US: The Tape Project is a new music-delivery format and record label established by Paul Stubblebine Mastering (PSM) and valve electronics specialist Bottlehead Corp to release a series of analogue recordings - ten per year - on reel-to-reel tape. The result, say the partners, is "an analogue listening experience that comes as close as possible to that of hearing the original master tape", writes David Davies.
Sold primarily on a subscription basis, the 15ips half-track stereo, reel-to-reel recordings encompass a variety of musical styles. Accordingly, the first ten releases include everything from Sonny Rollins' monumental classic Saxophone Colossus and Jacqui Naylor's The Number White (pictured) to a set of compositions by Malcolm Arnold, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and recorded by Keith Johnson. The full list of titles can be viewed through the first link below.
The Tape Project will be run primarily as a subscription service, of which there are two tiers: US$1200 for a selection of six of the ten releases per year, or a charter sub of US$2000 to obtain all ten releases. Each album will also be sold individually for US$329 to non-subscribers. Each tape release comes in a custom-designed box with full-size colour artwork and custom tape inflanges inscribed with serial numbers for charter subscribers.
A number of tape machines for playback are also available, priced at around US$7,500 each and supplied with a custom playback head designed by Flux Magnetics to meet the requirement for strict optimisation for 15ips, with no compromise for other speeds. The resulting head, says The Tape Project, has response extended well beyond that of the stock heads on both ends of the audio spectrum.
"Tape Project albums are recorded in real-time on the finest equipment available in order to offer audiophiles the closest experience possible to hearing the original session tape of great performances in a wide variety of musical genres," Dan Schmalle, one of the founders of The Tape Project, tells PSN-e. "The past efforts to release offerings on tape have been mass-produced at high speed in formats that were compromised to keep costs low. In the 50 or more years that the analogue tape format has existed, no one had ever attempted to deliver studio quality tapes to the end-user at home. We felt that it was time to correct this situation, as nothing else sounds like analogue tape."
To ensure the highest quality and to produce the finest sounding masters, PSM offers carefully selected audio technology such as the Pacific Microsonics analogue and digital converters; Esoteric Audio Research, Z-Systems, Weiss and TC Electronic signal processors; mastering workstations from Sonic Studio, and Alon Wolf-designed 'Magico' speakers.