Is this the most exclusive album released in cassette?
Well, I bet so!
While browsing information about the Munich Hi-End show I found two companies that are releasing new albums in tape: Entertape and Hemiolia. The former is only releasing them in reel tapes but the latter is doing it with cassettes. And here comes the interesting thing…
I’ve seen that they released an album called A PORTRAIT OF JIMI by Davide Pannozzo Trio. It’s a tribute to Jimmy Hendrix so you can imagine how does it sound. As by reading in their website, this album has been recorded in analog and all chain has been kept analog until the very last step: the recording on cassette. It’s available both in reel tape or cassette.
In their website they published many information about how are they produced. They use a Studer A810 for playing the reel and a Studer A721 to record the final cassette. This A721 is very similar to my Revox B215 but with manual knobs to adjust both the recording and output levels.
When the courier guy called to delivery I couldn’t remember what did I buy for such size. The big was impressively big:
Only after reading ‘Hemiolia’ I realized that this is the cassette I bought, but damn! This is too big!
The box is made from super-thick black cardboard with an internal cut for the cassette. It is very well made and looks like an object that deserves to be well conserved. Outside it has a very nice printed draw of Hendrix.
Inside we find a booklet, a leaflet with the sogns of the album and a certificate. Everything is very well made and looks like a handcrafted piece of art. Very careful serious design.
The booklet contains a ‘biografy’ (that’s how is printed) of the authors as well as some information about the recording. It’s both in italian and english, although it’s difficult to read in english due to the small font and the light grey color.
The certificate proves that they have followed their A4P (Analog Four Phases) procedure that involves (as explained in their page):
- Recording of the musical event. During this phase the so-called “session tapes” or tapes used for the live recording of the event , the true “first generation masters” are produced.
- Editing of the session tapes. During this phase that in the analog domain certainly is one of the most delicate, long and difficult to perform, there is the mechanical cut of tapes and its cut through a specific adhesive tape called “splicing tape” to arrive to the creation of the edited master.
For security reasons, except for few exceptions, a lot of technicians work NOT directly with the original session tapes but with a copy of the same previously made and called “job copy”.
It is easy to deduce that the edited master tape obtained after this operation already represents the third generation compared to the session tape
- Mastering the edited master tape. In this phase two stereo recorders are obligatorily used, one as a player for the master tape produced during phase 2 and one as the recorder of the final master that undergoes the intervention of different outboards (equalizers, compressors, expanders, etc..). At the end of this operation you will get the real final master tape that represents the fourth generation copy compared to the session tapes but the process is not finished yet.
- Final Duplication. In this phase finally get to the master tape production that will be sold to the customer and we are at the sixth copies generation compared to the original session tape.
They offered the option to buy the album in BASF chrome or with an extraordinary TDK MA-XG, and I haven’t doubt for a second: I went to buy it directly. This tape is in the absolute top 3 (together with the SONY Metal Master and Thats SUONO) so I couldn’t be wrong. And here it is:
The recording was made without Dolby at all. The levels reach +5-6 VU peaks in my SONY K909ES which means they are up to +6-7 (due to the DIN scale of the K909′s meters) over Dolby mark. The sound is excellent and very natural. It’s very enjoyable and very well balanced: not bright, dark or prominent voice. It just sounds spot on. The background hiss is almost unnoticeable even between songs. I’d say it’s even lower than my best vinyls… and they haven’t used any noise reduction at all.
This cassette is a real prove that true start-to-end analog chain can offer a sound quality that stands up against the very best of digital. In fact I’d say that this sound better than many CDs and -of course- most streaming sources like Spotify (and, yes, I have a premium account on it). I’ve made careful comparisons between the same song on Spotify and it’s counterpart CD and CD wins almost always. Sometimes hands down. And vinyl wins both 95% of the time.
This cassette sound better than many vinyls. I can only compare it with the best of the best in vinyls, like MFSL or Analogue Productions to say two. So if you ever doubt than cassettes can’t sound well, I recommend you to buy one of these hi-end released and judge by yourself.