Gramophone Dreams #59: the Ojas System, EJ Jordan Marlow loudspeaker

Look closely at the audio system in the photo. It belongs to my friend, and fellow audio seeker, Devon Turnbull (aka Ojas). Notice every object in the room, particularly the arrangement of amplifiers, and turntables, and that awesome herd of cartridges on the table in front of the listening chair. May I suggest you regard these diverse objects as ceremonial utensils arranged in an aesthetically pleasing manner, for the pleasure of the main listener. For the sake of this short story, I will honor myself with the title of Shokyaku (Japanese for main guest) and my friend Devon as my esteemed host Teishu).

This tale of record-playing and discovery will be most clear if you consider the events I am about to describe as ritual communions practiced in front of an altar made of carefully fashioned and arranged gray boxes.

I imagine most of you have been honored listening guests, sitting in the preferred, centrally located chair, facing your host's sound system. And surely you've been asked, "What would you like to hear?" You hope for a Wow! moment but know full well that the disc you've selected may sound less good on this system than you remember it on yours. I've been in that situation countless times, and I have learned that good manners require the honored guest to keep useless chatter to a minimum while focusing their attention as completely as possible on the recording. Good manners also means speaking about the music first, asking only essential questions about the audio hardware. Most important is to refrain from bringing up topics like money or politics that could debase or derail this unique form of shared aesthetic experience.

Devon and I share this view: the ceremonial playing of records is something akin to the Japanese tea ceremony (cha-no-yu)—that listening with friends is intrinsically about intimacy, reverie, and the feelings of bonding that result from Teishu honoring Shokyaku, and vice-versa. It's about the intoxication that results from hearing thoughtfully selected recordings presented by cultured hosts dedicated to pleasing guests with their evolved taste in music and their audio utensils.

Whenever I visit Devon Turnbull, I leave his den invigorated, with a mind full of new ideas and a short list of previously unknown music to explore.


The last time I visited, the last recording Devon played was side 1 of Daniel Lanois's Belladonna (LP, Anti-86767). As the album played, in the image field in front of the speakers, I observed what I then described as "sound-flowers." The sounds of Lanois's ethereal pedal steel appeared as floor-to-ceiling bouquets of colorful, expanding and contracting clouds—of billowing, explicitly textured harmonic energy. This appealing visual-sonic effect was presented with a dense, feel-it-in-the-air tactility and effortless dynamics. Even at whisper-level volumes, I could feel sound energy tickling the room's boundaries.

Hidden behind that fantastic 31.5" Fostex FW800HS "Super Woofer," a new addition to Devon's system, stands an elegant old white-marble fireplace. As I sat listening, I remembered the fireplace, deciding its beauty was quaint and ordinary compared to the show-stealing presence of that sub-bass colossus. This gray-painted speaker system is only one product of Devon's larger creative practice, which includes fashion design, product design, interior design, speaker-and-amplifier design, music production, and fine art.

I asked Devon how he was able to create such an easy-flowing, natural-sounding audio system. He said he grew up listening with fancy hi-fi, that his father was a serious audiophile with MartinLogan speakers and massive monoblock amplifiers. But it was his exposure to Joe Roberts's Sound Practices magazine that started his journey of triode-horn discovery, a journey that took off in earnest about 20 years ago in Japan, where Devon began scouring the back alleys of Tokyo's Akihabara, where he discovered Sun Audio and encountered whole stores devoted to moving coil cartridges, and when he began studying the pages of MJ Audio Technology and Stereo Sound magazines.

Devon told me he was educated about Western Electric and Altec horns by Koji Wakabayashi at EIFL and spent time listening and learning in Paris with William Walther at Maison de L'Audiophile. Today, Devon and I hang and play records with many of the same friends, including my "second wife" Steve Guttenberg (The Audiophiliac) and my amp-designer brothers JC Morrison (Silbatone) and Noriyasu Komuro (Komuro Amplifier Company).

It is okay to stare at that Super Woofer because without noticeably moving, this giant cone made the cleanest, most real-sounding, not–huff-n-puff bass I have ever experienced from a home audio system. It generated a more lifelike corporeality than any domestic horn or subwoofer bass I've encountered. My eyes saw the big cone, but my ears couldn't tell where it was. The transparent nature of that big cone's bass assists Devon's complete four-way system in sounding big and easy while projecting a soundspace that expands, with unrestrained dynamics, beyond the room's boundaries.

Devon's satellite speakers feature Altec's revered 1505B multicell horn, powered by vintage 24 ohm Altec 288C compression drivers, sitting atop ported bass boxes designed by Devon. Each gray speakerbox is powered by two 12" Altec 414B woofers, custom-fabricated for Turnbull/Ojas by Great Plains Audio. Once you stop staring at the altar boxes, you might notice two shiny, quite heavy, not-inexpensive little objects that I believe contribute dramatically to this system's extreme transparency and spatial descriptiveness: Pioneer's PT-R9 beryllium ribbon tweeters. The crossover is all passive and features custom autoformers by Werner Jagusch.

That entire wall-filling regiment of boxes and horns is powered by an Isamu Asano– inspired, 2W 2A3 amplifier, made in Japan by Koji Wakabayashi for Ojas, or, alternatively, by a Western Electric WE-248A– tubed amp designed by Arthur Loesch.

Devon played that Daniel Lanois album with a rare, newly acquired, new-old-stock Sony XL-55 Pro moving coil cartridge attached to a Dynavector DV-505 tonearm, connected to a pair of Altec 4722 microphone transformers and a Steve Berger–designed RIAA stage.


When I posted a photo of Devon's system on Facebook, it got a lot of Likes, a significant number of which were from my former art students: mostly female, highly literate, and all under the age of 35. This suggests that young non-audiophiles from the intelligentsia perceive the Devon Turnbull–Ojas audio aesthetic in a positive light. As do I.

EJ Jordan Marlow full-range loudspeaker
I began this story by introducing you to Devon because I wanted you to study his triode-horn assemblage and imagine what that group might sound like playing your records, and also because his searching audio journey reminds me of my own. I've been messing with DIY amps and speakers my whole life.


Speaker photos: Dayve Ward, Photography By Ward

My first DIY speaker project was a standmount two-way using Dynaudio drivers with first-order crossover filters. It sounded okay but looked like a roughly hewn approximation of a Sonus Faber speaker. My second was a Herb version of a Dahlquist DQ-10, which at the time was a popular audiophile speaker I really liked but couldn't afford. My DIY DQ-10 had a wrap-around grille and woofers scavenged from a pair of Large Advents. On an open plywood baffle above the woofer, I arranged a 5" paper-cone midrange driver, a 1" cloth-dome tweeter, and a Panasonic ribbon super-tweeter. Unfortunately, I never got the crossover right.

None of my DQ-10 experiments were satisfying, but they resulted in me becoming a life-long devotee of open-baffle speakers and ribbon tweeters.

A small advertisement in the back of a British audio magazine turned me on to Ted Jordan's 50mm alloy-cone "modules." For me, the idea of an almost full-range driver with no crossover was compelling. I ordered a pair, built one speaker (with an Advent woofer), and voila! I was a card-carrying Jordan-module cultist.

My cult-initiation project featured a single 50mm EJ Jordan driver mounted on a 44" high, 20" wide plywood baffle. I loved this speaker instantly. It—well, two of them—imaged incredibly well. Its sound was very Quad/Stax electrostatic-like. Then I tried an arrangement with two Jordan modules and a Panasonic ribbon tweeter mounted on a floorstanding, wood-capped Sonotube cardboard cylinder. These sounded pretty okay but looked really good in their full, wrap-around grilles inspired by DCM Time Windows—another speaker I liked but couldn't afford.


My Jordan-driver experiments got kicked to the side when I acquired my first of many pairs of well-used Western Electric 755A full-range public-address drivers. These venerable Westerns featured paper-and-silk cones and large Alnico magnets. I tried them in sealed boxes, then aperiodic boxes; then, ultimately, mounted on open plywood baffles. I drove the 755s with homemade push-pull 2A3 amps, but their unpredictable bass and treble rolloff—every WE755 I found measured differently at its frequency extremes—prevented them from being fully satisfactory in stereo.

I did not return to the Jordan mindset until the late 1990s, when I abandoned my work in commercial audio for writing, amp-building, and art. I was living on a boat when I reviewed the Jordan-driver–equipped Konus Essence loudspeaker for Art Dudley's Listener magazine. In that story, I concluded, "They don't make me dance as much as they make me think." I advised readers that to live happily with 4" metal-cone full-range drivers, one must be philosophically biased toward the no-crossover, phase-correct, time-correct, small-speaker state of mind. Konus Essence users traded bass power, bass extension, and high SPLs for the precision, coherency, and immediacy of a loudspeaker employing a single, small driver.

Edward James "Ted" Jordan was born in 1928 and died in 2016. He began designing loudspeakers in London in 1942. His first article on loudspeaker design was published in 1951. His seminal book, Loudspeakers, was published in 1962. He introduced his first full-range driver, the Jordan-Watts, in 1963. He started Ted Jordan Designs in 1982. He devoted his life to the design and manufacture of just one thing: a smartly engineered audio-frequency driver that operates wide-range at conspicuously low levels of distortion.


After more than 50 years of mostly OEM and DIY sales, EJ Jordan (footnote 1) now offers the Marlow full-range box speaker. It features the Jordan-designed super-wideband (specified 44Hz–18kHz ±6dB) Eikona drive-unit, which is ensconced in a luxuriously finished, walnut-veneered, front-ported, roughly LS3/5a-sized cabinet that EJ Jordan's Colin Shelbourn describes like this:

"The enclosure is as close to the original BBC thin-wall spec as possible, so: 9mm birch ply walls, beech battens along all edges, and removable front and rear panels. The BBC research department really got all that right, and even the tensioning of the screws holding the panels to the battens makes a difference. The enclosure walls are damped with heavy pads (a modern material rather than the bitumen pads available in the 1970s), but there is no bracing.

"There are also no network or response-shaping components, just a direct connection between the speaker-wire sockets and the Eikona full-range driver. Everything is designed to let Ted's driver perform at its best.

"The Eikona's magnet is ferrite; and, the finished drive-unit is assembled by ScanSpeak in Denmark using components we design and manufacture here in the UK. These include Ted's proprietary Controflex alloy cone with its unique profile, plus his unique suspension and damping components and the central phase-plug elements."

Footnote 1: E. J. Jordan Ltd. Web:

thethanimal's picture

That EJ is rather insensitive compared to other speakers based on full-range drivers that I’ve seen. Because it’s tuned for higher excursion to coax more bass out of a 4” driver?

I still would like to hear your take on high-efficiency full-range drivers mated to the Elekit and (borrowed from Steve G?) Decware.

remlab's picture

Just click on "Jordan" to see the different measurements..

Herb Reichert's picture

I've been using a JX92X for over 20 years


remlab's picture

..distortion is on that driver. Literally Scan-Speak levels!

MattJ's picture

The man clearly has no pets! My dogs and cats would destroy that in about 10 seconds. But WOW that subwoofer! Elephants in India probably think their cousins in Africa must be talking to them. O_o

remlab's picture
Look at the price!!

Anton's picture


chtgrubbs's picture

Hey, it says if you buy quantities of to-10,000 you get a 10% discount!

tres hombres's picture

for introducing more music in 1 review than all others in a year - an artist of words for the blind.
Thank you sir.

remlab's picture


Turnerman1103's picture

Poor little Falcon Gold Badge’s . Herb has proven to be a heartless fickle lover . After years of Herb convincing many of us that the Falcon’s were the greatest thing since sliced bread - suddenly in the blink of an eye , his beloved Falcon’s, that he just recently described as “conspicuously grainless ” and “unabashedly liquid “ are now callously referred to as “ misty and grainy” . Herb dumped his faithful little Falcon’s (faster then KK could dump Kanye for Pete D ) for a pair of “ lively pleasure inducing “ Marlows and their “pristine unmitigated clarity “ . Alas , all is fair in love and war ..

Herb Reichert's picture

Those Falcons that sound like headphones will always be my reference — they are my truest love. We are married for life.


Turnerman1103's picture

Thank you Herb - I don’t doubt it ! My “Fickle Falcon” post was all in good fun . I’m forever indebted to you for turning me on to Falcon Gold Badge Ls35a’s . I’ve owned literally dozens of different speakers ( including 3 different sizes in the Harbeth range ) over the years and none have brought me as much joy as my beloved little Falcon GB’s . We shall never part … that is unless Falcon introduces a platinum version lol

Jack L's picture


Sorry, I would NEVER placed anything between the front loudspeakers & "listening chair" & between the left & right loudspeakers!

Acoustically, the music soundwaves should travel from the front loudspeakers to our ears without any obstruction, reflection & deflection in order to get the best livelike reproduction. Anything placed in the way of the soundwave propaganda is undesirable, affecting the sound. Period.

My humble audio+TV system in my house basement is placed some 6ft BEHIND the front standspeakers (including the L & R active subs).

Only the L+R channel active sub is allowed, without choice, to be placed lowly on the floor in betweem the L & R front standspeakers. Thanks goodness, the lead-granules+fine-sand stuffed loudspeaker spiked steel tripods are well taller than the lowly sub box. So the soundwave interference between the L & R standspeakers caused by the centre sub should be redued to minimum !

Not forgetting the music 'softwares'. Hundreds of CDs/DVDs/cassettles are all placed on a DIYed wooden super shallow wooden shelf hung against the left sidewall away from the left standspeakers. My 1,000+ LPs are housed in carton boxes (shaped like those in record stores) placed side by side on the floor against the left sidewall as well. Unaffecting the loudspeaker soundwaves radiation at all.

In a nutshell, NOTHING should be placed between the front loudspeakers & the sweet spot.

Above said, I have seen quite some home audio setups, including my 2 friends large multi-cellular horn+bass boxs, similar to the Ojas setup above. Visual display of the hardwares seeminlgy comes before the sound !

Listening is believing

Jack L

PS: Sorry, mult-cellular horns are not my cup of tea !!!!!

JHL's picture

...I've ever heard came from multicells. And, by current standards, in the least acoustically-correct space and room.

The experience was absolutely exquisite.

Anton's picture

Think of his floor as a diffuser!



Jack L's picture


Whatever you want to name this massive music-wave blocker, be my guest!

Ignorance is not a guilt.

Listening is believing

Jack L

Anton's picture

"Wave blockers!"

As Colonel Kurtz would say, "The horror!"

Heck, think of all those musicians in front of other musicians blocking the musical waves.

You make a great point: some audiophiles are best listening alone with open floor space.

It's interesting some audiophiles just know how someone's system sounds without ever hearing it.

It can be a solipsistic hobby.

Jack L's picture


Yes & no, my friend.

For a concert, the musicians play on the podium overlooking the attendance from a height. So the music blocking will be minimized if we sit not too far away from the podium.

That's why my favourite seat will be some 13th row centre to reduce the frontal music blocking & sound impairement by the hall PA system & hall reverberaton.

At home, there is no podium like a concert hall to raise the audio system to a height to avoid music wave blocking. That's why we should not put anything, not even a coffee table, in between the louspeakers & the sweet spot to get the best possible reproduction.

If you check again my above posts, I never mention about how good how bad would be Ojas sound system as I never heard it. Though I did audition quite a few similar massive large multi-cellular horn systems in different homes with similar pile-up like Ojas's. So far I am NOT impressed yet.

I simply point of the acoustical aspect of the reproduction of the massive hardware there. I can promise if all such massive centre pile-up be removed out of the way, the sound will be much much better. I've done with mine at home with flying colour.

This is physics.

Listening is believing

Jack L

Glotz's picture

is why I love Herb's writing and audio passions... I always learn something new and turned on to new music as well.

Wavelength's picture

The DQ10 used a piezo not a ribbon tweeter. I remember meeting Jon when I was in college as I ran an audio store there. He was a great guy and I think the version we sold was a DQ10-K.

In college (and I still have the letters) I sent a bunch of ideas to Jordan. We built a number of arrays of the 50mm driver with KEF B139 woofers in a bi-amped arrangement. I designed my first circuit board with blue & red tape for a 24dB electronic xover, yes silly, 12dB would have been fine. I was young didn't know better. I had an 8 array 50mm speaker with a super modified ST70 on the top and a solid state 50W amp I designed for the bottom.

Fun times, Herb keep it up good article.

Herb Reichert's picture

but I couldn't bring myself to buy one of those $3 piezos on Canal Street.



Wavelength's picture

But the piezo made it easier to design the xover :) That was the reasoning, all those drivers were making the nextwork too complicated and the piezo made it easy.
I couldn't stand those things. But back then I was making pretty low effecient speakers and higher powered amps (EL34PP and 6550/KT88PP). It wasn't till 1988 that I built SET stuff.

Hope your doing well. BTW I emailed you a while back I have a stack of really old stuff I dug up the other day. Have too much stuff if you want it email me.

Jack L's picture


Agreed. Only a cap with a bypass resistor will do the job.

But piezoelectric tweeter can be horn type & paper-cone type. I would NEVER go for horn type. Sound way toooo horny !!

Even a soprano sounds horny to my skeptical ears.

I'v settled down with Motorola 15D paper-coned piezo tweeter to supplement the infamous Danish SEAS 87H soft impregnated fabric dome mid-tweeter (1KHz X-over frequency) for my KEF front standspeakers since day one decades back.

I chose this mellow sounding Danish wide-dispersion soft dome mid-tweeter to replace that original KEF T15 Melinex dome mid-tweeter which drove me nut with its ringing. Thanks goodness, no more ringing with the Danish dome tweeter.

Yes, I also used my upgraded TRIODED Dynaco ST-70 power amp to drive my passive DIY-bi-wired KEF standspeakers for so many years until I replaced it with my DIYed all-triode 5W+5W SET power amp some 6 years back. SET sounds better than PP, IMO !!!!!!!

It seems we both DIYers share pretty common interest !

Listening is believing

Jack L

Jack L's picture


I thought I was a cheapie enough cheapskate. Yet I won't go for a $3 piezo from those thrift shops.

FYI, the Motorola 15D paper-coned piezeoelctric tweeter is posted on eBay today for $49.99 each. I assume paper-coned piezo should cost much more than horn piezo.

Jack L

Briandrumzilla's picture

Yeah, from that angle it does remind me of "Doc" Brown's giant speaker.

mcrushing's picture

Interesting that you mentioned this system's appeal for art students, Herb. Photos of earlier iterations of Devon's setup (the fireplace was still visible) started appearing in my Pinterest feed a while ago.

Most often, it was posted by people interested in interior design.

Pinterest doesn't always offer much in the way of context, so I had no idea who the system belonged to at the time. Later I came across another amp and speakers unmistakably of the same design aesthetic, this time as part of a gallery installation from artist Virgil Abloh. I'd later learn that setup was Devon's work and that he and Abloh, who sadly passed recently, were close friends.

Devon's current setup looks more 'artist's studio' than 'listening room.' That's a huge plus in my book. I think some folks neglect the roles of the other four senses when it comes to experiencing music. It's the visual beauty of copper coils and vacuum tubes that inspired me to start tinkering lately, and it's also worth noting that my most enjoyable recent listening sessions have been in the company of non-audiophiles.

Seems to me the more inviting I've been able to make my listening space and the less fussy I've been about getting folks into the sweet spot, the more time I've spent enjoying good music, good wine, and good conversation while the album sides get flipped.

Thanks for a great column, Herb. And Devon, if you're reading...a chance to listen to your system is officially on my bucket list.

Jack L's picture


I have visited enough second-hand audio shops having similar massy yet messy hardwares display offshore during my annual business trips years back.

Affordable pricing to get the sales & sound matching good or not is none of those vendors business. Final sales, period.

Jack L

Anton's picture

We used to use "Middle Grey," which IIRC was "18% grey" when framing black and white photos.

I like the speakers' esthetic.

thethanimal's picture

Herb, until I can stop by Bed-Stuy or you can swing through Atlanta I’ll gladly share the virtual tea ceremony with you. I see all your excellent music recommendations this month and raise you Arooj Aftab’s 2021 album “Vulture Prince.” I’m listening in MQA from Tidal right now — meditative soundscapes, shading, dimension, reverb, and a pervasive feeling of longing jump out at me. Evidently she’s based in Brooklyn, so you might be able to find a live show nearby.

Herb Reichert's picture

I am listening to Vulture Prince as I type. You are right I love it – especially the pacing of the songs
keep the recommendations coming


MBMax's picture

...all the angst over acoustics with all that gear in between the listening spot and speaker array, but you know what I like about this?
It looks really, REALLY fun.
Fun gear, ability to flip and change out records quickly, ability to change source, amp, preamp, etc. on a lark, on a whim, on a spontaneous impulse.
Regardless of audiophile "shall-not-be-dones," the system apparently sounds amazing and is just crying out for extended sessions of music with rum or whiskey, conversation and laughter, planning and scheming over other amp and speaker ideas. A little slice of heaven in a really rough world.
And Herb, when you decide you've had enough of the little Falcon ladies, please let me know. In addition to a fair price, I'll even throw in a lovely bottle of your favorite sipper.

RiteofSpring1961's picture

If you really like to hear a single-driver speaker with some decent bass, you need to find a pair of Alpair Super Pensil 12.2ps. I know they're DIY, but they really sing. I built mine two years ago and I'll be hard-pressed to change.

PECwines's picture

Herb - I’ve been interested in the Sibelius speaker from Pearl Acoustics for some time now. They use bespoke 4” drivers in transmission line cabinets of somewhat unusual construction. From what I have read, the Sibelius is an especially good single driver speaker, with bass performance that is much better than expected.

If you can get a review sample I’m sure many here would love to read your impressions. The only drawback is that currently Pearl Accoustics has no formal distribution in North America unless that has changed very recently.

CXB's picture

As usual Herb, your column re-enforces what drives the passion around music and listening and always brings an extraordinary perspective. Thank you