Yarlung Recording Session – by Robert Harley
Though a small label, Yarlung Records has, since releasing its first album in 2005, made itself noticed in the audiophile community and beyond, appearing on TAS’ newly updated Super LP List and winning a Grammy® award. So I was excited to have an opportunity to attend a recent Yarlung recording session and witness firsthand the extraordinary engineering behind the company’s releases. The recording session was more like a concert performance for a small invited group, with movements performed in their entirety rather than stitched together later in the editing room.
The recording venue was the sonically and visually gorgeous Samueli Theater, part of the larger Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, California. Samueli’s smaller space is ideal for chamber music.
The team set up three entirely separate recording chains, each with its own microphones, recorders, and engineers. The three chains represented three widely disparate approaches to capturing the music, allowing listeners to choose the perspective they find most appealing (all three versions are available at nativedsd.com.
The most traditional of these recording techniques is as purist as it gets: a stereo microphone feeding an analog tape machine. The microphone for the session was an AKG C24, a vintage stereo condenser mike prized for its warmth and rich tone color. Set up and run by Yarlung Records founder Bob Attiyeh, the stereo output from the C24 was recorded on analog tape, DSD256, and 176.4/24 PCM. … the analog tape, recorded on a SonoruS ATR12 built by Arian Jansen, is the source for the LP release.
The second recording chain was a stereo recording made with four microphones (the C24 augmented a pair of Schoeps out in the hall) to create a “Holographic Imaging” recording. The Holographic Imaging technique, designed by Arian Jansen, is a proprietary matrix that reportedly produces a three-dimensional soundfield from two channels.
The third recording path was a five-channel recording made [by engineer Tom Caulfield] with five DPA 4006A omnidirectional microphones feeding a Merging Technologies analog-to-digital converter, and then recorded in five discrete channels in quad DSD (DSD256).
The stunningly realistic sound quality of Yarlung’s releases is a testament to the team’s dedication to capturing the musical intent of the artists. Moreover, Yarlung’s unusual technique of recording movements in their entirety produces a much more natural musical flow than the typical method of editing together multiple takes. The musicians, however, must be world-class performers and extremely well-prepared. I got the sense that they regarded the Yarlung session as a special event that brought out their highest level of technical skill and musical expression. The result is an honest document of extraordinary performances preserved with state-of-the-art sound quality.
The performers that afternoon were the Sibelius Piano Trio, and the fruit of their labor is the two-CD set that Mark Lehman reviewed in this issue (the release is also available at nativedsd.com and HDTracks.com). The Absolute Sound, December 2016, page 175 .
This online version of the Yarlung feature printed in The Absolute Sound is made possible by special permission and the generosity of Jim Hannon, publisher of TAS. Our heartfelt thanks.