Doug Sax is the founder of the Sheffield Lab (specialty record and disk production company and creator of many of the best Direct-To-Disc recordings ever made, and the object of veneration of audiophiles world-over). After one visit at the CES, performed in Las Vegas
Jan. 1983, this was a letter he sent to the Abso!ute Sound (Best audiophile magazine of USA).
Doug Sax, CES 1983
(Published in The Abso!ute Sound, 1983)
"After five hours of this madness we were pooping out, but we hear a vocal - Amanda’s, it so happened-coming from some unknown speaker. It is instantly obvious that this is the best I’ve ever heard her sound, save for standing next to her. We went in and sat down and really listened. Everything sounded glorious and musical. I introduced myself to Arthur Regal from Cedarhurst, N.Y. He is president of ESB USA and will be importing the ESB line from Italy. He asked me if I would like to hear some other Sheffield records. No. anything but that. He then put on a Proprius recording, Cantate Domino. Again, the best reproduction of voice have ever heard. The recording was superb.
Impressed out of my shorts, we bade adieu to ESB and ventured further down the hall where I had a rather joyous meeting with my old friend Leode Gar Kulka of Sonic Arts. I met Leo in 1961 when Lincoln and I were attempting to make a direct-to-disc recording of a solo piano -and mono at that. He had the only Neumann cutting system In Los Angeles. He played some of his new recordings for us, and I ran around the show until I collared a pressing of our disc of Arnold Steinhardt and Lincoln doing the Strauss sonata, it sounded unfamiliar on the set-up in Leo’s shared room, and next door we tried it on some weird-looking speaker that sounded even weirder. Since I feel this is the best recording I have ever made, was disappointed that I couldn’t show Leo its virtues.
Bob suggested that we go back to ESB to listen to the Strauss, great idea, Bob. We went and listened to the whole sonata. I can’t remember the last time that listened through a complete work. The result was stunning, way beyond accurate; a seamless, effortless recreation of the instruments, the room, the musician’s interplay and emotion- I have never heard a speaker re-create the spatiality of these Italian wonders. The ESB 7/06, a restorative experience.
Maybe it is all worthwhile. Special accolades to everything in the playback chain which performed without a trace of mechanical or electrical presence. SOTA sapphire turntable, Lustre 801 arm, high output SDX 2000 Supex, Threshold FET 1 preamp, Threshold S500 power amp. It was then 9 p.m. and everyone famished. We went to the buffet at Circus, Circus; Bob Neil, Arthur Regal, Renato Giussani (the designer of the ESB 7/06). I pumped Renato concerning the design parameters of his wondrous loudspeaker. Apparently he has done much research into what a speaker must do to allow the ear to receive space and depth information. What we all heard was no accident. As a professional, I can guarantee that the speaker will fail in many areas; as an audiophile tor a day, I know it is the finest loudspeaker I’ve ever heard. At a table nearby some people are conversing passionately over amplifier probems and crossover designs. Bob Iverson stops at our table and we exchange pleasantries; addicts all"
- Doug Sax
Doug Sax and The Mastering Lab
Doug Sax, founder of the Mastering Lab, passed away on April 2 2015 at age 78 in Los Angeles. The Mastering Lab closed.
By 1972, Sax was mastering 20% of the top 100 chart in Billboard magazine. Albums mastered by Sax and released in 1971 included such titles as The Who's Who's Next, Harry Nilsson's Nilsson Schmilsson, The Rolling Stones' Sticky Fingers and the Eagles' debut album. During his career, Sax cut thousands of LP masters with his custom designed, all-tube signal path including the reissue of the Slayer thrash metal group's Vinyl Conflict box set and Pantera vinyl reissues, the Eagles' Greatest Hits, and Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin.
Although well on a path to a career as a symphonic trumpet player, it was Doug's interest in recording and mastering that led him to put down his horn and open one of the very first independent mastering facilities in the world in 1967.
As a part of the original design team for The Mastering Lab, Doug was instrumental in establishing procedures for evaluating different amplifier and power supply designs. Additionally, he pioneered test methods to correctly evaluate the effects of passive components such as resistors, switches, relays, potentiometers, capacitors, wire, inductors and transformers. His painstaking level of detail and relentless pursuit of a pure signal path has earned him the respect and admiration of generations of recording professionals and audiophiles the world over.In his long career as a mastering engineer, Doug has worked with some of the biggest and most diverse talents in the music business, including The Who, Pink Floyd, The Eagles, Kenny Rogers, Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Earth, Wind and Fire, Anita Baker, The Rolling Stones, Al Jarreau, Bette Midler, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, Willie Nelson, Peter Frampton, Natalie Cole, Ray Charles, Bonnie Rait, Lyle Lovett, Rod Stewart, and Jellyfish. In 2002, Doug received a TEC (Technical Excellence and Creativity) Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement for his work on Diana Krall's The Look Of Love in the Best Record Production/Album category. That album also won a Grammy for Best Engineered Album the same year. Doug was also nominated for a Grammy in the Album Of The Year category at the 2002 Grammys for his work on the Dixie Chicks Home album. Doug also co-founded the Sheffield Lab record label, which pioneered direct-to-disc recordings, further establishing an audiophile market and awareness worldwide. That awareness earned Sax a prestigious Lifetime Honorary Membership in AES (Audio Engineering Society). And as part of the 2003 Grammy Award Ceremony, Doug was recognized by NARAS for his technical achievements in audio with a Technical Achievement Grammy. He was joined by such luminaries and prior winners as Rupert Neve, Les Paul, George Massenburg and Ray Dolby for this unique award.