Devon, UK (March 3, 2004)–Super Audio Mastering recently became the first studio in Europe to take delivery of an ATR analog mastering deck with Aria Reference Series class A discrete electronics by David Hill. Equipped for playback in both 1/2-inch, 1/4-inch stereo and full track mono formats, the ATR/Aria machine was custom modified and remanufactured by Michael Spitz of ATR Services in York, Pennsylvania.
“The sound is amazing,” testified owner and chief mastering engineer Simon Heyworth. “It has incredible depth of field, and it shows off the original masters in the most unbelievable way. I always knew analogue master tapes were good, and always felt there was more in there than the current technology could reveal. The Ampex ATR series was a huge leap forward at the time, especially the transport, but now we have something really special.”
Since acquiring the deck, Heyworth is currently working on solo albums from Brian Eno. The first four albums of a 22-album project spanning 1973-1997 will be released in May of this year on Virgin Records in the UK. The transfers are being done for stereo PCM and DSD stereo for hybrid SACD. Heyworth says the sound revealed in these flat transfers is “awesome, and quite extraordinary” and that other people who have heard the results “have just been blown away.”
Next in line is a 10-album project of recordings by the legendary French singer Charles Aznavour, also for SACD stereo and surround hybrid release through EMI France. The legendary French singer celebrates his 80th birthday in May and, said Heyworth, “I am really looking forward to this, as the voice is the thing with these recordings.”
Heyworth confesses that he invested in the ATR/Aria deck without ever having heard a live, in-person demonstration of its capabilities. “I knew of Mike Spitz’s history with Ampex, and I was familiar with Dave Hill’s electronics design. Also, I had heard the Rolling Stones SACD reissues, which came from Aria transfers, so I expected it would be absolutely spot on. And I was right.”
Heyworth’s preference is to keep the new machine busy in his own facility, though he did somewhat reluctantly allow a short-term rental to Abbey Road Studios for transfer of some other priceless 1960s vault tapes for Abkco Records.
Super Audio Mastering is housed in a round, stone building–originally built as part of a farmhouse complex in the 1860s–located near the village of Chagford in Devon. According to Heyworth, the studio space required only minimal acoustical treatment, as the rough-hewn structure provided a pleasing natural ambience. “It has excellent high frequency diffusion off the rough stone wall surfaces, resulting in a quite even frequency response,” he described. “Also, it’s a solid building. The stone walls are two feet thick and mounted on bedrock, so nothing really moves–except the music.”
More information on Heyworth’s facility is available at www.superaudiomastering.com.
ATR Services, Inc.