27 June 2012

Mastering to Vinyl at Ardent Studios, Memphis

This is the vinyl lathe at Ardent Studios in Memphis. The Omnivore reissue of THIRD/Sister Lovers was mastered on this machine as were the original Big Star records in the 1970’s. Ardent is one of the few studios that masters their own vinyl reference disks. It was purchased from STAX Records in the heyday and came with their technician, Larry Nix. 

(Larry’s brother Don was in the Mar-Keys with Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn, Packy Axton, and Smoochy Smith. They had STAX’s first hit in 1961 with “Last Night.” 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3KZKMaYtAo)

After a while doing odd jobs and just soaking up the soul down on McLemore Avenue, Larry got a new job at STAX which was to read the manual and figure out how to work this new record-making machine.

Once in the hands of John Fry at Ardent they used the lathe to create Ardent’s unique sound— distinctive crisp high’s and rich low-end by riding the coolant as the needle cut the grooves. No reissues of Big Star records have ever been able to reproduce the sound of the original vinyl copies from the 70’s. 

THIRD/Sister Lovers was never officially released in it’s day and has been reissued at least a dozen times since 1978.

Here is the copy that started my journey back at WTUL, New Orleans in 1994. (from a recent visit)

For the Omnivore reissue of Big Star’s THIRD/Sister Lovers they warmed up the vinyl lathe one last time. These machines are no longer in production and vinyl mastering is becoming a lost art.

Omnivore has fewer than 100 copies left and has generously granted us 25 as premiums. You can get one by pledging on our Kickstarter page. We have less than 24 hours remaining.

Tagged as Ardent Studios Big Star Sister Lovers THIRD/Sister Lovers Omnivore Recordings Larry Nix Don Nix Alex Chilton John Fry vinyl lathe Drew DeNicola Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me