I’m a sucker for reel-to-reel tape machines. Although I don’t own one — yet — I am absolutely fascinated when I see one. It seems tape is the next ancient technology, after vinyl, to be making a comeback. It’s easy to see why — if you’ve got a good-condition, low-generation master copy, the sound quality can be hard to beat.
I found out the Ampex unit was a unique vintage model modified by Bernie Grundman Mastering. No estimate on price was given, which is not surprising. Who would want to give it up?
While I stared at the Ampex, the initial source material playing in the room came from a vinyl album. Groove Note has an impressive roster at the moment, including folk-blues singer Vanessa Fernandez. Her stunning new 45-rpm audiophile recording of Led Zeppelin covers, When the Levee Breaks, was the breakout demo source of the show. (See Analog Planet’s video on the mastering session.)
The music was warm and liquid, inviting and detailed, smooth yet full of energy, and powerful but controlled. Pulling off this difficult combination was a system made up of several PranaFidelity components, including the Vayu/fs loudspeakers ($6,950 a pair in standard wood finishes, with the high-gloss gray on display a $2,000 upcharge), a 400-watt Purna stereo amplifier ($8,950) and matching Purna preamp ($4,500 base to $9,500 with all options). The rig also included a Luxman D-06 CD/SACD player and a Basis Audio 2200 Signature turntable with a Basis Audio Superarm and a My Sonic Lab Ultra Eminent cartridge.
I admit the Ampex deck yanked me out of the sea of humanity in the hallway, but the fine-sounding speakers and electronics on offer kept me in PranaFidelity’s boat. If you have the chance to hear what this company has to offer, you may find yourself biting hook, line and sinker.