Abkco CEO Jody Klein (left) and chief audio engineer and archivist Teri Landi
Photos: Jennifer Klein
For more than 50 years, the Abkco label (New York City) has been home to some of the most iconic recordings of the rock ’n’ roll era. The Rolling Stones, Sam Cooke, The Kinks and The Animals are just a handful of the greats that have been Abkco’s life’s blood for decades.
One of the reasons Abkco continues to thrive and maintain a fine reputation with listeners is the philosophical approach the company brings to reissues: Abkco’s releases are meticulously researched, restored and remastered to modern standards, with respect for the history and meaning of the music.
Abkco’s modified Ampex 351 tube reel-to-reel tape machine
“Our new offices, while spearheading the company into the future, embrace our past legacy and honor the artists who built Abkco,” says CEO Jody Klein.
The studio facilities were designed by Troy Germano of Studio Design Group (and, of course, of Germano Studios) with UK design firm White Mark Limited. “The goal was for Jody to build something that would last many years where he’d be able to do reissue work, as well as normal stereo mixing projects, archiving and pretty serious, high-tech surround mixing projects like they did on [the Stones’] Get Yer Ya- Ya’s Out!,” says Germano, whose final design makes efficient use of Abkco’s loft space by employing a shared machine room for the audio studio and video suite
The 14x18-foot audio studio, with custom acoustical treatments, was designed to accommodate the variety of engineering tasks that chief engineer Teri Landi and the Abkco staff perform: sourcing master recordings, archiving, recording and mixing music and sound-for-picture, and premastering reissues and new releases.
“We needed a facility that could do our premastering,” Klein says. “That involves a vast amount of researching source material, as well as A/B’ing between singles, albums, foreign releases, domestic releases.”
A great example of this type of work would be the impressive The Rolling Stones 1964-1969 remastered vinyl Box Set that Abkco released last month. This project involved researching the UK studio album versions, as well as the two UK “Big Hits” collections that contained hit singles not included on the original UK studio albums. “There are times with the Stones where they made two versions. An example of that is ‘Time Is on My Side,’” Landi explains. “The version that’s on a U.S. LP is not the same version that’s on the UK LP. It’s important to A/B those original references and make sure you have the right thing.”
The equipment Landi now has at her disposal includes an SSL AWS900 console purchased from Alicia Keys’ Oven studios and a newly expanded 7.1 monitoring system that incorporates the ATC SCM50ASLs from Abkco’s previous facility and Exigy surrounds. Landi is particularly delighted that the new studio can house all of the tape machines and other playback devices that are essential to her work. Models include two Ampex ATR-102 tape machines with Aria electronics (modified and maintained by Mike Spitz), an Ampex AG-440 with original electronics and a 351 with original tube electronics (modified and maintained by Bill Wells), and a Sony JH-24. Landi keeps a selection of interchangeable headstacks for each of these machines. Also in the new studio is Abkco’s collection of new and vintage outboard gear: Neve mic pre’s, EQs and compressor/limiters; GML EQs; Chandler Ltd. limiter; Universal Audio compressor/limiter; DW Fearn tube EQ; Manley Pultec tube EQ; EMT 140 stereo reverb plate; and more.
“In the new studio, Teri can perform any engineering tasks she needs, and she has these devices, literally, within an arm’s length. That was a requirement that was on our drawing board from day one,” says Germano. “Jody’s reissues are second to none. That’s partly because of the effort they put into going back to the original source, but it’s also because Jody’s always been on the cutting edge in terms of going with SACD, like they did with the Rolling Stones’ catalog a few years back. He and Teri make the right transfers and the right adjustments to bring this material to the modern age.”