Here’s a list of the companies and labels we’ve found so far who are currently issuing music on open reel tape, whether authorized current copies of vintage master tapes or new contemporary recordings.
If you come across others, the rambler would love to hear about them. Drop us a line and we’ll check them out and add them here.
Note: If you’re in the UK check out Huddersfield-based Brook Audio who stock a number of tapes and may have lower shipping costs compared with buying direct from companies overseas.
Based in Montreal and created by producer/studio owner André Perry and audiophile sound engineer René Laflamme, 2xHD has developed “a remastering system that combines the best of vintage analog quality with state of the art technology.” The company plans to release a new title every 2 months.
2Track Masters is a new (in 2020) label producing master quality tapes on ¼-inch 2-track, exclusively using ATR Magnetics tape. The current artist roster includes a diverse selection of independent artists in several genres: country, indie rock, hip hop, and electronica. 2Track Masters is located in the Philadelphia suburbs and run by Joe Procopio, mastering engineer at 2Track Mastering.
ABC records’ catalogue of almost a hundred titles spans an eclectic mix of vocal, instrumental and Chinese music, as well as a few albums featuring high-profile, global artists.
However, we’re aware of two issues regarding breach of copyright. First, text has been copied from the websites of two European tape labels and used, verbatim, on ABC Records’ website. Second, material by an American recording artist has been included in one of ABC Records’ CDs without the artist or her label’s knowledge or consent. In view of these experiences, we can’t currently recommend ABC Records as such, but list them here to note their existence and advise customers to proceed with caution. If you’ve had any direct experience of dealing with them (good or bad), please drop us a line.
US-based online retailer of all things music, Acoustic Sounds offers everything from vinyl to SACD, from headphones to record cleaning machines, and from books to t-shirts. Of interest here is the fact that the online store retails a number of tapes (around 25 titles at the time of writing) including albums by Hugh Masekela, Janis Ian and Muddy Waters, among others. They also sell a handful of MARA reel-to-reel decks.
AMS Studio is the producer and exclusive reseller of master tape copies of albums from the Italian Record label Velut Luna (full licensed by the latter). Genres are typically classical and jazz. While Velut Luna generally records digitally, on selected titles they’ve brought in AMS Studio to also make analogue recordings. Tape copies are custom-made to order in either professional or consumer formats and fall into three categories: analogue recordings of live concerts, analogue studio recordings and analogue master cuts – the latter being converted from multitrack digital recordings which are then mixed and mastered in analogue.
Part of the Acoustic Sounds company, Analogue Productions’ tape catalogue currently features around 20 titles from artists including Hugh Masekela, Ricki Lee Jones and Janis Ian.
Owned and run by musician/producer/sound engineer Roberto Vigo, Analogy Records produces contemporary artists in its own recording studio and distributes original master tapes rather than copies: the first stereo mix-down from the multi-track recording, custom-made to order. How? Interestingly, Analogy uses a custom-developed hybrid ‘DAA’ recording process – digital recording / analogue mixing / analogue mastering. Genres include jazz, pop, classical, folk and world music. Since your master tape is being made to order, a range of tape formats, speeds and EQ options are available.
BEL CANTO MUSICALE
Founded in 2007, Bel Canto Musicale is Taiwan’s independent classical music label. The label aims to preserve “the same serious production processes as in the golden age of sound recording” and in 2015 it began using analogue tape in its recording system. In addition to its 10-15 titles on CD (some of which are award winners), Bel Canto then began to release limited editions of live performance recordings on open reel tape, known as the Sasimi series.
Specialising in audiophile analogue recordings, Chasing The Dragon’s small but perfectly-formed catalogue includes classical, jazz and big band albums. At the helm is sound engineer Mike Valentine (who also happens to be a world-renowned underwater film cameraman). In addition to open reel tape, Valentine also makes tandem recordings direct-cut to vinyl which makes an interesting basis for comparison.
Originally named Delmar, Delmark is billed as “the oldest existing jazz and blues independent record label in the United States,” having been founded by Bob Koester Sr. in St. Louis, Missouri in 1953. Still as committed as ever to jazz and blues, the label has so far issued two albums on tape in two alternative formats: half-track at 15 ips on 10.5-inch reels or quarter-track at 7½ ips on 7-inch reels.
Founder Giulio Cesare Ricci began making high fidelity analogue recordings in 1983 and has continued to do so ever since. His long-standing Italian label offers a wide range of classical, jazz and pop albums in a variety of analogue and digital formats, including more than 50 titles on master tape.
Groove Note Records is an audiophile label specializing in high quality jazz, blues, vocalists and a classical music trio. Based in Los Angeles, Groove Note was started by Ying Tan, one of the original founding members of Classic Records. The albums are recorded in an intimate setting with some of the top studio session musicians and recording/mastering engineers. In 2013 the label began issuing 1/4″, 15ips reel-to-reel tapes of its best-known titles (see TheAudioBeat.com for more details). At the time of writing we haven’t been able to track down a website but you can source tapes from US online retailers such as Elusive Disc.
A small Italian company dedicated to music on master tape. Its small but growing catalogue offers four series: studio reference (studio recordings with the utmost attention to technical detail), gold collection (excellent quality recordings made in selected venues), silver collection (focusing on high quality emerging artists) and R3 (dedicated to live music).
The tagline here is ‘rare music in audiophile sound’ and the website states that this company is “the brainchild of an avid 2 & 4 track open-reel collector and a serious audiophile. Collected over the years, many of our tapes contain forgotten performances of historical importance. Our mission is to preserve and share these rare gems with other music lovers by painstakingly remastering them with the finest state-of-the-art equipment and best techniques available.” At the time of writing just one album is available in R2R format, the others are all digital.
Set up in 2014 by Volker Lange, Horch House negotiates with some of the big labels to acquire the rights to make direct copies of selected master tapes. The company has its own ‘full analogue soft refurbishing’ process led by a skilled mastering engineer, the outcome of which is Horch House’s own state-of-the-art master tapes, from which all retailed tapes are copied direct. The catalogue currently spans mainly classical and jazz, but with ambitious plans to grow the collection – watch that space.
IPI produces both re-releases of vintage master tapes and new contemporary recordings. The company was set up in 1981 as a record label with the sole aim of producing great jazz at the highest sound quality. Founder Jonathan Horwich has been recording jazz musicians since the mid-1960s so his catalogue of 30+ master tape copies is taken from both newly-recorded performances and his collection of jazz analogue masters.
Master Tape Sound Lab came into being its founder, Todor Dimitrov, persuaded Kostas Metaxas of Metaxas & Sins to make the many and varied tapes he had recorded over the years available to a wider audience. As well as being a hi-fi designer par excellence and the creator of one of the world’s only contemporary open reel tape recorders, Metaxas is also a prolific analogue recording engineer. The catalogue of 50+ titles includes jazz, classical and other genres and each album is limited to 100 editions.
New York City-based label Omad was founded in 1995 by Academy Award winning, and Grammy Award nominated, musician/songwriter/producer John DeNicola. At present, Omad’s website lists four of its titles as being available on reel-to-reel, in the form of 1/4″ 15ips real-time tape transfers (taken direct from the 96k, 24 bit digital masters). DeNicola tells me that in fact most of Omad’s catalogue is, or will be, available on tape, so if there’s an album you like the look of but it isn’t yet listed in the tape section, do drop them a line.
OPEN REEL RECORDS
Musician, sound engineer and audiophile Marco Taio is the man at the helm of this Italian label whose catalogue mainly focuses on original contemporary recordings but also features one or two vintage gems (think Thelonious Monk, Al Jarreau and Jimmy Gourley). The contemporary recordings are predominantly live classical performances featuring superb musicians playing in venues carefully selected for their acoustics.
The current Opus 3 catalogue contains around 50 titles that were recorded in analogue and are now available as master tape copies. Genres include classical, jazz (classic, modern and swing), blues and world music.
A contemporary LA-based label founded in 1993 by drummer Michael Friedman, now a Grammy Award-winning producer. Some of the label’s albums have been released on tape, notably including four from Patricia Barber. There have been some great reviews from various audiophile webzines. Premonition don’t have their own webshop yet but you can buy their tapes from online retailers such as Elusive Disc.
Founded in 2001 Quinton Records is a Vienna-based audiophile label with a focus on jazz, latin and classical albums which are produced and recorded to analogue tape and/or high-end digital. The master tape catalogue currently includes around 15 titles.
REEL-TO-REEL TAPES RUSSIA
Owner and chief engineer, Artem Anokin, makes his own new analogue recordings of classical and jazz artists (also under the Smart Audio Studio brand) and, in addition, has a license to release old recordings from Russian label Melodiya. Melodiya was established in 1964 as the state-owned major record company of the Soviet Union; it has a catalogue of some stunning recordings – hidden gems with knockout sound quality.
SMART AUDIO RECORDING LAB
Based in Kirov city, Russia, Smart Audio Recording Lab is a custom-designed recording studio that also operates as a tape label, releasing its own recordings as master tape copies. There are currently around 12 titles in the catalogue, focusing on jazz and classical music.
STS ANALOG (PART OF STS DIGITAL)
Founded by recording engineer Fritz de With, STS Digital is a recording label which, as well as making digital recordings, also creates high quality analogue recordings (STS Analog). The latter are issued on open reel tape and vinyl. The tape catalogue currently numbers 20+ titles with a focus on jazz and swing with a bit of latin and gypsy.
THE TAPE PROJECT
California-based Tape Project are probably the best-known producers of master tape copies. The catalogue spans classical, jazz and roots. All titles are limited editions (e.g. 200 copies per title) in keeping with the licensing agreements negotiated with copyright owners and so if you’ve got your heart set on something, be quick as titles will go out of stock. In fact many of those listed online are now sold out.
Tone-Pearls Records is a non-profit gathering of music researchers and music lovers devoted to recreating the original experience of live concerts using the Tone-Pearls analogue recording technique. They offer a small number of classical recordings on master tape and in a selection of other formats.
TRJ is a contemporary Italian recording label founded in 2007 with a leaning towards for jazz but which also features a number of other genres. In 2012 the label added original master stereo tape to its formats (or ‘OMST’, as TRJ calls it). At the time of writing there are around ten albums available on tape.
ULTRA ANALOGUE RECORDINGS
UltraAnalogue Recordings was formed by Ed Pong with the aim of capturing and reproducing the sound of chamber music performances as closely as possible using valve/tube electronics and analogue tape. You’ll find a wider range of classics from Bach to Wagner and an excellent selection of mainly Asian and European musicians including Alena Baeva, Narek Hakhnazayan and Vadym Kholodenko.
Grammy Award-winning Yarlung Records brings fresh musicians to the classical music world using minimalist audiophile recording techniques to capture live performances in concert halls famous for their acoustics. Yarlung records on both analogue tape and high resolution digital media. The currently catalogue features 25 albums on tape which are made to order.
Niche labels & artists
We’ve also come across the following niche labels and individual artists who have one or two titles on master tape.
Base 2 Music – a small label dedicated to audiophile recordings of pipe organs.
Anne Bisson – French jazz pianist and singer. [Just one title on master tape, now sold out].
Djabe are an award-winning Hungarian jazz/world fusion band who have teamed up with ex-Genesis lead guitarist Steve Hackett and have released a number of their albums on tape. Find out more on the rambler’s blog.