Exclusive interview with one of the industry leading High-res audio labels 2L's Morten Lindberg.
Where and how did it all start for 2L ?
We started as a production company back in 1993, providing recording services for the commercial labels, mainly with classical music. At the turn of the millennium the labels pulled back their activity to a level where we needed to start our own label to keep up our work. 2L was born.
Would you consider 2L audiophile oriented label?
Not intentionally. Our focus is to record music with great sonic values. This just happens to appeal very well to an audiophile community.
Would you consider yourself as an audiophile?
If I had the time and the money, I would probably fall into the audiophile category. But for the the past 20 years I have spent all resources into our recording company. Working most of my waken hours with sound production, my ears need to rest so I’ve picked up photography for recreation.
Kindly list all current releases from 2l.
2L become a synonym for high quality high-end standard digital recordings. How this breakthrough happen and what is the secret behind it?
Vi make our recordings in spacious acoustic venues; large concert halls, churches and cathedrals. This is actually where we can make the most intimate recordings. The qualities we seek in large rooms are not necessarily a big reverb, but openness due to the absence of close reflecting walls. Making an ambient and beautiful recording is the way of least resistance. Searching the fine edge between direct contact and openness; that’s the real challenge! A really good recording should be able to bodily move the listener. This core quality of audio production is made by choosing the right venue for the repertoire, and balancing the image in the placement of microphones and musicians relative to each other in that venue. There is no method available today to reproduce the exact perception of attending a live performance. That leaves us with the art of illusion when it comes to recording music. As recording engineers and producers we need to do exactly the same as any good musician; interpret the music and the composer’s intentions and adapt to the media where we perform.
How is your views on solid state and tubes?
I prefer to make the recording as simple and clean as possible. Solid state preserves our frequency- and transient response with a minimum level of distortion. Then for play-back the end-user is free to choose any preferred coloration. This is the point where tubes can really shine when fed by a pure source high resolution source.
What does state of the art digital audio and ultra high-end means for you?
We make our recordings in linear PCM at 24bit/352.8kHz and keep within this resolution all thru editing mix an mastering. To me this resolution is indistinguishable from our direct analogue feed straight out of our microphones.
What are your views on balanced topology in gear used for taking recordings? Is a must for best sound?
Our analogue signal path for production is kept totally within balanced circuits, but we keep the stretch from microphones to preamps transformerless.
What sets 2L audio above other labels?
Thats for YOU to say! ;-)
What importance do you give to the gear used? Are they crucial to your approach or do you find tuning them in the right combination to be of the most importance?
Our signal path is extremely simple; microphone-preamp-converter. Keeping it simple means we can afford to invest in the best equipment money can buy.
Analog sound vs digital reproduction?
As long as it sounds good ...
Is analog still a reference?
Off course - Digital is only a transport. Sound is per say analogue.
What is your view on vinyl and analog playback?
Working twenty years to refine our work in the digital domain made it a challenging task to explore the strength and limitations of vinyl; dynamic range, frequency response, harmonic distortion and bass width management. But somewhere down the road these limitations turned into a strength. Digital is undeniable a more "correct" reproduction of our original recordings, but vinyl sure provide a unique and pleasing listening experience. Recording in DXD (352.8kHz/24bit) preserve analogue qualities to the digital domain. From our five main microphones recording surround sound, the left and right front makes our stereo, often supported by a touch of the center microphone for stability and substance. For the vinyl we decided to go the other way around and build the mix from the center microphone, left and right just adding width. We teamed up with Pauler Acoustics in Germany to cut the vinyl master. Their studio is equipped with the exact same digital workstation and converters as we used for the original recording sessions, assuring a perfect transfer. Hendrik Pauler cut the master direct to metal from our DXD master files. With the DMM copper plate we gain a better high frequency response, less surface noise and greater dynamics than the traditional lacquer lathe. Engraving direct in copper also save a generation of electroplating. The final 180 gram audiophile grade vinyl was pressed by Pallas in Germany.
What was a respond to your vinyl releases?
American Record Guide about TrondheimSolistene's SOUVENIR part I: "2L’s sonic realism simply trounced my two favorite recordings up until now--Munch and the Boston Symphony on RCA, and Barbirolli and the London Symphony on EMI; they sounded veiled and muddy by comparison, especially the inner and lower voices. Yet the Trondheimers are just as convincing in their interpretative sensitivity and emotional engagement with the music."
Digital master tapes vs high-res analog master tapes?
Digital! Analogue storage has no place in modern sound production.
What is the transparency in the eyes of Morten?
Full access to the music; detailed contact with the musicians but not so close that the instruments get obtrusive and scratchy.
It seems, that contemporary digital audio moves towards details, speed, transparency etc. Where is the line between resolution and musicality?
The line goes where your attention as a listener are drawn towards the audio itself, away from the music.
Is there a difference between pro and audiophile oriented recordings?
Unfortunately, yes; The label «audiophile» from a production company is sadly often an excuse for cheap simplicity and amateurism. But the other way around, a good recording should have qualities that appeal to an audiophile audience.
Where is the end of with sampling frequency and bits? What about 32-bits?
Resolution is less about bits and more about sampling frequency. We use 24 bit file format and 32-bit floating point processing. When editing and level adjustments are done, we could easily do with 20-bit distribution formats. For simple play-back this is the full dynamic range we need. But compare sample rates; this is where the true sonic qualities lies.
Digital phenomena is already happening. Where it will head?
I do hope we will see a standard of 192kHz/24bit. We’re already providing selected titles in our native 352.8kHz: http://www.highresaudio.com/studio_master.php?fids=54%A255&cr=352.8/24
What made you move to the audiophile market.
We didn’t specifically target an audiophile market with our recordings. It just so happened that those values we appreciate ourselves match a large audience of audiophiles.
Do you ever plan to bring more vinyl to your catalogue?
Yes, we certainly have plans for selected releases on vinyl. But with our focus on surround sound, our main format will be the Pure Audio Blu-ray.
What is innovative with the way you approach digital audio?
Digital is only a tool, the same way as all our equipment. Our «innovation» is probably the simple fact that we do not obey to the conventions of classical music production. The beauty of the recording arts is that there is no fixed formula and no blueprint. It all comes out of the music. Every project starts out by digging into the score and talking with the composer, if contemporary, and the musicians. It is not our task as producers and engineers to try to re-create a concert situation with all its commercial limitations. On the contrary; we should make the ideal out of the recording medium and create the strongest illusion, the sonic experience that emotionally moves the listener to a better place.
What is the secret of 2L audio strong market impact in high end audio world?
Making each and every recording as good as it possibly can be done.
Where does hifi stops and high end comes in for you?
Is there a difference?
Do you think analog master tape quality can be matched within the digital domain?
I would turn it around and say that there’s no analogue masters that can match our 352.8kHz recordings.
We hear many theories on importance of master clock. Can you tell us more about your view?
The accuracy of the clock source is extremely important. If you work with a simple linear path we use an internal clock in our digital workstation. If you have more than one digital unit it makes sense to use an external master clock. Internal or external is just a matter of convenience. What matters it the accuracy of clocking.
What do music lover gets with adding upsampling? Is this not just another processing in chain?
I really don’t see the point in player-software upsamling. You might get a slightly better DA conversion, but good DAC’s upsample internally anyway.
What converters and why do you use?
For recording on venue and monitoring in our mastering studio we use DAD AX-24 over MADI. For computer playback and proof listening of our stereo masters I currently use the Antelope ZODIAC Gold over USB from a MacBook Pro.
What do you use as reference audio recording gear when making records?
We record with DPA microphones, Millennia Media microphone pre-amplifiers and DAD AX-24 converters to a PYRAMIX workstation
Your view on mp3?
The low resolution streaming services are great for navigating new repertoire and for portable convenience, but it’s no way near a sonic joy.
Will physical medium become obsolete?
The CD is already gone and the SACD is a niche market in recline. A growing market is the home cinema, and with Pure Audio Blu-ray we can hopefully inspire to an increased quiality in play-back of music. But the future is clearly in HiRes file distribution.
Would you like to say something to our readers?
I’ve probably talked more than enough by now; let the music play!
Mono and Stereo ultra high end audio magazine
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