Tape Talk: Yarlung Records

GRAMMY® Award winning Yarlung Records brings fresh musicians to the classical music world using minimalist audiophile recording techniques to deliver sound as close to living performance as possible. Rather than using recording studios, engineer Bob Attiyeh produces these albums in concert halls famous for their acoustics, including Walt Disney Concert Hall  and Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Los Angeles. Yarlung uses both analog tape and high resolution digital media for CDs made with special alloys, high resolution digital downloads including Native DSD, and 180 Gram vinyl, mastered by Steve Hoffman.

Yarlung Valley

Yarlung Records takes its name from the Yarlung Valley in Central Tibet, where the royal houses buried Songtsen Gampo and Trisong Detsen (two of the great early Kings in the historical record) in the Tibetan “Valley of the Kings.” Legends claim the Yarlung Valley as the magical birthplace of the Tibetan people and as a meeting place between heaven and earth. It is in this valley, at the site of  Yambulakhang Castle in our Yarlung Records logo, where Heaven and Earth touched in order to transform humanity…img_0093

“Young, Provocative, Engaging” is the slogan of this fantastic exclusive audiophile label. They have been constantly growing up to the point where they already earned a Grammy Award and has become an standard for systems evaluation in audiophile circles. It’s very hard to visit a room at any Hi End show without hearing the “Smoke and Mirrors” production playing on a open reel deck. The passion for music from which this company is driven, is highly noticeable.

When I asked them to send me a sample for review, I noticed how deeply involved they are with what they do and it was difficult not to like Bob Attiyeh, producer and recording engineer, right from the start. We connected immediately as Bob knows I’m a percussionist. We engaged in a friendly conversation by email and just as he promised me, the tape arrived weeks later, just after he returned from a business trip.

The tape and booklet were supplied in a 1/2″ tape box and it was really kind of him to send me a classic Ampex 456 aluminum open reel with the tape! Perhaps he guessed that I’m also an avid classic gear collector and decided to contribute as well. Ha!

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I proceed to get my Studer ready for the expected musical banquet. I dim the lights and hit the “Play” button on the remote control…wow! The varied repertoire full of surprises, together with a diversified gusto, is a clear example of a very careful and minimalist recording approach which evokes the era when the music performance as well as the sound quality were of equal importance for the listener.

SonoruS:

Yarlung is connected with the SonoruS Audio Project. The SonoruS ATR 10 uses Revox tape heads and motors, but SonoruS engineer Arian Jansen designs and builds everything else, from the transport to the all-vacuum tube electronics. They promise a superb performance, but at $17,500 in its standard version, certainly this is not for everyone. I wish I can hear one myself to see what’s all the fuzz about. I guess it’s a serious contender because the quality of Yarlung Records’ tapes attest for this.atr10_product_page_03_front_njpr

The Tape:

As with all these new open reel productions en vogue, the sound of this production is exquisite. A great ambience is captured in this tape and the effortless flow of music is graciously submitted with precision and focus. The instruments timbre are accurate and the performance is second to none. The piece “Game of Clocks” is a valuable tool for audiophiles evaluating Hi End equipment as it’s capable to exhibit the weakness and strength of the gear in question. The “Geographical Fugue” is highly adventurous and novel. I was so engaged in the Game of Clocks flow that when the next track opened with a loud “TRINIDAD” I jumped up in my sofa and said: “What the hell…” Ha! Very ingenious combination of percussion and vocal performance. The use of AKG tube mics add to the recording quality and in this case, it’s clearly demonstrated.

Conclusion:

The resurrection of the tape media has given a new venue for dauntless producers like Bob Attiyeh, an opportunity to explore alternative kinds of music and performers that would never show up to a wider audience around the world through mainstream labels, and for me, that’s is highly valuable. The quality achieved by the Yarlung’s team is excellent and their commitment to their label is clearly expressed in their recordings. The use and combination of new and classic technology is a delicious proposal for those who demands only the best. Bob is not playing games, folks, he’s very serious about his musicians, performance and sonic quality. Who can ask for more?

Highly recommended!

Carlitos Guzmán-Senior Contributor Writer

Mono & Stereo Hi End Magazine

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