I'm meeting today with Todd
Garfinkle of M•A Recordings. M•A sprang to life in 1988 in Japan. Todd
specializes in extremely high quality recordings of small intimate chamber music
or solo work, early music, baroque, classical, traditional and jazz, and his
recordings are available in a variety of high resolution formats. The secret of
his success lies in his unique omni-directional microphones and the high caliber
of the artists he records. MA comes from the Japanese pronunciation of the
Chinese character (seen right). This indicates Space,
an apt description for the sound quality he captures. You'll find a lot more
about this character at
Phil Gold: Where do you make your recordings?
Todd Garfinkle: I record all over the world, wherever they'll let me, because I travel with portable gear. My microphones are DC power line level mikes. Line level means the amplifier is inside the body of the mike. There are 4 nine volt batteries for each mike. They're made by a friend of mine. I use capsules made in Denmark by Brϋel & Kjaer, whose microphone division is now known as DPA – Danish Pro Audio. The mikes were machined from a solid piece of brass and then rhodium plated. The line level output is 4 volts. I don't use any traditional mike amps. The line level output goes directly to the recorder.
Phil: You don't think you can get the same quality using
conventional mike amps?
Todd: Absolutely not. No, this is the best quality ever.
You've done away with one set of microphone cables altogether. The amp is just
behind the capsule. There's nothing better.
Phil: Are you limited with what you can do with just a number
of 9 volt batteries?
Todd: It could be four 9 volt batteries or I can create a huge battery pack of rechargeable 1.5 volt batteries. I've done that before. It gives a different balance. The 9 volt batteries are just alkaline batteries, or I can use NiCad's. Each battery has its own sound. Yes, it's amazing. There's also lithium 9 volt batteries – a different sound again. I need 8 batteries for the pair of microphones so it is $12 to record a session using the standard ones I can buy at Costco for $1.50 each.
How do you record your mike output?
Todd: I currently record on a Korg MR2000S which records DSD
at double SACD quality, 5.6MHz. I record everything like that, and from that
point, having what I believe is a really high quality master, I can down-sample
to PCM 176.4 high resolution WAV files which you can listen to on your Hi-Res
Phil: So where do you stand on the issue of PCM versus DSD?
Todd: I record in DSD because I believe DSD as a master format is higher resolution than 176.4 kHz PCM but there are very few people that can listen to DSD unless it is formatted and authored as an SACD which is another story. I believe that DSD sounds more natural but everybody is listening to PCM so I have to down-sample.
Phil: You've also converted the other way around.
Todd: I don't see any reason to today, though I did for the SACD “MAonSA” which I made with the support of Crystal Cable. I thought it would be interesting to put out a compilation SACD from my PCM sources. But that was before the Korg was available and all my current masters are DSD.
Phil: That disc is the one I use the most in my reviewing.
Exceptional sound quality. Do you notice any deterioration in the quality of the
recording due to the conversion process? Have you compared a PCM recoded
natively against one derived from a DSD master?
Todd: That's really hard to say because I've never done
it. I only have one pair of mikes. I would have to have two pairs of identical
mikes. Or, I would have to split the signal and I wouldn't want to do that, it
would be detrimental to the sound quality. So I do what I believe is best. But I
will soon have a new DVD-ROM produced from transfers of my analog record of the
Goldberg variations – I did do it in both PCM and DSD. We did the transfer
twice. I believe that the DSD sounds better. But it's also subjective you
know, it's what you like. I prefer the DSD. It seems to be more vivid, more
natural. That said, the DVD-ROM has only 176.4 kHz and 88.2 kHz files on it. The
DSD will be made available on a special order basis on DVD-R.
Phil: You record only in 2-channel. Do you edit in DSD?
Todd: I don't have the capability to edit in DSD. Actually Korg has prototype software with which one can actually edit in DSD but they haven't marketed it yet. At some point when it's released I'll probably be able to afford it. But SADiE from England, which is now owned by Prism Sound I believe, and Pyramix, which is Merging Technologies from Switzerland – they have computers that record and edit in DSD. For SADiE only the edit points are done in PCM and the rest is DSD. Pyramix does all the editing in DSD. But it's $20,000 for a system like that, and I can make a few records for that money.
Phil: You have a new recording coming out of the Bach Flute
Sonatas. [MA Recordings M087A]
Todd: That was recorded in Lyon, France where both the
musicians live. The flute player (Diana Baroni) is from Argentina and the
harpsichord player (Dirk Boerner) from Germany. She lives in Lyon, he lives in
the countryside outside of Lyon but he teaches in the city. It's a very nice
recording where she plays an actual baroque flute. I hadn't recorded either
one of them before, but they are both well known in the European music world.
Phil: How do you find the artists you are going to record?
Todd: It is all networking. People I've worked with before,
they have friends who are very high quality musicians. They give their friends a
record and maybe they are impressed by it. Some people contact me and we take it
Phil: How do you choose where to record?
Todd: It sometimes depends on the scheduling. If a church is
available in a certain time period then we go to that church. I know certain
churches because I have worked there before. The church we used in Lyon, Diana
Baroni found. There's also an issue if you're working with harpsichord. You
have to transport the instrument. Fortunately we were able to find a nice
instrument in Lyon 15 minutes away by car.
Phil: How long did it take you to record?
Todd: That was a three day session. It is usually a maximum of
four days. I've also done recordings in 4 hours.
Phil: Thanks, Todd.