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August 2020
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine

25th Anniversary Special Feature!
Reference Recordings
Since 1976, The Best Seat In The House
Always at the forefront of technical advances!
Article By Marcia Martin, Executive Director Of Reference Recordings


Reference Recordings: Since 1976, The Best Seat In The House


  Thank you for the opportunity to write about our label for Enjoy the Music.com. First, hearty congratulations on your 25th anniversary, a real milestone! For so many years, Enjoy the Music.com has presented well-written, impartial information and reviews which are so valuable to the audiophile and music community. Thank you!


Reference Recordings: Since 1976, The Best Seat In The House


Reference Recordings was founded in 1976. Producer John Tamblyn ("Tam") Henderson combined his love and knowledge of music with his quest for "the sound of real musicians making music in real space," molding Reference Recordings into one of the most innovative and respected independent labels in the music business. His productions for RR are widely praised for their dedication to high quality sound in the service of great music. In 1978, Tam Henderson began working with engineer Keith O. Johnson, who was already an audio legend in the recording industry. The 100-plus recordings made by their team are considered by many to be the finest-sounding classical and jazz discs ever made.

In addition, during these years Mr. Johnson designed and patented many innovative products in the professional and consumer audio fields. The original "RR Sound" comes from his singular methods and equipment, almost all hand-built or extensively modified by him. Microphone techniques range from purist to complex, depending on the musical forces and the performing space involved. Johnson's investigation of electronic behavior and acoustic perception led to his development (with digital engineer Michael Pflaumer) of the revolutionary High Definition Compatible Digital encoding process, originally produced and marketed by Pacific Microsonics and later acquired by Microsoft.

Reference Recordings released the first commercial CDs with the process. Currently all Keith Johnson masters are recorded at 176.4 kHz/24-bits, still using the never-surpassed Pacific Microsonics Model Two HDCD encoders. HDCD brings a high level of accuracy and musicality to digital recordings, whether made into compact discs, SACDs, or released as high-resolution digital files.

After 36 years as President and chief executive at Reference Recordings, Tam Henderson stepped down from day to day operations in 2012. He continues consulting on important decisions and directs operations of the label's LP division, Reference Mastercuts.


Reference Recordings: Since 1976, The Best Seat In The House


This is where I come in to the story. I (Marcia Martin) became Tam's business partner and RR's Vice-President in 1980, so this year is my 40th anniversary with RR. Happily, in 1990 Keith Johnson and I were married. I took over as Executive Director and Managing Director of day to day operations in 2012. I continue to be RR's business, legal and finance manager, but now am responsible for all artistic decisions as well. I am proud to have strategically positioned RR as one of the few American labels recording and releasing productions of top-flight American orchestras, with a special emphasis on audiophile sound and formats. I believe strongly in a team approach to business, and am fortunate to have assembled and worked with an outstanding group of audio and music industry professionals at RR for many years. We all love what we do in the service of great music and recordings. I am pleased to introduce our team to your readers here.

Keith O. Johnson, GRAMMY winner and 13-time nominee, continues as Technical Director, engineering and mastering many of RR's critically acclaimed, award winning classical, jazz and blues releases. Vital to RR's technical work is second-generation RR team member, four-time GRAMMY- nominated engineer Sean Martin: digitally capturing our recording sessions, editing releases and keeping RR in the forefront of digital advancements.


Reference Recordings: Since 1976, The Best Seat In The House


Reference Recordings: Since 1976, The Best Seat In The House


Reference Recordings works with Victor Ledin and Marina A. Ledin of Encore Consultants L.L.C., in a strong collaboration to assist in signing classical artists and with repertoire decisions. RR benefits from their extensive music industry experience, including fresh ideas on production and label management. GRAMMY-winning producers, the Ledins have produced and edited many of Reference Recordings' recent releases, and will continue in that capacity for the future.



RR veteran Janice Mancuso, Sales and Marketing Director for the label, works for us from her beloved Portland, Oregon. Ms. Mancuso handles media relations for Reference Recordings. For our audiophile base, she promotes and markets our series of "Prof. Johnson" recordings and releases, as well as the outstanding licensed recordings on our FRESH! series. She emphasizes high end formats, both physical and digital. In addition, as A & R Director for RR's non-classical releases, she works on signing and licensing, producing recordings and broadening our offerings of Blues, Roots and World music.

JoAnn Nunes, now married to engineer Sean Martin, has handled logistics and assisted at RR's recording and editing sessions for several years. She has recently become our VP of Administration. I am very grateful for her work! In addition, Ms. Nunes and long-time RR veteran Bill Roarty share graphic design duties for RR, creating beautiful album graphics which make us proud.

Audio industry and e-commerce professional Ric Mancuso (Triad Speakers, Spica, and Monster) is part of the RR team, working on special sales programs and industrial relations.

Last but not least, Rosebrook Media's founder David Weuste manages our social sites and digital media as well as the Reference Recordings website from his Texas office. Up-and-coming team member Marcus Johnson assists David Weuste with website sales and ad campaigns, and assists us in the RR office with new release submissions, customer service and invoicing. Full disclosure- engineer Sean Martin is my first son, and Marcus Johnson is the son of Keith Johnson and myself. RR is a family business and proud of it.

Reference Recordings records and manufactures Hybrid SACDs, Reference Mastercuts LPs, compact discs, and our own format HRx discs: 176.4 kHz/24-bit music on DVD audio discs. Our recordings are also offered digitally through our own site and multiple sites worldwide, both streaming and as downloads including high resolution PCM downloads and stereo and multi-channel DSD downloads.


Reference Recordings: Since 1976, The Best Seat In The House


Our current artist roster includes The Kansas City Symphony, The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, The Utah Symphony Orchestra, True Concord Voices and Orchestra, The San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, pianists Joel Fan and Nadia Shpachenko, The Dallas Wind Symphony, blues singer/songwriters Doug MacLeod and Fiona Boyes, organists Jan Kraybill and Mary Preston, and more. Legacy artists available on RR titles perennially in print include: The Minnesota Orchestra, jazz pianist Dick Hyman, Eileen Farrell, Mike Garson, the original Canadian ensemble Tafelmusik, Red Norvo, The Kronos Quartet, The Chicago Pro Musica, Frederick Fennell, Ruggiero Ricci, Robert Farnon, Jose Serebrier, The Turtle Creek Chorale, Flora Purim, Airto Moreira, and many others.

Reference Recordings has recorded and licensed multi-channel high resolution masters for many years. We have a special interest in Immersive Sound, and we have released many in the SACD format. We are now offering digital files in multi-channel as well. Our first Surround Sound SACD release won a GRAMMY award for Best Surround Sound Recording in 2010.


Reference Recordings: Since 1976, The Best Seat In The House


An increasingly important part of our label, our FRESH! series showcases outstanding artists and engineering teams from beyond the original RR team. We are extremely pleased to release high quality, hybrid multi-channel SACDs on this series with some of the best American orchestras and other groups. Most are recorded and mastered in DSD by the team at Soundmirror, whose outstanding orchestral, solo, opera, and chamber recordings have received over 120 GRAMMY nominations and awards.



Especially in these extraordinary and difficult times, music is so important to uplift our spirits and give solace. Reference Recordings is honored to offer the joy of music to our customers. And, crucially, we are trying our utmost to support our artists, many of whom are struggling now. They all are using very creative means to present their performances and music to audiences without the ability to perform live. We salute them and truly hope that we all come through this crisis stronger and better than ever.

Again, thanks for this opportunity to present Reference Recordings to your readers.


Marcia Martin
Executive Director
Reference Recordings


PS: Below is a YouTube video we made of one of the last recording sessions with Tam Henderson producing. This was a session in 2011 with the Dallas Winds. It shows how hands-on Keith is when mixing on the fly!




Reference Recordings
P.O. Box 77225
San Francisco, CA 94107

Voice: (650) 355-1845
Website: www.ReferenceRecordings.com

















































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