Tag Archives: Vintage King

Republic Records Keeps Busy with SSL Origin

A new 32-channel Solid State Logic Origin analog in-line mixing console has been installed at the Republic Records Studios facility in Los Angeles.
A new 32-channel Solid State Logic Origin analog in-line mixing console has been installed at Republic Records Studios in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles, CA (December 1, 2020)—Republic Records, a division of Universal Music Group (UMG), has installed a new 32-channel Solid State Logic Origin analog in-line mixing console at its 6,000-square-foot Republic Records Studios facility in Los Angeles.

The label opened Republic Records Studios in 2017 and in the first year of operation produced projects by a host of label artists, including The Weeknd, Metro Boomin, Amine and others. The facility has produced six #1 albums over the last 18 months. The building encompasses a tracking space large enough for a medium-sized orchestra, two control rooms and four production suites.

Earlier this year, Rob Christie, Republic Records studio director since the facility opened, elected to replace Studio A’s aging mixing console with a new SSL Origin. With so many Top-40 artists and their production teams coming through the room, he wanted to eliminate any maintenance issues in the space. “One thing that we need on a session is reliability,” he says. “I need to know that everything is going to work, and that it’s laid out nicely and easily for access, speed and reliability.”

Pro Sound News’ Gear of the Year 2020

The in-house technical staff wired and installed the Origin console, which Republic Records acquired from Ferndale, MI-based Vintage King. “The SSL is just plug-and-play; it’s ready to go,” says Christie. During the installation, the control room front wall was customized to accommodate a soffited pair of Augspurger main monitors, complemented by a pair of 18-inch subwoofers positioned behind the console. Pairs of ATC SM45A Pro reference monitors and Yamaha NS-10s nearfield speakers are additionally available.

The technical staff also added a bay at both sides of the Origin. One houses a patchbay and the other contains a selection of outboard processing units, including several preamplifiers, equalizers, compressors and limiters.

Republic Records was honored as the top Billboard Hot 100 label for a sixth year in a row at the beginning of 2020 as a result of the success of artists including Ariana Grande, Post Malone, the Jonas Brothers, Drake and Taylor Swift. Billboard also named Republic Records the overall label of the year for the fourth time in five years.

Solid State Logic • www.solidstatelogic.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Studio Showcase: Fever Recording Runs Hot

Fever Recording underwent a remodel to give it more of a boutique hotel vibe, according to owner Eric Milos.
Fever Recording underwent a remodel to give it more of a boutique hotel vibe, according to owner Eric Milos. Sven Doornkaat

North Hollywood, CA (November 3, 2020—Fever Recording owner Eric Milos recently swapped out the aging Solid State Logic 4048G console for an SSL Duality Delta Pro-Station desk in the facility’s main control room. “It sounds great, it looks great and the functionality, with Pro Tools control on the surface and the marriage of the console automation with the Pro Tools automation system, really gives you the best of both worlds,” he says.

Milos acquired Fever Recording, formerly owned and operated by multi-Grammy-winning producer and songwriter Warryn Campbell, at the tail end of 2016. The main studio, with its own tracking room, lounge and kitchen, is separate from the rest of the building, the other half of which houses three production rooms, rented to long-term clients, with shared amenities.

“There’s a gated back parking lot where you can pull in and walk straight into the studio. We’ve had a number of artists in who appreciate that privacy,” he says.

Milos, originally from Ohio, graduated from Berklee College of Music in 2010 and cut his engineering teeth at Henson Recording Studios in Hollywood. He subsequently hired on as an engineer at Clear Lake Recording, which chief audio engineer Brian Levi established in 1987. In 2012, Milos purchased the Clear Lake facility and much of the equipment in it.

Clear Lake’s Studio A was designed by George Augspurger. “It’s got a really great Trident 80B console. It has been a great tracking room for all of its life, with a wonderful sounding drum room and a great grand piano. We do everything—every style, every type of session,” says Milos, from large ensembles to solo vocals.

Studio Showcase: L.A. Studio Follows Its Muse

Pro Tools Ultimate and a Studer A827 tape machine are both available. Outboard, there is a Neve sidecar and various pieces of vintage Pultec, Eventide and Lexicon gear alongside some of the newer studio standard gear, plus classic Neumann, Sony and other tube mics. “There’s also a nice smattering of modern mics. We’ve never not had enough microphones for a session,” he says.

“When I took over, probably half the cool vintage equipment there. I could never dream of spending the money you would have to pay for it now.”

Fever Recording's control room is centered around a SSL Duality console
Fever Recording’s control room is centered around a SSL Duality console. Sven Doornkaat

Milos built a B room in 2016 to handle overdubs, vocals, tracking and mixing. “It’s got an Avid D-Command and a basic set of outboard. We do a lot of vocal overdubs in there, for all genres of music, and we do a little bit of 5.1 mixing and some ADR.”

Two small production rooms, designated C and D, are leased out on a monthly basis. “In one room, we have a composer who has been with us for three or four years,” he says.

Fever Recording, located a couple of miles west along Burbank Blvd., underwent a bit of a remodel along with the Duality desk upgrade, says Milos, to give it more of a boutique hotel vibe. “We also got a few pieces of outboard gear, like the SSL Fusion, which everybody has been loving. The price-to-fun ratio has been excellent.”

The control room door barely cleared the old short-loaded 64-frame 4000G desk. “It was too big for the room. This Duality fits, and it looks like a spaceship,” says Milos, who bought the console, formerly at a N. Hollywood recording school, through Vintage King.

“I’ve done a couple of mixes on it; it’s so much fun and clients have been loving the Duality. I couldn’t be happier.”

Nestled in the control room is a well-appointed credenza of outboard gear.
Nestled in the control room is a well-appointed
credenza of outboard gear. Sven Doornkaat

The Duality behaves more like an SSL 9000 series desk, he says. “We can push it a little bit harder than a 4k. There have been occasions where we were getting a little bit of distortion on the master buss of the 4k, because we didn’t have the headroom for a massive 808.”

On the subject of headroom and 808 kick drums, Milos has also bolstered the Bryston-powered Augspurger main monitor system at Fever. “I added some dual-18 Meyer Sound subwoofers that I saw on Craigslist. It’s a great full-range system when you switch up to the mains. For the most part, people are up on the mains when they’re doing production and getting a feel for the song. Then they switch to the ATC25A nearfields for tracking and mixing, for more detail.” There is also a pair of Yamaha NS-10s.

“Anybody familiar with the 4k pretty much gets the Duality right away. In that studio, we do a lot of hip-hop and top-40 stuff, so there’s a lot of production—keyboards and that kind of stuff—and not a lot of full tracking. The Duality is nice for the situation where there are 20 people in the control room, and everything is interfaced, and being able to control Pro Tools.”

Fever Recording • www.feverrecording.com

Clear Lake Recording • www.clearlakerecordingstudios.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Explosion, Fire Destroys Blue Sprocket Sound Studio

A gas leak explosion and fire ripped through Blue Sprocket Sound recording studio in Harrisonburg, VA on Saturday.
A gas leak explosion and fire ripped through Blue Sprocket Sound recording studio in Harrisonburg, VA on Saturday. Chris Jackson

Harrisonburg, VA (October 20, 2020)—A massive explosion rocked a shopping mall in Harrisonburg, VA at about 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 17, destroying a number of businesses in the ensuing fire, including Blue Sprocket Sound recording studio. “The initial explosion did not happen in our studio. Another part of the building blew up and the rest of the structure caught fire,” says owner and chief engineer Chris Jackson.

Local residents reported feeling the shock of the explosion from miles away. One witness told a WTVR-TV reporter, “I saw a big mushroom cloud.” Five people were reported hurt, two seriously.

Blue Sprocket Sound's control room was centered around a rare Rupert Neve-designed Amek 9098 desk.
Blue Sprocket Sound’s control room was centered around a rare Rupert Neve-designed Amek 9098 desk. Chris Jackson

Michael Parks, Harrisonburg’s communications director, said the mall, which was also home to a vape store, a halal market, a nail salon and barber shop and a musical instrument store, was “a total loss.” A number of nearby businesses, including a Wendy’s, suffered damage from the explosion’s shockwave.

On Monday, Oct.19, the Harrisonburg Fire Department Fire Marshal’s Office released a determination that the explosion and fire was the result of a natural gas leak inside the building. The exact origin of the leak and ignition source are still under investigation, according to the statement.

“There’s a lot of emotion around the loss, but at the end of the day I try and remind myself that it was just a building and it was just stuff,” Jackson says. “People still make professional recording equipment and we can move on from this, though it will be a long road.”

Chris Jackson
Chris Jackson

Jackson, a Harrisonburg native, opened Blue Sprocket Sound in 2013. He had previously spent some time in Nashville, where a friendship with Dave Piechura of Vintage King Audio led to an introduction to Vance Powell, studio manager and chief engineer at Blackbird Studios, who offered Jackson an internship. Jackson started working at Blackbird shortly before the grand opening of Studios C and D and later also worked as a staff technician for Korby Audio Technologies.

In 2018, Jackson returned to his hometown and set up a basement studio with an Amek G2520 mixing console purchased in Nashville, an MCI JH-24 tape machine and Pro Tools. He eventually began to draw up plans for a larger facility, which he constructed in a 4,300-sq.-ft. building at the Park Place Plaza. The two-story building allowed for 18-foot ceilings in the live room, which could accommodate an orchestra, as well as lounge areas, a tech shop and offices.

Studio Showcase: L.A. Studio Follows Its Muse

Having initially moved his basement studio gear into the spacious control room at Blue Sprocket Sound’s new location, Jackson later upgraded to a rare Rupert Neve-designed Amek 9098 desk that was formerly in Studio B at Full Sail in Florida. A portion of the second floor, including Jackson’s mastering room, outfitted with a Mac Pro, Crookwood console and other gear, was saved by firefighters, but was declared unsafe and demolished.

Firefighters managed to save part of the studio's second floor but it was ultimately deemed unsafe and was demolished.
Firefighters managed to save part of the studio’s second floor, but it was ultimately deemed unsafe and was demolished. Chris Jackson

Investigators have been moving debris around in search of the source of the explosion, says Jackson. “They shoved our part of the building out of the way; I’m sure there’s a molten mass in the middle that was a 9098 console.”

In 2018, Jackson opened a vinyl pressing plant, Blue Sprocket Pressing, in a separate building a few hundred yards from the studio. The pressing facility was largely unaffected by the explosion. “There’s a little extra space in the building, so we might try to prop up a little mastering suite and get back to work,” he says.

Members of two local bands have set up an online GoFundMe fundraiser for Blue Sprocket Sound and Hometown Music, the adjacent instrument store, with proceeds to be split equally between the two businesses.


Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Music Etc. – Jackson Browne Lets the Rhythm Lead

Let the Rhythm Lead: Haiti Song Summit, Vol. 1, a collaborative album benefiting Haiti’s Artists Institute and Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ), features Jackson Browne and featuring Jenny Lewis, musician/producer Jonathan Wilson, Jonathan Russell (The Head and The Heart), Habib Koité, Raúl Rodríguez, Paul Beaubrun and others.
Let the Rhythm Lead: Haiti Song Summit, Vol. 1, a collaborative album benefiting Haiti’s Artists Institute and Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ), features Jackson Browne and featuring Jenny Lewis, musician/producer Jonathan Wilson, Jonathan Russell (The Head and The Heart), Habib Koité, Raúl Rodríguez, Paul Beaubrun and others. David Belle

Over the last several years, a group of musicians and songwriters from four continents traveled to Haiti to record songs inspired by the Caribbean island nation while also helping to educate audio engineering students at the Artists Institute in Jacmel, on the south coast. The collaborative project, facilitated by Jackson Browne and featuring Jenny Lewis, musician/producer Jonathan Wilson, Jonathan Russell (The Head and The Heart), Habib Koité, Raúl Rodríguez, Paul Beaubrun and others, resulted in the World Music album Let the Rhythm Lead: Haiti Song Summit Vol. 1, an 11-song collection released earlier this year that benefits the Artists Institute and Artists for Peace and Justice (APJ).

Sessions took place during two separate trips to the Artists Institute recording studio, which was designed by WSDG Walters-Storyk Design Group. The album was mixed by Dave Cerminara at Browne’s Groove Masters facility in Santa Monica, CA and mastered by Gavin Lurssen at Lurssen Mastering in Los Angeles.

Artists Institute and the Ciné Institute sprang out of the Academy for Artist Peace and Justice, the largest middle and high school on the island, which were established by APJ and filmmaker David Belle, an APJ board member. Quincy Jones, Lionel Richie and Arcade Fire’s Win Butler and Régine Chassagne have provided additional support for the Artists Institute.

Jackson Browne and Jonathan Wilson joined Pro Sound News to talk about Haiti, the Artists Institute and the songs. (Comments have been edited for clarity and brevity.)

On the project’s genesis:

Browne: I think the first time I went to Haiti was in 2015, five years after I had appeared at a benefit to raise money to build the school. They got the school built pretty quick; then, up the coast in Jacmel, they built Ciné Institute, which is a film school, and the Audio Institute, which has a recording studio.

At that first visit to the studio, I saw the opportunity—just like film directors who come from all over to speak at the Ciné Institute, they should have people come record here. Win and Régine had been there and spoken to the kids, but I thought, what needs to happen is for somebody to come and demonstrate how we record.

Wilson: I got a call from Jackson. He wanted to bring some awareness to this awesome studio and the gear. That’s treasured and cherished; they’re so excited about the space. He called a couple people and asked me to call a few folks, and we put together a crew.

Engineer Trevor Spencer teaches a recording class to high school students at Haiti’s Artists Institute.
Engineer Trevor Spencer teaches a recording class to high school students at Haiti’s Artists Institute.

On teaching and recording:

Browne: I described the studio to Jonathan and he said, “Let’s get their equipment list.” It was pretty bare bones—a Pro Tools rig and an SSL [AWS900] board. He said, “Let’s bring in some equipment to warm this up and make it interesting for them.” It was about bringing some gear that we would like them to know about. It’s not that they don’t know anything; they just haven’t been shown how to do it. They notice that things can sound a certain way, but they don’t know how it was done.

Wilson: I could tell from looking at the list that we needed some signal chain. We needed some preamps, with some proper circuitry. We went down to Vintage King; those guys were very kind to us. We got a bunch of tube stuff, a 1073, a Manley Vox Box. And we brought down some microphones—old American EVs, a couple of AEAs.

Browne: I talked to [Mojave Audio’s] Dusty Wakeman and he gave us a deal on two tube mics. We brought API gear, Pultecs and Retro compressors. Teaching started the minute we plugged in the gear. That was part of the education of our coming there, and exactly what I hoped for. Just to know that this compression on the drums will make them sound like this; practical information about how to make things sound good.

Music, Etc.: Danielia Cotton
Music, Etc.:  Huey Lewis and the News
Music, Etc.: Lara Downes

On the album’s inspiration:

Wilson: We went to a real voodoo ceremony. It started at 6 p.m. and went on for about eight hours. It was a drumming frenzy. That was super cool to see. The interplay of the Haitian drums permeates the whole project. One of the focuses was the truly great drummers.

Browne: Jonathan is a drummer and he played the drums knowing that he wanted to feature the Haitian hand drums; his drumming was providing a setting or a context. At the end of the project, he started laying out this song at the piano. He invited Sanba Zao [of Haitian roots band] Lakou Mizik to play drums and sing, and it turned into that incredible call and response. On that song [“Lape, Lanmou (Peace and Love)”], there’s a moment where there’s suddenly a flute—that’s Habib. When Dave, who mixed the album, turned it up and it became this huge thing, we put the song at the beginning of the album because it demonstrates where the album is going.

I had that little guitar lick and the idea for “Love Is Love”—“Here on the distant sunny shores of an island…” We’re First World tourists. Everybody thinks of tropical places as places of refuge and relaxation, but for the people there, it’s a struggle every day. At the end of the song, I’m talking about Fr. Rick Frechette. He came to Haiti originally as a priest. He said, “They don’t need a priest; they need a doctor.” And he went away and became a doctor and came back and built a hospital. He’s an inspiration.

Jenny Lewis came down with some ideas but realized none of them had anything to do with what she was seeing, especially after we went to the voodoo ceremony. She wrote the song “Under the Supermoon” the next morning and we recorded it that afternoon.

The best part of it was to watch some of these songs become transformed by the whole group—to hear Raúl come in with a song and when we put the Haitian drums to it, it became this whole other thing. We didn’t try to put together a band—it was just a group of people that were interesting as individuals, recording—but we had six songs in five days, so we said, let’s come back and make it a whole album.

Let the Rhythm Lead: Haiti Song Summit Vol. 1 • https://spoti.fi/33SmlGX

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

Snapsound Takes Its Shot with Atmos

Snapsound's Dolby Atmos-capable mixing room
Snapsound recently upgraded one of its four rooms for mixing in Dolby Atmos, outfitting it with Meyer Sound speakers, an Avid S6 M10 controller and more.

North Hollywood, CA—Zach Seivers went to school to pursue his dream of telling stories through film but found that sound was his true calling. In 2006, straight out of film school, he started his own audio post company, growing the business from one to four rooms before recently adding to his storytelling tools with an upgrade to Dolby Atmos mixing capabilities.

Seivers set up Snapsound in an office tower in North Hollywood in a deal with a documentary filmmaking client. “I was able to bring equipment into a room that they traded with me. I said, ‘I’ll be an in-house guy for you guys, but I want to be able to pursue my own clients.’ And they were cool with that.”

He still maintains a working relationship with the company but has since leased his own space in the building, initially focusing on non-theatrical content, primarily for broadcast. “We built three 5.1 nearfield rooms and a voiceover/ADR recording space. Eventually I stopped recording dialogue and repurposed that room as a fourth nearfield room. If I was doing any projects with a theatrical destination, I partnered with a facility like Deluxe” in Hollywood, he said.

Working with an acoustical designer, Seivers value-engineered the rooms to get good, basic acoustic treatment and isolation in the studios at minimal expense. “I didn’t know how long I would be in the space,” he explained. “Now it’s been over 10 years, but I knew I would never be able to take those physical investments with me if I had to leave the building.”

Instead, he said, “I decided to put the emphasis on digital tools to account for any acoustical issues. We worked with Trinnov and brought the DMON [monitoring processor] into all of the studios. That was a game-changer.”

The layout and equipment complement, including JBL 4328 speakers, was designed to be identical in every room: “The DMON allowed us to fix the more complex problems and matched the sound of each of the rooms so much more closely than we were able to do without it.”

The monitors have since been upgraded to JBL 708s. All four rooms have also transitioned from Digidesign Control 24 surfaces to C24 desks over the years.

As the momentum behind Dolby Atmos built in recent years and the essential tools became more readily available to independent facilities, Seivers decided it was time to take the plunge. “Netflix embraced and pushed delivery in Atmos. That was the catalyst for me as a business owner,” he said.

Related: Netflix Unveils Audio Streaming Improvements, by Steve Harvey, May 2, 2019


He contacted Chris Bolitho, sales director at Vintage King Audio in Los Angeles, about upgrading Snapsound’s Studio A. “I’ve known Chris for a long time,” said Seivers. “He quickly connected me with Miles [Rogers, cinema/studio development manager] at Meyer and introduced me to Jose Castellon [senior studio and cinema design engineer] at Dolby. VK is very hands-on and has a very personalized service. And they have a wonderful guy on their staff, audio consultant and technician Frank Verschuuren. It’s nice to have that level of support.”

Snapsound's Dolby Atmos-capable mixing room

Seivers had heard Meyer Sound’s Acheron Designer cinema speakers in sound designer and re-recording mixer Will Files’ room at Sony Pictures in Culver City, CA. “It’s a relatively small room, but they had such a huge, theatrical sound, and resolution, detail and color,” he recalled.

With the Acherons, “You can emulate a theatrical sound, and I’ve increasingly been moving into more theatrical work,” he said—a move that led to installing three Acherons for LCR coverage in Studio A. “The way the sound moves in the room is so much more dynamic that I’m able to make choices that I have found translate better from a small to a big room. If I’m going to another facility and four-walling a large stage, I want to minimize the amount of time I spend translating the work to that room.”

Meyer’s UP-4slim speakers support the Dolby Atmos side and overhead zones. “I like that they have more than enough power, the resolution is fantastic, and they have a really interesting look. I also like that they’re extremely modular and easy to install—and remove. And we didn’t have to deal with cutting holes in the ceiling.”

Related: COVID-19 Can’t Stop Pro Audio Retail, by Steve Harvey, June 25, 2020

Studio A’s spec was barely compliant with Dolby’s criteria for Atmos Home Entertainment Studio certification, he said. The room just squeaked through. “Because our room has a sloped ceiling, the rear overheads were right on the edge of what Dolby considers their minimum spec. They’re very careful with when and how they make concessions, since the point of the certification is that it is a standard. But we were so on the edge that they were willing to be flexible. They balanced that with the other aspects of the room.”

Signal transport between the Pro Tools system and the Dolby Atmos RMU—both running on Mac minis—and the Avid MTRX controller is via Dante. To continue taking advantage of Trinnov’s optimization technology, Seivers also upgraded Studio A’s DMON to a Dante-enabled version capable of handling the new 7.1.4 speaker configuration and communicating with the MTRX.

He also swapped out Studio A’s C24 for an Avid S6 desk. “I love the reaction of the faders,” he said. “As simple as that sounds, that was the biggest reason I wanted to invest in it.” The S6 is popular for mix-to-picture rooms, but Seivers initially resisted the upgrade because of the expense. “But there’s a little bit of a future-proofing aspect because the S6 is built with Atmos in mind,” he said.

As it turns out, there’s an active used console market through online portals such as UK-based Resurface, including for the component parts of Avid’s M10 version of the S6, which doesn’t include the display screens. That’s fine by him, said Seivers, who finds the displays distracting. “I’m looking at the image on the screen and not Pro Tools or the board displays. You can get an M10 at a fraction of the price of a new M40 system, so I ended up buying the S6 used.”

Now, like everyone else, Snapsound is facing an unpredictable future in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s super strange, but we’re creative people and we can be creative in ways beyond our craft,” said Seivers. “I’m confident that people are going to find ways to tell stories no matter what.”

Snapsound • www.snapsound.com
See Snapsound’s portfolio of work: www.snapsound.com/portfolio

Vintage King Audio • www.vintageking.com

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com

COVID-19 Can’t Stop Pro Audio Retail

COVID-19 Can’t Stop Pro Audio Retail New York, NY (June 25, 2020)—When much of the country started going into lockdown at the beginning of March in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the bottom fell out of pro-audio retail equipment sales. “We were 35 percent down for one week; that was scary,” says Chris Bolitho, Vintage King Audio’s Los Angeles-based sales director.

Contrary to the predictions, this was not the start of a recession, however. “Within days, it turned around,” says Bolitho, as he and his sales team reached out to clients and discovered that many of them were gearing up to work at home. “All of a sudden, we went from this one week of scariness to being 20 to 25 percent up, week over week, what we had projected,” he says, as clients snapped up desktop speakers, USB microphones, sound absorption panels and room correction tools from the likes of Trinnov.

Brad Lunde, founder and president of Las Vegas-based high-end pro audio products distributor TransAudio Group, reports a similar experience. “Our business exploded,” he says.

When the lockdown came, Lunde worried at first that he couldn’t conduct business as usual, visiting clients and demonstrating products. As things currently stand, he says, “You can organize a trial, but you can’t personally show up.”

ATC reference speakers are a cornerstone of Lunde’s business, so he decided to offer a discount on the U.K. manufacturer’s SCM25A Pro and SCM45A Pro models, he says. “Just to sell the same amount I was selling already. But I did four months of business in one month. ATC is still trying to catch up to the orders; I’ve kept them busy.”

Sweetwater Names Distribution Center Team

The bump in ATC numbers was accompanied by upticks in sales for associated studio gear such as Drawmer monitor controllers and Tube-Tech’s CL 1B compressor. They’re gear “that could transcend location and be useful at home as well as in a studio,” he says.

“We went from everybody having a place to work to nobody having a place to work—and then trying to figure out, once it became clear it wasn’t going to be over in a week or two, how to set up a professional small studio at home. I think a lot of people put their money into high-end, high-value products of distinction,” Lunde says. “Business went crazy, and we’re still slammed.”

A big part of Dale Pro Audio’s business is supplying gear for use in large gatherings of people, such as houses of worship, schools, concerts and corporate applications. Needless to say, observes Tim Finnegan, who handles broadcast, recording and install sales for the Jamaica, NY-based company, things quickly came to a standstill in that market.

Sound Productions Expands into Wisconsin

“This is not traditionally what audio companies have had to face before,” continues Finnegan, noting that gatherings for entertainment and other purposes are usually the last to be affected during an economic downturn—although this is obviously more than that, he notes—and not the first. “We tried to open our minds to what else we could be doing to get sales and help people,” he says, looking for potential sales among churches holding services outdoors and restaurants that need to announce customer orders.

One bright spot for pro audio retail has been supplying local broadcast solutions for outdoor church gatherings. “It started with people looking for a $200 FM tuner that Rolls makes,” he says, referring to the HR70 FM transmitter, which has a range of around 200 feet. “You gather your parishioners in their cars in a parking lot, put up a large screen and projector, and broadcast the audio,” which can be picked up on FM radio.

Then Rolls Corp. ran out of stock. “The next best thing is a few thousand dollars—a Wi-Fi solution that’s a little more complex to set up,” says Finnegan. Plus, being Wi-Fi, older parishioners are not necessarily as comfortable with the technology, which requires them to download an app and listen on their cell phones.

Happily, Finnegan reports, Dale Pro Audio has weathered the storm. “We were prepared for it financially, so we’ve been able to weather it very well and sales have come back.”

Vintage King has managed to largely avoid stock issues, according to Bolitho. “We always hold a lot of inventory—many millions of dollars-worth—so when the supply chains got screwed up, we were in a good position to carry on shipping.”

Maybe Vintage King hasn’t had the exact model of an item that a customer wanted, he says, but a good alternative has generally been available. Competitors relying on a just-in-time or just-too-late supply model have not been so successful, he says.

“The profile of the business changed, and in that sense, we’re lucky that Vintage King is a very adaptable company,” says Bolitho. “The number of sales orders has doubled, but the average order value has taken a hit. We’re not selling $200,000 recording consoles at the moment, but we are selling 1,000 $200 interfaces, for example. So it’s about learning how to move fast and having a good way to pivot and provide other options.”

Lunde, currently working from his home north of Phoenix, AZ, suspects a good number of Chinese-made goods, especially at the consumer end of the market, will not weather the current crisis as well as many pro-audio products have. “I think the consumer business is going to suffer,” he says, not least because of U.S. import tariffs and the fact that audio hobbyists have less discretionary budget to spend.

We shouldn’t underestimate what we are going through, as Lunde points out. “This is a seminal event that changed the world overnight, like a war. Everybody has to live in a new environment with a whole new set of rules and pressures and problems. To all of this, we have the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution perhaps restarting,” he says, as the U.S. and other countries grapple with the best way forward in a pandemic and a recession, neither of which are likely to be over anytime soon.

There is already a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel for pro audio, though, as news filters out that production facilities including Abbey Road in London and Barefoot Recording in Hollywood have reopened for sessions. Because, as Lunde says, “People miss the opportunity to work in a studio. That’s where music is made. It’s not the same as working from home.”

Original Resource is ProSoundNetwork.com