Sound Spectrum: Keeping the Music Alive

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In the summer of 1967 Laguna local, Jim Otto, opened the eccentric music shop, Sound Spectrum. Today, 50 years later, as customers walk up the vintage brick pathway, they experience the same vibe as before. Psychedelic posters hang on the walls, the smell of incense wafts through the air, and music blasts from the record player in the back room.

During the 60’s hippie movement, Laguna was known as “the San Francisco of the South” and Sound Spectrum was right in the middle of it all. They got popular for selling concert tickets to shows throughout Orange County and Los Angeles, and Otto would often drive to venues to make sure the artist had everything they needed. 

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While Otto doesn’t spend as much time at the shop these days, he has since passed the reins onto two friends, Wave and Greg White, who fit Sound Spectrum’s criteria of knowledgeable, friendly, and fun.

“The experience of being here is what it’s all about,” says Wave with a smile. “Everyone who comes through that door is a friend.”

Indeed, every customer is treated with respect whether they are a regular visitor or a fresh face, whether they listen to Britney Spears or Led Zeppelin. There’s no judgement -- only the inclusivity and freedom to be just who you are. 

Sound Spectrum has watched the scene transform over the years as music has made many changes, ultimately going digital. They’ve sold 8-tracks, records, cassettes, CDs, and MP3s… but what’s sustained them in recent years is the comeback of records.

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“Records have revived us, 10 years ago we almost shut down, but records came back in a big way to sustain us,” shares White.

With 90% of the store sales now being records, Wave believes the reason behind the resurgence is that people long to hear the music of the Woodstock Generation. “This era we’re in now is similar to the feelings of the 60’s,” he explains.

Although Sound Spectrum does have a website where customers can browse products and make purchases, the real Sound Spectrum experience is actually coming to the store, chatting with Wave and White, and spending time amongst the music. “We’re here to share the talk and inspire one another,” says Wave.

With band t-shirts, posters, pins, jewelry, patches, hats, jackets, and mind-expanding local art, there’s always something creative to discover at Sound Spectrum. So head over and get your groove on.

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Mari Verdugo is a fourth generation Laguna Beach native, photographer, and writer who bought her first record at Sound Spectrum. Find Mari at @marielenaphoto or on her website.

Photos by: Grant Puckett.