Come 2023, Southern California will welcome a state-of-the-art pressing plant with Fidelity Record Pressing, Billboard can exclusively announce.
Constructed from the ground up in Oxnard, Fidelity aims to be the country’s “premier vinyl production facility,” according to a release. To deliver on that promise, the plant’s co-owners Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab and Music Direct’s Jim Davis partnered with vinyl engineers Rick and Edward Hashimoto, a father and son team with over 60 collective years of experience pressing vinyl.
Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab is a California-based label specializing in the production of reissued vinyl LPs among other physical formats and is owned by Music Direct, the world’s largest online retailer of high-end audio and audiophile music and accessories. Fidelity will become the future production home of all Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab vinyl releases.
As vinyl production continues to face delays and plants experience continued backlogs, Fidelity “is strictly focused on quality – not quantity,” according to the release. “The biggest opportunity is the increased capacity for our related record label, Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab,” Davis tells Billboard. “It’s been frustrating watching demand far outpace our ability to deliver records to our customers … The expanded capacity will enable us to issue records that aren’t just the standard classic rock and jazz for which we are known.” Davis says “a good starting goal” for Fidelity is to press 2 million LPs annually, “working up to as much as 12 million LPs per year based on the size of our facility.”
“Conversations about opening a new record pressing facility started mid-2020 when it became apparent that demand for vinyl was far exceeding capacity,” continues Davis. “My partners and I viewed this not just as an opportunity to capitalize on a growing music sector, but also to advance the quality standards for vinyl.”
He says the biggest challenge has been coordinating the acquisition of record presses and their required infrastructure, especially in a supply-chain-challenged environment. Fidelity will open with eight presses, all of which are manufactured by Nashville’s Record Pressing Machines.
According to the release, the hydraulic presses mechanically mirror presses from the 1960s, but with the addition of more innovative operational controls. “Fidelity’s blend of the finest of older, proven technology and new, enhanced methods — combined with the staff’s intelligence, skill, care, and ingenuity — make it distinct from any other U.S. pressing plant,” the release states.
At a time when more plants are popping up across the country – and when the vinyl format continues to grow in eye-popping popularity – Davis says there are really two misconceptions about opening a new pressing facility: “[That] it can’t be done without experienced record-pressing veterans,” he says, “and they are hard to find.”