Telarc and the Dawn of Digital
Telarc was founded in 1977 by two classically trained musicians and former teachers, Jack Renner and Robert Woods, filling a niche in the growing audiophile record market. Renner had launched the roots of the company in 1962, when he established a custom recording business that produced high-quality, realistic sounding recordings, made in a variety of challenging acoustical venues. The Mercury Living Presence recordings made by C. Robert Fine in the '50s and '60s served as his sonic role models. Renner experimented and further honed his own "minimal miking" approach, which is still the primary model for the company's engineering practices today.
The first recordings under the Telarc banner were not digital, but rather modern-day direct-to-disc recordings made with The Cleveland Orchestra and with organist Michael Murray. With these singular projects in place, Renner and Woods pursued the budding technology of Tom Stockham's Soundstream, Inc. in Salt Lake City, Utah. In 1978, they decided to take the first of many risks that are characteristic of Telarc's history, in order to stay on the cutting edge of recorded sound technology, by making the first commercial classical recordings in the U.S. in the digital format.
Says Woods: "Digital technology immediately broadened the dynamic palate of sound recording, and was a perfect marriage for our minimal miking approach. In particular, it allowed us to put the previously 'missing' low frequencies of the sound spectrum back into the sonic picture. The major labels had produced recordings for years that had attenuated low frequencies, due both to their perception of consumers' tastes and to the technical limitations of the disc mastering process. The digital recordings we made were a nightmare to master for LP's, but we knew it was the only way to create the realism of live performance that had just become technically possible."
Initially, the two partners were not satisfied with the digital system's high frequency response. They approached Tom Stockham, whom Renner calls "the father of digital signal processing," to see if he could improve it. Stockham agreed not only to find a way to increase it from 17 kHz to 20 kHz, but managed to take it to 22.5 kHz at a sampling rate of 50 kHz—unheard of at that time in digital processing (and beyond the response ultimately adopted for CDs). "He was," says Renner, "way ahead of his time." It was Stockham's dedication, inventive genius, and persistence that encouraged Renner and Woods to commit completely to digital in advance of all the major labels.
Paving the Way for DSD and More
Recently, working in cooperation with Canorus, Inc., dCS (Data Conversion Systems), and Nagra, Bishop made the first-ever jazz recording in the United States utilizing a high-resolution 24-bit/192 kHz recording system. The groundbreaking recording featured the Ray Brown Trio with guest vocalists. The vocals for the session were recorded in stereo with a pair of prototype microphones from Canorus, while the recording system consisted of a pair of Nagra-D digital recorders outfitted with the dCS 904 ADC and the dCS 954 DAC. "The musicians loved the 192 kHz recording," says Bishop. "Singer Dee Dee Bridgewater heard the difference immediately, remarking on how transparent it was—like a lid had been lifted off the sound." The use of highresolution PCM and DSD technology has prepared Telarc to take full advantage of the potential of DVD-audio and SACD release formats.
Invisible Editing—The Telarc Editors
The talented and precision-oriented editing team members at Telarc are deservedly proud of their artistry. Theirs are the final hands that shape Telarc recordings before they become CDs ready to go to the consumer. But though their names are listed in the CD booklets, a certain anonymity exists as part of an editor's role. "That's as it should be," according to Erica Brenner, Telarc's Manager of Editing Services. "The better the job an editor does, the more seamless, and ultimately invisible, his or her work becomes," she says.
As with every other aspect of the Telarc recording philosophy, "less is more" in the editing department. "We are all performers in one way or another," says Recording Editor Thom Moore. "We understand the performance and all of its complexities. Both artist and editor are on the same team." Telarc's editors work at the company's Cleveland production studios, using a collection of Sonic Solutions and SADiE 24-bit PCM and DSD editing systems to prepare the master tapes for CD manufacturing.
"We've had a wonderful long-term relationship with the technical staff at Sony's manufacturing facility in Terre Haute (SDM: Sony Disc Manufacturing)," says Renner. "We manufacture our CD releases for North America and Asia, and use their plant in Austria for our European distribution," he explains. "We work very closely with them to make sure that the product the consumer receives is a faithful replication of our masters."
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