There’s been a bit of a buzz around the audio world in the last twelve months or so and it’s a buzz that is pretty hard to ignore unless you have your head buried firmly in the sand…or where the sun don’t shine. Yes, it’s retro, yes, it’s funky and yes it’s bloody expensive to get into in any serious kind of way, but it’s hard to ignore the rise of the open reel (reel to reel) format if you have attended any meaningful Hifi show in the last year or more. We’ve even invested in the format here at Hifi Pig towers and we’re loving the sound we’re getting.

They are everywhere. New companies are springing up left right and centre to cater to the whims of those audiophiles who have moved on from vinyl to the next step and embraced the reel to reel revolution with open arms. Yeh, OK, it’s hardly a revolution! Governments won’t be toppled and a new world order isn’t about to spring forth because of folk listening to music on reel to reel tapes but there is a reel (sic) and tangible background hiss around this format and it was well evident at High End 2016.

Yes, several companies were touting their tapes (and they were selling very well we’re told) but as well as the ‘software’ on offer there were plenty of rooms at the show using reel to reel as their source. The folk selling the tapes included Horch House, where we spotted one particular character we know milling around with a certain “I know I shouldn’t buy more tapes but I know I’m going to” air about him. Then there was Fritz and Netty de With from STS digital whose tape from Madeline Bell we recently reviewed and loved. Hemiolia Records were there too as well as the chaps from Italian label Open Reel Records.

If you think vinyl is an exciting, if expensive, obsession to get yourself into then you really ought to dip your audiophile toe into the reel to reel waters as it’s the audio equivalent of crack with serious tapeheads going to extraordinary lengths to get their fix.

Is it a passing fad? Perhaps so but, given the amount of time, effort and money you have to invest into the format I think it’s here to stay. Will it become as mainstream as the current Vinyl phenomenon that we’re experiencing? I doubt it and believe that it will remain the preserve of the hardcore audiophile junky looking for the ultimate analogue high whatever the personal and financial consequences.

So, just like the pusherman outside the school gates offering free samples of his wares, here’s a few photographs of reel to reel tape machines and tapes at this year’s High End in Munich.

And remember kids….just say “Just the once, it won’t hurt!”‘

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More High End New and reports right here. 

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