The love affair with vinyl continues unabated, and for a large proportion of vinyl owners this is due to one thing – the unique level of performance of a good turntable-based system.
(There is a sizable proportion of vinyl owners who are yet to discover the magic of vinyl having not yet progressed past inexpensive vinyl-based systems which do no justice to the medium, or as reported previously, do not even own a turntable. What a journey both camps have ahead of them!)
There is yet another yesteryear technology which is staging a small comeback, and that is Reel-to-Reel tape. Over the past few years we have noticed an increasing number of exhibitors using Reel-to-Reel as a source at Hi-End Hi-Fi shows (there was at least one at the recent Sydney show), and with good reason – if you have a good tape Reel-to-Reel is the best source available, eclipsing both Vinyl and Hi-Res streaming.
In recent years there have been a few new start-up companies manufacturing recorders, including Analogue Audio Design, Ballfinger and Aussie ex-pat Metaxas and Sins (no, that is not a misprint). Even turntable manufacturer Thorens have released a Reel-to-Reel recorder.
Will Reel-to-Reel enjoy the same resurgence as Vinyl? – Unfortunately not!. There are a couple of reasons for this, the first being that the traditional application for Reel-to-Reel of recording long playing tapes of your favorite tracks for extended listening sessions does not hold a lot of appeal today. Streaming has made this obsolete, plus streaming has the advantage of easy track selection when required – something that is difficult to do on Reel-to-Reel. The big advantage of Reel-to-Reel is performance, but this is assuming you are playing one of the growing number of prerecorded studio quality tapes coming onto the market, and this is the second downside of the technology – price. Firstly, the recorders themselves are expensive, but so are the studio quality tapes – you need to be prepared to spend up to $1,000/tape, which equates to one album.
Despite what must be a limited market there is a surprisingly large number of high-performance recordings available, and that number is growing daily – the link below will give you an indication of what is available.
Despite the downsides, there is no denying that Reel-to Reel sounds wonderful. We have recently rebuilt a Revox B77 recorder and now have it in our high-end room running a copy of an Inakustik’s Great Cover Versions Direct to Tape Mastertape.
Expensive – undeniably. But what price do you put on the finest source material available? Drop in and have a listen and form your own opinion.