As written on the "Tape Trail"
Review of Award Audio's **NEW** open
reel recording---The Detroit Chamber
Posted on May 3, 2008 at 17:30:44
About a month ago a member from the tape trail alerted us to Award
Audio's website which offered something fresh and interesting: A "new"
recording done and released on both cd and open reel formats! The
release was of the Detroit Chamber Trio performing works by Dallier,
Vierne, and Bonnal. To get more info about this release or to hear
samples through a link to cd-baby on his site, you can visit Award
Noticing that I lived only about a half hour from Award Audio's studio
here in Michigan, I contacted the proprietor, Joseph LaQuiere, about the
possibility of picking up the Detroit Chamber tapes in person. Well, after
about an hours conversation via phone about all things audio and openreel
(Joseph is a huge fan of the format and agrees that at its best open
reel is the best sounding), he agreed and invited me to take a mini-tour of
his setup as well.
I don't know where to begin here but suffice it to say that Joseph has
some amazing equipment in his home. For starters how about a pair of
185k Genesis 1.1 loudspeakers weighing in at over 1.25 tons in his main
listening room? How about 4 different custom Technics RS-1500's? I
could not even begin to account for all of the electronics in his listening
room, but all of it was top shelf stuff. I'll let him chime in with more
specifics if he wants to. I only mention his amazing system to let
everyone here know that this isn't an amateur operation by any stretch of
the imagination--it's the serious real deal.
We listened and talked for about 4 hours that night. Joseph is an
extremely nice gentleman and I want to thank him again here for letting
me have the opportunity to come over and have a ganer and listen.
I had brought over some familiar material just to hear his system and he
played various selections of his for me as well. I was literally blown away by his system, and I'm not blown away easily. I have heard 250k
plus systems fall flat on their faces before---- but not this one, this was
actually something very special. Dynamics? check. Soundstaging? check.
Tonal balance? check. The "live" experience? check. Everything was
spot-on, I couldn't even nit-pick. The one thing that has ALWAYS
bothered me about huge speakers is that they make everything sound
huge and larger then life. You know, the 15 foot high and wide solo
trumpet, the piano that sounds like it's 10 feet up in the air, etc. Not these
though---they got it all right!
We played for a while and Joseph played some snippets of the work he
has done in the digital realm basically transferring open reel releases to
24/192 digital for archiving purposes and then transferring them back to
tape. I shook my head as I heard one of his digital transfers from open
reel sound better then the actual LP he had played before it of the same
material! The guy is a magician.
After parting ways on a fun evening, I was anxious to listen to my Detroit
Chamber Trio new tapes on my system. Before I left though, I listened to
a portion of them on his system so I could hear it as he wanted it and
intended it to be heard. The sound was excellent there, but how would it
fair back home???
The Detroit Chamber Release:
I purchased a 2-track 7.5 IPS release version of the work which came on
twin 7" reels. Joseph threw in some bonus material on the end of the
second reel which was a nice gesture as there was plenty of tape that
would have been left unused. I also opted to purchase the additional cd
release of the work just so I could hear what types of improvements the
open reel wrought. Keep in mind this however: the original recording
was done in the digital domain at 24/192. It is then transferred from there
to either cd (16/44.1) or open reel. Joseph feels (like I do) that the tape
does something "special" to the digital signal. I even asked him if he
preferred the original 24/192 digital version straight from his hard-drive
or the open reel analog version and he said the tape sounds better then the
24/192 original data! That coincides with what I have discovered as well
in my much more meager experiments: I've been transferring SACD to
tape and I'll be dammed if the tape doesn't sound better every time then
the original SACD from which it was copied!!! Controversial statement?
Perhaps. But try it for yourself and report back to me what you hear.
Finally at home...Listening to the Detroit Chamber Tapes:
Unpacking the tapes I just want to make mention of the professional way
that these are released in. The cover art and linear notes are top notch.
You would never know this is somebody operating out of their house.
Even the leader tape is already applied! Long story short:
Last night I finally played the tapes and the overall sound was excellent. I
hate to start with the sound but I know that's what you want to read about
1st. The piano in particular sounded very open, warm and 3-dimentional
with vast amounts of presence. The Stradivarius violin had body, warmth
and was silky smooth. The soundstaging was excellent; the 3 instruments
were represented with realism and depth. Oh, and most important? The
music is excellent!! You can sense the EMOTION these 3 fine players
put into this. Very, very, very well played and executed.
The cd versus tape comparison:
Of course, how could I not do this? First a quick back-drop on my
philosophy on such comparisons. I believe they must be done SYNC'D
UP IN REAL TIME, with LEVELS MATCHED and from the
LISTENING CHAIR via REMOTE so that I can switch quickly between
them. Any other way to compare formats, speakers, cartridges, cd
players, preamps, etc has never made any sense to me. How can someone
comment that item x is better then item y off of memory??? I do not, nor
will I ever understand that philosophy. However, I read about it everyday
in audio magazines and on this web site and others. OK, I'm off my soapbox.
So comparing the 2 releases it quickly became evident that there was no
Looking now at my listening notes:
"On tape, the strings are MUCH silkier, smoother, and have richer
overtones. There is far more body and weight to the cello. The tape has
much better separation between instruments and has more "ambience".
The piano sounds far more open, has greater reverb, and is more detailed
on tape. Bottom line? The tape sounds like live music.
On cd, the Violin sounds almost "plastic" by comparison to the tape. The
violin sounds thinner, somewhat steely and "hollow". The warmth is lost
to the cello. The piano sounds more "clanky" and hollow and the reverb
is lost somewhat. The bottom line is the cd is missing the weight,
character, openness and body that the tape possesses."
What we have here is an excellent recording and performance of new
material done on the open reel format. Everything from the equipment
used (detailed in the linear notes) to the final products sound is worldclass.
Is Joseph the next Professor Johnson? Well, time will tell. For a 1st
release I must say that he's not TOO far behind him. And that's saying a
Great job Award Audio and MORE PLEASE!!!!!