02. May 2023 · Comments Off on Gábor Juhász Trio feat. Júlia Karosi & Tony Lakatos – Planets (My Reel Club) · Categories: Album Reviews, Hifi News, Hifi Reviews, Music News · Tags: , , ,

REEL TO REEL REVIEW OF PLANETS ON MY REEL CLUB

Alan McIntosh takes a listen to Gábor Juhász Trio feat. Júlia Karosi & Tony Lakatos – Planets – Live recording on 15ips, CD and Digital download (MyReelClub).Gábor Juhász Trio feat. Júlia Karosi & Tony Lakatos – Planets (My Reel Club)

For anyone who may have somehow missed the fairy tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, it is a tale of a young girl who after some breaking and entering a bears’ family home, decides to then first eat their porridge before taking a nap in their beds. Putting aside the blatant criminal intent, the core theme of this tale is finding the perfect balance – the porridge she likes best is not too hot, not too cold but “just right” , and the bed that is neither too soft nor too hard, but again “just right”. For me, HiFi and audio can be a search for the Goldilocks zone of what’s on offer. Most of us, unless you are of very deep pockets, live alone or can set up your room without regard for others will have to seek compromise in some aspect of our listening – be it the size of the speaker, the cost of the component, the balance of bass vs high end detail, acoustic treatments etc – hopefully, you get my drift. Keep this in mind as you read this review.

A lot of reviews I do can be of a similar nature – this product vs that product, shape size, colour, DAC chip etc, and while all are interesting for anyone who enjoys exploring HiFi and seeking its comparative differences, its great fun when something a bit different comes along (especially when it’s on open reel tape) – and this is one of those cases.

MyReelClub (the producer of this tape) is the brainchild of long-time broadcast engineer and designer Koscó Ferenc, who in 2020 set out to create the opportunity for the music buying public to be much more informed and involved in its production, understand its origins, recording process and therefore make more informed choices when it came to quality and format. Along with Papp László and Perczel Tamaśz he formed a “members club” approach around their recordings where members can not only attend live recordings and talks, but can somewhat influence what is recorded and have access to resources and articles on how music is produced, recorded and analysed (such as how to identify a true hi-res recording). Papp among other things is responsible for digital engineering and recording of DSD/SXD and Hi-Res audio, and Perczel is the man behind the Open Reel tape recordings.

MyReelClub (MRC) is able to offer the music they record in a choice of formats, with the purchaser well informed on its provenance – and presented in the purest of forms – recorded truly live, no overdubbing, limited if any mastering, and often with far wider dynamics of commercial recording (around 60db vs 15-25db is how Ferenc puts it). This last part is important as we will see later.

Their recording chain is fascinating – the very carefully chosen high-quality live microphone outputs are fed simultaneously over low-level signal cabling and equipment to 3 separate recording endpoints covering Hi Res (PCM) digital, recorded at 96 or 192hz and 24bit, a DSD recording solution through Merging Technologies hardware and software and also (and importantly here) to a Nagra IV-S tape recorder using SM468 stock equalised to CCIR and running at 15ips/38cms. MyReelClub note that DSD is notoriously complex to record live due to the equipment required and the limitations of post-production, meaning a lot of people avoid it – with the ethos MyReelClub has of almost no fiddling beyond some careful levelling, this problem is moot. The live nature of these productions is another reason Ferenc mentions they chose to work with only the most professional and proficient of artists who have the skill and discipline to produce with no retakes/postproduction tracks added. Quality control of the final product includes all involved, including the artists having a say before it’s released.

With the knowledge of the team record now firmly under our belt let’s focus on the music.

The album I have for review is the 1st in MRC’s catalogue and is an original modern Jazz work named Planets by the Gábor Juhász Trio of Hungary (Gábor Juhász on guitar, drums from Gyorgy Jeszensky and Zoltan Kovacs on double bass) who are joined by Tony Lakatos on sax with the vocal talent of Julia Karosi. This is a superb collection of players to start with, so the music was destined to be very good if you like jazz, regardless of the production results. Gábor named the album after his interest in stargazing and his interest in celestial bodies that emerged through lockdown while enjoying evening on his balcony in Budapest. The more he explored the planets, their motion and the history of Copernicus the more it was obvious this would be the subject of his new album. He comments (on the MRC website) that the stars further aligned when the Trio, Julia and Tony were all in Budapest at one time and he knew they were the perfect Feminine (Venus) and Male (Mars) balance for this album. Planets is in (to me) a modern and at the same time unique and sensitive jazz style – guitar, drum, bass, and sax offer the instrumental core around which Julia’s ethereal, swirling voice coalesces and provides a flow and articulation – not in natural words but in sounds that convey a language all of its own. The album offers a journey with ebb and flow as we traverse the solar system.

There are 7 tracks in total, provided on one 15ips tape. This is where another unique aspect of MRC’s approach comes into play. While most audiophile tape producers revel in luxurious boxes, liner materials, photographs and even fancy reels (all of which I love and wholeheartedly buy into) MRC do something completely (to my mind) genius. Rather than offering all that pomp around the music and charging for the privilege, you are instead buying “only” the music. You send them a tape of your choosing such as an RTM LPR35 and they record to it from the master – all for a frankly incredibly low €54 (plus shipping of course). You can elect for MRC to record onto a tape of your choosing from a selection they supply at checkout for a still incredibly low €145. This then it seems is ALL about the music and that, is very refreshing.

The album opens with Copernicus in Tartu, a light-hearted, somewhat soft but considered instrumental focusing on guitar and bass. Two things hit me immediately. The first is the unquestionably live, unquestionably analogue and immediate nature of the recording – this is no “X steps removed” vinyl cut, or even multiple generation master tape copy, this sounds like (and I know this a cliché but in this case, I think it’s finally warranted ) the band is literally in the same room – the sheer transparency, the timbre, the interplay and position between them, not to mention the range of dynamics is staggering. The second thing I notice is that the recording is fairly quiet (I really have to turn my Tascam 32 output and my amplifier up) and this does introduce a more evident noise floor than I experience on some other audiophile tapes. Enter stage right… Goldilocks. Welcome to compromise. If you want (and I know I do) to get as close to the source, as unadulterated as possible and with this scale of dynamics in a pure analogue chain (it’s why we love tape right!) you’re going to have to compromise. There needs to be air and space to accommodate that and the result in this case is a little noise floor. Did it put me off? Not for long. Even a few minutes of this level of realism of playback the “here” of the players and I didn’t even notice – or care. This for me is the purest of commercial recordings I think I’ve heard to date.

By the time we are on track 3 Jupiter, Julia’s vocal play over Gábor’s wonderful guitar work and Tony’s careful, tempered but emotional sax I am just lost in it. I am not always a fan of such modern or “sensitive” works and truth be told, despite being a massive 50’s and 60’s jazz fan and respecting the technical prowess of Grant Green, Bill Frisell et al I’m not the biggest fan of guitar in Jazz, but Gábor and his players have won me over.  Mars is a more striding “masculine” affair, with more interpretive/free saxophone and robust drumming at times. Julia’s feminine voice provides an elevated and spirited counterpoint to the machismo.

Track 5 Venus focuses on Julia’s vocal with sax and drum offering a base to carry her melodic, ascending scale verse and chorus, punctuated and balanced with beautifully executed solos in turn from Tony and Gábor – a bright, upbeat and soulful track focused on the feminine (Venus) following Mars. Well before we end the final track Pluto, I’m already seeking out more Gabor Juhasz Trio works on Qobuz.

This review is about tape, but I was also provided with multiple digital formats and a double CD of the album for comparison and contrast. Interestingly the double CD has both a raw unmastered version (from the DSD recording) and a version with the usual postproduction you’d get with modern music destined for CD and steaming such as loudness correction (streaming services it seems request certain standard parameters for loudness and dynamics). This is all part of the “informed choice” approach of MyReelClub. The Open reel format unsurprisingly takes the podium, however, the CD is stunningly well produced, and the Hi-res (24/192) format is excellent (I had problems in my system with DSD playback so didn’t review), removing the incursion of that albeit small but unwanted noise floor of the open reel but suffering just a smidge less realism and dynamics and a tiny element of the live immediacy and organic richness that really only tape can offer (it’s a very close call) – the visual spectacle of open reel tape is also lost, and for me, that counts. In my review CD there was an audio glitch on one track but after contacting Ferenc and checking the base file it seems this was an issue with the physical CD not the recording and would be replaced should I desire. Across all recordings (both analogue and digital) there are occasional subtle noise or distortion artefacts being picked up by what sounds like quite close mic’ing, particularly around the vocals, but rather than being a negative, this only further goes to highlights the live nature of the recording and its transparency.

Aside from the music itself which to me is of a very high standard of jazz, this was a wonderfully intriguing and educational review to conduct, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can highly recommend checking our MyReelClub and Planets on whichever format you choose – but the tape is my choice. That MRC can do this at the price point they offer is an absolute no-brainer for tape heads!

Gábor Juhász Trio Planets is available on 15ips 2 Track CCIR tape (€54/€145), Double CD (€22) and as both DSD+PCM Digital files (€27). Recordings are available direct from MyReelClub in Hungary or from Open Reel to Reel in the UK.

 

 

 

 

 

Alan McIntosh

READ MORE FROM ALAN AND REEL TO REEL TAPE IN Not Boring by HiFi PiG

Track listings (timing) on one 1100m LPR35 tape

Copernicus in Tartu (7:12)

Galileo’s Tears (8:25)

Jupiter (6:36)

Mars (4:01)

Venus (8:03)

Saturn (5:52)

Pluto (7:52)

Sax (unmastered version only) (0:10)

Associated review equipment – Tascam 32 Reel to Reel, Hegel 190 Amplifier/DAC , Prima Luna Prologue Amplifier (for comparison) ,  CEC TL51 CD Player, Auralic Aries G1 Streaming Transport, Blumenhofer Tempesta 17 Speakers, Audioquest Yukon interconnects , WyWire Blue speaker cabling. Power by Titan Audio, Room treatment by GIK Acoustics, Quadraspire racks

 

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