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Adventures in hi-fi at Oswalds Mill Audio

The Audiophiliac reports from Brooklyn about a fascinating encounter of the audio kind.

The OMA Imperia speakers and subwoofer
Steve Guttenberg/CNET

When I dropped by the Oswalds Mill Audio (OMA) showroom/loft space, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I'd heard OMA speakers at hi-fi shows and was always impressed by the sound, but the full immersion OMA experience was a very different trip. The wildly retro-futuristic designs looked more extreme than I remembered them. Jonathan Weiss, OMA's founder and CEO and also my tour guide put on quite a show, but not by hammering my ears with a high-decibel attack. I have no doubt Weiss' huge Imperia four-way horn speakers and 21-inch subwoofer could easily reproduce rock concert sound levels if I'd asked for it.

A pair of OMS Mini speakers, sitting side by side. Steve Guttenberg/CNET

No, what makes the Imperia a real standout is the way it brings music to life, the nuance of an acoustic guitar, or the full-bodied presence of a human voice. When I closed my eyes and listened I wasn't thinking about those statuesque speakers, I just took in the music. The best high-end gear somehow connects the dots better, you feel like the music is actually happening in real time. In that sense, it feels live. The complete OMA system includes speakers, cables, amplifiers, and turntable, but I also listened to CDs.

The Imperia is huge and outrageously expensive, so I was curious how the much smaller Mini would compare. Well, the sound was smaller in scale, but the impact, color, and musicality was first-rate. The believability of the musical performances was nearly the same as it was on the large speakers. More conventional high-end audio sounds more like hi-fi, and less like real music. It's hard to go back to ordinary high-end gear after you spend time with the OMA system.

I also heard a prototype of an even smaller set of speakers that seduced my ears just as much as their larger siblings. The OMA "sound" was consistent with everything Weiss played.

An OMA amplifier. Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Build quality of the products is stunning -- it's as good as high-end audio ever gets. OMA makes loudspeakers, amplifiers, and turntables out of solid Pennsylvania hardwoods, slate, and steel. The lucky souls that make up the OMA clientele live well and enjoy the finer things, but it was a real thrill for me to see and hear this level of extreme audio, for just one night.