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Digitising the Handford Collection

Following the death of Peter Handford the master tapes of his recorded legacy were bequeathed for safe keeping to the National Railway Museum in York where they are now kept in a controlled and conditioned environment, but for a few weeks the tapes were packaged up and taken on a special excursion to the studios of Original Sound in Cornwall to be digitally remastered.

When Peter Handford began making these recordings back in the 1950s he used equipment which was, at the time, state-of-the art and it is clear, from looking at the tapes today, more than 60 years later, that he was an absolute craftsman. At the studios of Original Sound in Cornwall, in collaboration with Peter's family, engineer Mike Brown has been remastering these tapes, lavishing on them the same care and attention to detail as their original creator.
Mike says: "Unlike modern digital tapes you can tell a lot from an analogue tape just by picking it up and looking at it. Every tape tells a story and it's been fascinating listening to some of these."

The good news is that on the whole the tapes are in very good condition. "We've only had trouble with two or three tracks, which we've been able to remaster from other sources."

So how do the tapes sound? Mike says they're very good for their age... "The recordings have a lovely, wide dynamic range, something which will be even more apparent now that they've been digitised. We've also taken the opportunity to use today's state-of-the-art techniques to significantly reduce tape hiss." But steam enthusiasts need not worry...! "It's amazing, we can program the computer to distingish between tape his and the hiss of steam from the engines. We've also removed any stray clicks and crackles in the odd places where they've crept in. But what we have taken care to do is preserve the essential characteristic qualities of the recordings - the analogue-ness if you like! All the remastering work was carried out at high resolution 24-bit, 96kHz, before finally converting them to high quality, Internet-friendly files."

We recommend these files to all enthusiasts even if they've got the LPs already. There's a whole new clarity about these recordings which all steam fans will love - they've never sounded better.

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