Chasing the Dragon - VALDC004 - 180 Gram Virgin Vinyl
AAA 100% Analogue - Direct To Disc
D2D Live Direct Cut To Vinyl - Limited Edition - Pressed at Record Industry
If you want to hear just how good your system is I can think of few more effective demonstrations.- Jason Kennedy The Ear
Espana a Tribute to Spain - Rosie Middleton : Debbie Wisemman : National Symphony - 180g D2D LP
legendary Air Studios for yet another session, each more ambitious than the last.
Entitled ‘A Tribute To Spain’ the programme included two pieces from Bizet, concert performances with mezzo-soprano Rosie Middleton, together with Rimsky Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol and Chabrier’s Espana, these classical showpieces.
It was a large orchestra, filling the ‘large hall’ recording auditorium at AIR, this long established performing group is called the National Symphony Orchestra (which is freelance), here conducted by the noted Debbie Wiseman. Mike ambitiously masters in multiple formats to get many bites at the sonic cherry, including direct cut to vinyl lacquer, this done at the silent mastering suite high up in the building.
More easily organised in the main control, the stereo signal also goes to a Studer A80 analogue tape recorder , and to a Nagra stereo digital recorder, plus the Air in-house facilities these including real time HD and DSD encodings.
Decca tree elevated, centre right, tubed Neumann M50
By definition these were live takes, recorded in their entirely after some rehearsal and will not be subject to editing. In any case editing cannot be performed on a direct cut lacquer master disc. The sessions were in part chosen to fit successive sides of an LP master and in the event over 90% of the available space was used. Filling a disc up, as used to be done, makes no sense at all for an audiophile production where the intention is to maintain high quality sound to the end of the piece and not to use up the disc to the end of the physical record.
The National Symphony Orchestra is well practiced in playing to order, and got on with the job in timely fashion helping the whole production to run quite smoothly. In addition to the multiple formats CD LP and High Res downloads, the recording was captured with several independent mic arrays including Mike’s own favourite Decca tree spaced array with vintage valve powered Neumann microphones and also a binaural head for an exclusive binaural headphone compatible replay format release.
Rehearsed, mixed and cut directly to vinyl in one day by Mike Valentine, owner of Chasing The Dragon Records.
"The audiophile world involves a staggering amount of minutia. Everything leads, however, to an emotional payoff, as you're constantly reminded while rubbing shoulders with people devoted to good sound. So while, if you study the literature on, say, speaker placement or multichannel audio, you might expect everyone who cares about such matters to walk around with a pencil protector in his shirt pocket, instead you're much more likely to encounter someone whose passion for audio can hardly be contained and who has a lively sense of humor. Those points were underscored when I began correspoding with Mike Valentine, the owner of the UK audiophile label Chasing the Dragon...He isn't afraid to say something controversial (certainly his statement, "The sound quality here...is better than sex!" could spark a heated debate), and because he's filmed underwater sequences for over 90 films, including five James Bond movies, you quicky understand that he knows how to pursue lofty professional goals and have fun." - Jeff Wilson, The Absolute Sound
"The orchestra rehearses downstairs while upstairs the mastering room engineers record and play back a test lacquer. Finally, it's time for a recorded take of the "Carmen" excerpts with Mezzo-Soprano Rosie Middleton. The tension is palpable in both the control room and upstairs. It's quickly clear that the free-spirited rehearsal has given way to a darker, more constrained performance that satisfies no one, especially Ms. Middleton. The second take is better but is still missing the required "magic". Take three is "the one". Everyone is relieved and it's technically perfect."
"Then, after a lunch break, it's on to the Chabrier "España". After a recorded rehearsal playback, it's time for a take. The first performance is spirited but an orchestral crescendo causes the cutting stylus to crash through the groove wall into an adjacent groove, requiring a second take. There's another great performance, but higher drama could be found in the mastering suite, all of which is captured on the video. Quick, decisive thinking and gutsy actions by mastering engineer John Webber saves the lacquer from disaster (as you'll see) but a third take (not shown) proves to be by far the best and it will be the one you'll hear on the final vinyl record. Please keep in mind the sound you hear on this video was captured by an Audio-Technica "shotgun" microphone attached to a camcorder and is not the actual recorded sound (given what it is, though, it's pretty good!)." - Michael Fremer, analogplanet.com
"Using the legendary valve Neumann U47 microphone and plethora of microphones including DPA, plus the famous Decca-Tree set up of three omin-directional microphones, this was a well set up recording. What is very important in this new disc is that as well as producing it on Direct Cut Disc it will also be released on double DSD (5.6MHz), and for headphone lovers like myself as part of a binarual album using the excellent Neumann KU100 binaural microphone, carefully placed above the conductor. Listening on Sennheiser HP600 cans the "out of the head" effect of the dummy-head-stereo recording was like being on the conductor's rostrum... This was a brilliant day with great performances and great balancing." - HiFi Pig Magazine, February 2017Features:
Earlier in the year Mike Valentine’s most ambitious recording project to date came to fruition when he brought the NSO together with conductor Debbie Wiseman and mezzo soprano Rosie Middleton at Air Studios in north London. This was the first orchestral direct cut vinyl recording he had done and as you can imagine it wasn’t cheap. But once he had explained to the musicians that it was essentially a live performance without an audience they came to terms with the unusual by recording standards approach that a direct cut requires. Because each side of the vinyl has to be cut in one go there is no opportunity for the performers to do multiple takes or to have much of a break between pieces. But this was a professional orchestra with a lot of experience and once the concept was clear it was plain sailing.
Mike and his engineer Rupert Coulson combined Chasing the Dragon’s favoured Decca tree microphone arrangement with individual mics on most of the musicians and mixed a small amount of the latter with the more reverberant sound picked up by the three mics on the tree. For this recording they also used a binaural or dummy head, this is designed to pick up sound in the same manner as our ears and produces results that work particularly well with headphones. The feed from this was recorded on a two channel Nagra digital recorder and has been released as a download and a CD. I heard a sample of the change from the regular stereo feed to the dummy head through headphones and was very impressed with the way it projects the sound to give a loudspeaker like experience with acres of space and no sense of it being in your head. Mike was so impressed with the results that he has embarked on a series of binaural head recordings for the label.
The music chosen for España was selected partly for its dynamic impact, this is a bit like the stereosound dem records of the late fifties when stereo was the latest thing. But none of those were cut direct to disc with modern equipment and none have the scale and depth of image that this does. I have heard a number of CtD’s direct cuts but this has to be the most impressive, largely because it’s the biggest ‘band’, and it has some serious tympani, so the low end is glorious while the mids and trebles project a huge soundstage. The performance is excellent as well, I’m not that familiar with these pieces: España by Chabrier, Bizet’s Carmen and Gypsy Song and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnol, so can’t tell you how they rank in the general scheme of things but it’s a dramatic and rousing experience to listen to nonetheless. If you want to hear just how good your system is I can think of few more effective demonstrations. Jason Kennedy The Ear
• Directly cut to vinyl
• Gatefold jacket
• • Recorded at Air Studios
Rosie Middleton - mezzo-soprano
The National Symphony Orchestra
Debbie Wiseman, conductor
Georges Bizet (1838-1875)
2. The Gypsy Song
Emmanuel Chabrier (1841-1894)
Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
4. Capriccio Espagnol