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Sonic Perceptions, or what to listen for

Inspired by my first listening to a master tape duplicate, and derived from comments of those lucky ones who have put their experiences so well into words on “Tape Project’s” website.

Wolfgang Bleier, Austria
January 2008



For many people who enjoy listening to music, their pleasure expresses in a kind of musical and emotionally moving experience. But how can we turn simple music listening to an emotionally moving experience? Buy the some of the most expensive high-end audio equipment and "Voodoo" cable connectors? Or buy an ultra-expensive CD Player, or both?

Not necessarily...

There are several options to listen to our favourite music, and hang on every note wishing it not to end. One possible way to hit the highs of musical excellence is to purchase a pro reel to reel tape machine, have it serviced and calibrated by an expert and connect it to a good audio system, preferably a tube amplifier.

Analogue audio tapes can have an utter breathtaking realism that everything else just melts away.
And even more, listening first time to a master tape duplicate, it doesn't do it to use common audiophile terms to describe this extraordinary experience. It is truly the closest to the real thing, like being in the studio, but on the musician’s side of the glass.
Analogue master duplicate tape can be truly extraordinary…, natural, fleshy sound that cannot be beaten by digital sources, and I don't think that I have heard a vinyl setup that can easily match that same kind of sound. I had to get it, and I’ve got it…, my first master duplicate tapes.
This was and still is the best sound I have ever heard. The sound on that reels is crazy good and removes the last pane of glass that separates you from the live music. Not only is it detailed, but has a lifelike quality that sends a shiver down your spine. It’s simply an amazing way to hear music. Listening to Jazz or to classical recording on such a tape, soundstage becomes so completely three dimensional with an incredible weight to the music. This sound “sounds like tape”, with extremely low loss of information.

"Realism" is perhaps the most appropriate definition of possible attributes of reel to reel tape machines. I can't even deny that to some extent the haptic feel of turning reels, unique sonic properties inherent in manifold tape formulations, the Volume Unit Meters and some machine's attractive mechanics may contribute to that great feel of realism.
If you appreciate musical detail, I can only highly recommend: go and get your tape machine, and listen your music on this unexcelled recording format that is vastly different from other formats of today, or the pre-recorded tapes of yesterday (good as they were).

The unfortunate thing is the lack of good suitable playback machines out there. Not that there aren’t thousands in the field, but many of the reel to reel tape machines that lived in recording studios or broadcast facilities have been almost worked to death. You must be prepared to invest also in some professional restoration and maintenance, good reels and professional tape material. Many of the consumer home machines fall short of the exceptional performance of professional tapes. If your budget allows, you’d better decide to get an excellent pro tape machine, or let an experienced workshop do a modification service on your recorder, tailored to the specifications of today’s professional tapes.

If you are among those who believe digital is superior, go and find out what you want to listen for before you take the final plunge and turn down "Blue Ray", which anyway soon may be replaced by "Violet". Think if you want the fine musical detail mutilated or even lost in troubled digital interpolation and multiple a/d - d/a conversion, or if you want it subtly preserved with highly linear analog processing as if coming straight from the tape..

Music must move us…, and it truly does, when we make sure that recording quality is as superb as we can get.


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