top of page
Playing the Piano

How our tapes are made

​Our library consists of tapes that whenever possible are digitally mastered so that there is only one analogue pass.  This brings the highest level of transparency possible by creating a 1st generation analogue master.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram

The Story

Rather than the limited licensing of music, what we offer is artist owned so you can expect our titles to remain available for a long time.  As well, profits from these tapes and downloads go directly to the artists.  When you download an album or buy one of our tapes it is no different than taking the artist out for a nice dinner and covering the tab as a thank-you for the wonderful music!  

 

High Fidelity Sound Labs was created to bring more fresh content to the hi-end tape market with an emphasis on sound quality.  We offer 1st generation master tapes using the non-limited digital masters with HOLO ladder DACs and DECWARE electronics to ensure the sound of each tape is what you're paying for.

Additionally we offer 24 bit downloads of each track of these amazing sounding tapes!  The digital files are duplications of the actual tape.  Even compared to the non-limited digital masters these files actually sound more appealing to those who love analogue  because they contain the harmonics and the dynamic moods of the tape.

 

Comparing the sound of these downloads to the same dynamically-limited tracks on hi-res streaming services will make you appreciate digital in a new way.  Our digital files have ZERO processing so if you have a great DAC these files can sound as good as the actual tape.  In fact on the machines out there that have not been recently calibrated, which are quite a few, it is likely that these downloads on a great dac will actually sound better. 

Read on to learn about our techniques and some of the equipment that has been put together by our team.

If you've done your research on analogue master tapes, you already know that much of the music was recorded to multi-track tape and then mixed down to a 2-track master tape which was then used to produce working masters from which copies were made. The tapes you buy are copies of those copies.  They are often made with additional electronics used to split the signal into several tape machines to simultaneously make multiple copies at the same time.

Vintage Analog master tapes are not as transparent as is often suggested. By the time you figure the input and output electronics of the first multi-track machine, followed by the electronics of the mixing console and associated cables and connectors, followed by the input and output electronics of the 2-track tape machine and the input electronics of the machines that printed the tapes you listen to, you're a pretty long ways away from what those microphones actually heard. Sometimes that's actually a good thing... sometimes it's not.  Be it a blessing or a curse, it's never more transparent.

In today's world almost no one records to tape because digital has gotten good enough that if you spend the money on a reference A to D converter (or several) and have a lifetime of experience using them to their best effect, recording digitally can sound more transparent and with far less noise and distortions/colorations when compared to multiple generations of tape.

That would suggest that multiple generations of tape is bad, and it kind of is!  One single generation of analog tape is like a gift from heaven... a second pass, not so much... a third pass and and it becomes very obvious. So with digital, free of all these 'passes', a lot of the tone and warmth we grew up with is no longer automatically baked into the sound since there is no tape processes layering it in there. 

 

Today some of the final mastering of digitally recorded material will be done by converting it to analogue and even sometimes analogue tape to add some verb and harmonic distortion that was naturally present in the old multi-track tape process.  That means that what used to be naturally baked into the process now comes only by the prowess and skill of the mastering engineer's old enough to have the analogue sound in their brain as part of their reference and willing to put in the extra hours of effort to make it happen. 

People who hate the sound of digital are consumers whose experience with digital comes from digital playback on consumer-grade CD players and computers -- which are laden with jitter at every turn of the playback process -- one big reason why it doesn't sound like analogue.  Another reason is poor mastering and when you are trying to listen to a recording that has both, well, it's bad.  Sadly that's a painful percentage of the music we all try to listen to.

High Fidelity Sound Labs is connected with some of the better mastering engineers out there with analogue sensibilities who can create a digital master that sounds as good as / better than tape.  The trick is that the digital master can print a single-pass 1st generation analogue master tape whereas an analogue recording can at best produce a second, but more realistically a third generation copy.

Let's talk for a second about limiting...

Why not just stream hi-res digital files then you ask...  Even if you had a holy grail audiophile DAC, an equally good preamp and associated equipment for playback, the hi-res music that has been released to streaming services has limiting. That means the dynamic range is being reduced to make the track sound louder aka loudness wars.  

 

Digital masters for records and tapes are generally non-limited so they contain a lot more dynamic range than what you're streaming.  In the contest between records and tape, tape usually always wins because it is not reliant on a cartridges ability to track excessive dynamics in a record groove without distortion.  And since you can usually get into a decent sounding vintage tape machine for less than the price of a DAC and preamp that would sound as good...the price of master tapes becomes a little less daunting... it can be a way to hear the best turntable money can buy or the best DAC ever released without actually owning either provided your tape machine is well maintained and if it can do that, it will sound better than either because tape has its own verb, or magic that nothing else has.  If it didn't no-one would spend the money for it.

 

Tape has a very specific sound that we all love. It's the combination of tape harmonics and the huge dynamics that combine to become the ultimate music format.

All High Fidelity Sound Labs releases are masters with no additional limiting.  Both our Analogue Tape and Digital Masters have the dynamics and transparency you want.

Digital vs. Analogue Tape

To learn more about why digital recording can be better than analogue and why analogue can have better playback than digital we invite you to listen-in on a 3-way mobile call with HFSL founder Steve Deckert and some of our mastering engineers.  

Check out the two videos below.

Part 1

Part 2

Creating our master tapes

Once these amazing recordings and the associated engineering is in a pristine two channel non-limited format it receives only the best treatment to get it on tape with the best sound possible.  If the master was tape, then a 1 to 1 transfer is made to DSD which becomes the working master.  This working digital master is then used to make a first generation analogue master tape in real time at either 15 IPS or 7.5 IPS in either NAB or IEC depending on what the customer orders.

Digital to Analogue conversion is done on filtered and isolated AC power feeding the top of the line (DSD1024 and PCM1.536MHz capable) all silver Holo Audio MAY KTE edition DSD ladder DAC feeding HFSL proprietary tube mastering electronics for our JRF Magnetics modified  tape machines using all silver cables of the shortest runs. In this way you can be sure what goes on the tape is going to sound absolutely killer!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

High Fidelity Sound Labs offers this one-to-one process to generate a 1st generation analogue master for each tape ordered to bring you as close to the actual recording session as possible. It's a lot less steps -- and a big departure from a rack full of pro audio equipment and cables that we imagine is used by many other studios. The producers and engineers associated with each HFSL tape are all professionals in the audio recording and or manufacturing industry.  For example, the founder of HFSL is also the founder of DECWARE, a high end vacuum tube amplifier manufacturer since 1996.  Remember, no tape can sound better than the electronics used to make it and our electronics far surpass the norm.

Perhaps best of all is that we make digital dupes of these master tapes and those dupes played back on a reference DAC can actually sound better than the tape played back on a machine with even the smallest misalignment.  Most people into tape do not have new tape machines which mean they are using old machines that are becoming worn and misaligned or have been worked on by someone they've never met.  So for many with a good DAC it is possible to spend 10 times less than the price of a tape and actually hear a better sound!  Remember -- our downloads are actual hi-res duplicates of the analogue master tape so the sound and vibe of the tape is baked in.

An album on tape is two reels so if it cost $600.00 then the digital dupe of that tape is usually around $60.  Remember, streaming services and hi-res download services have music that contains limiting.  For example, much of the pop music of today found on Tidal & Qobuz has as much as 13 dB of limiting!

We are not only offering downloads without the nonsensical volume wars limiting, but digital files that sound more analogue because they are direct duplicates of the master tape.

Creating our downloads

KTE-May-Dac-14-scaled.jpg
KTE-May-Dac-14-scaled.jpg
KTE-May-Dac-14-scaled_edited.jpg
logo_edited.png
bottom of page