I’m delighted to report that I recently heard from Volker Lange, one of the reel-to-reel revival’s earlier pioneers. Volker was the main man behind the Austrian tape label Horch House, which he set up in 2014.
Right from the start, Volker had some rather impressive successes in negotiating with the big labels to acquire the rights to make direct copies of a number of pretty special master tapes. At the time, I wondered if perhaps his background in the automobile industry had helped (did you ever try saying ‘no’ to a car salesman?!). But it turned out that wasn’t quite the case. Volker’s main business interest back then (and also his main source of income) was Lutz Precision, one of the world’s leading suppliers to the automotive industry – so not quite a ‘car salesman’ as such! But it was certainly a background that gave him a solid business sense, which was why it came as such a surprise when Horch House seemed to go quiet, right at the height of its powers, and then disappear. So what happened?
Between 2014 and 2017 the company released around 80 master tape copies and was doing very well indeed. Perhaps too well, since in a sense, Horch House was a victim of its own success. The sudden growth in worldwide interest in, and demand for, R2R tapes, and the rapid increase in customer demand were far greater than Volker and his team had anticipated.
“It started out as a hobby, a passion,” he explains. “Something I did in addition to my main business, at my own pace when I had some time and energy to spare. It was the same with my colleagues. I pulled in the expertise of a small but very talented team around me at Horch House and we all had lots of ideas and ambitions, but we all had other priorities and responsibilities too.”
So, when the business took off, it took them all by surprise. “It turns out that I can’t dance in two places at once,” admits Volker ruefully, and so he made the difficult decision to suspend Horch House while he focused on his primary business.
Later, however, Volker’s involvement in Lutz Precision came to a natural end and, after a couple of well-earned years off, his thoughts turned once again to master tape.
“Most of the tape machines and the master tapes were still in my ownership,” he says, “and the love of reel-to-reel never left me. I kept thinking about it and thinking about it until, eventually, in November 2020, I decided to throw myself into giving Horch House a fresh start!”
“I’m delighted that most of the labels and the people I worked with previously have been happy to come back on board, and I’m very grateful for that,” he notes.
“It was always in our DNA not to use any digital sources or have any digital aspects in our refurbishing process, and so having access to the right analogue expertise remains vital. At the same time, we’re dealing with some very old tapes, so there’s a real art and skill in bringing them back to life, faithful to their original quality and sound.”
Happily, Volker is once again working with Christoph Stickel, a highly respected mastering engineer. Stickel takes charge of Horch House’s ‘full analogue soft refurbishing’ process, the outcome of which is the company’s own state-of-the-art master tapes, from which all retailed tapes are copied direct. You can read more about the process here on the Horch House website.
“We’re starting up again with around 17 titles on tape,” says Volker, “all copied one-to-one from our own masters on a perfectly refurbished family of Studer A80 machines.”
The company is also now working on a new schedule of releases going forward, aiming towards a new release every month or so.
Everything you need to know, including details of all current titles, are on the Horch House website at www.horchhouse.com
Good to have you back, Volker!