Walking into the showroom of Oswald's Mill Audio is like entering into another dimension where music is no longer what it was outside the walls of the airy Brooklyn loft. The sheer presence of the equipment in the room teases your senses in anticipation of the sound that's waiting to burst out.
Bespoke Audio Equipment
Jonathan Weiss started OMA in 2006 after years as a filmmaker. His knowledge of the bygone methods of motion-picture sound reproduction led him into the world of high-end loudspeaker, tube amplifier and turntable design. He slowly converted his industrial loft space into a showroom as an extension of the Mill, an 18th century Germanic house-mill in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania. The Mill is where R&D, final assembly, and finishing takes place.
The showroom floor is littered with components of all shapes and sizes, but the lion of the OMA product line is the Imperia, two massive arrays of conical horn loudspeakers with a 104dB subwoofer, powered by its own solid-state amplifier, and sporting a grill made of thick slate rock. The Imperia system commands the room at OMA's loft, which is itself a reliquary of furniture, art, and vintage gadgetry including a dimmer panel from an old planetarium.
How Music Is Supposed to Sound
When the music starts playing, the most striking thing is the detail. You can hear each and every instrument vividly and distinctly. You can imagine the space it was recorded in. Amplitude is another quality to behold. In most venues, really loud music is coming from a source that is butchering the signal as it is amplified to such high levels. At OMA, you hear loudness of a different type. It's a quality that fills the room completely, yet you can still hear a conversation with ease. It is an unusual but pleasing experience. Astonishingly, the OMA amps are low-powered, which makes for better-sounding audio, but requires incredibly high efficiency speakers, like the kind OMA provides.
Form Follows Function
Equally impressive is the attention paid to the visual aesthetic of OMA equipment. Weiss teams up with industrial designer David D'Empirio to make each product look as good as it sounds. Components are custom built by master-craftsmen. Materials such as the solid walnut, cherry, and ash of the speakers, are sourced from Pennsylvania, as is the slate that forms the turntable plinths. Those plinths, by the way, are cut using waterjet machines, the same machines that Boeing uses to cut carbon-fibre for plane wings.
Despite the modern look, the philosophy of OMA is simply that when it comes to sound reproduction, the latest technologies pale in comparison to what was created decades ago. Smaller and cheaper has won the day, but for the unique experience of sound in its most rich and complex form, the clock must be turned back.
Video: Michael Hession Images: Oswald's Mill Audio