“I am passionate about sound and I know what I want to do with the machines.”
Adrien Rodriguez of Perfect Analog (pictured) explains his philosophy and modus operandi in a simple sentence. The Frenchman was speaking exclusively to PSNE in London after a visit to the Music Production Show at Emirates Stadium and subsequent appointments with studios and pro-audio parties around the capital.
Rodriguez’s immediate goal is simple. In his warehouse 100km south of Lyon, near Valence, he has around a dozen fully restored Studer 24-track tape machines (models A80, A820, A800 MkII) and awaiting purchase from high-end studios.
“What I’ve done is take the best-sounding tape recorders and refurbished them as new, which is quite a job: changing capacitors, aligning and tuning them to Studer’s specification, measuring and checking them and producing a tape recorder that sounds like a new machine.”
Let’s be clear here: Rodriguez is doing this without any kind of approval from a Studer representative – as Studer no longer makes analogue recorders there is no one from who to seek consent.
“I have done this on my own, for personal reasons, believing that there is still some interest in these machines for certain uses,” he says. “I thought it would be interesting to buy the best machines – where I know the service history, or that they have been well looked after – and then to refurbish them so everything is running as it should. Analogue gear is interesting if it’s working perfectly; if it’s not, then it is just a museum piece.”
The recorders have been acquired from a number of sources over the past four years, including from the famous Rak Studios, from Swiss Radio, and from London’s Town House when that facility closed in 2008.
Sometimes, he says, he played a “gambling game”.
”I would enter a studio with a full wallet, talk to the owner and make them an offer there and then. I would say, ‘Here is the cash, I am taking it right now!’ The guy would say, ‘How are you going to take it?’ And I would say, ‘Look through the window! There is the truck, I’m taking the machine with me!’” Rodriguez was literally renting transport in France and driving it 1,400km to the UK. “And I don’t know whether I’m going to go home with a machine or not…”
He has found some studio owners and engineers to be “hard-headed” about their precious technology. Having paid a six-figure sum 20 years ago for a new Studer, they expect to receive £10,000 for parting with the item now. “That’s not going to happen,” he says firmly.
Having acquired a dozen or so of the historic pieces over several years, Rodriguez has assembled a small network of technical experts to aid with their restoration – though, he adds, it was tough finding engineers with the right skills. “I did a lot of the soldering myself because I like it!”
Four years after this enthusiastic Frenchman started his quest, the time has now come to make some money. “In different parts of the world, people have started talking about tape recorders again. These machines still have an ideological power – you see the wheels turning, it has a character that clicking on a mouse does not.” He’s made his first sale to Australia, but, now the business is online properly, it’s time to shift the other units.
The arrival of Endless Analog’s CLASP system is contributing to the renewed interest with tape, admits Rodriguez. For the uninitiated, Chris Estes’ clever box of tricks routes all your audio to tape, then lines it up with sample accuracy in you digital audio workstation, in real-time. In short, CLASP (£6,000 from KMR in the UK) integrates the tape machines into the DAW workflow, without fuss. “It’s an easy idea done in a simple way,” says Rodriguez. “So anyone who knows nothing about tape can use tape, with their DAW, easily. Before CLASP it was a lot more complicated: a lot of recording, rewinding, bouncing and so on.”
Could Rodriguez make his scheme successful without CLASP?
“Yes, because when I started this business, I did not know about it. But CLASP is making people talk about tape, and that’s all good publicity for me.
“CLASP makes me think I’m not alone,” he ponders. “If we create product that sounds really great, then people are willing to pay money for it. That’s why I am selling my tape machines in the same state of mind as if they were new equipment. Everything has been measured, proved, checked, photographed; the buyer receives full documentation of how it works, inside and outside. That’s why I’m called Perfect Analog!”
Does he and Endless Analog have a ‘deal’ in place?
“No, we have a philosophy deal! My mind and Chris Estes’ mind are working the same way: if we push for excellence, it will work; if we go halfway, make something that’s not good enough, then people aren’t going to buy it.”