Denver's Tim Gerak is in love with sound. So much so that, on Monday, July 28 , he will launch his own line of boutique audio gear under the name Mammoth Cave Audio.
This isn't Gerak's first foray into sound, though. While growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, he started making basic four-track recordings in his basement. Then, after several years of honing his recording techniques (as well as his musical chops) Gerak joined the Akron-based post-rock outfit, Six Parts Seven, and began recording the band's albums.
By 2008 -- after roughly ten years of playing together -- Six Parts Seven was finished, leaving Gerak with a major void to fill. Seeing he had been recording music for the better part of a decade, Gerak turned to studio work to occupy his time and pay his bills.
"My wife and I had just gotten married and we bought this ridiculously huge 100-year-old house in Akron, Ohio," Gerak says. "It was so large that we were able to keep a huge portion for living quarters and I renovated the other half into a nice studio."
In 2011, Gerak and his wife, Jessi -- who has family in Colorado Springs -- uprooted them-selves from Akron and headed west for Denver. With them came their first son Eli and, of course, the studio, which also bears the Mammoth Cave moniker.
Gerak found immediate work in Denver, recording more than 30 bands in his first two years. But soon, his steady stream of clients became overwhelming.
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"There comes a time when anybody who does what they love as a job gets a little burnt out," Gerak says. "I realized that, last year, too many long sessions back-to-back left me spent. Not only were my ears feeling fried but my family life was suffering, as well. I needed a change." This change came a few months ago when Gerak installed a new mixing board into his studio and noticed it was lacking in tone. Dusting off his old soldering iron, he set out to build a "pas-sive harmonic generator" that would add more warmth and bite to the console's existing inputs. "While I have a ton of colorful gear in the studio, I started thinking about how great it would be to have that mojo on all the channels of the console," Gerak explains. "So, I started messing with the idea of a line level device that could be used on the inserts of my console to give it some added character." This sort of preamp, which Gerak befittingly named the "Wooly Mammoth," gained so much positive attention, he decided to set up a small workshop in the front room of his house to build more. Now, he has created thirteen different pieces of gear for his initial product line.
"A good amount of the initial line is products that engineers use on a daily basis -- high quality direct boxes, monitor controllers, headphone amps, re-amps and a handful of other utilitarian stuff," Gerak says, noting that, "[Mammoth Cave Audio] is my take on trying to make something exciting out everyday gear."
Unlike the studio, Gerak's new venture hasn't added much stress to his world. In fact, it's given him more opportunities.
"Now I take more time off and, not only do I see my kids way more, but I get to see my wife for more than three hours a week," Gerak says. "In turn, the records I am working on in the studio feel fresh."
And, although Gerak has received a handful of pre-orders and the hype amongst audio aficio-nados is building, he doesn't feel pressed to meet demands. This is because every piece of gear is made-to-order and assembled by Gerak himself.
"The soldering is done by hand; even the blank casings are machined and drilled out in my workshop, then the graphics are silkscreened onto them by me," Gerak says. "This allows me to make small runs as needed without sitting on a warehouse full of merchandise -- the customer purchases a product, is given a serial number and they take their spot in line. Roughly two weeks later they will receive a hand-built piece of gear."
What's better than handmade gear, Gerak continues, is handmade gear at, "a price affordable enough to be accessed by the working class." Along with great sound, Gerak believes the right price will help Mammoth Cave Audio stand out among the competition, even if that isn't his first priority.
"I still feel like a very new kid on the block," Gerak muses. "If anything, building gear has left me refreshed and more excited about making records. I have big plans to grow the audio company over time, but the studio is where it all begins and ultimately ends -- the ideas are born there and the gear winds up there, full circle."
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