We had the good fortune of connecting with Len Horowitz and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Len, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I noticed more and more of the record business was falling in my lap as Otto got older. Otto Hepp was the engineer at Western Electric who built the cutterheads that made the first commercially available stereo records, among other inventions. There was a changing of the guard in the 1980s as the old engineers were dying off and there weren’t a lot of young people who knew this part of the business as well as I at the time. I faced a crossroad: Stay in the analog world or become part of the digital? I just couldn’t let the analog go. Now 30 years later it’s come back in a significant way. In all seriousness we had a chance to buy a piece of the phone company–Western Electric/ ATT. They were famous for three things: Talking Pictures; invention of the transistor; and the stereophonic record. All three still with us in one form or another. Not to mention the telephone. How is this relevant in the 21st century? It’s part of an educational process. The more people that get into this, the more important it is to teach them properly.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
The quality of sound of phonograph records has been known for decades. We serve to maintain the equipment that makes these records lives up to that standard. There doesn’t seem to be an end to the progress and improvement that can be made in analog recordings. It didn’t end in 1940 or 1950 or 1960. It keeps getting better. There are so-called “Golden Ages” of audio, which have more to do with circumstance than the era itself. This is one such educational topic that we delve into with examples. For instance, from 1950-1960, you could buy almost every record on 3 to 4 mediums: 78rpm shellac, 33 LP mono, 33LP stereo, 45 single, and reel to reel tape. All are different, and all had an intended audience. A lot of people forget that the 45rpm single was intended primarily for radio DJs and Jukeboxes, although teenagers could afford them because of their 65 cent price tag. This is a hands-on business that requires a variety of skills along the path of electro-mechanical engineering. There aren’t many keystrokes that take place here. We’re here as sort of an insurance policy to guarantee that phonograph records will continue for at least a couple more generations.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I always take my clients and friends to Brunello’s Trattoria in Culver City. The food is so delicious that it still remains vibrant even after at least 100 visits. Another Ma & Pa shop that keeps our business in business is Findlay’s Machine Shop where owner Keith Sawa fabricates parts for us when we need something that is otherwise “unobtanium.” Findlay’s is my Disneyland, and the friends I take there seem to enjoy the atmosphere too. RTI is the pressing plant in Camarillo that presses many of the records that we listen to around the globe. NiPro Optics does the nickel-plating for these master-records we’ve been talking about. I wouldn’t miss a tour of that factory in Irvine. This itinerary wouldn’t be complete without a visit to some local studios that use analog gear on a daily basis (usually reel-to-reel tape machine). Electro Sound in Beverly Hills, DapTone Records in Riverside, and Valentine Studios in Valley Village are some of my favorites.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There is one friendly kid who reached out to us from another state when he was about 12. Ryan was precocious enough to ask about “how they got a certain sound,” referring to the sound he wanted to achieve in his head. That’s an essay question for another time, but there are answers to it. He was perceptive. We talked over the phone for the next couple of years, and his voice noticeable changed along the same timeline. The more I talked, the older I sounded. Ryan is important because he represents carrying over these qualities into the 21st century. He’s got the bug, and it’s going to be with him for life.
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