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Thread: Acoustic Sounds = audio Mecca!

  1. #1
    Forum Moderator MiTT's Avatar
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    Default Acoustic Sounds = audio Mecca!

    So I'll start a little thread here concerning our trip to Acoustic Sounds yesterday and hopefully some of the others will chime in with their pictures, impressions and stories.

    The drive to Salina from Lawrence is about 2 hours. For the most part that was uneventful except for the moment when Tom tapped me on the shoulder indicating that he wanted to stop at the rapidly approaching rest stop to relieve himself of his morning coffee - but I didn't realize what he was trying to convey until about 8-10 feet before the exit. LandCruisers don't handle all that well on two wheels, but I managed my best Joey Chitwood manouver well enough that nothing but my passengers mental well being was damaged. I knew it must have been scarriest for Craig and Karin in the back of the truck when I saw her making the sign of the cross as we rolled to a stop. Pretty much everyone needed to use the facilities after that, except for Ray who merely said he'd already gone and just needed a towel.

    Salina is a 2 exit town off of I-70 in rolling hill country dotted with broadleaf trees. It's a "don't blink or you'll miss it" kind of place that is actually the center of a cultural groundswell that we as music lovers should all be aware of (more on that later). Lucky enough for us, Dave brought his trusty Street Pilot loving named "Lucile" who directed us to park in front of this rather unassuming building. I remember thinking to myself as we got out "WTF?"
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    Forum Moderator MiTT's Avatar
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    Default Never Judge a Book by it's Cover

    So, as we all started milling around the front of the building clearly marked with a sign saying "Use the back door", one of the friendly folks at Acoustic Sounds stuck his head outside and yelled for us to come to the back of the building. We got to meet most of the folks working that morning, and I'm sorry I don't remember all of their names because these are SERIOUSLY friendly, honest people who obviously care about their jobs. The owner of the company Chad Kassem came out and joined us and proceeded to walk us around his building opening up not only the doors to his business, but his heart and passion as well. He had coffee and donuts for everyone, but most of us were too excited to eat. The scent of new music was positively thick in the air. I love the smell of vinyl in the morning!

    Chad (that's him on the left in the green tee shirt), told us all about how orders come in, get pulled from the shelves and go out to shipping the day the order is placed. He's a fun guy to listen to as he speaks with a slow New Orleans drawl explaining the intricacies of his baby. His real baby appears on the cover of their new catalog - but you can tell as he speaks that he's put his heart and soul into this business.
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    Tim Bingaman

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    Forum Moderator MiTT's Avatar
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    Default This is the part where I got light headed...

    So we wandered around as Chad told us about the area that had once been all CD's but was now about 70% SACD's with some XRCD's mixed in, and in another area some DVD-A's when we rounded a little corner and I saw this...

    The heavens parted and shafts of light from above illuminated the warehouse. Choirs of angels sang sweet hallajuia's as all other discussions faded away. My knees grew weak, my skin got all clamy, I may have relieved myself I don't know I just felt all warm and moist. Even now I feel myself drifting off on the memory of it with this retelling.

    There, in front of us, like the Fort Knox of central Kansas, was row after row after row of sweet black slabs containing the very essence of recorded art.

    Let me take a moment...
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    Tim Bingaman

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    Forum Moderator MiTT's Avatar
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    Default But Wait, there's more

    Can I get an Amen!
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    Tim Bingaman

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    Forum Moderator MiTT's Avatar
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    Default An amazing story

    So Karin (Craigs wife and an audiophile in her own right) asked Chad the simple question, "All I want to know is how a Cajun ended up in Kansas?" And with this simple question began the story of how Chad came to Salina. He's had a hard life, experienced much, overcome much more. Personal demons once held him hostage. In this small town he is able to hold them at bay. All of the good things in his native New Orleans may not be here - the food, the clubs, the living party on the street, but none of the good things about Salina reside in New Orleans - the solitude, the simplicity, the appreciation of the quiet contributions of America's heartland. The journey of his life has brought him here, and he is making an impact beyond the confines of this small town...
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    Tim Bingaman

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  6. #6

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    Tim,

    LOVED the story! Very well written and illustrated! Wish I could have been there w/ all of you I know you must have had a BLAST!
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    Forum Moderator MiTT's Avatar
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    Thanks Jim, but there's even more to the story - I just had to take a little break because most everyone just ran in to Lawrence to hang out for awhile and browse some music stores.

    Back to the story... So, after we hung out looking at all the music, Chad brought us into the sound rooms. There are two rooms, one leading into the other, the outer room housing the lower priced gear and the inner one dedicated to the higher tier stuff including the mighty Avalon Sentinals.

    Holy Cow! At first we just looked and talked about different equipment. Finally Chad started spinning some vinyl, much of it blues that Chad has rerecorded in his own studio, on his own label - Blue Heaven Studios, and this is where the story starts to really get interesting.

    So Chad is an avid music lover, particularly of the blues. He started his business by collecting, buying, selling and trading some of his 15,000 LP's. Turns out there are a LOT of like minded music lovers out there, so the business grew. He's an unabashed audiophile too, so eventually equipment was added to the catalog, and they had to move into larger digs to support it all. So why not get the city to add new transformers, and rewire an entire building to add isolated circuits and dedicated lines to the new soundrooms that were going to be built?

    If you built it they will come-as the line goes. Here's Chad telling to story to Tom (TomDac) and Ray (Raygunn). There's Dave (twich54) running to get out of the way when the system was fired up - don't worry Dave - Fear No Art.

    So this system with the Sentinals, a monster Pass amp, SME 20 turntable, Koetsu Urushi cartridge (installed that morning), prototype Sutherland phono stage and Pass Pre-amp sounded great on record after record. As Chad would describe the recordings you could visualize the position of the musicians spread out across the stage. He talked about a Nancy Bryant recording where there was a guitarist on the left, along with the bassist, Nancy on vocals dead center with drums behind and someone on harp I think to the right and a second guitarist (Sonny Boy Williams I think it was), but he was sitting on the stairs of the church where it was recorded, so he was lower and more forward of the rest of the musicians - AND THAT WAS EXACTLY HOW IT SOUNDED IN THAT ROOM with locations and depth and hall ambiance all there!
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    Last edited by MiTT; 06-24-2007 at 01:18 PM.
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    Tim Bingaman

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  8. #8
    Forum Moderator MiTT's Avatar
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    Default The Coolest Part of All

    As Chad spoke about the recordings, each one in intimate detail, there were occasions where there was a touch of sadness in his voice, and as we listened you couldn't help but to drawn in to what all of this is really all about. Several times Chad said "Acoustic Sounds is where we make our money, but Blue Heaven is where we spend it." Some of you may have heard the story on NPR or the CBS "Sunday Morning" show.

    Blue Heaven Studios is an old church in Salina, Kansas that was built between 1924-1927. It began to deteriorate in the 1990's and was eventaully abandonded. Chad bought it in March of 1996 originally as a place to store surplus inventory, but soon it's real intended purpose started to form. From the Acoustic Sounds website...

    The church's naturally occurring acoustics were phenomenal. After consulting with Neil Muncy, David Baker and Joe Harley about a live performance, they came to check out the sound quality. And sure enough it was, as Kassem says, "preem."
    The church had obviously been built for good acoustics so everyone could hear His word, but these acoustics were extraordinary, perfect for not only a performance hall, but a recording studio as well.
    Muncy was hired to engineer the project. Warren Ediger, a Salina architect, was hired to design the plans for the control room that was to be located at the back of the sanctuary
    Muncy arrived in Salina in spring of 1997 for the first in a series of trips to work on the studio design. His notable specialty is power distribution and proper grounding. As a result of his findings, more than $60,000 was spent on a complete new electrical service into the building. Using only the finest panels, breakers and surge suppression equipment, the studio power system was installed. Finally, in order to acheive the highest standard of performance, the city of Salina installed a transformer designated to provide the studio with its own private power source.
    The mixing console is a 36-input Neve 5106, purchased from Fox Broadcasting. It was restored and modified for our own special use. More than 1,000 man hours were required to restore it, upgrading thousands of capacitors and op amps.
    The studio's recording area is the sancuary whic is 77 feet long, 52 feet wide and 40 feet high. For comparison, Abbey Road Studio One is 94 feet long, 55 feet wide and 42 feet high.
    Eight huge oak doors with stained glass insets partition an area that was originally used for congregation overflow. Today, those same heavy doors, 4' 8" by 9' 5", and more than 2 inches thick, now close to conceal a state-of-the-art control room loaded with vintage analogue equipment.
    The original structure of the church has remained as untouched as possible. The studio is concealed so well that the church is still utilized by local couples for weddings.


    In addition to the console and recording decks, Chad has added a vintage cutting lathe, and all of the Blue Heaven recordings, as well as many for other projects are cut right there at the church. It now sereves as a concert venue and recording studio of extraordinary regard.

    Walking around the church though was like walking around in a museum, for the real beauty of this story is what happens there on a pretty regular basis. There are posters and photo's all along the walls of people who have performed and recorded there. People who's names I would not recognize or know were it not for the efforts of Chad Kassem. Again, from the Acoustic Sounds website...

    It wasn't until early 1998 that the church was officially named Blue Heaven Studios by Joe Harley, producer for AudioQuest and a close friend of Kassem. And how fitting. Kassem's true passion is the blues, and his goal was to record as many remaining blues legends as he could. Of course new talent was sought as well, but with the original blues masters fading, it became clear that there was work to be done.
    "There's no great way to say it," Kassem told the Salina Journal, "I want to record them before it's too late."


    Chad has taken on the mission of documenting the music of entire generations of Blues artists who, though legends in the genre, are virtually unknown to most of us, not because of any lack of talent because that is there in abundance, but because they may have never had a recording contract or appropriate distribution for these artists. Many of these artists are old, some have passed on, and Chad has captured their voices and music and spirit before they have left us. There is a whole legacy of music that haunts this place, and resides for all of us in the music that Blue Heaven Studios releases on LP, CD and SACD.
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    Last edited by MiTT; 06-24-2007 at 01:54 PM.
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  9. #9

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    Here is the Martin Logan Owners Group crew touring "Masters at the Crossroads - Blue Heaven Studios" in Salinas Kansas. Chad has been working to preserve the American artform of "Blues" by building this recording studio and capturing the original Blues Masters performing in this historical and culturally significant venue. It was quite an honor and a privilege to recieve a first hand tour by Chad and to hear his personal experiences of recording sessions with these blues artists. I was surprised to learn that some of the blues CD/SACDs I own were actually recorded here. This place is truly a "House of Blues".

    Our thanks go out to Chad for his all his hardwork and effort toward preserving this artform and for taking the time to give us a personal tour.

    From left to right: Raygun, TonyC, Craig Twitch, Tom, MiTT and Chad.
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    Last edited by Craig; 06-24-2007 at 02:39 PM.

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    Senior Member amey01's Avatar
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    I -- WISH -- I -- WAS -- THERE -- !


    Thanks for the reports!
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    Senior Member amey01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Craig View Post
    Here is the Martin Logan Owners Group crew touring "Masters at the Crossroads - Blue Heaven Studios" in Salinas Kansas. Chad has been working to preserve the American artform of "Blues" by building this recording studio and capturing the original Blues Masters performing in this historical and culturally significant venue. It was quite an honor and a privilege to recieve a first hand tour by Chad and to hear his personal experiences of recording sessions with these blues artists. I was surprised to learn that some of the blues CD/SACDs I own were actually recorded here. This place is truly a "House of Blues".

    Our thanks go out to Chad for his all his hardwork and effort toward preserving this artform and for taking the time to give us a personal tour.
    Craig - can we have names for your photo? Thanks for posting!
    Marantz 8300 SACD / Squeezebox Touch --> Audiolab M-DAC --> Copland CTA-305 --> Classé CA-101 --> MartinLogan Vista / Behringer DSP1124P --> Whise Profunder sub

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    Quote Originally Posted by Craig View Post
    Here is the Martin Logan Owners Group crew touring "Masters at the Crossroads - Blue Heaven Studios" in Salinas Kansas. Chad has been working to preserve the American artform of "Blues" by building this recording studio and capturing the original Blues Masters performing in this historical and culturally significant venue. It was quite an honor and a privilege to recieve a first hand tour by Chad and to hear his personal experiences of recording sessions with these blues artists. I was surprised to learn that some of the blues CD/SACDs I own were actually recorded here. This place is truly a "House of Blues".

    Our thanks go out to Chad for his all his hardwork and effort toward preserving this artform and for taking the time to give us a personal tour.
    Couldn't have said it better Craig!

    I'm personally helping the cause by dropping a slightly obscene amount of dough on some of Chads vinyl. I've done my part to support the local economy!

    I REALLY miss my turntable right now! 22 new slabs-o-wax just dying to be heard...
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    Last edited by MiTT; 06-24-2007 at 02:46 PM.
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  13. #13

    Default The Church, The Mission, and The Religion...

    Guys,
    I think these three simple pictures pretty much summarize the pilgrimage yesterday....
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  14. #14

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    Chad shows us the Master LP Cutting Lathe in the editing/recording room.
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    Forum Moderator MiTT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by raygunn View Post
    Guys,
    I think these three simple pictures pretty much summarize the pilgrimage yesterday....
    I absolutely LOVE that "Save the Wails" poster! Just about cried when I saw it.
    MiTT
    Tim Bingaman

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    If you want to see System 95 click here

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