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  1. #1

    How much quality is on a master tape?

    Original tape recordings of classics like Miles Davis, Kind of Blue, are treasures to be cherished. But given tape's limited bandwidth and dynamic range, does it make sense to preserve it using high-resolution audio captures?

    How much quality is on a master tape? - YouTube
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  2. #2

    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    A friend of mine had a very nice R2R collection and we listened to quite a bit of music that way over his well setup system in the 90's. I'll say dynamic range, frequency response and tape hiss be damned, it still sounded so analog and so "right"
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  3. #3
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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    Tape is supposed to be the best sound quality. I’ve only experienced an older Sony reel to reel and it was pretty awesome. I’m sure a new setup properly done should be excellent.
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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    It’s highly unlikely anyone has a dynamic recording they listen to which wouldn’t work with tape. Also, it’s unlikely someone can hear 20khz, so who cares if you can record above that.

    I will happily put my tape up against any other format and beat it all day long. The proof is in the listening.


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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    My father had a R2R. I’m not sure what his favorite was - Vinyl or R2R. Both beat digital - i.e. SACD, CD, and Streaming. I’m surprised that more so-called audiophiles don’t own a R2R - me, a mere music lover, included.

    “I’m sure a new setup properly done should be excellent.” So, why don’t more audiophiles own a R2R? Have modern-day audiophiles just become lazy; convenience oriented instead of quality oriented?

    If not for the convenience aspect of digital, I would only own some turntables and R2Rs. Sound is by its very nature analogue. You may twist, turn and torture digital all you desire - but it’s not analogue and never will be. And tape and vinyl is a lossless format so nothing (.... very little) is lost .... Rather in respect to compression, it retains the sound as close as it can be to what was originally recorded. Isn't this what a true audiophile desires?

    Tape and Vinyl gives you better quality. Besides some modern-day female vocals, older music is what I listen too. Tape and Vinyl is especially good on recordings made in the 50s, 60s and 70, as they were recorded in analogue. It has a depth and authenticity that more modern mediums just can’t match - and never will. Analogue purity will always remain the King of sound for such type music.
    Sincerely,

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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    I think Mike told me R2R tapes can cost upwards of $500-600 dollars each. Not for the faint of heart.
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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    Quote Originally Posted by joeinid View Post
    I think Mike told me R2R tapes can cost upwards of $500-600 dollars each. Not for the faint of heart.
    I agree, but the quality, the quality!
    Sincerely,

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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    R2R is okay for background music, but absolutely sucks when you want to listen to songs 3, 7, and 10 (or whatever combination). I sold my R2R in the late 70s, and have never thought of replacing it.
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  9. #9

    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    Quote Originally Posted by joeinid View Post
    I think Mike told me R2R tapes can cost upwards of $500-600 dollars each. Not for the faint of heart.
    $800 for the 2 reel sets. Most are $400-600. Only a few hundred R2R tapes available for purchase new as far as I know. https://elusivedisc.com/music/reel-to-reel-tape/

    A Studer A820 is going for $39k on Ebay... Of course there are cheaper machines out there.

    These parameters are not fitting into my "sensible approach to audiophilia" and so the warm and musical memories of listening to a vast collection of R2R with my audiophile buddy will suffice.
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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    Holy cow!

    I had no clue.
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  11. #11
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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    Back when I was doing recordings for National Public Radio & others, I had a Levinson ML-5 which was a Studer A80 transport with Levinson electronics. Mark still owned the company then.

    A bit later, I also acquired two 30 IPS Stellavox TD-88s, which I had modified. All three machines were 30 IPS, with 15 also available. Yes, there is an unavoidable head bump at a low frequency with 30 IPS, but it never got in the way of sheer musical immersion.

    I made hundreds of recordings with these machines. There's no way that ANY vinyl - no matter how well it is produced - can compare to a 30 IPS master, or even a 15 IPS recording, IMO.

    The problem that no one ever discusses (I can only assume that they are aware of it) is that these tapes start to lose their original quality after a few playbacks, and continue to deteriorate over time.

    That being said, even if deteriorated over time, tapes are an astonishingly good source, but they need careful handling. I NEVER rewound a tape. Instead, I had another transport that would play the tape out - rather than rewinding it - thereby avoiding the print-through demon.

    Because many of the artists were well-known, I never allowed Magnepan nor Apogee - both of whom used first generation digital copies of my tapes at CES - to even hint at the identity of the artists. They both won best-of-show accolades at CES shows. In no way am I saying that these master copies did it for them, but they didn't hurt, IMO...

    30 & 15 IPS analog tape is better by far, IMO, IF it is handled & preserved properly. Even 7.5 copies are nice, but of course they are a pale shadow of the 30 IPS master, if it even still exists and hasn't deteriorated too badly..
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  12. #12

    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    Thanks for sharing Jim. Great story and memories.

    Nice brief video on the history of Studer. The Studer Legend - the history of our tape machines The Studer Legend - the history of our tape machines - YouTube
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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheOctopus View Post
    Thanks for sharing Jim. Great story and memories.

    Nice brief video on the history of Studer. The Studer Legend - the history of our tape machines The Studer Legend - the history of our tape machines - YouTube
    Great!!! I hadn't seen this before.
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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    Quote Originally Posted by TheOctopus View Post
    $800 for the 2 reel sets. Most are $400-600. Only a few hundred R2R tapes available for purchase new as far as I know. https://elusivedisc.com/music/reel-to-reel-tape/

    A Studer A820 is going for $39k on Ebay... Of course there are cheaper machines out there.

    These parameters are not fitting into my "sensible approach to audiophilia" and so the warm and musical memories of listening to a vast collection of R2R with my audiophile buddy will suffice.
    The A820 Vs A810 is almost identical, the only difference being in the recording side. If it’s playback only, it’s identical. Most 810’s can be had for $10-15k fully refurbished, wired with external outputs, flux heads, etc. I own two.

    There are also several other great brands and even the Technics 1500 from J-Corder sounds wonderful.

    You can take things to the next level with a Doshi tape pre. There is discussion on another site regarding an imaginary system that’s been put together slower than the building of the Roman Empire with respect to tape pre’s. To me, there is Doshi and then everyone else.


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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    Top notch R2R setups are expensive and there are certainly limited tapes available and they are very expensive. And not all are well recorded/saved. I can't recommend for anybody to get into tape.

    But - the sound is amazing, simply amazing.

    Quote Originally Posted by TheOctopus View Post
    $800 for the 2 reel sets. Most are $400-600. Only a few hundred R2R tapes available for purchase new as far as I know. https://elusivedisc.com/music/reel-to-reel-tape/

    A Studer A820 is going for $39k on Ebay... Of course there are cheaper machines out there.

    These parameters are not fitting into my "sensible approach to audiophilia" and so the warm and musical memories of listening to a vast collection of R2R with my audiophile buddy will suffice.
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  16. #16

    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    The only experience I have with R2R recently was with a Studor I believe in an all Boulder/Wilson system that sounded wonderful when listening via vivaldi stack. When he played “Master” tapes I couldn’t get past the hiss. Is hiss unavoidable in R2R? I kinda thought at this level R2R would be quiet? Also lack of source material I like is an issue. For me that’s why I’ve never considered it.

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    How much quality is on a master tape?

    Quote Originally Posted by gadawg View Post
    The only experience I have with R2R recently was with a Studor I believe in an all Boulder/Wilson system that sounded wonderful when listening via vivaldi stack. When he played “Master” tapes I couldn’t get past the hiss. Is hiss unavoidable in R2R? I kinda thought at this level R2R would be quiet? Also lack of source material I like is an issue. For me that’s why I’ve never considered it.

    George
    George, the hiss of tape is there with digital (from tapes) as well, but excessive hiss on R2R playback can come from many sources: bad caps, caps going bad, dirty tape heads, bad tape heads, etc.

    With a copy of the master tape, you are closer to the source - in many ways - good and bad! But once heard, there is no substitute.

    But tape is really for those passionate about it. If someone thinks vinyl is a PITA, they should never consider tape. Demagnetizing, cleaning tape heads with a small Q tip and 97 pure alcohol or a specific cleaner, setting EQ to match the tape, maintenance of the heads, replacement of caps, etc. Lots more care and feeding. But the payback is ahhhhhhh, so good!


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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike View Post
    The A820 Vs A810 is almost identical, the only difference being in the recording side. If it’s playback only, it’s identical. Most 810’s can be had for $10-15k fully refurbished, wired with external outputs, flux heads, etc. I own two.

    There are also several other great brands and even the Technics 1500 from J-Corder sounds wonderful.

    You can take things to the next level with a Doshi tape pre. There is discussion on another site regarding an imaginary system that’s been put together slower than the building of the Roman Empire with respect to tape pre’s. To me, there is Doshi and then everyone else.
    ok; so i own 3 Studer A-820's so i am biased. but you are off base on your A-820 <-> A810 compare. it much, much, much more than differences on the record side.

    and A810 is considered a broadcast machine, and the A-820 is a master recorder. other master recorders would be the A-80 and Ampex ATR-102. master recorders have a much more refined tape path, and much more robust chassis. which basically relates like a turntable and tone arm to refinement.

    the Technics RS-1500 is considered a prosumer level tape deck. the right one with good output electronics makes a fine playback machine. i've owned a pristine all stock RS-1500 and a really fine sounding RS-1700 modified by Tim deParavicini (Tim, who recently passed away (RIP), is who modified the tape decks for MoFi and the Tape Project).

    i'm not saying that an A810 is not an excellent choice for playback of tapes in a high level system. it is very very good for that. but assuming both machines are in similar levels of tune, an A-820 would sound better like a better turntable sounds better. how much better? some would pay for the difference, other maybe not.

    as far as Doshi; a fine product but not my cup of tea. i would prefer the tape repro i own, the King Cello. and others to consider are mostly bespoke custom jobs. the best tape pre i have heard is a modified set of output electronics from an Ampex MR-70. or the ATR Services Aria.

  19. #19
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    How much quality is on a master tape?

    Mike, you’re off. The 810 and 820 have the exact same playback mechanism. It’s all in the recording side the differences.

    And for playback only, the 1500 Technics is excellent, especially rebuilt by J Corder.

    From Ki Choi: “both share all the same audio electronics. The power supply section is a bit different between the two models but not by much.”

    The 820 has a much better recording section, and the A80 beats them both all around.

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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike View Post
    Mike, you’re off. The 810 and 820 have the exact same playback mechanism. It’s all in the recording side the differences.

    And for playback only, the 1500 Technics is excellent, especially rebuilt by J Corder.

    From Ki Choi: “both share all the same audio electronics. The power supply section is a bit different between the two models but not by much.”

    The 820 has a much better recording section, and the A80 beats them both all around.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk Pro
    hopefully readers will do their own research and come to their own conclusions. for clarity; Ki Choi was referring to the audio circuits and not the mechanicals when he mentioned 'same audio electronics'. i use custom output electronics. particular models of the A-80 have specific output electronics that some (but not all) prefer to the stock A-820; but to just post a blanket statement that the A80 is better is just not informed. it's not that simple.

    Ki is a local friend for many years, works on all my decks. we have discussed these issues many times. certainly there are others with lots of opinions too.

  21. #21
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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    the portable version of the A810 weighs 68 pounds.

    the on stand version of the A820 weighs 200 pounds.

    the stand weighs about 40 pounds. both these machines have the same electronics. so the 100 pound difference between the two is in the chassis, motors and tape path. the A810 has a sheet steel/aluminum bolted together chassis. the A820 has a one piece casting that all the tape handling mechanicals is attached to for perfect rock solid alignment. there is no piece of audio gear assembled like the A820. it's one of a kind.

    here are links to pictures of the tape path of both models. quite a major difference.......that is audible.

    Studer A810 Professional Reel to Reel Tape Recorder / New Flux Magnetic Heads Photo #2040935 - US Audio Mart

    The RecorderMan

    here are links to in depth information for both models.

    STUDER A810 Professional Tape Recorder

    STUDER A820 Master Recorder

    the A810 is a fine tape deck. but it's not an A-820 for playback. there are good reasons A-820's sell for big dollars.

    i am a fan of the A80 and if you can find a good one that does not break the bank then it's very good one to own.

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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    If you’re into audio by the pound, yes that would matter. The weight of the A820 comes from it’s stand, sheer size and other structures internally as you have mentioned. The A810 was designed purposely as a portable unit, so areas for size and structure had to be cut. But the A810 (stock) shares the same internal cards and circuits as the A820. And for playback purposes only, they are at a minimum, very similar in many ways both electronically and sonically in their stock formats. The A820 far exceeds the A810 in recording. The A820 is an amazing unit, no doubt, but for most people simply interested in playback, the A810 is the better bet for budget, size constraints and availability of product.

    Anyone should be glad to own either of these machines, but in stock format today, maybe not as much. The FLUX heads for one are better than the stock. Both my 810’s are complete rebuilds. Considerably better than when they were stock.
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  23. #23
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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike View Post
    If you’re into audio by the pound, yes that would matter. The weight of the A820 comes from it’s stand, sheer size and other structures internally as you have mentioned. The A810 was designed purposely as a portable unit, so areas for size and structure had to be cut. But the A810 (stock) shares the same internal cards and circuits as the A820. And for playback purposes only, they are at a minimum, very similar in many ways both electronically and sonically in their stock formats. The A820 far exceeds the A810 in recording. The A820 is an amazing unit, no doubt, but for most people simply interested in playback, the A810 is the better bet for budget, size constraints and availability of product.

    Anyone should be glad to own either of these machines, but in stock format today, maybe not as much. The FLUX heads for one are better than the stock. Both my 810’s are complete rebuilds. Considerably better than when they were stock.
    the A-820 is no more 'simply heavy' or 'by the pound' than the Magico M9's or the MBL Xtreme's. it's build approach is all business and performance.

    no doubt 'most people' don't acquire the very tip top. but a few do. unless one is really into tape i agree it does not make sense.

  24. #24
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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    I have NO experience with the A820. But as I've seen the internals of the A80 that I have, there is no way that those servos, motors would fit into the much smaller A810 box.

    So I know they are not the same - there might be no sound difference - again no direct comparison experience.

    That being said - In most ways, I'd rather have the smaller footprint and weight of the A810. And I don't have the A80 stand as mine was a portable (ha) version, so no meters etc. I'm going straight from the heads to the Doshi v3 tape pre with all other internals having been removed.
    Jock

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  25. #25
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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    Quote Originally Posted by the professor View Post
    I have NO experience with the A820. But as I've seen the internals of the A80 that I have, there is no way that those servos, motors would fit into the much smaller A810 box.

    So I know they are not the same - there might be no sound difference - again no direct comparison experience.

    That being said - In most ways, I'd rather have the smaller footprint and weight of the A810. And I don't have the A80 stand as mine was a portable (ha) version, so no meters etc. I'm going straight from the heads to the Doshi v3 tape pre with all other internals having been removed.
    Yup, two different approaches for recording. A820 is the real deal for recording which tape machines were designed for back then. Today, the focus is more playback for most.


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  26. #26

    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    I own a Studer A810, Studer A812 and several Technics RS-1500s. All have been restored/recapped. I use a Doshi tape pre for playback.

    For playback, I prefer the Technics RS-1500. I find it has the smoothest tape handling, especially with the modifications designed by Jeff at j-corder.

    For recording I prefer the Studer A810 although the A812 come close to it.

    I have heard most of the tape preamps on the market. I have found the Doshi to be superior to all of them.
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  27. #27

    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    If you are using a 15ips capable 2-track (1/2-track) tape deck and have invested in the tapes, enjoy what you have.

    Tape is a sub-niche of audiophile analog playback and I, for one, am happy to have the pro machines (5) and the tapes to enjoy the format.

    No, I don't have as many tapes as I have for vinyl or for digital files. However, tape has to be heard to be appreciated for what it does. It is special.

    Getting a proper exposure to the experience of hearing tape (15ips or 30ips) will not be forgotten: of that, I'm sure.

    Whether one wants to have that format for themselves is another matter that only the individual can answer. To do it or not is ok.

    I firmly believe this is a big hobby with many ways to get to our personal audio nirvana.

    Dre

  28. #28

    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    BottleHead, maker of many great kits, is really into tape. They modify R2R's for better sound quality.

  29. #29
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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    Quote Originally Posted by stereogeek View Post
    BottleHead, maker of many great kits, is really into tape. They modify R2R's for better sound quality.
    Dan is a great guy. IMO, he is underappreciated in the audio industry
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  30. #30
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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

    i have recently been listening to the branka parlić ‎recording of erik satie - initiés. released in 2017, it is an all analog recording originally released as a double LP. i now notice that is has been released on 15-ips R2R tape [chf 390.--]

    more info on the ALL analog recording here and info on the R2R release here

    it is an interesting description of the analog recording and tape transcription equipment and process. (when i get an R2R, i want that telefunken rig!)

    a remarkable recording just listening on qobuz [96/24], can only imagine what it sounds like on R2R !!

    anyway, just thought those following this tread would enjoy the equipment and technical information.
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  31. #31
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    Re: How much quality is on a master tape?

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How much quality is on a master tape?

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