RMAF 2016: MA-Recordings and Bach on Analog Tape


I wasn’t expecting that unassuming wooden box sitting on Todd Garfinkle’s table at RMAF this year. MA-Recordings is a very well-known label (to me, at least); I’ve been quite taken with Garfinkle’s extraordinary recording work for many, many years. For those of you just tuning in, he has a real knack for capturing live music — not just the music, but the music alive at a particular time and in a particular space. His recording venues are entirely wild — think “churches”, and you have a good idea of where he starts, but that’s only a start. The music itself is classical, jazz, regional, whatever catches his imagination and stirs his blood, but the result is entirely other-worldly. Got a few minutes? Drop him a note with your particular genre mood or interest, and be prepared to be surprised.

I’ve been a big fan of Garfinkle’s “green CDs”, which always just seemed to be far past excellent as a medium, but he’s been pulling out his masters too — and making them available as ultra-high resolution downloads for several years. Those, like “Será una Noche”, from the impromptu band Segunda, have been in my high-spin-zone ever since I bought it as a 24bit/176kHz download. “Opening” by the Mathias Landaeus Trio is another total-fav that I have in that format, but is now also available as a DSD download.

But I have yet to hear Ito Ema play Bach’s Goldberg Variations. This has been around for a while, but interestingly, it’s was also recorded over two paths — one digital, one analog. Both have been used — one for the CD, and one for the LP (now sold out). But that analog path, saved on a 1/2″ 30-IPS tape, is now being made available as daughters on 1/4″ 15-IPS analog tape.

The costs are not inconsiderable, as you may have come to expect out of the format. The availability is also radically limited — you can’t order the $600 dual-tape version off of the website. Garfinkle only gets access to a half-dozen a year! You want your copy — find your checkbook, and send him a note.

Will it be worth it? Bah, whatever. Given that I saw equipment footers being sold for more — for a set of one — I think the question is a little odd. But given the quality of Garfinkle’s work, I think this bet is a safe one to make. If I can secure my own copy, I’ll be reporting back. For whatever it’s worth, the DSD version of the album is just exquisite.

In the meantime, I’m gonna queue up some Mathias Landaeus Trio.

RMAF coverage courtesy of Noble Audio: https://nobleaudio.com/