Vintage King: Celebrating 25 Years Of Audio Excellence
Throughout 2018, Vintage King will be celebrating its 25th anniversary. We’ll be taking a look back at the history of the company, gear that we have serviced and sold throughout the years and the customers who have made it all worthwhile. Stick around, we think you’re going to like it.
Fueled by a passion for the studio equipment that was used to create their favorite records, Michigan-based brothers Mike and Andrew Nehra began crafting a plan in their parent's garage to capitalize on a trip to Europe. That’s right, the effort to become one of the leading pro audio gear companies started in an unlikely place - a hotel room in England.
“I was in the studio recording an artist and he said, ‘Do you want to go England?’ and I said ‘Yeah I’d love to go,’” says Vintage King co-founder Mike Nehra. ”With the currency exchange rate in our favor, I knew we could purchase vintage gear in the UK at half the price as home. Andy had a credit card worth $4000, I had one worth $2000 and my dad had one worth a few grand. I went and spent $8000 on recording gear. The rest was history.”
Stuffing old Neve modules and mics into his suitcase, Mike brought back a treasure trove of vintage equipment from England with visions of using it in the brothers’ recording space, White Room Studio. Andrew stepped in with the idea to sell the gear and purchase even more studio equipment with the money made from sales. The brothers compromised by splitting the gear, half would be used in their studio and the other half sold to purchase more.
White Room Studio, Detroit Michigan, 1993
As the duo continued to venture into the world of selling recording gear, the theme of “hotel rooms as a place of business” would continue to permeate their new lifestyle. Traveling and playing in Robert Bradley’s Blackwater Surprise, the Nehras would take any break from the rigors of tour to purchase gear out of their hotel or make a sales call during a roadside rest stops - just before the advent of affordable cell phone use.
“With the internet just arriving, we’d use a classified ad in the back of Mix Magazine to get the word out. We’d put 10 or 12 things we had for sale, microphones, compressors, all that and while touring, we’d make the sales on pay phones when stopping for bathroom breaks,” Mike Nehra states. “Andy would be like ‘Mike, the band’s going crazy- get off the phone! We gotta go, we gotta go.’”
Finding themselves in a network of vintage recording gear brokers, the duo began to delve deeper into their new surroundings, making larger purchases like recording consoles from different continents. Yet, as their budding industry relationships and business continued to grow, the brothers stood on the precipice of a life-altering decision.
“We were building something. It was evolving and we could control it,” says Mike Nehra on the progression of Vintage King. “It was a more reliable way to make a living than doing the ‘musician/producing records’ thing - our hearts were torn between the two.”
While the choice didn’t come as an easy one, the logistics associated with touring and owning a studio were tough enough. Staying at home meant a more stable lifestyle for the Nehras, one dedicated to their burgeoning business.
Vintage King Tech Shop, Detroit Michigan, 2015
Exchanging the road for the office quickly became a fruitful move for Vintage King. Over the course of the next two decades, the company would far surpass the brothers’ expectations, growing with their love of selling analog gear to encompass the fresh digital technology of the modern recording studio.
“Even though we love gear, that’s not what it’s all about,” Andy Nehra says. “It’s all about the music. It’s about opening things up so there are no roadblocks on your journey. We want audio creators to let their creativity flow and to feel like they have everything they need to be their best.”
With an ultimate goal of complete customer satisfaction, Vintage King spawned two brick-and-mortar locations that imbibe a sense of the ultimate pro studio. First with the Los Angeles flagship store in 2012, shortly followed by a Nashville location, these showrooms continue to offer engineers, producers, studio owners and audio fans, a place to hear gear before making any kind of purchase.
“We try to do more of a boutique-style showroom where you can come in and try things out. It’s not your typical retail environment,” Andrew Nehra says describing Vintage King Los Angeles and Nashville.
Vintage King Nashville Showroom, Nashville, Tennessee, 2016
Styling their stores and web presence to help customers better understand gear, the Nehra Brothers and their team of over 100 employees envision a new pro audio experience that encompasses the entire history of the recording studio.
By giving audio creators, novice and professional, the ability to learn about new products while instilling the importance of the classics, Vintage King has helped to create a full-circle approach to creating pristine sound.
“If you told me in 1993 when my brother Andrew and I started Vintage King what it would be like today, I’d tell you that you were crazy,” Mike Nehra states. “It’s been an amazing journey so far and we look forward to seeing where the next 25 years takes us.”