Analogy Records

“The goal of all my recordings has always been the highest quality, as well as the care in microphone techniques, the creativity in mixing, the emotion that a song can arouse in the listener… I’ve felt the urge to produce artists and albums for a refined and demanding audience, who pays attention to details and nuances, by using the best available analog media: the tape.

Analogy Records is the world’s first record label to produce contemporary artists at its recording studio, distributing ORIGINAL MASTER TAPES.

Instead of producing copies from any pre-existing master, for each order Analogy Records produces an original master directly from the multi-track recording system, thus removing an additional stage. No first generation copies but only original Master Tapes, in order to ensure the best listening experience ever.”  Robbo Vigo, Owner

There you go, from the own words of the Analogy Records tape owner, Roberto “Robbo” Vigo, a seasoned recording veteran from Italy. He also owns a nicely equipped recording studio in Genoa, Italy -“Zerodieci”- and he’s also member of the AES. Names like Al Schmitt, Eddie Kramer and Tony Maserati among other legendary producers has been related to Robbo Vigo and his projects.

In 2014, he decided to establish Analogy Records, claiming to produce an original master directly from the mixing console to the recorder (all Studers), instead of copies made from “running masters” like the rest of the pre-recorded tape producers. Each tape you receive is like having a “Master” in your hands and not a copy, from a copy! Well, at least the exquisite sound I heard in my studio testifies this. When I asked Robbo to send me a sampler in order to review his products, he was kind enough as to send not one tape, but three! One 15 ips sampler on a trident plastic 10.5″ reel, one 7 1/2 ips sampler same as the big one , but at a slower speed and finally a complete “master” of Peter Erskine “Live in Genova”, Vol. 2. The 7 1/2″ version is what they call “The Basic” and it’s a genuine attempt to introduce customers to their products at a lower price and for those who can only playback small reels on their domestic decks. For you to have an idea a Premium version, on a aluminum 10.5″ NAB reel and running at 15 ips price is almost $400.00! The Basic is less than half. They even offer an Special Edition, custom made Master for over $1,000.00 but for me that’s way too much.

IMG_1702“Fatman and Littleboy”: same samplers, different formats. 7.5 & 15 ips

The packaging of the Premium reel is very well made and represents what you are paying for. I have seen other products where you pay $250.00 for it and all you receive is a generic aluminum reel with a color photocopy for a booklet. This is a classy product.

High Class, quality packaging included with colorful booklets.

The Sound

Nice reels, fancy presentation and hefty price tag. What about the sound? Let’s talk about it. Since 1978, when my father gave me a Sony TC-560D open reel deck as a gift, I have been an inveterate tape user and have specialized in almost every tape format. I have never stopped using audio cassette and open reel tape in my life and I still conserve a lot of DAT’s as well. Same as vinyl, tape has never died. Some people has been footling about the “tape revival” and others fanfaronade about the superiority of digital and Hi Rez downloads. Good for them! On the other hand we have started to see vinyl yeasayers admitting that the most close you can get to the “real thing” is through a master copy pre-recorded tape, running @ 15ips on a perfectly restored and aligned deck.  Analogy Records claims that they have eliminated this step because they record the tape direct from the multitrack station itself. I assume it’s a Pro Tools and not a 2” tape master. The tape used is the kind of standard RTM 468: the legendary option for high speed recording.

IMG_1685

The little reel running on my Crown SX-822

I started with the “little boy” 7.5″ plastic reel to see what’s all the fuss about. Better to start with something less ostentatious and leave the caviar for later, at least that’s what I thought…until I hit the “Play” button. All doubts and preconceptions for little boy dissipated! To begin with, hiss noise from the tape itself were almost none. It was o low that I double checked the volume knob to see if it was up. Suddenly the voice of Andrea Celeste inundated my room I knew immediately that I was hearing something special. Her voice was clear, the presence natural without being offensive and liquid highs. It was a complete frondescence audio spectrum with everything in place. No dull, not bright. Just the right amount. Compared to some other tapes I have reviewed before, this is full of life. On Peter Erskine drum solo you could even feel the affination of the drum skin every time Peter hit on it. It was time to move to the big leagues. I took the 15 ips sampler version and after some tests, decide to play it on a different ambience and deck to avoid been spoony. I choose the Crown CX-822 on my recording studio and listened…

 The “fat man” running on my CX-822

This is the real deal. If the small one has no hiss, the 15 ips is completely darkness. More details and a little bit more extended highs, but to be honest,because I’m not a footling person, people could be perfectly happy with either version. Both sounded spectacular.

Recording Test

This is something I do with all samplers I receive. Since the hiss noise is cumulative and increase copy after copy, unless you use noise reduction artifacts (a sacrilege among audiophiles) it’s inevitable. I make a direct copy from the CX-822 to one of my many cassette decks on my collection. This time I choose the fabled and very vintage Nakamichi 700 ZXE. As expected, the cassette copy using a brand new Maxell XL II tape without NR came out excellent, but of course with a hint of hiss and this is natural. So, just for testing, I did side B but this time using Dolby C on the Nakamichi ZX 7…WOW!

img_10262

Nakamichi 700 ZXE: one of two I have.

Since audio cassette has been on the revival tape fever and has many advocates, I have spoken to all these companies and recommended them to start contemplating the production of cassette tapes as well. The guys from Hemiolia Records as well as Robbo Vigo himself has demonstrated a genuine interest to do so soon. If only they could listen to my test I guarantee you the skepticism would come to an end!

Conclusion

Pre-recorded tapes are now the new kid on the block for audiophiles. Fancy reproductions running on fully restored 30 years old decks is something you could never predict 5 years ago. The revival of the open reel and audio cassette tape was something more obscure than a urban legend. Now it’s a reality and it’s stronger than ever. Unfortunately, the unavailability of new decks, the cost of restored TOL decks and the scarcity of new popular music available on these media make it difficult to be adopted by the masses. Some attempts have been trumpeted by few companies about coming with a new open reel deck, like the failed Revox project and the unaffordable Ballfinger, but I’m afraid that’s not enough.

Besides all these shortcomings, not many people are able to pay over $250.00 for an unknown artist. John Q Public is looking for his favorite group and not for an equipment demonstration costly tape. At least the music recorded by Analogy Records is more contemporary and has not been castigated by the same “strange” music selections, without any animadversion, of other similar companies. If you want this saga to be successful among new public, you better change the idea and concept. It’s hard to sit a young guy in front of a system and induce him to listen exotic music from drums and mallets which are more suitable for audio demonstration than for real listening! The music I heard from these masters are not only meritorious of demonstrate the virtues of any system, but it’s also the kind of music anyone can listen to. Compared to those copies made from production tape masters, these from Analogy are a kind of lean and with less body on the lower regions but not by far. They are clean, fast and with a lot of impact. The recording level is not shy and as far as your machine is well aligned, prepare yourself for a paean experience! Robbo Vigo and Analogy Records are on the right track for sure.

Highly recommended!

Carlitos Guzmán

 

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