As audiophiles and music lovers around the world continue to debate whether hi-res digital actually makes an appreciable difference, one thing remains clear: the analogue resurgence is going from strength to strength. Vinyl sales are now growing faster than any other format and turntable sales shot through the roof in 2015.
Austria-based Horch House say it is excited to announce the initiation of ‘PROJECT R2R’: the development of the world’s only brand new reel-to-reel tape deck.
Launched in 2012, the Horch House brand has already developed a reputation for capturing the magic of original analogue master tapes and delivering faithful (and fully licensed and approved) copies on reel-to-reel tape, vinyl records and in various digital formats. Now, the company is also turning its attention to bringing the once essential reel-to-reel deck from its current vintage status back to centre stage.
In developing their processes for creating high quality copies of original analogue master tapes, Horch House’s team of sound engineers undertook meticulous research and development, calling in input from some of the world’s leading specialists (think of folks whose client lists include Sir Paul McCartney, Sony and Abbey Road Studios and you get a sense of the level of know-how involved).
This same high level of input will be applied to PROJECT R2R. The aim? “To achieve the best sound quality, bar none,” says Horch House’s joint owner and project leader, Volker Lange, whose excitement about the project is palpable. “My passion for audiophile tape machines goes way, way back,” he explains. “This will be the realisation of a lifelong ambition. And it’s an absolute honour and privilege to be working with a team of this calibre”.
In fact the team is already hard at work and hopes to be in a position to show a prototype of the new deck at Munich’s High-End Show this coming May.
Reel-to-reel tape recorders and players have been around for a long time, with the earliest models emerging in the late 1800s. Their popularity surged in the 1940s and 1950s, when the process of manufacturing magnetic tape was more or less perfected; from then until fairly recently in the history of audio recording, they were the music industry standard for making master recordings. From the 1950s until as late as the early 1980s, reel-to-reel tape decks were a big part, if not the centrepiece, of most home entertainment setups. But then the 1980s saw a rapid advancement in portable tape recording and playing, as well the advent of digital recording and playback, and so the reel-to-reel deck became a ‘vintage’ item, much like the humble vinyl record.
Fast forward to 2016 and there is currently no company in the world that manufactures reel-to-reel decks, whether consumer or studio machines. Meanwhile, the resale market of vintage machines is seeing strong and steady growth.
There is a small but growing handful of audio companies who are currently working to reissue original analogue recordings on reel-to-reel tape, among which Horch House is one.
“Our current catalogue is just the beginning,” says music producer Thilo Berg, joint owner of Horch House alongside Lange. “I’m keen to speak to any and every music publisher in the business with a view to delivering the widest possible portfolio of high quality analogue master tape copies to as many people as we can”.