Shared Dreams At OJAS 2022
I'm sure many audiophiles would
like to publicly demonstrate their systems to an admiring (if the system is
exotic and expensive) and appreciative (if it sounds good) audience. Devon
Turnbull is a lucky audiophile who did it, he got an invitation to participate
in an exhibition of modern sculpture artists at the prestigious Lisson Gallery,
which has branches around the world, and three galleries in New York. Since his
audio components are a bit like modernist sculptures, and he has been designing,
assembling and selling them to a specialist demanding audience for more than 15
years (as a company OJAS). They were a natural choice for such an exhibition.
When added to the hypnotic fascination with music, eclectic musical selection including Deutche Gramophon, Blue Note, plus his personal collection, and finally Brian Eno who sent his turntable and records for that part. So now the transcendental meditation-like listening session can begin.
In a strictly attention focused yet relaxed atmosphere, usually 10 to 15 listeners with their eyes either opened or closed would enjoy the musical playback event. Often distinguished local audiophiles / writers / reviewers would be present, with their stylish canvas handbags full of rare selected musical works, to participate in the moment and raise the level of collective musical experience. I did choose to sit in the second row, because with my slight detachment towards the elitist-appropriate notion of hi-fi and music, I probably do not fully fit there to glow in the moment.
All components have the brand name OJAS, but in short, the speakers are made of Altec 416B mid/bass drivers, two each in a GPA box (type Onken W), Altec 1505 500 Hz horns with Altec 288 compression drivers, Pioneer PT-R9II super tweeters and Fostex FW800 super bass with a huge 31.5 inch cone. The amplifier is inspired by Herb Reichert’s "Flesh and Blood" standard circuit 300B vacuum tube unit. The phono preamplifier is an April Sound design collaboration (Steve Berger) with Altec 4722 microphone transformers, and the passive line section is autoformer based in collaboration with Dave Slagle of Inact Audio.
The turntable is a Technics 1200C motor unit and platter with an OJAS designed power supply and controls, in a custom made OJAS multi-layer wood plinth, with Ortofon RMA-309 and Dynavector DV-505 tonearms and Ortofon SPU MC phono cartridges.
Loudspeaker cables are Belden 9497, very popular in Japan with the devoted tube amp and horn speakers aficionados, but known there only as antique wires under the name "Belden Studio 947". It all sounded really good, with very little midrange coloration given the type of speakers used and their very high efficiency, with an emphasis on good rhythm, pace and timing, and tracking the dynamics and coherence of the musical message.
Especially interesting is the bass, it has a great weight, strength and definition, but it does not sound intrusive or too loud. There is a little deficiency (for people accustomed to typical audiophile speakers) of extension and "air" in very high frequencies, and the soundstage is of somewhat modest dimensions (perhaps the room is too small for these big speakers, regardless of the very extensive acoustic treatment present), but the coherency is there to more than make up for it.
Price? It is a theory of relativity, the whole system sells as a set, unique and only one in this finish, for $125,000. Considering where prices in the high-end industry have gone in the last 10 to 15 years, relatively speaking, it's not that much given the uniqueness of the system, especially the speakers. This was in essence a very good opportunity for audiophiles to hear a very unusual music system, based on systems from the ancient beginnings of hi-fi, in an eye-catching aesthetic package, but subtly improved with modern technology of the 21st century audiophile world.