and wonderful. There is not as much of this in the HRx recording. I played part of the tape vs. HRx at Steve Williams home on Saturday and one of the guests said the tape sounded "fresher."  On the HRx file, the very deepest bass was much stronger than on the tape. This was true in both my system and in Steve's. We both run subs along with our main speakers which are run full range. This gives us both bass cleanly to 20Hz. My system without the sub goes down to about 35Hz (Avantgarde Duo's) and my sub (Velodyne DD-18) takes it down to 20Hz. Steve's system goes even deeper with a pair of JL Gotham subs running with WIlson Alexandria X-2's. The bass is more felt than heard. If you have a system that only goes to 35 Hz or so, then you won't notice the difference.

For the HRx, I am using a system that was built patterned after Joel K's system that he describes in the Computer Audiophile Forum. It is based on an EMU 0404 USD DAC. This is a really great HiRez system for a bargain price.  The other advantage that the HRx file has, is that Exotic Dances has three more cuts than the TP tape - the same as the CD. The Arnold has exactly the same content though in a different sequence.

I haven't done a detailed comparison with the Arnold Overtures yet, I just got that from HRx. Joel has, and he may want to also comment.

In any case, I am very happy that I have both. The HRx files are going to be focused on modern recordings, while the TP tapes are going be focused on the classic recordings from the 50's, 60's and 70's, with a few recent recordings from the end of the analogue era.


Raw Tape / Sticky Shed on These Tapes?
« on: June 30, 2009, 02:54:50 PM »
Today I picked up over 50 7" reels of used tape (I actually recorded on them back in the 70's and 80's - they were recorded once, and played back about 20 times each mostly on a Teac 3340 as I remember). THey are predominantly Scotch 207, with some 203 and a couple of 150's along with two rolls of Maxell UD90. Any problems with sticky shed for these tapes? The price was right, so I can chuck them if there are problems.  Thanks, Larry

Over the past week or so I have been listening to a fair number of my Barclay-Crocker tapes (I have about 110 of them). I also have the vinyl versions of about half (all of the Argo, L'Oiseau Lyre, some Vanguards and a few others). I have felt in the past that most all of the B-C tapes come quite close to the vinyl versions (provided that the vinyl is in good shape), but there was a little gap. The problem has been in the dolby B decoder - I have been using an Advent Model 100, which was the best I could find. When playing in the bypass mode, it was clear that the electronics add a definite coloration to the music. It is less noticeable with dolby B decoding engaged, since the positive effects of the decoding mask a lot of the electronic coloration. However, this has changed! I have been using a prototype dolby B decoder that was built by one of our members. The sound of the B-C tapes is quite incredible - really comparable to the sound of the vinyl. I have never heard prerecorded 7.5ips tape sound so good. One comment, as you have probably read in my other posts, the TP tapes are a full step better than the vinyl. But other than that, I haven't heard anything like the B-C tapes with this decoder. Characteristics of the sound - depth of soundfield, wonderful hall ambience, clarity of instruments, lack of electronic glaze.

I have been playing the tapes with my Bottlehead Technics 1506 using the quarter track playback heads - through the Bottlehead Repro preamp and then through the decoder. I have been using the balanced outputs of the Repro. The decoder accepts balanced inputs - but also can be modified to accept RCA inputs.

The lack of true audiophile quality dolby B decoders has been a real problem to those who want to hear the best out of their tapes. The creator of this wonderful device may want to comment on what was done. 


Tape Project Albums - general / Strange Audiogon Offer
« on: May 22, 2009, 10:08:10 PM »
I found this currently on Audiogon. A person has for sale a Nagra T tape recorder which has recently been serviced. The seller lists it as a Nagra T plus accessories. He wants $8700 - it started at $10K early in the week. Here is the kicker - the main accessories are the 20 TP tapes in series 1 and 2. Nine are currently available - all sealed - and the buyer gets the rest of the series as they are released. So it looks like a very expensive Nagra T with some bargain basement TP tapes or the reverse. Look under Browse, Misc, Tape Decks.  I haven't asked what the serial number is - the seller is in Yuma AZ. 


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