TP-028, Nat Adderley's Work Song is now available

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Topics - High and Outside

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1
Tape Project News / Some Changes At The Tape Project
« on: January 11, 2024, 10:46:57 PM »
Perhaps you have heard...since we sent out an email newsletter announcing it...that we are changing the way we do some things here.

For a long time we have been trying to keep all of our titles in stock. This takes a lot of resources, and they are never all in stock at the same time anyway. So we are going to let some of the titles go out of print when the current stock run out. We have a lot of albums ready, and a lot more in the middle of production that we will finish. All of these will still be offered for sale. Eventually they will all be gone, and we do not anticipate making more copies of those older albums after that.

This is the current list of the titles will go out of print when current stocks are depleted. This may change over time, and we will update this thread when it does:

001 Jacqui Naylor
002 Dave Alvin
004 Robert Cray (we will do one more run, then it will go out of print when they are gone)
005 and 006 are already out of print
009 Mose Allison
011 Linda Ronstadt
012 The Staples Singers
014 Respighi/Copland
017 Little Hatch
018 Clifford Brown (we will do one more run, then it will go out of print when they are gone)
019 Nojima Plays Liszt (we will do one more run, then it will go out of print when they are gone)
021 Kurt Elling
026 Oliver Nelson
029 Istomin/Mozart

We will continue to stand behind our products, and we will be here to support our customers. The forum will still be available. It's a wonderful source of useful information for tape users, and we will be making it even better.

We will keep making a few of our older titles, but will manufacture them in response to demand. In other words, we won't make them to keep on the shelf, but will do short runs when we have enough requests.

These changes are designed to let us focus more on new projects.

When we began the company our idea was not just to have a company--we three who founded it already had other companies chugging along nicely. We started this one to introduce an idea, to make a point, and to share with music enthusiasts something which we knew to be very special. We are pleased that we were able to demonstrate the beauty of music recorded and released on this format, and gratified that an audience embraced it. And we are actually pleased that other companies have started releasing music tapes, and as a result there is much more music available on tape. We have decided to focus our company more on what we can do best. This refers to new titles of course, but we also have some other ideas which we'll be able to talk about when we launch them.

All this reminiscing about the early days reminds us that we also wanted another chance to address all of you who have been part of this experiment, many from the beginning, and express again how much we appreciate your involvement.  Our bonus was the community that grew around it, and the enthusiasm that you shared with us. So this is a big, big thank you.

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The Chieftains-Foxhunt / The Foxhunt, by The Chieftains
« on: January 10, 2024, 02:40:51 AM »
"This recording doesn't resemble some audiophile recordings, which have each instrument carefully sculpted and occupyng it's own space. This recording is much more about putting you right in the middle of the room with a band and an audience who are having a rollicking good time.

In short, there's a party in your listening room, and you're invited. Just cue up Reel One, grab a Guinness, and hit play."

That was some of the copy from the album page...just printed here to get the party started. Use this thread to talk about your listening impressions, or ask any questions. Or you can start a new topic if you want to explore anything else about the album.


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Stage Fright / What tape did we use for this album?
« on: January 09, 2024, 06:10:33 PM »
The story of The Band's album Stage Fright is pretty convoluted. That album was mixed four times in four different studios by two different engineers.* The band listened to all the mixes, and chose the one they liked best for each song. As a result the assembled master tape had some tracks mixed by Todd Rundgren and some songs mixed by Glyn Johns.** The mixes were quite different in overall balance and level, plus the Glyn Johns mixes were Dolby encoded and the Todd Rundgren mixes had no noise reduction. This makes things very hard for cutting LP's, since when you’re cutting for vinyl you have to run the tape for each side from beginning to end without stopping. It would be very challenging to make all the changes necessary from one song to the next in the 2 to 3 seconds between them. So the cutting studio did what was often done in a case like that: they made an EQ copy, incorporating all the changes, and cut the lacquers for the original LP release from that copy.

To make sure no one would use the original mix reels by mistake, they labeled them “DO NOT USE” in big letters. When they sent the tapes back to the Capitol vault, some vault guy saw that, and dutifully filed the original masters where no one would find them. And for decades all issues of the album in all formats and in all territories were sourced from the EQ copy.*** But when Capitol was getting ready to release a new CD version in 2000, a very tenacious and perspicacious reissue producer name Cheryl Pawelski and her staff searched the Capitol vaults until they found the original tapes. The CD they produced came from the originals. We knew the story, so we made sure we were using the original tapes too.

* There was a rumored additional mixing session booked with a third mix engineer. We're still trying to get confirmation of that story. But apparently no mixes came out of that session.

** The three Glyn Johns mixes on the record are: The Shape I'm In, All La Glory, and The Rumor.

*** one more wrinkle: DCC did an audiophile CD release in 1994, before the Capitol reissue, and theirs was all Glyn Johns mixes. They used the first mixes that had been done by Johns. (He mixed the whole record a second time, at a different studio, and three of those mixes wound up on the original LP, the Capitol reissue and our Tape Project reissue.)  Anyway, the the DCC release, with the earlier Glyn Johns mixes, presents an interesting take on the album; it sounds great; and it’s well worth picking up if you can find one. But we went with the versions chosen by the band originally.

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Tape Project Albums - general / What Is a Tape Project Album?
« on: January 09, 2024, 04:02:45 PM »
We offer great music recorded on a great format for your enjoyment at home.

A Tape Project album consists of two reels of tape, recorded at 15 IPS two track with the IEC1 EQ standard (formerly know as the CCIR EQ.) We don't encode the tapes with noise reduction such as Dolby or DBX. They are always recorded on new, unspliced tape. They are carefully made in our own facility.

The two reels are packaged in individual boxes, and the two boxes are held in a slipcase. There is a sheet of album art slipped in there too.

We originally decided that we would only reissue titles where the original master is on analog tape, and where we can get hold of the original master, and of course we think the music is great. This allowed for albums which might have started with a digital multi-track, then were mixed to an analog tape. But so far we have not released any that started from a digital multitrack, or that had any digital step in their production. See an exception here.

Our process starts with the original master tape, not from a copy (with one exception, See this post. Also see What Is A Master Tape? and What Is The Provenance Of Our Tapes?) We evaluate the master tape carefully, and if it needs any restoration we do that first. Then we make a running master on one inch two track analog tape. If any level or EQ adjustments are needed, they are done at this stage, so they are baked in to the running master. This running master is copied to the customer tapes.

The entire process is all analog and real time.

This describes all of our releases that have a catalog number starting in TP. We have also released one album from a digital source, but it is in a separate series and the catalog number begins with DDA. We may do more of these, but they will always be in that separate series and clearly identified as such.

Since our albums are recorded two-track, they only play one direction. We provide our tapes "tails out," which means that you put your tape on the takeup side of your machine and rewind it before playing. We recommend you store them tails out after playing.

Our albums are guaranteed for quality, but that guarantee does not cover damage done by a tape machine with defects. So please make sure your machine is clean and in good repair. We specifically do not cover damage caused by using the tapes without both top and bottom flanges.

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Tape Project Albums - general / What Is A Master Tape?
« on: January 09, 2024, 03:53:13 PM »
The term "Master Tape" gets thrown around a lot, sometimes with a notable lack of precision. This post is an attempt to clarify the several ways we use the term. It conforms to the common usages in the record industry. Perhaps you have noticed that The Tape Project is owned by two mastering engineers who have decades of experience in the record industry, so it should come as no surprise that we lean toward that standard usage.

First, let's go back before there was a record industry, and see how the word "Master" was used--not for people, but for things that people made. Paul Revere was known as a master silversmith, meaning that he made the original of each of the creations in his small factory, and journeyman silversmiths whom he had trained were tasked with making copies. The silver tea set that was sold to some prosperous Boston merchant embodied the artistry that had carefully beeen wrought into the master by Paul Revere. But  the merchant took home a copy. 

The fundamental meaning of the word "Master" is that it denotes something from which copies may be made. It does not inherently mean "Original Master" unless you put those two words together. As we will see there are legitimate cases of calling a tape a master when it is not an "Original Master."

In the age of analog pop recording it was common to do the initial recording on an analog multitrack tape recorder. For now let's say it had 16 or 24 tracks. Once the musicians, producer(s) and engineer(s) had finished recording the various elements of the song on the multitrack, it was "mixed down" through the console, and the output of the console was recorded to another analog tape, either single channel for a mono mix or two-channel for the stereo mix. The second tape embodied all the decisions the creative team had made regarding the balance of the instruments and voices, any tone adjustments they had made to those elements, and any sweetening or reverb or effects that they had added. If they liked what they heard when they played back that mono or stereo tape, then the tape was considered ready to move forward in the process of making records for the audience.

So which tape is the original master, the multitrack or the stereo tape? The multitrack came first, so should that be considered the original master? Maybe, maybe not, since it definitely does not meet the definition given above, that of being ready for making copies. How about the stereo tape? It is one tape generation later, so can it be called the original master? Yes, because it is the first tape that truly embodies the listening experience that the creative team has sculpted for the eventual listeners.

When I was coming up through the studio system of one of the major labels, we did not even call the multitrack tape a master, we called it a work part. But I haven't heard anyone use that term in a long time, so we just call it the multitrack tape. It's very commonly called a multitrack master, so if you call it that, everyone will know what you mean. But don't call it the original master.

Not all recordings start on a multitrack. For many years it was customary to make classical and jazz recordings right to a stereo or mono tape. Basically any music that was recorded all at once, rather than pieced together with parts added one after another, would be recorded straight to the stereo or mono tape. Parts from two or more performances might be edited together, and in the case of classical recordings commonly more than a hundred small pieces were put together to create a single performance. But it was all from the tapes that had been running as the musicians played, the first generation tape. When the various songs had been spliced in the correct order, you had a master tape ready to move to manufacturing. This describes a first generation tape, and it is also an original master.

To create Tape Project releases, we work from "original masters" (with one  exception.) Depending on how the particular album was made, it may be the mixdown tape, or the edited version of the original session tapes.

What about the other kinds of master tapes we hear about--the safety master, the production master, etc?

I was taught that a safety copy was as identical to the master as it could be made: same speed, same track layout, same level, same EQ. The idea was that if a portion of the master was damaged you could splice in a section from the safety master and the repair would be undetectable. We didn't call them safety masters, we called them safety copies, because their intended use wasn't for making further copies, they were held for repairs on master tapes.

Production masters served a different purpose, and they may or may not have been made as exact duplicates of the original master. In the days I'm talking about the release format was LP, later LP and cassette. (Let's not even talk about 8-tracks.) When we were cutting the lacquers for the pressing plants (also called lacquer masters, since they were destined to be the source of many copies once they got to the pressing plants) we sometimes made adjustments to the level of the various songs, tweaked the tonal balance, faded tracks out and so forth, as instructed by the producer, engineer and/or the artist. This process, called "mastering," was integral to achieving the artist's vision for their work. We commonly made tape copies as we were cutting the lacquers so we would have tape copies to send to the foreign affiliates, to send to the cassette plant etc, and these tape copies would reflect the same changes we made for the LP. (Contrary to audiophile lore, very few of these changes were made to get around the limitations of the LP format. Almost all of them were made to make the musical result closer to what the artist wanted.) The original master may have been quarter inch or half inch, 15 IPS or 30 IPS, IEC or NAB EQ, with or without noise reduction, as chosen by the creative team at the time they were making them. The production masters didn't necessarily duplicate those choices. Since they were destined for a production environment which may be on a different continent, the format was usually standardized with that in mind. A European label might be using the IEC curve in their studios, but make the production masters with the NAB curve to be shipped to the US. And vice versa. Production masters were commonly encoded with Dolby A noise reduction, even if the original master was not. It's legitimate to refer to these as masters, since they were designed for making copies, but it is inaccurate to call them "Original Masters."  There are now a lot of these floating around in private hands, and they can sound pretty good. At least there's a fair chance that they were made directly from an original master.

There's another kind of production master you're less likely to encounter. In cutting lacquer masters for LP production, you have to execute all the changes you want to make in real time as you cut, and you have to do it correctly for a whole side at a time. If there are a lot of changes it can be a complicated dance for the mastering engineer. In some cases it can be impossible, such as an album that's compiled from many different sessions that might not have used the same speed for the tapes, or the same width, or the same choice of using noise reduction or not. In that case the mastering engineer will have to make a cutting master by copying the songs to a new tape one by one, incorporating all the necessary changes. For an interesting story about one such case see story here.

The tapes we use to create our albums, which we call running masters, fit the definition of a production master.

Also see:
What Is a Tape Project Album?
What Is The Provenance Of Our Tapes?
 

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Tape Project Albums - general / What Is The Provenance of Our Tapes?
« on: January 09, 2024, 02:12:19 PM »

Most of the information on our process for making the tape albums has been covered in three other posts:
What Is a Tape Project Album?
What Is A Master Tape?
What Is This Stubb-U-Sonic Process Anyway?

This post will address a couple of points not made in the other posts.

You may hear talk about the provenance of some tape. That basically means what source was used for the copy, how many generations away from the original is it, and how were those copies made, and by whom.

One of the great things about tape is you can copy it. One of the things that makes it hard to answer the provenance question is you can copy it.

If you just pick up a reel of tape, you can't figure this out by looking at it. You can't always tell very precisely by listening to it unless you have the original tape handy for comparison. There isn't a simple way of testing it. If you're hoping that you can do a frequency analysis, like we do with digital files to see whether they are upsampled from a lower sample rate source, you will be disappointed. The only way you can have any confidence in any assertion about provenance is by dealing only with trustworthy people.

We have stated elsewhere that we use the original masters. Some people have a hard time believing we can go to the tape vault of a record label and check out original master tapes. And in a way they are right, because in so many cases the labels decline our requests. The titles you see in our catalog are the result of knocking on a lot of doors and being turned down a lot of times, but occasionally getting a yes. We make our pitch very strongly. And sometimes we get a yes, and we get access to the original master long enough for us to do our mastering process.

From there, the process of making our running masters happens in our own facility and we know exactly what has been involved. The original masters go back to the label's vault, and we proceed to make copies from our running master. Again, in our own facility and under our control, so we know exactly what was involved there too.

All of the music you buy from us has been properly licensed, with royalties paid to the rights-holders.

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You may have seen reference to the Stubb-U-Sonic(™) principles on our album art. You may have wondered what this means.

First, the name itself is a just a joke. Don't expect any other explanation. But the principle is something we take quite seriously. It is not a magic piece of gear, it is not a signal processing step, and it will never be reduced to a plug-in.

You have undoubtedly heard the phrase "A chain is only as strong as its weakest link," and you have certainly heard that phrase applied to audio. We think it's a reasonable statement regarding chains, like the kind you use to lift the engine block out of your '57 Chevy, but we think it's inaccurate in describing an audio chain. Rather we find that an audio chain is the sum of the weaknesses of all the links. This may sound like the bad news, but actually it's the good news. Because it also implies that any improvement in any link, no matter how small, can improve the final quality of the chain. Improve a link, and you'll hear it. Improve another one and you'll hear it too. Even if you aren't working on the biggest problem. Everything adds up. (Although if you have a bigger problem, please find time to get to it right away.)

This view has guided us as we try to optimise every step of our process. Every piece of equipment through which the audio signal passes has been carefully  chosen. Many have been modified for better performance. A few have been custom built from scratch. And any piece that isn't necessary isn't in the chain at all. We have paid attention to proper interfacing of all the gear.

In our decades-long study of the factors which are responsible for sound quality, we and our colleagues have found a number of key areas which must be addressed. First, it is critical to recover as much information as possible from the original tapes, since detail lost at any stage can never be restored at a later stage. We use only top quality tape transports (highly tweaked Ampex ATR-100's and Studer A80's) matched with Flux Magnetics heads and custom playback electronics from ATR Service or Tim de Paravicini. The playback electronics that came with these decks years ago just don't compare to the audiophile grade electronics we've all gotten accustomed to in our systems. The custom electronics that we use recover much more musically meaningful detail, more spatial cues, and more texture and three-dimensionality than the stock electronics.

The same principle guides the way we handle the signal through the process all the way to the tape we make for you.

Our evaluations of each step use both test equipment and listening. Regular maintenance makes sure that the audio equipment is always operating at its peak.

We are always willing to take a little more time, or work a little harder, if it means the result is better.

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Willy and the Poor Boys / Willy and the Poor Boys, new restoration
« on: November 16, 2023, 05:57:14 PM »
We had some problems with making more copies of TP-022, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Willy and the Poor Boys. We were noticing some degradation of our running masters. We contacted the label to get the original masters back so we could make fresh running masters. Unfortunately they said the original masters had degradation too. This left us in a tough spot. The title has been on hold for a couple of years while we figured out a solution.

Tape Restoration is something we do for clients, so we have some familiarity with the techniques. We worked hard to restore the running masters, but there were still some areas that we were unable to restore to our satisfaction.

Eventually we were able to come up with a version that overcomes the problems, but it required the use of digital tools. We have new running masters and we are making copies again. They have one pass through the digital domain and back onto 1" two track analog.

Does the restored version sound identical to our original version, minus the defects? No. Does it sound pretty darn good? We think so. This is what we will be using going forward.

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Service Resources / Stellavox service and parts
« on: March 16, 2021, 04:32:01 PM »
We just received this notice by email:

Information importante

Unfortunately, Jean-Pierre Gurtner has passed away on June 5th 2018.
His Phone number as well as his address e-mail are not in use anymore.
Until further advice you may use the following contacts for help
New address :
Simonet Jean-Michel
Chemin des Brisecou 12
2073 eng
Swiss
Email: [email protected] or [email protected]
Telephone: +41 79 6376733
My name is Jean-Michel Simonet and I have been working with Mr. Gurtner in the Stellavox factory since 1969
I was responsible for customer service, final inspection and welcoming customers.
I have all the spare parts for Stellavox portable machines in stock, I do the repairs, Offers and sales

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Tape Project Albums - general / So many tapes, so few boxes
« on: February 23, 2020, 07:16:32 PM »
This is a kind of a funny situation we find ourselves in. We have lots of tape albums duped and we'd like to sell them to you. But we are out of boxes. Our original box supplier retired and closed his business, so we have been working for months with a new supplier. We expect to be fully supplied with boxes in early April.

In the meantime we have been offering to sell albums in plain white boxes, with the nice box to follow once the shipment shows up here.

At the moment we have stock on the following albums as long as you are OK with getting your album now and the proper box in April:

Bill Evans Trio
Linda Ronstadt
Thelonious Monk
Jimmy Smith
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Lee Morgan
Nat King Cole and George Shearing
John Lee Hooker and Canned Heat
Jerry Garcia and David Grisman
Doc and Merle Watson

The elves are hard at work making the other titles too, so if  you are waiting for one that isn't on this list, make sure you have signed up for an email notification when it's back in stock. We'll be adding albums back into inventory regularly.

Once we have a proper supply of boxes we will also release a couple of new titles we have in the wings.
 

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Tape Project Albums - general / TP-023 Lee Morgan-The Sidewinder
« on: September 12, 2019, 05:57:20 PM »
After being away for far too long, The Sidewinder is back in stock.

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Tape Project Albums - general / TP-021 Kurt Elling back in stock
« on: September 12, 2019, 05:56:02 PM »
Available again.

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Tape Project Albums - general / Brother Thelonious is back among us
« on: June 20, 2019, 04:10:30 PM »
Thelonious Monk, TP-013, Brilliant Corners is on the shelf, ready to ship.

It's good to have you back, Brother.

(In case you got to this page via search engine and are wondering what the heck this is about: No we don't sell Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Ale, that fine libation from the folks at North Coast Brewing. But we do recommend it. If you haven't tried it, get thee to your favorite fine brew purveyor and lay in a supply.)

14
This is a truly amazing recording of some absolutely wonderful music. We're glad to have it back on the shelf.

15
Yes, it hasn't been well publicized, but we do offer all our albums on half inch by special order.

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