Re-Tales #37: A New Ojas Listening Space in SoHo

Re-Tales #37: A New Ojas Listening Space in SoHo

Photo by Lauren Coleman

New York City continues to have a wealthy hi-fi tradition, however a lot of its fabled hi-fi retailers have shuttered—consider Lyric Hi-Fi, which performed a serious position within the growth of audio’s excessive finish earlier than it closed in 2021 (footnote 1). But just lately NYC’s hi-fi scene has skilled a little bit of a renewal, with undertakings geared toward a wider, youthful viewers. One instance is a brand new, area of interest audio showroom in SoHo, which opened in September, by former deejay and dressmaker, artist, and present audio craftsman Devon Turnbull (footnote 2).

The Ojas Listening Room may qualify as an idea retailer. Its cause for present, Turnbull instructed me in a latest phone dialog, is to create a type of audio tradition that hasn’t existed in New York for many years.

Turnbull beforehand made a reputation for himself as one in every of 4 co-founders of Nom de Guerre, a famous "underground" males’s streetwear line that garnered a loyal following within the 2000s, housed in a Brooklyn boutique that was exhausting to seek out until you knew the place to look. The Ojas showroom is analogous, co-housed with a USM Modular Furniture showroom, positioned on a busy SoHo purchasing avenue however not really easy to seek out. Like the previous Nom de Guerre retailer, Turnbull says, he desires the Ojas Listening Room to be a discreet vacation spot, a spot price looking for out for these drawn to it.

Some years again, Turnbull started constructing customized hi-fi gear, totally on fee, for personal purchasers and nightclubs. Those methods, naturally, mirrored his style for Bell Labs, Western Electric, low-wattage, single-ended triode (SET) amplifiers, and high-sensitivity loudspeakers with classic (or vintage-style) drivers. Under the Ojas moniker—that is his former deejay title—he operated his made-to-order enterprise from his dwelling studio in Brooklyn. Orders got here in through Instagram and thru different "social" means. DIY speaker kits have been his hottest objects, he stated.

Some years in the past, Turnbull began to create "sound sculptures"—handmade, multicomponent, freestanding hi-fi methods introduced as artwork objects in galleries, first on the New York department of the London-based Lisson Gallery after which, this previous summer time, on the London department (footnote 3). Those "sonic happenings" proved fashionable. Broad public curiosity in these occasions set the stage for opening the Ojas Listening Room.

The transfer into the brand new Ojas house represents each an growth and a separation—a solution to transfer the enterprise out of his dwelling. "I can solely have so many individuals in my home," he stated. The showroom sells Ojas bookshelf loudspeakers (each as Brooklyn-made full fashions and as DIY kits, each with JBL drivers), amplifiers (with some Sun Audio kits to come back), tubes (together with Western Electric 300Bs), turntables, "cult" tonearms (together with Dynavector), cartridges (together with Ortofon SPUs), and Ojas cables. Turnbull says {that a} Denon collaboration is forthcoming. Turnbull is a rep for TAD drivers and plans to inventory some Audio Note elements. He’ll additionally promote a collection of records and Japanese audio magazines—Stereo Sound and MJ—and curated books.

Besides promoting wares, Turnbull desires to encourage folks to construct their very own hi-fi gear. "DIY does not have the identical stigma in Japan because it does right here," he stated. "[There,] it may be the best kind." Single-ended triode amplifiers, he famous, make particularly good DIY tasks. "SETs are cool from a mission perspective," he stated. In such a easy circuit, each aspect issues. "There’s a excessive share likelihood it does not work the best way you anticipate the primary time, even for knowledgeable builders." It additionally may not sound the best way you anticipate it to. It’s all a part of the hands-on, ears-on expertise—of partaking along with your audio system. Turnbull appreciates imperfections: "There’s no spec for magnificence," he says.

Turnbull acknowledges that his old-school, purist design approaches will not attraction to the lots, and that is high-quality. "I’m not attempting to compete with audio sellers right here. I’m not attempting to rep all of the manufacturers. If you are somebody who desires to listen to 10 choices, that is not what we do." His purpose is to hold audio merchandise which might be bespoke and culturally vital, to domesticate a phase of the market not typically represented by mainstream sellers. "I’m simply as completely happy to encourage somebody to go dwelling and go browsing and determine the way to make their very own system their very own means as I’m to promote them one thing," he stated.

Turnbull desires the Ojas Listening Room to foster group amongst like-minded folks, particularly folks new to the interest. He envisions folks stopping by to have targeted, religious listening experiences. On the opposite hand, folks need to ask questions, and he desires them to, and "the 2 issues are type of at odds with one another," Turnbull stated. Indeed, chat and religious listening do not go hand in hand, as Alex Halberstadt found in his latest tour of New York City jazz kissa, documented in his November Brilliant Corners column. (It’s a predicament acquainted to anybody who spends time at hi-fi reveals.) So possibly Turnbull will implement a reservation system, or possibly the answer is to play music for some time with out dialog, adopted by questions. Both issues matter: reference to the music and reference to likeminded folks.

"If you are simply moving into high-end gear and simply constructing your system, it may be exhausting to seek out friends. It will be an isolationist type of exercise," he stated. "You can study strategies on YouTube, however it’s important to go searching for friends in the event you’re into constructing and restoring amps, and many others. At the very least, we will present some type of platform and function as a group."

Footnote 1: See the April 2021 My Back Pages and Re-Tales #8.

Footnote 2: Also see Ken Micallef’s video protection. (The music is best in individual. I promise.)

Footnote 3: Turnbull was a part of a bunch sculpture exhibition referred to as "The odds are good, the products are odd," introduced within the New York gallery summer time 2022 and in London this previous summer time. See lissongallery.com/exhibitions/devon-turnbull-ojas-hifi-listening-room-dream-no-1.

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November 15, 2023 at 03:11PM

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