RMAF 2015: Acoustic Sounds expands vinyl empire


rmaf-2015-200x200“I mostly put out what I like,” Chad Kassem, owner of Salina, Kansas-based Acoustic Sounds was explaining to a couple of audio fans as I entered his ground-floor room during the second day of RMAF 2015.

Playing was a recent Beach Boys LP reissue. I was amazed at how fresh the recording sounded and how easily the listener could follow each voice in the trademark harmonies.

“It’s been a great year. We’re really moving a lot of vinyl,” said Chad “the other Chad” Stelly, who also works for the business.

He said Acoustic Sounds was especially excited about its recent acquisition of The Mastering Lab from the estate of legendary mastering engineer Doug Sax, who died in April. The lab is a sound engineering and LP lacquer cutting business started four decades ago by Sax, who won numerous Grammy awards and was the go-to guy for such acts as The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, The Who, Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Paul McCartney. Acoustic Sounds has combined The Mastering Lab with its Quality Record Pressings division to form a vertically integrated vinyl LP production facility that handles mastering, pressing, graphic design, printing and sales.

Stelly said the company’s equipment sales also were going well, with more millennials buying turntables and deciding to add rigs featuring floorstanding speakers to their existing headphone setups.

At RMAF, Acoustic Sounds was using Sony SS-AR1 speakers ($27,000) a pair, driven by a Pass Labs XP-20 ($8,600) and the legendary Pass Labs VFET 40th Anniversary model amps (priceless, as only a few were built.)

Acoustic Sounds also participated in several special events, including playing its HiREZ files on GamuT’s new DAC, paired with GamuT’s M250i/D3i mono/preamp combo and GamuT’s new RS7 speakers. In addition, Kassem spun vinyl at a session featuring the Pear Audio Blue turntable, through GamuT’s amps and playing on GamuT’s new RS3 speakers (room notes here).

Kassem seemed to be everywhere at once during the show, popping into various rooms to drop off vinyl and shoot the breeze with other exhibitors. You could tell where he’d been by the type of music that was playing when he left. “Fun, fun, fun” indeed.

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About John Stancavage 196 Articles
Contributing Editor for Part-Time Audiophile