A Visit to Oswalds Mill Audio

Picture your typical high-end audio manufacturer.

It can be a spontaneous, self-generated hybrid of black shapes, brushed metals, and varying wooden finishes. You need not limit yourself to a single component or a single manufacturer. Whatever comes to mind first, really.

Got it?

Now picture the exact opposite of that.

That, reader, is Oswalds Mill Audio.

I first learned of Oswalds Mill Audio's (OMA's) existence a couple months ago, when I received an email from Jonathan Weiss (founder & CEO of OMA) inviting me to visit their showroom in Dumbo (Brooklyn, NY). Prior to this communication, I had never heard of OMA—perhaps because they don't want their products reviewed. So even though you will find a few pieces on Stereophile.com—See, for example this piece by Art Dudley), you'll find more OMA reading material on mainstream sites like Billboard, The New York Times, British GQ, Cool Hunting, and Wired.

Intrigued by this elusive non-review cloak, I politely accepted Jonathan's invitation. We scheduled a date. Some time passed. Before I knew it, I found myself standing outside of an unassuming industrial building, not quite sure of what to expect. After a brief, sweaty trek to the building's topmost floor, I entered a spacious otherworldly palace: the OMA showroom.

I couldn't be sure of whether I had entered the audio equivalent of Batman's Batcave, if I had wandered inside a work of art, or if I was actually inside of an audio manufacturer's showroom. With sun pouring in through grand floor-to-ceiling windows, majestic rugs and handpicked antique furnishings as far as I could see, I was impressed. Even the ceiling was carefully outfitted with vintage film lights and acoustic panels. Every single square inch of space served a purpose, contributing to the overall aesthetic direction.

At the focus of all this visual scenery were OMA's sonic creations. I had never seen such a collection of enormous horns in person before. How cool! As the listening began, we were joined by Joey Weiss (no relation to Jonathan), the marketing guy/all-around OMA sidekick. (If we are in the Batcave, then does that make Jonathan Batman, and Joey Robin?)

As Joey and I got to talking, he revealed that he had worked closely with Harry Pearson at The Absolute Sound for near a decade from his early 20s! We chatted about the peculiar obstacles of being young in the audiophile world—perhaps something that only Joey, Stephen Mejias, and I can equally understand.

During my visit, I was able to listen to five systems total: The Imperia, Mini, a speaker not yet officially released to the public, Ironic, and the AC-1 (footnote 1).


The first system we listened to (and my favorite system of the whole day) consisted of the OMA Imperia (a four-way conical horn loudspeaker system with two rear-loaded bass modules), OMA TS-1 Tungar power supply (for the Imperia field-coil drivers), OMA Hollander GM70 amplifier, OMA PD-1 phono preamplifer, OMA Tourmaline direct-drive turntable (on a custom isolation rack), OMA step-up transformers, Schröder Reference SQ tonearm (a stereo cartridge), OMA tonearm prototype (a mono cartridge, mechanically engineered by Frank Schröder, Miyajima Zero mono cartridge, Miyajima Madake stereo cartridge, Analysis Plus cables and interconnects, and a Custom OMA slate rack system.


We listened to a wide selection of records, including Muddy Waters, The Beatles, Duke Ellington, a Hayao Miyazaki film soundtrack (a record that I had brought with me), and many more. I had never witnessed such a combination of power, detail, and sensitivity. It is said that people either like horn speakers or they don't. Upon initial introduction to the OMA Imperia, I decided that I am a fan of horns.


We then switched out the OMA Imperia with the OMA Mini (a two-way horn loudspeaker.) As its name implies, the Mini is cutely petite, especially compared to the Imperia. Despite this, there was only a slight loss in breadth, and I still felt affirmed in my newly formed decision to be a fan of horns.


The third system we listened to was of a speaker featuring a Heil AMT driver that has not yet been released to the public! Due to its compact form, and agreeability with the electronic music we listened to on it, it seemed like the speaker that would match my home the most . . . that is, if I couldn't obtain the Imperia. (Delusional as usual, I thought to myself.)


Before continuing to listen some more, we decided to take a brief lunch break. If you've read anything I've written before, you may or may not know that I am an unstoppable eating/drinking machine. Jonathan was well aware, and not only had he prepared an elegant array of meats, cheese, wine, and home-cooked side dishes—he also saved a few drams worth of Talisker 175 anticipating my visit! (footnote 2). At the table, we were joined by Jonathan's wife, whom I learned was the photographer of all photos on the OMA website.


After lunch, we proceeded onwards to listen to a system that included the OMA Ironic (cast-iron, open-baffle loudspeaker), OMA Black Knight 807 amplifier (an apt title from the Batcave!), OMA Anatase idler-drive turntable, OMA PD-1 phono preamplifer, Schröder RW custom tonearm (with magnetically pivoted headshell), and Analysis Plus cables and interconnects (footnote 3) used throughout, and the OMA Metamorphosis rack system. The Ironic was my second favorite (after the Imperia) because of its incredible ability to convey acoustic detail and intimacy. We listened to a few tracks from a Sufjan Stevens record I brought, Carrie & Lowell, and I swear I went through a mild period of tearful emotional instability.


We then switched out the Ironic for the OMA AC-1 (a three-way conical horn loudspeaker) keeping the rest of the system as is. To me, the AC-1's spatial nuances and warm tone were its main attractions. Listening to Sara Vaughan on this system was a spectacular treat.

Though I very much enjoyed all of these systems, I was most enamored by the Imperia system and the Ironic system.


Overall, it did not feel as though I (currently a non-reviewing member of Stereophile's staff) was being wined and dined by an audio manufacturer (with a no-review policy, mind you.) What I had originally intended to be a quick (maximum 3–4 hours) visit to a showroom morphed into an all-day, eye-opening, ear-warming, homey learning experience. I am impressed not only by OMA's striking visual aesthetic (second to its sound) and fierce dedication to vintage-inspired, horn-loaded speakers, but also by their refreshingly genuine approach.

All I have left to say is, dear reader, if you have not yet checked out Oswalds Mill Audio, I highly recommend that you do. And if you have not tasted a Talisker 175 yet, I highly recommend that you do that as well.

Footnote 1: I asked for prices but as a matter of policy, OMA does not publish prices for its creations.

Footnote 2: Talisker 175th Anniversary was a special 2005 release celebrating 175 years of Talisker Distillery. Additionally, though I hadn't told anyone, I had been on a six-month wild goose chase all over NYC Scotch shops hopelessly hunting for this specific bottle!

Footnote 3: Fun Fact: NASA uses Analysis Plus Cables.

K.Reid's picture

Really unique speakers and very good writing, Jana. I await reading your review of the Audeze in ear monitors. Out of curiousity do you or your colleagues know if there are any other companies pairing a Heil AMT with a horn? Keep the articles coming.

You are doing a good job bringing Jana into Stereophile fold of writers.

Anton's picture

I liked this especially because I love steam punk and OMA is the pinnacle of steam punk meets audiophilia!

I'm surprised they don't have leather listening hats and brass goggles for visitors.

I love OMA.

veentage's picture

Yes, I agree with K. Reid. I look forward to Jana's posts!

Anton's picture

Thank you for that vicarious audio thrill!

OMA is a unique thing, for sure.

Marc210's picture

Strange horns indeed.