Neumann Ku 100 Re-Creates The Virtuosity Of Glenn Gould's 1955 'Bach: The Goldberg Variations'

Walking a fine line between art and science and between illusion and magic, the engineers/conjurers at Zenph Studios have perfected a technique that places audiophiles inside the ears of long-dead virtuoso pianists as they perform their most celebrated works. Of course, this is not literally true. It cannot be. But it is so close to the literal truth that listeners get chills and goose bumps just the same! Although it is a simplification akin to writing that NASA shoots stuff into space, in a nutshell, the Zenph system extracts amazingly detailed performance information from an audio recording and re-performs it on a Yamaha Disklavier Pro concert grand piano using high-resolution MIDI. Everything from timing to velocity, from the duration that the keys were held to the duration that the pedals were held, and much more, is extracted with human nuance and hairs-width precision.
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In addition to capturing ultra-hi-fi stereo and surround recordings using Millennia preamps and a DSD/Sonoma recorder, Zenph placed a Neumann KU 100 binaural head exactly where the original pianist's head was when he performed for the original recording. Since the binaural head captures the spatial cues conveyed by the placement of the ears relative to the head and, importantly, the complicated folds of the human ear, the resulting stereo image, when listened to on headphones, exists outside of the listener's head in true three-dimensional space.

Their first recording was of Glenn Gould's 1955 "Bach: The Goldberg Variations," issued on Sony Classical as a hybrid multi-channel SACD/CD.

Tracks 1 through 32 convey the 32 variations from the audience's perspective; tracks 33 through 64 convey the binaural recording. Five-time Grammy-winner Steve Epstein produced the recording, turning his golden ear to the nuances of the re-performance to ensure its faithfulness to the original. CBC engineer Peter Cook, with credits on ten Juno-award winning albums, and Sony Classical senior engineer Richard King, with numerous Grammy nominations and credits on Grammy-winning projects, perfected every aspect of the recording.

"It was Peter's idea to use the Neumann head," said John Q. Walker, president of Zenph Studios, "and to place it at the position of the performer. He spent the day before the session tweaking its placement so that everything, from tonalities to 3-D spatial cues, was absolutely perfect. The result is unlike anything that has ever been recorded because, until now, the performer's real, flesh and blood head was always in the way!

There have been cheap versions, where the performer sticks tiny microphones in their ears, but those microphones are not of the right quality. This is a whole new way to listen to music... to actually be in the body of the performer!"

The three-dimensional information captured by the Neumann KU 100 binaural head must be heard to be fully appreciated. Piano strings are fully arrayed in space. In addition to high strings located to the right and low strings to the left, the strings actually have depth. You can feel that the power from the lower strings is farther from the keyboard than the power from the higher strings. Even the overtones, whose origins vary along a given string, have depth. Especially for pianists, the effect of "sitting" in that position and hearing Gould's masterful performance is indescribable.

The next Zenph re-performance for Sony BMG Masterworks will be 13 tracks by jazz great, Art Tatum. Four of the tracks were originally recorded in 1933 in a New York studio. The remainder was recorded live in the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles in 1949. The re-performance will take place in the Shrine Auditorium as well, with the Neumann KU 100 binaural head in the position that Tatum once occupied.

Neumann's award winning line of microphones has set the standard in the industry since 1928. In 1999, Neumann received the prestigious Technical

Grammy(r) for their 70 years of innovation in microphone design and contribution to the music industry. A continuing commitment to provide innovative, technically refined products and engineering solutions of proven quality ensures that Neumann's stature will remain unassailable.