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Sweet Sound

At Greg’s Custom Shop, Hammen creates environment made for music

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Greg Hammen, owner of Greg’s Custom Shop, prepares one of his turntables for a sound demonstration.

There’s a blue canvas chair that’s carefully situated in front of a turntable and in between two speakers at Greg’s Custom Shop, 2372 170th St.

That blue chair is what owner Greg Hammen calls the sweet spot.

That’s where the sound equilibrium exists.

When the needle catches the groove of the black vinyl record, the music by “Heart” amplifies and fills the space.

The guitar thumps, the drums kick. And Nancy Wilson’s voice carries.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Greg Hammen, owner of Greg’s Custom Shop, adjusts the dials on one of his sound systems.

Cold late night so long ago. When I was not so strong you know — A pretty man came to me — never seen eyes so blue…

It’s the closest thing Hammen can get to without actually being at a live concert.

Move the chair a little bit to the left or to the right and you’ve lost the sweet spot.

“I am introducing those frequencies into my real-time environment,” Hammen said. “If I’m listening to an album and I want to be totally taken in by it, the only way that can truly happen is if the sound engulfs you and takes you into that false environment and makes it real.”

Hammen’s goal is to create the best possible sound environment for his customers.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
Hammen cleans up a vinyl record before playing it.

That involves not only the right equipment, but the right placement of the equipment. The room itself also makes a difference, Hammen said.

“I want to recreate some symphony to transform my thoughts,” he said. “Maybe I’ve had a bad day. If it’s set up right, it will have the ability to do that.”

Hammen sells home audio equipment, home audio speakers, video equipment, TVs, video projectors, antennas, turntables and accessories.

“What I primarily do here is custom home electronics,” Hammen said. “In-wall speakers, whole house audio, home theater rooms, multimedia rooms. Anything to do with sound — high quality sound.”

Hammen has been working with sound for over 43 years.

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
A red light blinks on a turntable as Hammen sets it up for sound at his shop.

“In 1977, I moved to Fort Dodge to go to Iowa Central Community College,” Hammen said. “And I did — but on that same week I went and got hired at a place called Sound World.”

Sound World was an audio video store that had a presence in Fort Dodge for several years, Hammen said.

“It was around for many years in Fort Dodge and also regionally I think there was a total of 28 stores,” he said. “From there, that’s where I really got started.”

In 1985, Hammen went to work for Fisher Electronics as a product specialist in Iowa and Nebraska.

Then in 1987, he decided to settle in Fort Dodge, where he opened Archer Audio Video Appliance Center.

“It was a life-changing decision,” Hammen said.

He remained at Archer until about 2004. And after that he opened Greg’s Custom Shop.

He eventually purchased a mini-storage facility where the shop is located now. He purchased it from Chuck and Ramona Jondle.

“They actually built this,” Hammen said. “And I was good friends of the family.”

Hammen sells a combination of new and vintage electronics.

The evolution in the way sound is delivered has long fascinated Hammen.

“An AM radio in the ’30s and ’40s, most people had one in their house and that’s how you got all of your entertainment,” Hammen said pointing to a still-operable 1930s radio. “People ask me what intrigued me about electronics and that was just the ability of hearing someone’s voice or something through the box and them not being there.”

Hammen said the stereophonic sound, which was invented in the 1930s, is the basis for most of what is made today.

“It all stems from two channel sounds and the record player was one of the main reasons for that,” Hammen said.

And Hammen owns, operates and sells them.

“A turntable is a highly delicate instrument and has different parts, but when they work right it’s incredible,” Hammen said. “That’s why people have gone back to vinyl because of that different sound.”

One part with a particularly important role to play is the needle.

“The further the needle gets into the groove, the better the sound,” he said. “When I look at cartridges and the needle, the needle right there at the tip, there is a diamond there, and that makes the difference.”

Differences in turntables include how they spin, the type of tone arms they have and the needle.

Hammen said the turntable has experienced a resurrection of sorts in recent times.

“The turntable is what is old but is new again,” Hammen said. “Is it a fad or fashion? They have always been around but are such a superior sound to most anything else in a room if it’s set up correctly.”

And the feeling of creating that quality sound is a difficult feeling to top.

“Music keeps you young,” Hammen said. “Once you have experienced really good music then you can understand that.”

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