Analogue Reel to Reel editions from Base2 Music


New Member
Jul 6, 2019
My record label is pleased to be selling a genuine analogue recording made in 2017 of organ works by César Franck performed by celebrated organist Jean-Paul Imbert of Paris. This recording was made in the Abbey of St Etienne in Caen, France, on an original 1886 Cavaillé-Coll organ. The recording is also available in multichannel surround sound on SACD, but the analogue is an independent mic set and feed going through Dolby A converters and into a modified Studer recorder by Tim de Paravacini, and silver interconnects by Gekko cables. The tapes are made to order direct from the master (2nd gen ) on RTM 911 tape and are available here: No digits were used in the making of this recording, just continously varying waves.
There are two more titles that are coming on stream shortly.
Jun 17, 2015
Here is a review:
Base2 Music is a new record label based in the UK for the audiophile. Dedicated to capturing the sound of pipe organs in top quality. Their first album is by Jean-Paul Imbert with a Franck program on the Cavaille-Coll Organ (1884) of the St. Etienne in Caen. Imbert has made some great albums in Toulouse but also in Caen. Jean-Paul Imbert puts down an impressive, driven Franck. With his musical playing, he transcends all kinds of discussions about tempi and registrations. Imbert does allow himself some freedoms, without falling into the frills as Guillou and Pincemaille have done. With the Chorals, he chooses the order II - III- I, but as a listener, you can, of course, manipulate that. The organ of the St. Etienne in Caen is among the top five of what the Cavaille-Coll genius has left us. What an instrument! Marie-Claire Alain also recorded for Erato Franck here in 1996 (almost complete). This instrument is one of those organs that you will never have enough recordings at home. And then the recording, because that is what it all started with this issue. Is it indeed something special? Yes, it is an experience. Even without using the equipment recommended for this recording, it is really enjoyable. To hear a Cavaille Coll that is as pure as if you were in St. Etienne. I can imagine that some people will find the sound a bit too direct. But the creamy sound of this Cavaille-Coll, wow! If you want to hear a fresh Franck on an organ from Cavaille-Coll and that has been recorded so well. That listener will want to buy this album and this support the very laudable initiative of Base2 Music - recording beautiful organs in exceptional quality. Keep up the good work!
Arjen Van Kralingen . (full review in dutch -
May 25, 2010
SF Bay Area
I received my copy a few days ago. Caesar Franck was a deeply religious man and composed some wonderful church organ music. This was before he became infatuated with a young music student who also cast a spell on several other of senior music faculty. You can hear the change in his music with his great violin piano sonata in A. BTW, Mrs. Franck also noticed the change.

Before then Franck wrote some of the most powerful church organ music (since Bach). As the review above describes, Cavaille-Coll was the premiere organ maker of his day and there are many of his instruments scattered around Europe and South America. Jake Purches, the engineer and producer of this album, has been able to capture the sound of this wonderful instrument, down to the deep bass pedals. The church, located in Caen, is just across the English Channel from Jake's home, south of London, and very near both the site of the famed Bayeux tapestry celebrating the invasion of Britain by William the Conqueror from this area of Normandy in 1066, and the site of the reverse invasion of the Allied Forces to the beaches of Normandy in June of 1944.

The tape captures the sound of the organ, without overwhelming the listener with layers of reverberation found in many organ recordings. It also captures the very deep bass (I think into the 20'sHz range - enough to give my big Velodyne DD-18 sub a workout), without shaking the furniture. I also very much enjoyed the performance of the organist Jean-Paul Imbert. The reviewer above is more knowledgeable about him than I. A great first recording for Jake Purches. Well worth the quite reasonable cost of the two reel albums. Artwork on the two tape cases is quite stunning also. Looking forward to the next release.

If you don't have R2R, Jake has also issued this on SACD, including multichannel. The tape, however, is completely analogue.

Likes: Jake Purches
Jun 17, 2015
One of the joys of labouring on these recordings (and its a labour believe me, but of love) is when people write back and say they enjoyed the tape. This makes the work most gratifying, and I feel encouraged to go on to the next project, for which I have three in the works at the moment. Another spectacular sound from Jean-Paul Imbert at the Seifert organ of Kevelaer (10,000 pipes!) on a project based on the 'Pasacaglia' and Wayne Marshall at the 2 year old Mascioni organ of Fátima Basilica in Portugal performing a mixed programme - and in a 13 second reverberation environment, which naturally had its challenges. But so far I am delighted with the sound, on stereo AND the multi channel digital version. Thank you very much for your support and interest. Jake Purches - Producer and audio engineer.
Jun 17, 2015
Review by Adrian Quanjer - December 20, 2017
There are many excellent recordings of César Frank’s organ compositions, but unless they have been performed on a Cavaillé-Coll Symphonic organ they will not fully restitute what the composer had in mind. Jean-Paul Imbert does.

Normandy takes pride in having many beautiful church organs, of which those manufactured by the famous French organ builder, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, as used in this recording, form a class apart. This is a symphonic organ, capable “to facilitate the expressive performance of Romantic music and orchestral transcriptions”. Of this most elaborate type are only few good ones left in France. The one of Saint Sulpice in Paris, with its 6 manual console and 100 stops, is the biggest and has been the cradle of many famous French organists like Lefébure-Wély, Widor and Dupré. On the other hand, the more modest (3 manual console, 50 stops) in de former abbey church of St. Étienne, in Caen, is one of the best acoustically integrated and homogeneously sounding. Because of its gorgeous, almost voluptuous sound, it is each year the focal point of the ‘Caen International Organ Festival’, and many prominent French organists have chosen it for performing their vision on the romantic French organ repertoire. In short, an ideal and most appropriate instrument for a César Franck recital.

In addition to the liner notes, and to put this musical document in a proper historical perspective, a short history:

The church of St. Etienne goes back to the days of William the Conqueror. The ‘Église abbatiale’ was part of an abbey he (William) had built in the 11th century as a gesture of religious goodwill towards the Pope, who opposed his marriage to Mathilde of Flanders. She, too, had around the same time an abbey built and thus both are, until this very day, known as the ‘Abbeye-aux-Hommes’ (the men’s Abbey) and ‘Abbeye-aux-Dames’ (the ladies Abbey), the former now in use as the Caen Town Hall, the latter as the seat of the Normandy Regional Council.

As for St. Étienne, there is no record of a first organ, but its archives show that a (second?) organ was destructed in 1520. Two centuries later (1737) a new organ was built by Leverbvre in a monumental, carved wooden case. It did survive the French Revolution, but the abbey was taken over by the French civil service. Lack of sufficient maintenance led to the deterioration of the organ. Several attempts to repair followed. But in the second half of the 19th century it became clear that such efforts proved to be impossible. A new organ was commissioned from Cavaillé-Coll, built in 1885 in the same, historical organ case. During its construction great care was taken to ensure the best possible integration in the church’s acoustical environment. The result was unanimously hailed. However, after the D-Day landings on the Normandy shores, at the end of the Second World War, when Caen was for almost 80 per cent in ruins, the organ suffered once again. Many of Caen's historic land marks have since been returned to its former glory and so, in 1999, the precious Cavaillé-Coll organ was restored, bringing back its prewar coherent and beautifully balanced, rounded sonority.

For those who want to know more, I refer to the excellent Canadian notes in French and English giving an in-depth historical overview of the church and its organs, which can be found here:

Cesar Franck was Titular of a similar ‘orgue romantique’ (romantic pipe-organ) in the Basilique Sainte-Clotilde at Paris and a frequent performer on the Cavaillé-Coll organ in the church of Saint-Sulpice. Most of his compositions originated from these organs, making use of the specifics and ‘solo’ registers at Franck’s disposal. Recording a selection of them on the Cavaillé-Coll organ in Caen is, therefore, a logical step as it disposes of all the required trimmings.

I assume that for most, if not all organ aficionados Imbert’s chosen works are familiar. The liner notes give helpful and detailed information written by the soloist, which, for brevity, I will not copy here. What one does want to know, however, is to what extent a performer is capable of handling the complexities, more in particular those of Franck’s three end of life chorales. Having successfully played in Caen before, as well as almost everywhere else in France and beyond, Jean-Paul Imbert proves to be a sterling choice. Comparing his interpretation with others is difficult and hardly possible. There are as many ‘schools’ as organ specialists. And they are right, too. Every organ has its own sound, technical possibilities, its own delay to reckon with, and every church has its own reverberation decay, depending on being empty or filled to the brim. Playing has thus to be adapted accordingly and everyone does it as he or she deems fit under the circumstances.

However, one thing is undeniable: if Franck is played on an instrument that doesn’t have the same possibilities Cavaillé-Coll offer, it will never fully sound as Franck intended. All the more reason to take things at ‘ear’ value. And in that sense I must say that I have greatly enjoyed Imbert’s romantically coloured playing, taking full advantage of the possibilities available. Not just the organ but the acoustics, too, allowing him to put more drive and impetus in his playing, without getting mixed up in the church reverberation blurring the sound, which happens elsewhere all too often when playing in a large empty space.

A fair number of recordings have been made on this same location, but this is the first making full use of modern technique in high resolution (PCM 176.4khz 24 bit). Recording an organ of the magnitude of a symphonic Cavaillé-Coll is specialist work. One has to deal with unusual reflections, odd sounds from stops, wind engines and the like. Even the space of a church generates its own sound. Jacob Purches of Base2Music was responsible for a proper set-up of microphones. For those interested, I copy below details of the equipment used. Suffice it to say that the hi-res stereo is not a reduction of the 5.1 multi-channel, but taken separately to enhance its own soundstage. Sound buffs will also be pleased to know that this SACD has been mastered by Sebastiaan Kuijt, a former Sony Europe SACD Field Services engineer, who, a number of years ago, took over part of Sony’s super audio activities, as did, at the same time, his Polyhymnia brothers-in-arms, by the way. The result is breathtaking.

Living nearby I was able to ascertain that the recorded sound is as truly life-like as one could hope for, with the only difference that an average home Hi-Fi chain will have difficulty to reproducing the same power as can be literally felt in this glorious church.

The recordings John Miller was so enthusiastic about (and especially the one in Rouen on a similar, slightly bigger Cavaillé-Coll) are no longer separately available. For those who want some of the more familiar, but not all of Franck’s output, this is an excellent choice. For collectors this disc is a must as it is the first in high definition of the Cavaillé-Coll organ in Caen, arguably one of the finest in France.

Normandy, France.

NOTE about the equipment used, as provided by the recording engineer:

"About the Stereo - to be more precise I used a Stereo ORTF large capsule stereo pair microphones for the Stereo on its own recording channels and 5 channels for the surround sound mix using Sennheiser MKH2080 omnidirectional microphones. The subwoofer is derived from the centre omni microphone. Because of the symmetry the recording can be enjoyed as Quad and doesn’t require the centre channel. However the centre is an equal part of a stereo effect and forms a pair with left - centre and centre right. It should be at the same sound level as the left and right speakers".

Copyright © 2017 Adrian Quanjer and

About us

  • What’s Best Forum is THE forum for high-end audio, product reviews, advice and sharing experiences on the best of everything else. A place where audiophiles and audio companies discuss existing and new audio products, music servers, music streamers and computer audio, digital to audio converters, turntables, phono stages, cartridges, reel to reel, speakers, headphones, tube amplifiers and solid state amplification. Founded in 2010 What's Best Forum invites intelligent and courteous people of all interests and backgrounds to describe and discuss the best of everything. From beginners to life-long hobbyists to industry professionals we enjoy learning about new things and meeting new people and participating in spirited debates.

Quick Navigation

User Menu

Steve Williams
Site Founder | Site Owner | Administrator
Ron Resnick
Site Co-Owner | Administrator
Julian (The Fixer)
Website Build | Marketing Managersing