David Denyer

STS Digital Ben Webster, 'Old Betsy' Tape (STS.T6111129)

Reviewed by for David Denyer, August 2016

Following my initial STS Digital Ben Webster experience, which was more interesting than outstanding. I decided the only sensible thing to do was to buy the 15ips version which promised to be a genuine 1:1 master copy. So I ‘phoned Michael at Air Audio, the official UK distributor, and got out my credit card.
This is completely different experience. Firstly, the packaging is first class. The hinged box is really nicely made from very stiff, cloth-textured card. It doesn’t take up excessive shelf-space, looks great and provides good protection for the tape within. Although a spine label would be nice should I buy any more STS tapes!
Another improvement since my first experience. Inside the box various stickers and notes state the equalisation is CCIR, level 320nWb/m and that this copy master was made by playing the original master on a Philips EL 3501 feeding a bank of 6 Philips N4522 machines loaded with LPR 35 tape.
The next thing worthy of note is the reel itself – quite the nicest reel I have. The ‘NAB’ centre is precision machined from what appears to be black anodised aluminium, but may be some other material. The rear flange is black and the front flange silver – I understand gold is also available – and are flat as a pancake and completely concentric. This is the flattest, most concentric reel I have. Full marks to STS! One very slight niggle: the fancy ‘STS’ cut outs don’t provide sufficient view of the tape pancake to be able to clearly see how much is left. I like to see when the end (or the beginning as I always store my tapes ‘tails out’, and stop before the tape requires re-lacing. OK, two slight niggles. The tape (LPR35) is supplied without leader or tail although there’s a healthy fifteen seconds of tape before the music starts and plenty at the end. The first thing I did was to add leaders and tails. Slightly annoying but to be honest I usually swap what’s supplied anyway as I like a long leader and have my own preferred colour coding system.
So, how does it sound? Gorgeous, really really good, a huge step-up from the 7.5ips version.

As I stated previously, this is a sublime album and now available in unbeatable fidelity – that’s what a true master copy provides – the absolute best version of that album there is, period.

So, for around £250 you can buy a genuine 1:1 master copy of a superb jazz album. That to me seems like a very sensible thing to do.

I don’t really know most of the rest of the STS catalogue but I’ll certainly be dipping into it should they add any other albums that get my mojo rising.

And thanks again to MCRU who first loaned me the 7.5ips tape.

Outstanding

View product on Air Audio Distribution here.