The vinyl revival is gathering speed and one company ahead of the game is London’s Gearbox Records, established in 2009 by drummer Darrel Sheinman. What began as a hobby business following the Music Entertainment Desensitization and Reprocessing concept has expanded into an online catalogue, a mastering studio and revolutionary turntable launch. Sheinman was previously a banker and then a ship tracking entrepreneur with a passion for quality sound; after a natural end to his previous careers he founded Gearbox by licensing some live 60’s and 70’s Jazz, previously unreleased archive recordings from the BBC and other radio stations and re-mastering them onto vinyl. A popular example is still the great tenor saxophonist Dexter Gordon’s Fried Bananas.
Sheinman pursued the “Blue Note” ethos, the legendary US Jazz label which recorded and mastered great jazz artists using high quality engineering from Rudi Van Gelder. The techniques used were less compressed and had a more open and dynamic sound, typical of the golden age of recording in the 1950’s and 60’s. The Gearbox mastering studio is all about an expansive sound combining the latest modern and best vintage equipment, for instance Gearbox use vacuum tubes/valves glowing like light bulbs instead of transistors, producing a warmer richer sound. In 2012 Gearbox started to sign some living touring artists and the hobby was now a business. In 2013 Gearbox attracted some high-profile investors including Hugh Padgham, winner of four Grammy Awards and one of UK’s most successful record producers and audio engineers best known for his work with Phil Collins, The Police and McFly. Today’s Jazz, Folk and Electronic catalogue includes Binker and Moses whose Journey to the Mountain of Forever was voted best urban album of 2017 by Mojo magazine, and the US based Funk-Jazz outfit Butcher Brown. Gearbox has had alternative poets Kate Tempest, and Michael Horovitz collaborating with Paul Weller, Damon Albarn and graham Coxon doing album releases on the label in the past too.
Today the Gearbox permanent team of four plus two part-timers have access to neighbouring Mark Ronson’s studio, to which they are electronically joined together, an advantage for both, as this enables Gearbox to records acts “live in the studio” direct to disc or direct to 1/4” tape. The vinyl cuts and CD’s are globally distributed or available on most digital streaming platforms and also on the Gearbox online store.
Since 2008 Vinyl has been the fastest growing sector of the music industry now transitioning from niche to mainstream. In 2014 turntable sales eclipsed CD players… Enter the new Gearbox Automatic turntable, a homage to the famous Dieter Rams, responsible for most of the iconic Braun designs of the 1960’s. The turntables have a built-in valve phonostage, eliminating the need to buy one separately. The cognoscenti will appreciate the luscious sound produced by the valve, the young will appreciate the Bluetooth link but the really innovative and unique feature is the turntable tags your music to your phone in real time, with the option to add it to your Spotify playlist; this feature is awaiting patents, meantime manufacturing is subcontracted to Pro-ject in Austria, the largest turntable manufacturer in the world. The first delivery arrives in March and at an amazingly low start-up price of under £500 pre-sales are clocking up, awesome competitive value for such a magic combination of design and technology.