Vinyl is hot — again. So is Trutone Mastering Labs, a vinyl record-cutting studio born 50 years ago in a North Jersey basement. When co-founders Carl and Adrianna Rowatti moved to Orangeburg, New York, the studio moved with them.

PERFECT HARMONY Adrianna and Carl Rowatti, co-founders of Trutone Mastering Labs; designer/architect John Storyk with Rowatti in the studio.

They brought a wealth of experience, a collection of top-of-the- line equipment and a penchant for quality studio design. After gaining its footing in vinyl and preserving it as its keystone, Trutone

is well positioned to meet the growing demand for analog mastering and vinyl cutting. The company’s operating space is modern, quite a step up from its humbler origins.

Spotless and shaded in muted grays, Trutone’s mastering suite shows the thoughtfulness that went into its construction.

The looks come secondary, however. The main goal is to create the ideal space for sound clarity — and for turning a rough mix into a cohesive track.

The studio is one of nearly a dozen customized by the Rowattis over the decades, locations in Haworth and Hackensack among them. They also restored the New York City studio where John Lennon recorded on the day he was shot and killed.

Each has been meticulously configured. Studio walls are decoupled from the structure to form “a box inside a box,” says John Storyk, a renowned studio designer and architect based in New York City who designed Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Lady Studios in 1970, and worked on the Rowattis’ last two spaces. Diffusers and membranes are strategically placed out of sight to further manage sound frequencies, limiting low-frequency vibrations and improving overall quality.

The Rowatti’s studio houses new technology as well as vintage gear.

Carl concedes that his studio setups could be considered overkill. “It depends on the level of sophistication that you’re looking for,” he says.

Trutone’s clients are renowned. Trutone’s credits include Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Whitney Houston, Luciano Pavarotti, the Smashing Pumpkins, the Killers and the Rolling Stones. Most of them contract with Carl for his high level of experience and skill. They also come for Trutone’s rare museum-quality analog equipment.

Some of Carl’s gear is more than 50 years old — not the latest, yet, with bespoke tonality and personality, among the greatest. His Fairchild 670 tube-based compressor, for example, is the superior, dual-channel version of the famed 660 favored by
The Beatles in the 1960s.

At that time, Carl was a teenager who cut one-off records on the Presto 6N lathe of his father, Lou Rowatti. Lou, effectively the inspira- tion for Trutone, recorded weddings and sold newlyweds custom-cut albums. He also lent Carl and Adrianna $1,000 to start their company.

This photo gives a view of the lathe-cutting equipment to the right of Rowatti’s mixing position.

In Trutone’s infancy, Carl would show up at local schools and churches to record concerts they could turn into records. Adrianna sold albums to cover their costs. The profits went toward new equipment. “The time we would have spent in col- lege, we spent building Trutone,” Adrianna says.

For three years, the business was a side hustle. They ran it out of Carl’s childhood home; that North Bergen basement was just 10-foot square. By 1975, the business had grown enough for the Rowattis to quit their day jobs. Married now, they went full-time and moved to Northvale. Their new in-home mastering facility became their calling card.

Stanton Magnetics, a company that makes high-end DJ equipment, called them about participating in a national advertising campaign. The Northvale studio was soon infiltrated by staff at audio publications, from High Fidelity to the Journal of the Audio Engineering Society, who were curious about their sanctum’s inner workings. Their popularity and Adrianna’s pregnancy forced a quick expansion.

Trutone opened its first commercial facility in Haworth in 1976. First, it spilled over to the space next door. Later, it extended across the street. The company then specialized in cutting master lacquer discs for producing vinyl records. CDs would come in 1984, and volumes swelled.

In 1990, Trutone’s business forced them into an empty 15,000-square foot warehouse in Hackensack. A yearlong build-out created master- ing studios, modern offices, a graphic art depart- ment, a cassette duplication and a fulfillment factory. A CD packaging division was later added.

The expansion may have been Trutone’s high point. “I can’t believe how brave we were,” Adrianna says. At its largest, T