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OMA STORY

OMA Oswalds Mill Audio

Oswalds Mill Audio. A strange name for an unlikely story. OMA gets its name from a more than 200 year old mill in Eastern Pennsylvania, restored by OMA founder Jonathan Weiss. You can read the whole story of the Mill here. In that Mill Jonathan assembled an impressive collection of vintage cinema and studio audio equipment, especially horn loaded loudspeakers, dating back to the 1930’s. Within the walls of this massive mill, which has been featured in campaigns for Ralph Lauren, Anthropologie and Victoria’s Secret, Jonathan’s audio obsessions attracted like minded people who congregated there every year for an event which became world famous. This underground community of speaker and horn designers and builders, tube audio and vinyl and tonearm experts became the foundation for launching a whole new approach to high end audio- OMA, Oswalds Mill Audio.

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The Oswalds made a lot of money, and must have discovered that living in a grist mill, which is noisy and full of flour dust, was not to their liking, so they built a new house up the road and moved out of the part of the Mill which was their domestic quarters. The mill itself shut down around 1900, a casualty of the industrial revolution, which had finally made its way into agriculture and food production. With no one living there, and no milling to be done, the Mill sat empty for almost another hundred years. Until the day I saw it.



inspiration

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I was not in the market to buy a mill. In fact, I was completely broke. I was a filmmaker, and had just directed my first feature film (The Atrocity Exhibition, from the book by J.G. Ballard). I was living in New York City, where I had a huge loft which was also my film studio. The sound engineer on my film was from Pennsylvania, and had bought a run down but beautiful old farm there, and I often visited him to help with the renovation. One day another character helping out on the farm suggested we take a drive to a very special old building he thought I should see. That was Oswald's Mill.

RCA, located in Camden, New Jersey (across the river from Philadelphia, an hour from the Mill) created some of the first and best theater sound systems from the 1920's, and continued its Cinema Products Division until closing 50 years later. I found retired RCA engineers and began a long process of understanding how these kinds of sound systems were designed and operated, all the way back to the beginning of sound in movies. These engineers were quick to explain that some of the earliest speakers and amplifiers made by RCA were also their very best. That knowledge and their help pointed me in the direction of assembling very rare, early equipment that literally no one in the world (at the time) was using. One reason is that no one had the space to do so, even if they would have wanted to.

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Then history of audio stuff. Theater - transition into appreciation of it all which leads to the technological inspiration

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design / industrial design blurb? that can transition into process

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process

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All OMA products are made in the immediate environs of Oswald's Mill in Eastern Pennsylvania. Most are made by hand, though sometimes aided by very high tech engineering. To understand what we make, it's useful to know the processes involved.

Our slate, from which our turntables, plinths, equipment racks and even some amplifiers are fashioned, comes from the last two functioning quarries in Pennsylvania. It is cut on a state of the art five axis water jet machine owned and operated by a Mennonite family, surrounded by Mennonite farms. Once cut, the slate is honed by hand using water and diamond tooling and abrasives.

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Our hardwoods (black walnut, cherry and ash) grow in the surrounding forests and are sustainably harvested. They require two years of air and kiln drying, usually in solar kilns which gently heat in the day, and cool at night, allowing the wood to release tension and provide more stable lumber, critical for our loudspeakers. We buy our wood in the form of "boules", an entire tree slab cut so that every board will match in color and figuration.

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Once the wood has been properly conditioned, our master woodworkers build our loudspeakers, amplifier chassis and other components by hand, the old fashioned way. This takes far more time, is more expensive, and ensures a superior product.

****** Our desire to bring beautiful acoustically and industrial designed products to a larger audience than can afford OMA did not stop there......

FSC

In 2019 we started Fleetwood Sound Company, a new division of OMA. We created FSC to produce a new line of smaller, more affordable audio components while retaining the ultra high build quality and design as our OMA line. Loudspeakers with the same solid hardwoods, hand rubbed natural finishes (oil and wax), conical horns and innovative audio engineering driven design made within reach.

Built under the same roof as OMA in Pennsylvania, next to the factory that made the Fleetwood motor car synonymous with “world’s finest.”.

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Fleetwood Sound co. - Process
Fleetwood Sound co. - Process