Steve Deckert Review of 2 tapes: Beethoven Cello Sonata No.5 & Mendelssohn Violin Concerto:

Posted on Decware Tape Forum: 10/31/20

Steve Deckert’s Review of 2 tapes:

Beethoven Cello Sonata No.5 – Narek Hakhnazaryan and Noreen Polera

Mendelssohn Violin Concerto: Alena Baeva and Vadym Kholodenko

As promised a re-visit of these two tapes on my hi-end reference system.

I thought I was going to listen to a classical tape… you know, the music. In this case, Beethoven.

What happened is I found myself visualizing the room, especially the piano as it clearly sets about 10 feet away from me.

I get lost in it’s textures, and tone and dynamics.

The breathing and the chair sounds of the cello just make the reality of it inescapable. You are actually there. It’s real. I’m tripping on the intimacy of it. I am setting there with a grand piano, a cello, and three people, the star of the show was the page turner. Literally, you can see and hear the page turn in 3D space. Perhaps the best demo of 3D imaging ever. I mean when you can take a sound stage that is 30 feet wide and 15 feet deep with another 20 feet behind you, and create quadrants and sectors, zoom in on one and hear it in absolute 3D space even though it is only occupying one cubic foot of space is remarkable.

So you want to know what happen when I listened to the Narek/Polera tape of Beethoven Cello Sonata No.5 and Popper Hungarian Rhapsody on my high end system, and this is what is happening. It is so real, that I find myself day dreaming not unlike I did in church as a kid, marveling at the curved oak pews instead of hanging on every word from the pulpit.

This is a real testament to why the “least significant bits” are important.

The space is so well defined and all the air in it, and all the smallest sounds in it, that it is the equal to the music. It occupies 50% of the density (data) of the recording. None of this is there on a 16 bit CD, regardless of the heroic stature of your playback gear.

I would have to say compared to the casual listen on the stock MX5050 that I used the first time I am hearing about twice as much. Possibly more. This is the first time I am experiencing the space like it is real. Before I heard the music, that was the focus. Now it is the space.

Imagine being a ghost at this exquisite performance and being able to be the whole room at once, and then become a small person setting on the stool by the microphone, and then floating up off your stool and swirling around the piano… like swimming.

The breathing and the insane definition and detail make it so real that it may as well be real. You don’t have a choice about casual listening, or passive listening, or background listening, no more than you would if you found yourself in the room when this was happening live.

So as I experienced Ed’s tapes on bone stock tape machines up to audiophile grade tweaked out tape machines, as well as electronics, they sound exponentially better as the gear gets more and more expensive. That is to say, that on a $700 tape machine that costs $1400 to recondition but was instead played as is, it will not realize the value of Ed’s tapes. On a essentially NEW tape machine, something that will cost minimally $2500 and usually twice that, and then Ed’s tapes become the best value of your entire system.

I have listened to this tape at least 12 times so far in a variety of situations, and tonight feels like the first time I’ve heard it. This is what happens when when things sound real. Because tomorrow, when I listen to it, I might and likely will, focus on different things making it a completely new performance. You can’t do this with flat music. Flat music is two-dimensional music that can’t be viewed from multiple perspectives, only from one. This however is holographic in nature, and can be heard from hundreds of different focal points which is why it doesn’t get old when you listen to it weekly.

The sound is really incredible. So organic. Mind numbing dynamics for a recording. Even the mico dynamics in the low parts are essential to completing the illusion of really being there… and they are there in spades, like spilling out all over the place. Just like and usually only like, reality.

The balance of the recording is quite nice, smooth transitions with impeccable timing that only comes when music becomes conscious and the musicians become servants.

And then just when you think we’re on level ground, towards the end of the tape, the climax if you will, had me jumping out of my seat saying wow! I just couldn’t believe it.

I can safely say, that the perspective I got this evening from my reference set up really made all prior listenings a complete waste of time.

Don’t’s play $300 master tapes on $1500 machines. Find someone who sells totally reconditioned, dialed in and pimped out machines and spend 3 times what you wanted to. Otherwise it will not work. Phrased differently, find a great $1500 machine, and pay someone $1500 to pimp it out. Even twice that to really pimp it out, with great heads and an ultra in-depth alignment, recap job, and total overhaul will be easily audible. Basically if you want to hear that “big” difference tape is claimed to have, you need to have at the very least the equivalent of a brand new, totally calibrated machine.

So now to tape two… the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto and the Tchaikovsky Melodie with Alena Baeva and Vadym Kholodenko. Alena… Reference system… I’m almost a little scared, she’s hot enough from a distance but in person will be I’m sure distracting, no actually the opposite of that, more like mesmerizing.

Well let’s just see. Push play.

The accent rocks… love the introduction. Smaller audience.

As soon as she plays, because of the resolution of this system, my third eye comes on hard. Sorry when that happens, the brain has to stop. The music is like from heaven.

That violin.  It’s not one you find at Guitar Center… or Music Direct, trust me.

In fact it’s not even one you find in hi-end circles… I suspect it is so rare that it has to find you, and you have to be really firkin good or it will never find you. I’m glad it found her. She merges with it and the two become pne, as I’m sure I have said before, but she just does it better than most.   Really incredible.

It’s just insane how good these tapes are.

One thing I’ve noticed in gauging the difference between tape machines and the investment therein, is that on the low end of the window, it sounds good but when you turn it up, it begins to slide a bit. On the high end of that same window, when you turn it up it doesn’t tank, it holds together and sounds better on every level. If you think about it, this is how we can tolerate such loud sounds in real life and in contrast when we try to play recordings real life back at the same levels on our whatever we can afford playback gear, it tanks. Sadly the amplifier or speakers often get blamed for it, when it is in fact the source. Even with 2 watts it can hold together at 3X the density if the signal has it’s shit together. Hehe, we think the problem is always power… we need more power… no we need more signal.

Violin and Female are of course going to dominate the experience, but God Bless the Piano player for being able to balance her, boy there were some parts where the two became a single instrument and you couldn’t tell which one did what… I love it when that happens, truly exquisite.

Killer Tape.   Highly Recommended   So yea, it was supposed to be about 11:00 P.M. but it’s actually 1:25 A.M…. Damn aliens. I must have gotten abducted again. I don’t know why this keeps happening do you?