Acoustic Sounds buys legendary vinyl mastering facility
Just three months after buying 13 vintage record presses to meet the surging demand for vinyl LPs, Acoustic Sounds’ CEO Chad Kassem has purchased The Mastering Lab (TML) from the estate of legendary mastering engineer Doug Sax.
The sale pairs Quality Record Pressings (QRP), a division of Acoustic Sounds and an industry-recognized audiophile LP manufacturer, with the Grammy® Award-winning sound engineering and LP lacquer cutting business started four decades ago by Sax, who passed away in April. Sax worked throughout his career with the music elite, including Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Barbra Streisand, and dozens more.
Kassem said his strategy behind the purchase was to create the country’s only vertically integrated vinyl LP production facility. From mastering and record pressing to graphic design and printing to direct-to-consumer sales, QRP now has all the capabilities needed to bring LPs to market.
“Expanding and rounding out our capabilities to meet the growing demand for vinyl was the key to this acquisition,” said Kassem. “That, coupled with the history of The Mastering Lab and Doug's reputation, makes this purchase very gratifying.”
Plans call for relocating and incorporating TML business, now based in Ojai, Calif., to Acoustic Sounds’ headquarters in Salina, Kan.
“I'm very confident that Chad will do everything he can to honor Doug's legacy by maintaining his high standards for quality,” said Bill Schnee, a veteran producer/engineer and multiple Grammy Award winner. “It’s also comforting to know there's going to be a little bit of Doug in everything that QRP produces."
Sax was a legend in the music industry — a mentor and friend to audio engineers, producers and musicians. With partners Lincoln Mayorga and older brother Sherwood Sax, he opened the doors to TML in Hollywood in December 1967. Relocated north to Ojai in 2006, TML remains a revolutionary, state-of-the-art company, utilizing unique concepts of signal flow and electronics pioneered by Sherwood Sax.
The Lab's custom, all-tube electronics and console are all designed and handcrafted by Sherwood. Additionally, TML was the first independent mastering facility and set itself apart by prioritizing sound quality, instead of the economic efficiencies favored by some of the major music labels.
Utilizing cutting lathes that have become legendary for vinyl LP production, the studio turned out many classic rock albums, including The Wall, Who’s Next, Nilsson Schmilsson, the Rolling Stones’ Sticky Fingers and the Eagles’ debut album. Sax also established a pioneering set of procedures for testing and evaluating audio components by ear. The Mastering Lab earned more Grammy nominations for engineering than any other mastering facility.
Sax and Robert Hadley were also the first mastering engineers to win a Grammy Award for Best 5.1 Surround Album for Ray Charles – Genius Loves Company in 2004.
Sax worked on numerous records for Acoustic Sounds' reissue label, Analogue Productions, including in 1992 the first title that Kassem reissued, Virgil Thompson's The Plow That Broke The Plains. Other notable titles for Analogue Productions that Sax mastered include The Weavers Reunion at Carnegie Hall, Bill Evans Trio's Waltz For Debby, and Sonny Rollins' Way Out West.
Sax famously once told an interviewer: “I don't want to be wedded to the past, but I don't want to forget its virtues.”
That philosophy matches Kassem's own approach to bringing the two companies together.
“Maintaining Doug’s reputation for quality will be our company's challenge and our reward,” Kassem said. “We'll keep Doug's legacy alive by offering the highest-quality audio mastering done to standards matching Doug's, using his equipment that he used to produce so many fine, award-winning recordings.”