The Tape Project and Focal Rock Bay Area Audiophiles

BAAS members got a special treat treat today, served up hot at 1340 Mission Studio in San Francisco.

Members coming out of the mastering room uniformly commented that they had just experienced the best sound that they had heard in a long time. I had to agree.

In my experience, this level of fidelity requires attention to all elements of the reproduction chain. In the case of today’s event, four elements stood out:

  • THE TAPE PROJECT SOURCE MATERIAL – Have you ever heard a master tape? We came about  as close as mere mortals can. We listened to direct dubs of the master, recorded on 1″ two-track media at 15 ips! Wow. Nothing quite like it. And I’m not sure that I ever heard an analog source this quiet.
  • SUPERB ELECTRONICS BY EAR and VTL – These premier brands need no introduction. Top-of-the-line line-level components designed by Tom deParavicini himself. And power from the mighty Siegfrieds.
  • FOCAL GRANDE UTOPIA LOUDSPEAKERS – About 7′ of pure linearity. The effortless bass was  striking to me. The smooth treble from a Be inverted dome was also quite moving. But the degree of driver integration was perhaps their most impressive quality. These huge multi-driver boxes sing with a single voice.
  • CUSTOM, PURPOSE-BUILT LISTENING ROOM. No parallel surfaces. Balanced use of absorption and diffraction. Ballast (mass) in key areas of the structure. A great showcase for sound.

Our hosts made a great event even better. Many thanks to Bob Hodas, Paul Stubblebine, Michael Romanowski, and Bea Manley. Your hospitality, expertise, and enthusiasm were terrific!

Saturday, November 20th, 2010 Analog, Audiophile, Bob, Events

3 Comments to The Tape Project and Focal Rock Bay Area Audiophiles

  1. This was a great glimpse into the mastering room. Very nice just to be there and imagine it as my office.
    Many thanks to our hosts.
    They mix a great cappuccino too.


  2. anomaly7 on November 21st, 2010
  3. This was a great event and for most probably too short. Studio time is expensive and the one mastering room was in great demand!
    I fully agree with Bob’s comments about the large Utopia speakers. At a first glance they look way too big for the room and only eight feet or so from the mastering console. Bob Hodas has definitely done some magic with this setup, which sounds superbly effortless. That’s not to say that there were no room modes and other little details that deviate from perfection, but this setup came as close as it gets to a reference system in a small room.
    The source was a first copy from a master tape, recorded in stereo on a 1″ (!) tape and played on a customized studio unit. I was surprised to hear that two of the original master tapes were Dolby-encoded, which has some characteristic effect on the sound when played through a typical home player. You could not tell it from this listening session.
    It was a pleasure to chat in the lobby with Paul about the Tape Project and with Bob Hodas about room tuning and mingle with the many other BAAS members waiting for their session.
    Many thanks to Paul and Bob, but especially to Michael, who had to endure ten or eleven playbacks of the same three tracks…

  4. ori on November 22nd, 2010
  5. This was another great learning experience. Much appreciated. I knew very little about the reel-to-reel audio-tape audiophile niche before this event.

    The event had three focuses: Analog tapes, Focal speakers, and room treatments.

    On analog tapes, there wasn’t anything to the event that demonstrated that the use of tapes is noticeable sonically superior to the best of digital CDs. We just listened to three tracks on tape.

    Focal speakers are nice looking speakers, but I think that the marketing product placement tie-in that is the probable reason those big speakers were in that room was not the best choice, in my humble opinion. The first two tracks, which I was not familiar with, sounded very nice. The third track by Patricia Barber, which I am familiar with, was overloaded in bass for my taste. This apparently is not uncommon when a too big set of speakers is used in a modest sized room. A small room boosts the bass response from big speakers. Please see the thread linked below:

    I do not know or suspect that the copying process from master tapes to reel-to-reel tapes involves any sound/tone processing so it probably doesn’t hurt the process that the speakers are too big for the room.

    Vincent Sauve

  6. skepica on November 24th, 2010
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