Djabe – direct to disc recording session at Artone studio, Haarlem, NL

Djabe – Art In Tone – 2LP / 45RPM

Barabás Tamás – bass guitar, sound engineer
Égerházi Attila – classical and electric guitar
Koós-Hutás Áron – trmpet, flugelhorn
Kaszás Péter – drums, vocal
Bubenyák Zoltán – keyboards

Rinus Hooning – mastering engineer
Martijn Schouten – sound engineer
Szalay Tamás – cameras

As a listener, record label manager and musician, I’m a devoted fan of a excellent and perfect sounding releases. In the last few years the High-End quality records came out under my label, Quality Vinyl Projects earned very positive reviews and recognition. Services of QVP ( were hired by other artists like Mezzoforte, Android, Solati Music and Alapi besides
Djabe and Djabe & Steve Hackett.
QVP has defined three important criteria as the cornerstone of quality record producing. The first is to make a high-quality sound recording, from the session via mixing to mastering. The second is the perfect lathe cutting. Since this is a task that requires a lot of experience and expertise, we must pay attention to whom we entrust this task to. The third is high-quality pressing and quality control.
In the case of Djabe vinyls, in our own studio under the leadership of Tamás Barabás, we have always paid attention to making high-quality recordings, in many cases onto analog tape. The Djabe mix and masters come out of Tamás’s hands was already praised by the engineers of London’s Abbey Road Studios 25 years ago. In the case of the half-speed cuts ordered between 2017 and 2019 in the Beatles’ former sanctuary, the world-renowned mastering and record cutting engineer Miles Showell already spoke highly of the master tapes used for the cuts.

In 2015, after trying several other factories, I contacted Record Industry in Haarlem, Holland. It soon became clear that I had started working with the best factory in Europe. They have been working continuously since the 1950s, and their professionals have extraordinary experience in both cutting and pressing. All of this was confirmed by Miles Showell during our conversations at the Abbey Road Studios. He referred to Record Industry’s senior sound engineer, Rinus Hoonig, as a kind of compass for record cutting professionals. Rinus has been responsible for the cutting of Djabe records since 2015, and we are particularly pleased that he became a Djabe fan in the meantime. By the way, Rinus has been cutting records since 1973. He knows everything about cutting can be known.

Since 2018, we have been presenting our records with great success at the Budapest HiFi Show. Our recordings received wonderful reviews all over the world. But I still have some sense of loss. Well, not with regard to the completed projects, but regarding the ones that have not yet been realized.
In April 2019, I visited Record Industry, where I was able to review the entire production process, and then I was guided to the Artone studio, which had been operating for a year at the time, and is located on the upper level of the factory building.

In addition to the extremely impressive studio design, it was immediately apparent that I was in an unusual place. An arsenal of analogue mixing consoles, compressors, microphones, echo chamber, tape recorders and record cutting machines used in the 50s, 60s and 70s and refurbished here was presented. I didn’t want to believe my eyes that it was possible to make top-quality analog recordings here in all work stages. The presentation of the latest ProTools and other modern tools did not catch my attention because of it. Rinus informed me that in the studio it is also possible to record direct-to-disc, that is, on a completely analog system, without any digital technology. I’ve heard a couple of that kind of recordings from the old days. I liked the sound quality and the performance that these records were created immediately, without any postproduction. I mentioned him that I would like to bring Djabe here one day. We had to wait more than three years, but our dream came true this October.
Our aim was to record a double LP with a speed of 45RPM, thus ensuring the best sound quality.

We started the rehearsals at the beginning of October at the Gramy studio. We primarily put together the four sides of the album, each 15-17 minutes long, from compositions that we had already played before. The reason for this is that there is no possibility for any touch of the recorded music after, so mistakes or less well-played parts cannot be corrected or replaced. So if we become dissatisfied with the recording of a side of the LP, either musically or from a mixing point of view, one option remains, to put on another cooper on the lathe and play it all over again. The interesting thing about the rehearsal process was our new keyboardist Zoltán Bubenyák joined us for the first time, and with his extraordinary preparation musicianship and personal charm, he had a calming effect on the band during the rehearsals. I managed the preparation with sales and studio project manager Anouk Rijnders and senior sound engineer Rinus Hooning on behalf of Record Industry and Artone.
After detailed discussions and preparation, on October 22, 2022, Áron and I left for Haarlem with a rented Transporter and all the equipment from Budapest. We spent the night in Germany and picked up the rest of the band at Dortmund airport the next morning. After taking our rooms near Haarlem and a short sightseeing tour of Amsterdam, we unloaded our equipment to the Record Industry in the evening.

Recording session – day 1

We arrived to the Artone studio at 9 o’clock in the morning, which is located on the first floor above the factory. The equipment could be transported between the pressing lines to the freight elevator, which then brought everything to the studio.

Of course, we first looked around in the studio, Martijn and Rinus had already prepared everything for the recordings based on the rider we had sent over.
The tube equipments, the RCA 76D mixing console, the Tree Audio Roots Gen II, the Two Maselec MTC-1X monitoring unit built for the studio, Altec compressor, the rare RCA microphones, and a wide selection of Neumann microphones, already predicted the perfect sounding recording opportunity.

The recording itself was made on a Neumann VMS82 cutting machine enabling Direct Metal Mastering technology. In 1982 the cutting on copper was the last major technological development in the field of record cutting. The advantage is that, in contrast to cutting on lacquer, here the pressure metal plate can be made immediately from the cooper.
Based on his 49 years of experience, Rinus prefers cutting on copper, he can achieve better quality with it, and in the case of lacquer cutting, the double conversion also has potential for errors.

More details about the studio you can find here

At the same time as the lathe, we also recorded everything in stereo on a studio 2 track tape. We used a Studer A80 tape recorder for the recording. We were able to listen back to the recordings from the tape and decide if it is fine for the pressing or if it needed to be repeated. These master tapes will later provide the opportunity to publish the recordings on master tape, which we also plan to release in addition to the LP-box.

Most of the first day was spent creating the perfect recording conditions and preparing the test recordings. Tamás, as the band’s sound engineer, set up his bass rig at the mixing desk in the control room. During the recordings, he also played the bass guitar here. The sound of the instruments was controlled under his direction, and when the sound of the whole band came together, both Rinus and Martijn nodded their heads with satisfaction to the different grooves. They emphasized that they had never seen someone play their instrument and mix the music at the same time. Of course, he received all the help from the Artone staff for this.
Anouk also made a video recording of Tamas in this unusual, dual role. Special thanks to Tomi, he did a great job!

At the end of the first day, after the test recordings on the tape, we also started the “on air” recording. (direct-to-disc). After a quarter of an hour, we were happy to receive our first DMM-cut recording.

Listening back to the tape, we realized that we were a bit tired, and quickly decided that we would make a fresh new recordings for the A side the next morning.

We also made a recording of side C, but that didn’t work out the best either, and a part was forgotten to play, so the length of the side didn’t even reach 13 minutes. At the end of the day, we listened to the recordings again, learning a few things for the next day.
During the work, our cameraman, Tamás Szalay, continuously recorded the session and installed 12 Go-Pros in order to obtain a sufficient amount of camera angles and raw material for the full-length film Djabe session in Artone.

Recording session – day 2

Fortunately, we arrived from our nearby hotel rested for the second day. The task was no less than to play live, without post-production, 4 album sides 65 minutes in total. It’s not so easy as we had time to spend time for listening back and replaying within 8 hours. Fortunately, with the help of the circumstances and the Artone staff, it was possible.
We spend the longest time with the Side A, as we recorded a total of 3 more versions:
Clouds Dance, Turtle Trek, Distant Dance
Three iconic Djabe compositions represented the band’s three main periods.

This was followed by the recording of three Side C:
Deep Lights, Buzzy Island
Two concert favorites of the last 6 years. The latter is from the first Sardinian album.

After the side C, a technical set-up change was necessary, because I also played classical guitar on the B and D sides, which had to be miked and big amount of separation walls was erected around me. Until then, only Peti was isolated with the drum set, from here I had to be barricaded as well.

Then came the recording of Side B:
Lava Lamp, Two Little Snowflakes
Lava Lamp, the most played track of the Forward album, gave Zoli, Áron and Tamás a great opportunity to play brilliant solos. Two Little Snowflakes is a relatively new composition from the The Magic Stag album. Its subtle lyricism was a good counterpoint to Lava Lamp.
The first version from Side B was released.
The last record side remains at the end.

We also recorded three full versions from Side D, although the first one had to be thrown out due to a technical error:
Island, Artone improv, In That Quiet Earth
Side D starts with a reinterpreted acoustic version of an old Djabe track, followed by a Barabás / Kaszás improvisational duet. We left a small surprise at the end. Steve Hackett couldn’t come with us for this session, but we snuck him in anyway. We pre-recorded his guitar part of the Genesis track In That Quiet Earth on a tape recorder on left track. A metronome was audible on the other track, which our drummer Peti listened to. This allowed us to play in sync with Steve. Rinus started the pre-recorded tape from another Studer A80 tape recorder at Tamás’s signal. So everything remained analog.

Factory visit – day 3

On the morning of the third day, we started again at the Record Industry. We loaded our equipments into the bus.

Afterwards, the owner of the factory, Ton Vermeulen, gave the band a detailed factory tour. I was lucky enough to see this before, now I just want to highlight two things.

One is that Djabe was among the largest artists on the walls displaying reference records, and the other is that they presented the 10 new presses that were recently manufactured in Sweden. They are now being implemented and examined, and if serial production can start, their capacity will increase from 34 presses to 44. These devices also look modern, if we compare them with devices manufactured in the 1950s and 1980s.

Serena Driehuizen from the sales team, with whom I usually manage the orders, gave me a short presentation on the packaging she recommends for this release. In the end, I chose the following solution. The double LP recorded at the Artone studio will be housed in a gatefold jacket. In addition, we are packing a single LP to the double one as a bonus, which we recorded at the 2019 Budapest HiFi show, where we exhibited together with the Audiophyle Salon. The band played live on the Sonus Faber speakers provided by them, which were powered by McIntosh amplifiers. The visitors really liked the live music played on high-end equipment. The concerts were recorded onto 24-track analog tape. I also gave the master tape made from it to Rinus in Artone. The approx. 2 x 17 minutes of music are also cut at 45RPM. The 3 LPs (the gatefold and the single jacket) will be inserted in a slipcase and will be marketed as a 3LP box-set. According to plans, we will also add a DVD of the recordings to the set.

I would like to thank my fellow musicians for their professional and disciplined work and the good atmosphere. Special thanks to Tamás Szalay for his persistent camera work, to Rinus and Martijn for their help and professionalism. Thanks for big help and a warm welcome to everyone at Record Industry. We felt at home!

Special thanks to Attila Jancsa for his help and continuous friendship and support!
Last but not least, we thank the NKA for its financial support in making our dream came true!

6th November 2022

Attila Égerházi

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