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RMAF 2014: Acoustic Sounds Gets stranglehold on Sony, show goers

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By John Stancavage

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When I walked into the spacious, ground-floor Acoustic Sounds room at RMAF, head honcho Chad Kassem had just cued up Dave Brubeck’s jazz chestnut “Take Five.”

As often as this track gets played, I never get tired of it, but it rarely locks me into my seat, either. So, I listened for a few minutes — Kassem’s pressing sounded wonderful by the way — and started chatting with the “other Chad” from Acoustic Sounds, Chad Stelly.

He was telling me that the Salina, Kansas-based company was preparing to add a third shift at its record-pressing plant. Suddenly, though, the room shook.

Boom. Boom. Booma-booma-boom-boom. “Here I come again now baaabeee,” growled the singer, while drums slammed, bass thumped and the lead guitar buzzed like an overheated electric transformer.

Among the dozen or so folks in the room, heads were spinning around in ways even a chiropractor wouldn’t try. I looked up and saw Kassem grinning.

I turned to the other Chad.

“Ted Nugent … ‘Stranglehold.’ Now there’s something you don’t hear every day at your average audio show,” I observed.

“Yeah, we like to have fun,” Stelly responded.

He then goes on to tell me about how Acoustic Sounds is continuing to grow. The company now has about 90 employees and two major businesses with its Quality Record Plant (QRP) vinyl side and Super HiRez digital side.

As much as the business is expanding into digital, executives don’t think vinyl’s comeback is a fad. “We predict it will continue to grow,” Stelly said.

Acoustic Sounds had the house rockin’ with Sony SS-AR1 speakers ($27,000) a pair, a Clearaudio Ovation turntable with a Clarify tonearm ($5,000) and a Sony HAP-Z1ES file player ($2,000). Various cables were by Kimber.

The preamp was a Pass Labs XP-20 ($8,600) and the amps were Pass Labs VFET 40th Anniversary models (priceless, as only a few were built.)

“I got you in a stranglehold baby/You better trust your fate,” lead vocalist Derek St. Holmes snarled as I started to leave. I stopped and sat down until the song was over. Classic Ted Nugent — and Acoustic Sounds — can do that to you.

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2 Comments on RMAF 2014: Acoustic Sounds Gets stranglehold on Sony, show goers

  1. Your point is well taken, but a quick look at the vfet curves will show that these particular parts are very special indeed. You can dismiss the importance of any particular output device, but the Sony vfets are certainly a different animal from any MOSFET.

    Value judgments and technical assessments aside, these amps are both excellent sounding quite literally “priceless.” After all, as John made clear, no price has ever attached to them.

    On the bright side, if your old amp sounded this good, was this well built, and your name is Nelson Pass, you might find that your priceless amp is just as much a fetish object as these beauties.

  2. “priceless, as only a few were built.”

    I think you can take hardware fetishism too far. The original circuit design may be clever (is it?), but the hardware is just some electronic components soldered onto boards and mounted in a metal box. It’s not a rare racing car or piece of jewellery. This is more like declaring a microwave oven or video recorder “priceless” because only a few were made before they stopped making the “classic” TDA1234 LED display driver IC (or whatever).

    I think the only reason why old electronics should be valuable is if they are particularly interesting to look at or of genuine historical interest. An art deco radio is evocative of a certain time in the past, and may have been sculpted by an artist. Some 1970s hi fi is wonderful and could quite easily warrant a price of some hundreds of dollars on eBay, though I wouldn’t necessarily want to listen to it.

    I built an amp in the 1980s using some Hitachi MOSFETs that they don’t make any more. Never mind “a few were built”, my amplifier was *unique*. Must be worth loads, now.

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