The Decca Ring has always been about the sound. Our endeavour with this new transfer of the original analogue master tapes has been to do the best by Solti, by Culshaw and his chief engineer Gordon Parry, and ultimately by Wagner.
For this 2022 edition we have utilised a completely new set of high-definition 24bit/192kHz transfers of the original two-track stereo master tapes. Almost every tape box is marked “Edited & Passed: JC” where John Culshaw personally initialled each reel as passed for production. These transfers were made as part of Universal Music’s preservation project at the Arvato facility in Gütersloh, Germany. Overseen by Andrew Wedman, formerly of Emil Berliner Studios, the tapes were aligned and played on Studer A820 machines coupled with Weiss analogue to digital converters and a proprietary workstation to record the output.
Working with 38 reels of original mastertapes –some up to 65 years old and spanning 7 years of recording–there were inevitably instances where some individual tapes needed edit repairs or suffered oxide shedding. Tapes in poor condition were baked for ten hours at 55°C to restore their integrity. The playback alignment was greatly helped by the fact that the first tape reel in each opera has an announcement from engineer James Brown or, in the case of Die Walküre Culshaw himself, with left/right identifiers and a series of tones to ensure the correct calibration of the tape head. Decca’s 1950s Ampex-designed AME noise reduction circuit –a precursor of the Dolby circuitry to reduce tape hiss –was not deployed such that we could use the very latest noise reduction software at the remastering stage.
The result is a set of HD transfers which are like photographic RAW files with little or no processing to create as pure a starting point as possible before remastering.
The Decca Ring has always been about the sound. Our endeavour with this new transfer of the original master tapes has been to do the best by Solti, by Culshaw and his chief engineer Gordon Parry, and ultimately by Wagner. “Here is the greatest achievement in gramophone history yet”, wrote Alec Robertson in Gramophone in 1965.
Now it is time to deliver Solti’s Ring to the new generation of Wagnerians and introduce this remastered recording in a sumptuous series of definitive editions.