The vintage music scene is bustling with iconic hardware that paved the way for modern gadgets like digital mixers and handheld synthesizers. The sight of an analog turntable is usually enough to grab the attention of a demanding audio fanatic, who will salivate over any gem for hours at a time. But unfortunately, it’s still a common piece that doesn’t scream exclusivity in the audio community.
The only device that can hold such a prestigious title is the J-Corder. Owning one of the upscale reel-to-reel (R2R) tape decks is an honor that only a handful get to experience. Market price for the entry-level models start at a whopping $7,735. Because these are analog machines, the expenses will keep coming the more you use it, like annoying mobile in-app purchases (only a hundred times more expensive). To use the device, you have to buy tape and invest in time manually recording music.
Oh, and you can’t actually buy a new one. All of the units are refurbished and customized versions. Living up to the vintage look is the J-Corder website. Even the group’s online portal looks old, with strange fonts and no links to social media. However, the company does have a working shopping cart for those who want to buy one of its priceless machines.
“It’s a pride of ownership thing,” said Myles Astor, the executive editor of AVShowrooms.com. “R2Rs are expensive, need to be regularly maintained and there’s not that many of them around. It’s like buying a Ferrari. Once you have one, you’re part of an exclusive club.”
R2R decks look like something you’d completely miss at a garage sale. But that’s the beauty of the ageless pieces; they only appeal to gurus. Back in the day, filmmakers and professionals used the hardware to record audio on the field. It was a common tool on movie sets and even concerts. The technology powering the machines is pure analog. According to Steve Hoffman, a leading engineer with decades of remastering experience, the J-Corder boasts one of the most accurate representations of a flat signal.
In other words, this old thing dishes out quality only comparable to a live symphony orchestra. “Some guy came over with the EMM Labs DAC2X and tried to make a statement,” explained Mike Bovaird, a proud owner of a J-Corder. “He couldn’t believe the J-Corder’s sound, and ran out with his tail between his legs.” The company is a regular at CES and Rocky Mountain Audio Fest events. Their presence trolls audio startups around the expo that claim to deliver unmatchable sound quality.
In case you’re wondering, the “J” in J-Corder stands for Jeff Jacobs, the man behind the unique establishment. He isn’t your typical audio wizard. In fact, he’s no wizard at all. The Green Bay local started his lifetime pursuit for R2R decks at home with the help of his father. Jacobs owns a stereo shop where he sells rare audio gear. J-Corders get special treatment in his Gig Harbor garage, where they are worked on laboriously. To date, no one has returned a J-Corder, which speaks volumes about his craftsmanship.