I’ve had this argument before with United Home Audio‘s Greg Beron. Why “tape” — isn’t this just a pointless throwback? Totally redundant to good vinyl? I mean, seriously, why another analog source — isn’t everyone going to digital anyway? These are all great questions in large part because I was doing the asking, but Greg is like Buddha. He just gives me this serene little smile and puts on one of his one-off “back channel” master tapes of, say, The Who’s Tommy (played to a packed room Friday night), and all I’m left with is a steamy cup of STFU. Yes! Because — here’s the bottom line for you. Tape rules. Assuming you can get good tape, of course, which is the rub.
First, let me say that there are ever more places to buy these master-quality tapes (check some of those links to “argument”, above) and ever more vendors exploring the possibility of releasing some or all of their old catalogs this way. Of course, some of these things might mean shelling out $300 or more per album, but if you’re an ultraphile, there really isn’t an option that can touch them. These aren’t mixed or remastered — these are the masters. For the vast majority of music released before, what, 1980-ish, it’s all tape — and here, you’re listening to a copy of that very tape. It simply doesn’t get better than this in terms of playback — better is “live”. So, that’s what Greg’s little machine is bringing you — the ultimate source material played back on a beautifully worked as-new machine.
Tape has several advantages, apparently, and one obvious one is cost. The ultimate in vinyl playback puts $45 LPs on a $100,000+ turntable, arm, cartridge combo that you still need a phono preamplifier for. Here, Greg’s top-of-the-line tape machine, the UHA-HQ Phase 11PB deck, will drop your $300 analog tape onto a $22,000 machine — and it will sound better than that $100k+ vinyl rig. That’s the freakin’ definition of value, folks.
I’m not sure what’s holding me back, other than the fact that I’m nearly broke. Yeah. Hmm. Well, besides that, the only hangup for me is music — I want more. Greg smiles at me, again, as if to say “patience is rewarded”. Soon, grasshopper ….
On display here at RMAF:
- Loudspeakers: Von Schweikert VR-44: $25k
- Amplifiers: Jolida’s new Luxor monoblocks w/external PSU: $8,000/pair
- Pre: Luxor dual-mono: $2,899
- DAC/Transport: Jolida Fusion DAC & Transport: $2,299
- Analog: UHA-HQ Phase 11B: $22k
- Cables: Master-Built Signature interconnects ($3,500) and bi-wire speaker cables ($6,000) and power cords ($3,500).
Tucked into the side room was Demo Room #2:
- VSA UniField 2: $8k
- Jolida T-DAC Preamplifier: $950
- Jolida JD1501P amplifier: $789
- DAC/Transport: Jolida FX Tube DAC $489/JD100 CD: $999
- Analog: UHA-HQ Phase 11 (in red): $22k