A Chance Encounter at AXPONA 2019 With Sonic Presence President And Industry Veteran Russ Hamm

At AXPONA 2019 Western Electric's Charles Whitener introduced me to Russ Hamm, president of Sonic Presence, a company that manufactures the VR15-USB Spatial Microphone™ a headphone-like in-ear microphone system that turns your head into a virtual "dummy head", which for some of us is easy! While that was interesting, it was Mr. Hamm's earlier experience as president of Gotham Audio in New York that got my interest.

Gotham was a pro audio company that in its heyday imported Neumann lathes and cutting systems— the SX-68 and SX-74—as well as Neumann microphones, EMT plate reverbs etc. Gotham's ads in the back of the audio magazines of that time (Audio, Stereo Review, etc.) listed some of the storied brands and the Neumann image somehow stuck with me from all those years ago.

Hamm's background is impressive:

Before founding Rainbow Broadband in 2004 he founded Qmedia, a farsighted company that took advantage of broadband opportunities for media customers using the then newly built national fiber infrastructure, establishing network technology that is currently used by ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN and FOX. Prior to that, he collaborated with Bell Labs on large-scale digital systems for music and film. He's twice received the Audio Engineering Society Board of Governors award for outstanding service. He is a member of the Recording Academy, Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers.

He assumed the presidency of Gotham and bought it in 1986 from its founder Stephen F. Temmer, who passed away in 1992 at age 64. Temmer too had an interesting history: as a studio engineer, he was involved in the tape recording and editing of shows such as Groucho Marx, Martin and Lewis, Bing Crosby, Milton Berle and Meredith Wilson. He was also responsible for making the first tape recordings of the Metropolitan Opera for broadcast in 1948. He recorded "Edith Piaf at Carnegie Hall" in 1957 when he produced the album and cassette for Pathé-Marconi EMI.

I figured an interview with Hamm would be interesting and of interest to AnalogPlanet readers and I think it will be, though I could tell he was somewhat skeptical of vinyl and does't share our enthusiasm for it. He's been out of the vinyl "loop", that's for sure, since, when he saw the vendors selling all of that new vinyl he was kind of surprised.

We spoke in a crowded Renaissance, Schaumburg Convention Center hallway but the video came out well so here it is. As you'll see and hear, he "knew them all (or at least many of them!)":

Russ Hamm interview

PAR's picture

Michael, please don't let the idea drop. If the vinyl revival is real (and most people think that it has moved beyond any thoughts of it just being a fad) then, as the future depends upon the availability of lacquers and the as the revival has already involved large investments, surely the finances must be out there? However who can make perfect flat aluminium (I'm British) discs?

Now for cutting stylii!

BTW, the old EMI plant is now housing/gym/restaurants & bars/shopping and a live music facility.


moron's picture

Vinyl (microgroove) was ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE more popular from ~1950-1990. And it was OVERTAKEN in sales $$ by pre-recorded cassette in 1983.
Please allow the defecation of that infinite faculty to seep in.

Tom L's picture

...for having such an accurate name.

moron's picture

....you're perfectly welcome, Tom.

Michael Fremer's picture
Definition of "fad": "an intense and widely shared enthusiasm for something, especially one that is short-lived and without basis in the object's qualities; a craze."

Vinyl continues to grow. It grew again in 2018 by double digits:

By your "moronic" definition CD was a "fad" because in its first few years it was but a small percentage of the market. Go wank elsewhere, moron.

moron's picture

As did the dot.com's, for several years, in the late 90s.
But don't worry, Mike ... your digital reviews, over at da 'Phile will always be bankable.
Luuuuuuuuuuuv dem run-on adjectives.
Like the ol' Prego commercial said: It's in there!!

PAR's picture

...for someone so candid in their choice of moniker.

Of course you are on the right lines for the historic element of your comment even if your final sentence makes no sense whatsoever.

However the whole point of a revival is that a decline has to precede it. Vinyl record sales have increased year on year since 2006 (the lowest point - see IFPI figures for world, RIAA for USA or BPI for UK) and this constitutes a revival. It is not necessary for a revival to equal or exceed historic high points but for it to exceed the lowest point consistently over a reasonable period.