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Thursday, June 9, 2016

I haaaad a Dreeeeaaammm! - Open Reel in a (bad) RIAA free world!!!

Yes, indeed! 

These days my listening diet is about 50% open reel tapes, 30% vinyl and 20% digital disk…  but the percentage varies, depending on mood and new discs, and… time available, of course – i.e. using my open reel recorders is such a pleasure, but as a ceremony, it needs time and attitude to par.

A new cat’s in town, folks: Open Reel, omen nomen;-)

I met these incredibly motivated and smart guys at MOC 2016 and I was so gladly given a complimentary copy of their Sampler 2015 containing several tracks from their best
Production – small scale classical, jazz combo, Monk in Milan… the one and only MONK, captured alive, yessss! and solo violin and acoustic guitar and voice… a very useful pout-pourri where to choose the music and reel-tape of choice, to appreciate the recording and music, of course.

That’s the way to go.

Very classy, Mauro and Marco. 


… but let me share the funny part of the matter, as it both amused me and frightened at the same time.

After last May MOC I was quite busy, so when I finally got the time to listen to some Horch House, Opus 3 and Open Reel’s tapes I used my old, faithful, Giorgio Foschi’s maintained my Studer B67VU high-speed machine.

First of the batch was, out of curiosity, the Italian tape, classy archival-like custom box and Pyral tape in cine, black plastic reel… I played on my Gotorama large system the whole tape and… well, had a sort-of mixed feeling: some tracks were nice to excellent, some others were just rolled off on highs and blurred on mids and lows.

I immediately shared my first impressions with Mauro and I didn’t think about this for some weeks, now…  had sooooo many precious and cool vinyl discs to be listened to and TdP’s The Head back in my system(s) and… simply too busy to be back on tapes and the like.

Few days ago, rainy weather and some spare time, I handled again the new tapes and placed, this time, the Open Reel’s Sampler 2015 on the mighty Telefunken M15A… changed the DIN tape mount to Cine adapters and… so I went.

I almost fell from my listening chair, believe me!

The mixed feeling I had on my first and only quick listening was gone, poooff!


The sound coming from my Gotorama and the tape spinning in front of the M15’s Butterfly heads was sparkling, zest-like, quick and eerie, dynamic and life-like…

… so, what’s happened?

How could a so-so impression change this way?

I was back to my ol’ B67… then, only then I realized the following: I previously used, to my pal Arnaldo’s insistence and pushing, a NOS Ampex reel on it to dub - having the Studer B62 as the player – some my own live recordings.

After only a couple of minutes spinning, the monitor from B67 was muddy, blurred sounding and fast-forwarding the tape was quite painful, slow, possibly due to the usual shitty, sticky Ampex’ old tape, always in need of oven baking to be played/used… only once!

I yelled like a badass and… simply swapped to a brand new Pyral to complete my dubbing… then forgot the episode.

When I used again the Studer B67 it was… yessss, you got it!... with the Open Reel Sampler’s.

OMG… only then I realized the blurred, frequency limited sound was due to the sticky, almost invisible filthiness coming from the *@§@@]**^$£§ (fucking;-)) Ampex’!!!

I had to use chisel & hammer… kidding, just cleaning liquid and some cleaning wool felt and cotton sticks with acetone on heads… and isopropil alcohol on rubber guides, two times, plus a good demagnetizing on heads and capstan and guides and rollers…  

Then repeated the listening and… voilà!

Gone was the limited bandwidth sensation… back was the glorious sound I already experienced from the M15A.

My fault, Ampex’ fault… silly me, fucking Ampex… who cares… ears works as they should and any experienced fault has an explanation and a cure.

I really was sooooo happy and satisfied I had to share my findings with (Open Reel’s) Mauro, apologizing and – again – damning and yelling about those plague-like, apparently perfect, brand-new, yet sticky Ampex’.

A lesson to be remembered, pals: I felt quite stupid and limited in my skills and knowledge to do not immediately recognize the issue… yet, I also felt very satisfied, as… hey! Italians do it better, folks!

After pizza, pasta and mandolino… yesss! open reel tapes are a specialty, as well… like my good friend River Yu found and nicely collected and catalogued in his great Blog, Italy - my country to date - counts more open reel houses than other countries in the world.

No, it’s not only money-concerned – i.e. tape dubs are quite expensive and niche-like stuffs, accordingly priced… no!

It’s about quality, musical and audio… that’s why I strongly dream… aehm…. drreeeeaaammm;-) about a (bad) RIAA-free world, where the average audiophile and music lover will be able to taste and enjoy the liquidness and naturalness of a good 15 IPS CCIR ¼ inch master dub.

I’m not jealous and simply wish you and everyone to be able to sip pure music straight from the spring!


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