Acoustic Sounds by Salina is a leader in the production of vinyl records
After beginning to buy, sell and trade vinyl records in the 1980s, Chad Kassem built a business that employs over 100 people in Salina. A company that increased his love of music.
Kassem’s company, Acoustic Sounds, has grown from his passion for buying and selling records to a company that records, produces, reissues, masters and also presses what Kassem and company hope will be the finest vinyl in the business.
“From the beginning, we have strived to press the finest sounding, highest quality vinyl that can be produced,” said David Clouston, communications associate for Acoustic Sounds.
This desire and hope for this kind of perfection comes directly from Kassem’s passion for music.
“I love getting the rights to re-release one of my favorite albums and making it sound better than it ever did,” Kassem said. “I know every record that’s ever been made could sound better than it does.”
Making the most of elements that have been recorded before not only makes it sound better than ever, but can also be a way to travel back in time.
“You know, Elvis is dead, Louis Armstrong is dead,” Kassem said. “If you can hear them and it sounds like they’re in your room with you (there’s nothing better).”
Squeezing Jazz Classics to Jimi Hendrix
There are relatively few vinyl pressing companies in the United States and with the growing popularity of the audio format, each of the companies is working almost non-stop to keep up with demand. Acoustic Sounds is no different, and its Quality Record Pressings, which opened in 2011, is busier than ever.
“Right now we’re mostly doing jazz,” said Stan Bishop, a plating technician for QRP.
The albums of a deceased rock legend are pressed at the QRP.
“We’re exclusive to Jimi Hendrix,” Bishop said. “(He’s) still on at least one or two presses.”
Last Friday, Experience Hendrix, the company that manages the late rock legend’s music, announced that QRP is releasing an Ultra High Quality Record (UHQR) Clarity vinyl of “Are You Experienced,” The Jimi Hendrix’s debut album. Experience it, courtesy of Acoustic Sound’s reissue label, Analogue Productions.
Each of these UHQRs is pressed all at once on a single machine at Salina, and Jimi Hendrix’s website has declared this reissue to be the “highest quality audiophile form” of the album and remastered by Bernie Grundman at from the original analog master tapes.
It’s the kind of attention to detail that makes QRP stand out, especially in these days when vinyl presses are constantly churning out records.
“All the vinyl plants across the country…are all full,” Clouston said. “Vinyl has come back in such a roaring way.”
QRP prides itself on trying to make the best product from presses nationwide.
“What makes it doubly difficult for us is that we’re much more precise,” said Jerry Gutierrez, who has been with Acoustic Sounds for a few years. “We are very picky with what we make.”
This detail is essential in the way the records are pressed and the way the presses are maintained. QRP has a number of vintage parts and machinery to ensure the process is as close as it ever was.
“There are a lot of enthusiasts out there who really pay attention to all of these details,” Gutierrez said.
Love of music leads to success
Kassem got its start in the 1980s when the CD was introduced to the industry.
“I was one of the only ones doing it when the CDs came out,” Kassem said. “I worked as if I knew this day was coming.”
He said he didn’t expect to be where he is now.
“I started at the bottom of the hobby, working on it,” Kassem said. “There are cases that happen, there are (things) that are not fun to deal with.”
Despite the drudgery of the business, the folks at Acoustic Sounds, including Kassem, love what they do and love doing it for the music.
“To think it’s so much in the hobby now that I’m working with the best (in the industry),” Kassem said. “I get these master tapes from these classic records and work with the best mastering engineers in the world.”
The love of the profession also attracts people. Gutierrez said he started as one of Kassem’s first clients in Salina in the 1980s.
After leaving his own freelance business, Gutierrez said he called Kassem to see if Acoustic Sounds needed help. It fits perfectly.
“It’s nice to work with people who have the same passion,” Gutierrez said. “It’s a real family unit. Chad is good for his people.”
Gutierrez said the business is tough, but Kassem and Acoustic Sounds are finding a way to convince the music world how much they love him.
“The only way to show people how passionate you are is to (do it),” Gutierrez said.
The attention to detail, quality and accuracy of the product they offer, whether it’s a brand new album, a hard-to-find older used album, or even a a high-quality reissue of a classic, is exactly what the folks at Acoustic Sounds are showing. the passion they have for the thing they love, music.