Semrad Audio

To quote his bio created for CAF, “Master furniture maker John Semrad hand-builds each horn loudspeaker with a solid basswood core, poplar cross-ply, and American walnut face veneer. The process takes more 240 hours, and each completed horn weighs 240 pounds. With a Jean Michel Le Cleac'h profile for the horn flare and [full-range] resolution from Oleg Rullit’s Super Aero 8" field coil drivers, these units are offered at $36,000 per pair, including field coil supply.” Those drivers are said to be made of Korean Hanji paper.

Semrad’s beautiful, horn-loaded speakers were driven by a front-end assembled by Mockingbird Audio’s Philip Holmes, who wrote on Instagram before CAF, “I am responsible for the analog front end. The Thorens TD124 turntable features Sorane ZA12 and TA1L tonearms, Mutech Hayabusa, modded Retrotone top platter, modded Swissonor main platter, mounted in the world's first Panzerholz plinth (built by John). I couldn't make it, which is okay. It's John's speakers that are new.”

Also in the Semrad system, an Allnic Audio H-1202 phono stage ($3750), two Semrad-built 2A3-based amplifiers, and Semrad cabling throughout.

This system was special. It played Lee Morgan’s Candy with more depth and decay than I’ve ever heard, his trumpet large, immediate, and upfront, with true tone. The music was fast, with body. Art Blakey’s Moanin’ was rendered equally fast, spacious, with powerful dynamics.

I asked Semrad why he made the horns so big? “That’s the only way I could get good sound.”

Anton's picture

Were these open baffle in the back?

How was the bass response?

Very cool look, they they seem like they could actually look very unassuming in an actual living space!

I've heard some jammin' 8 inch full range drivers from Voxativ, Lowther, Fostex, and Tangband...but they've never been fully bass satisfying. Perhaps this arrangement reached the promised land?

Visually, they are definitely in the art and craft mold of Oswald Mills and Fern and Roby! I'm a sucker for that look.

georgehifi's picture

This sort of music sound great on anything even my car.
Press the link and hear it on your junk computer speakers.
Put some hard rock or full symphony classical on it and watch it turn to mush, and for that kind of money you'd want it all yes??

Cheers George

Anton's picture

I had a chance to prepare for a show once with Wes Phillips.

We were trying our darndest to get the rig sounding as best we could, while enjoying some decent wine, and we were having a Dicken's of a time getting everything to sound the way we wanted.

We seemed to have arrived at an impossible impasse for getting things just so, and Wes told us one of the secrets of demonstrating at a show...

"At this point, we should sit back and play records, and the ones that sounded best stayed in show rotation and the ones that didn't get hidden.

Et voila!


We eventually got things dialed in, but I think Wes perfectly described what we sometimes encounter at shows.

thatguy's picture

I'd imagine getting things setup in such a short time in a strange room that was never designed for audio must be quite a challenge.

partain's picture

...but I'll bet it's weird to hear all the comments on how the system you just set up sounds . Like praise for a set-up that makes you cringe , and of course , vice versa .

thatguy's picture

That would be odd, in the back of your mind thinking 'this doesn't sound right' and people get excited about how good it sounds.
My main problem with listening tests is that sometimes what I like in the short term isn't what I like after longer listening.
I guess that is where the true reviewer has to disconnect from that and analyze what they hear and know if it will be good or bad in the longer term.

Anton's picture

For room demos like that, it's like meeting a new person and trying to form a valid larger picture opinion.

What starts out vivacious, energetic, and detailed can later become fatiguing at home. (Relating to gear at shows is dating, writ small.)

It's late at night, when the wine has been flowing and the 'discussion' (demo material) has become more wide ranging that impressions become more accurate.


Ahhh, shows are so great. Ken makes me envious!

John Atkinson's picture
Anton wrote:
I had a chance to prepare for a show once with Wes Phillips . . . Wes told us one of the secrets of demonstrating at a show. "At this point, we should sit back and play records, and the ones that sounded best stayed in show rotation and the ones that didn't get hidden.

Wes was repeating a story I had told him about witnessing the late David Inman setting up the KEF room at the 1986 Lucerne show. David was playing selections from a box of CDs and putting most in a large pile, a select few in a small pile.

"What are you doing?" I asked David.

"Setting up the system" he replied, explaining that he was only going to play CDs in the small pile as they were the ones that sound good.

David died in 2006 after a career of putting on great-sounding demonstrations at shows, first for Celestion, then for KEF, and finally for Meridian. He is sorely missed.

John Atkinson
Technical Editor, Stereophile

Anton's picture

Wes remains in my heart, thanks for "the rest of the story!"

Wes made my life better.

windansea's picture

Quite right George. Only spare material works on this type of system.

thatguy's picture

" for that kind of money you'd want it all yes??"

It depends on if that is ones entire system budget. That is 1/10th the price of some systems so someone could have different setups in different rooms (assuming people that drop six figures on audio have big houses).

Or, if someone doesn't like hard rock or full symphony that much...

georgehifi's picture

"It depends on if that is ones entire system budget."

For the $36k just for those speakers, you can put together a very good system that does it all very well, not just chamber music and solo trumpet/drums.

Cheers George

Apstarterkit's picture

It may not be fair that since I know the exhibitor in question that I should bring up this point but one would imagine the reporter has heard this kind of "spare" music in many rooms and invites us to read between the lines to see that this gear brought something special to the presentation. John Semrad is a classical music enthusiast & also brought full orchestral music with him that I hope he was also able to use(I gave him a disc from the Maazel-Prokofiev Romeo & Juliet box that we felt was well recorded). Perhaps to be civil before suggesting that the system has no bass & the review was suspect by mentioning how it reproduced 2 jazz classics it might be more salutary to ask for the impressions of attendees as to how the lower frequencies were reproduced & if anyone was fortunate enough to hear classical or other full range music.