There’s a bit of a buzz around reel to reel recordings at the moment and the number of audiophiles and music lovers taking up the format is clearly on the rise…and in response there are a growing number of companies offering up reel to reel recordings to cater to their needs. Step up to the plate STS Digital from The Netherlands and headed up by the lovely Fritz and Netty de With.l_bell [800x600]

Many readers of Hifi Pig may well be familiar with the name Madeline Bell as she’s worked both as a solo artist as well as with Dusty Springfield and Serge Gainsbourg. In the UK she was a member of Blue Mink who scored a few top twenty hits. She’s sung with Joe Cocker, had Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones produce her album Comin’ Atcha and did some backing vocals for Elton John’s classic Honky Chateau…plus a whole load more including being part of disco band Space and appearing on Giorgio Moroder’s EMC2.

She’s still singing and performing and this particular album Blessed With Your Love was originally released in September of 2000 on the Dutch label Challenge as simply Blessed and it’s a bit of a belter! Blessed kicks off with The Look Of Love (Bacharach/David) and sets the laid back jazzy theme for what is to come. Sail on Sailor is a tune you’ll know the moment you hear it and Bell does an absolute stunning job with it and musically it’s really nicely done without detracting or taking over from the main course which is Bell’s beautifully silky vocal style…so effortless and unforced!

Gershwin’s Home opens with cool with strings, pianos and again Bell’s deeply seductive vocal talent before the sax comes in and lifts it a little. Jonathan Larson’s Season’s Of Love from the musical rent and with the unforgettable “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes” opening is up next and has more of what this album is all about – cool, relaxed and exquisitely performed jazz which is given space to breath. Even the Beach Boys’ Medley sounds just right…and I really expected this to be a cheesy non-entity but it’s far from it and I absolutely loved its foot tapping familiarity, delivered in such a different style.

Good Morning Freedom from the aforementioned Blue Mink is an absolutely cracking tune, first released in 1970 on the Philips label and if you were around at this time you’ll know it… I was three at the time and I recall it somehow. It’s given a bit of a polish and update here but still maintains its funkiness.

Dreams, the penultimate tune on the album and written by Landesbergenand is a dreamy laidback Sunday morning affair. This is perfect drift away Sunday morning music that is more of an instrumental enhanced by Bell’s sparse vocal to begin with, but here we have her in more plaintive mood and expressing the sentiment of the tune magnificently and in such a restrained and controlled manner.

Final tune on the album is The Last Laugh, co-written by Bell and Landesbergen and it finishes off the album much in the way it started and continued. I don’t know the tune but it seems instantly recognizable in some way that’s indescribable. I think this is perhaps down to the way that Bell manages to be instantly likeable and accessible. No, this is not my usual kind of thing but it’s been on the tape machine loads since I picked it up in late February and is great to have on as background music whilst working or reading, but it’s also engaging and thoroughly enjoyable when you sit in front of the main rig and give it a proper, more involved listen.

The real star of the show on this record is of course Bell’s vocal talent, but in this format, recorded without Dolby or other wizardry being added really allows her to shine. Yes it’s a bit dirty and very analogue sounding, but it’s dynamic, wonderfully charming and a real treat to sit and listen to both for the sheer gorgeousness of Bell’s vocal talent and the way this has been recorded to allow instruments to shine in their own right.
Highly Recommended.

Stuart Smith

We spoke to Fritz de With, responsible for this reel to reel copy of this album and he had the following to say.

We get a lot of e-mails from audio fans from all over the world and they always ask the same question: what is your motivation to make such beautiful recordings, well here we go.

The first reason is that we like music very much, it is a wonderful way to express feelings and communicate with other people on the same level.

We like also the sound of musical instruments, played in fine acoustic surroundings, they sound so pure and warm. Unfortunately most CD, LP and Reel to Reel tapes are bad recorded, with a harsh sound too closed in and without ambience. For this reason we started with STS Digital twenty years ago to do something totally different and the results are our recordings with a fine selection and series like: Dynamic Experience, Celebrate the art & spirit of music, Siltech Test Demo CD, The Absolute Sound Reference lots of LP’s and Reel to Reel tapes.

We give in these series and products every musical instrument the space they need, so the original sound can develop its typical sound of various instruments with the help of good ambience. A sax will sound like a sax and not like a clarinet and a piano sounds like a piano and not a keyboard.

Now you understand how important it is to record music in a good sounding concert room or church and not in a dry studio with close miking.

To get the best out of our Schoeps microphones we use gold/silver cables from Siltech and copper cables from Van den Hul and we clean up AC current with our own developed 6 pack AC Power Block. We use our ears by first listening in the concert room or church where an orchestra is playing for some time and then go back to our recording room to get the sound what we first heard in the concert room/church, as natural as possible. It is usual dictated by placing the microphones not to close, we also put a lot of effort in mixing and mastering the recordings, we guard the whole recording process with our ears like a wolf in the night.

Every step we check the results and compare the process with the original recordings.

We understand that regular CD, LP and Reel to Reel Tape recording companies can’t effect such a Rolls Royce treatment. We can do that, because we ask the best brand audio manufactures, for their financial support, they help us to go as far as we possibly can go to reach that High-End standard.

If you listen to our productions on CD/LP, remember that we did our utmost best to get for you all the benefits of our effort to go far beyond the best of the best.

Fritz de With

STS Digital





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