What do you think when you read this from the Wired piece on the J-Corder repurposed Technics reel to reel machines?
“This modded R2R sounds so good it’s used in professional recording studios. Whether listening to the best master dubs, making party mix tapes, or recording needle drops to preserve precious vinyl, the J-Corder is analog magic.”
I think the writer doesn’t have a clue about the world of audio recording and reproduction. Sure Steve Hoffman has one in his facility (although I’ll wager that he didn’t pay for it and that if given a choice he would opt for a real professional deck.) “Analog magic?” Admittedly, a good analog dub or original source can sound terrific. However, it’s a quality of sound preferred by some but it not as good as it gets. And it’s way too expensive to even consider IMHO. Especially, when you can process a great PCM digital recording to emulate the “quality” of analog tape. I wrote about this a few weeks ago when I discussed the “vintage tape” mastering tool from Izotope.
If passing a digital recording (CD or DVD or high-res file) through an analog tape machine results in “analog magic”, then I’ll be happy to provide this as a service to anyone that loves the sound of analog tape but can’t afford the high price of admission. Send me your digital master and I’ll send you back a file that went through an analog stage. Specifically, I’ll play back the file or disc using my Benchmark DAC2 HGC and record it on my Nagra IV-S recorder (which is a major step up from a prosumer Technics 1500 deck with or without the J-Corder tweaks), and then capture the output back to 96 kHz/24-bit PCM digital.
I’ll actually do this process on one of my favorite high-res tracks and post it on the FTP site for you to review. Stay tuned.
While digging through Jeff J-Corder website I was fascinated by the answers in the FAQ section. Here are a few of my favorites:
When asked how an old technology like analog tape could rival current state-of-the-art systems, the response is based on anecdotal feedback from attendees at the CES and RMAF. The “music coming from a J-Corder tape deck sounds much better than many of the other sources at the shows, including other tape demonstrations.” It’s certainly possible that attendees that venture into a room full of old analog gear and a signal path full of vacuum tubes are predisposed to liking the sound of analog tape. Just like that people that are hip to the advantages of high-resolution PCM digital flock to rooms like the one that Benchmark, Dolby, Oppo, JVC, DH Labs, and AIX Records assembled at the AXPONA Show last year (which I’m hoping to repeat in 2016).
With comments like this from AXPONA attendee David Hinshelwood, “I want to thank you for the most memorable musical experience that I have ever heard at the recent Axpona show. Well…hearing is believing!!! Nothing in my 50+ years in audio reproduction has impacted me the way your recordings did.” Or my personal favorite from Andrew Quint of The Absolute Sound magazine, “The audio was quite simply the most realistic and involving instance of recorded sound I can recall, from any source format.” Those formats include analog tape BTW!
Another question asked if making a recording to analog tape doesn’t degrade the fidelity of the original source? And the answer defies electrical and acoustic reality, “No it doesn’t. Believe it or not, it will actually sound BETTER. I know it doesn’t seem possible but hearing is believing. Once you hear the beautiful sound of tape you will choose tape over the original source every time. It is hard to believe but true.”
It is hard to believe because it’s simply not possible and certainly not true. An analog copy decreases the dynamic range (by 3 dB) by increasing the hiss across the entire bandwidth and reduces the frequency response too. Do we think these compromises are good things? Forget about the subjective bias that Jeff has towards the “sound” of analog tape…the facts speak for themselves. An analog copy will never sound as good as the original source. It may sound different and be preferred by those that like the effects of analog copying, but it’s not improving the fidelity.
There should be “analog tape” DSP modelers built into every DAC so that analog advocates can get the sound they want without all of the problems associated with analog reel to reel…most notably the expense. I just went through the process of duping a whole bunch of tapes. The results were spectacular…but the hi-res PCM originals beat the copies hands down.