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The amplifier and line stage sitting between the pairs of horns are by Douglas Piccard. From Doug: "The amp and line stage are built around vintage signal iron from Chicago Transformer. The amp runs the directly heated Russian 6P21S as pentode with cathode feedback in the BO-6 output. It has balanced input to its PP front end stage triodes. The line stage runs the Russian 6C45-E as a long-tail pair with a TX plate load delivering balanced output for the amp. Both feature power supplies with extensive headroom, thanks to salvaged Tektronix O-scope iron."

Front ends included the forthcoming Frank Schroeder-designed Artemis Labs turntable above which I first spotted at CES '08 using one of Frank's hand-crafted tone arms. There was also a Technics SP-10 with a Schick 12" tonearm mounted on the coolly tactile OMA Pennsylvania slate plinth. The other 'table hanging out inconspicuously on a window ledge is the forthcoming OMA turntable below. "It will be a new OMA product and it is a patent-pending new idler design, with a three-phase motor control done by Mark Kelly. The deck was designed by Win Tinnon, machining done by Colby Lamb and OMA did the slate fabrication. Weight is a bit over 200 pounds, the platter, idler mechanism and bearing are designed and fabricated by the principals." Let me just point out the obvious – for some people, those last few quoted sentences are poetry or pornography.

Cartridges were the Straingauge from Soundsmith, the Lyra Olympos and Blue Angel Mantis. Phono stages were Artemis Labs, OMA and a vintage Telefunken V87. We were also treated to a few loops from one of Charlie King's refurbished Stellavox open reel decks. I've also had the pleasure of hearing one of Charlie's Stellavox decks at Robin Wyatt's and it is truly an amazing musical source. Combined with the few decks I heard at CES and the wonderful one-off material that's floating around which I learned about during a conversation with Walter Clay, the call of the tape is getting harder to resist. Two side notes: I wish I had half the energy Charlie King has; and if we could bottle Robin Wyatt's audio enthusiasm and filter it into the air at audio dealers, the entire industry would turn around by lunchtime.

The second floor system included Herbert Jeschke's towers of power incorporating 10 Philips 800-ohm full-range drivers per side. I was particularly interested in these speakers as Hebert Jeschke is one of the forefathers of the Cain & Cain Abbys which I owned and enjoyed for years. More from Jonathan, "We also had the Danley Sound Labs SH50 synergy type horn, and Mantis bookshelf speakers from Soundsmith - but that was on Sunday, so I don't think you heard either. There were vintage speakers here too, like the RCA LC1's, and a Vitavox two-way, but I don't know if you got a chance to hear those." I also heard from a little bird that a new Tektron amplifier made a debut on Sunday.

In terms of pictures of other audio gear snapped throughout the house, consider it a treasure hunt as I did not take notes and my memory capacity has seemingly decreased in direct proportion to computer memory's increase. Some sort of inverse Moore's Law at work.

The Crew
I ran into a few familiar faces including Frank Schroeder, Sean Ta of Aydn, Larry Borden, Robin Wyatt and Mark O'Brien of Rogue Audio as well as a bunch of people I know through their work and/or checking out the Mill's pages from previous Tastings: Jim 'Dowdy' Lama , Herbert "Voight Pipe" Jeschke, Peter Ledermann of Soundsmith, Cogent's Steve Schell and Rich Drysdale, Dave Slagle, Thomas Schick of Schick tonearms , Douglas Piccard, Hans Dietze and ex. RCA Cinema Products engineer, Charlie King, Ken Lochridge, Steve Blair, Rick Henthorn, Adam B, Nathan Lewis, Walter Clay, Randy Carter, Doug Eisemann (who was one of busiest guys in the setup and fix-it department while we were there) and a few other people I'm sure I left out. If you want a better connection of names to faces to gear, you really should check out all of the Tasting pages on the Oswald's Mill website .

Like Stuffing a 100-Pound Pig in a Microwave
Jonathan also turns out to be one helluva cook. If he wasn't so personable, I'd probably have said chef. We were treated to roast pig, home-made focaccia and a number of delectable treats. I joked that my review proper would be of the pig and as it turns out, that will not be far from the mark. The pig was in fact simply superb: delectably delicious warm tenderness and crisp. Like any review of anything, if it's good you'll want to try some yourself. As far as the pig and the sounds at Oswald's Mill go, I highly recommend a tasting of each.

In terms of the social aspect (people), my take on our brief visit is that these are a bunch of guys who revel in how things work. The mechanics, the electronics, the process, the recipe, the ingredients all add up to the end result whose purpose is the sensual experience. Be it listening to Malcolm Arnold or eating Arnold the Pig, the attendants at this Tasting seemed enrapt in the workings and perhaps most importantly, the knowledge and history upon which their efforts are based. Do it yourself and in some cases for others as well. Sound Practices in spirit and history. Or if you prefer, like Montag's trip from the city in Fahrenheit 451, I discovered a community in the country who've saved bits of our culture, put books' worth of
The really big amp
knowledge to memory (Hans Dietze appears to be able to give you any amount of information on any RCA vintage product from the merest morsel of a physical description), and helped salvage a tradition from the dumpster.

And Jonathan is most certainly a knowledgeable collector in addition to being a gracious host. During our tour of the Mill, we were treated to many histories; Mill, home, vintage speakers, tubes, amplifiers, plumbing and more. Which gets me to yet another bee in my bonnet of late: the lack of historical reference (or reverence?) within some (most?) audio reviewing. Reviewers touting their latest discovery of a product that was first reviewed while they were in diapers, reviewing a speaker with a clear historical bloodline without reference to any of its forefathers, and my favorite, the "world premier" review that conveniently fails to reference the pre-existing reviews in other publications.

Myopia and egoism combine in perfect measure to inform the uniformed opinion of what comprises the 'best'. No fuss, no muss. The instant taste makers. Sanka-Fi. I've a feeling, and it's just a guess mind you, that left to their own devices at the Mill, the instant taste-making audio reviewers may very well have tried to stuff that wonderful hog into the nearest microwave oven.

Impressions: Bridges, Tunnels and Tolls

When you travel between city, suburb and country, there's typically a toll of some sort to be paid. Depending on where you call home, they'll get you when coming or going. You pay to leave or you pay to come home. One's perspective of the other side will also shift depending on which side you call home. I could never live in the xxx - too many stacked crowds, McMansions or cows. Finger pointing from the comfort of one's choice at the relative absurdity of the others. But not to worry, corporate sprawl is bringing us closer together every day. Odds are we're all within a few miles of a WalMart right now. It's a small world after all.

On the hifi landscape, its tubes and high-sensitivity horns versus hulking heat-sinked mega watts driving power-hungry towers of multi-driver complexity wrapped in trademarked space-age top-secretly inert materials. And there's always the old saw - vinyl or digital. Cognac or Pepsi. The taster's choice. But if we're all working toward the same end, namely the enjoyment of music (not to mention the enjoyment of life) why the divide? My guess is we're not all working toward the same end.