News: Trouble logging in? Log in from the login page.
September 16, 2019, 03:04:08 PM

Author Topic: Blumenstein Ultra Fi  (Read 184730 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

Online Doc B.

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7801
    • Bottlehead
Blumenstein Ultra Fi
« on: July 02, 2011, 07:10:52 AM »
Just spent a very nice evening with Clark Blumenstein of Blumenstein Ultra Fi, and his lovely fiance Molly. Clark brought over some of his Naga speakers as well as a pair of Orcas. They are both based on the Fostex FF85K 3" driver. The Naga is a very slender and relatively deep labyrinth style cabinet that is absolutely gorgeous, in bamboo with a contrasting speaker baffle. The cabinet is small enough to be very unimposing and would fit very well in a small room. An equally petite metal cone subwoofer for each channel that is driven from a separate amp is the other half of the system.

(https://forum.bottlehead.com/proxy.php?request=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.blumenstein-ultra-fi.com%2Fuploads%2Fimages%2FGallery%2Fnaga%2F1.jpg&hash=3c227200d90e2ee3d78605e5580f04f7)

The Orca is a bookshelf style ported box speaker, again in a beautifully crafted bamboo cabinet (though the photo is of an earlier birch plywood version). It too is happiest running with a sub woofer.

(https://forum.bottlehead.com/proxy.php?request=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.blumenstein-ultra-fi.com%2Fuploads%2Fimages%2FGallery%2Fkiwi%2F1.jpg&hash=5d648625fedc1f06ed4059b4cb5b6022)

I listened to both speakers with a Stereomour amp at Clark's shop in SODO last week. Clark is an long time Bottlehead and has a SEX amp, Foreplay III and Paramours as part of his stable of amps used for evaluation. The sound was striking from the get go, and I really wanted to hear the speakers in our room at Bottleheadquarters to have a known point of reference from which to make judgements about their sound. So Clark braved massive road construction detours and huge holiday weekend lines at the ferry terminal to bring the speakers over for a listen.

Before I get into the sound I should mention that Clark did an apprenticeship with the late and great Terry Cain of Cain & Cain, while he was attending Whitman acquiring a degree in music. From there he spent time with the fanatics at Feastrex, participating in the manufacturing of some of the most obsessively designed drivers out there. So he has an impressive amount of experience in both driver and cabinet design, and a very good ear to boot. Sometimes I find my mind wandering when I talk to other manufacturers as they can tend to wander off into pet theories and moments of grandeur. But Clark is a very practically minded guy who isn't trying to bend physics to fit his universe or inflate it to fit his ego. And his designs show his thoughtful, careful, yet impassioned approach.

OK, to cut to the chase -
Yup a 3" driver is not what one would call sensitive, and it's not going to move a ton of air. But those little Fostex drivers can sound pretty great with just a few watts if you relieve them from excessive bass duties. I was really surprised at how well the Nagas could fill our 19 x 25 x 11 room with sound. The subs do a nice job of integration with the speakers and Clark's setup seemed to have enough adjustment range to compensate nicely for the peculiar bass characteristics of different rooms.

Those little 3" drivers really do amazing stuff on vocals, they are exceptionally natural and seem to have a very even frequency response. And being damn near point sources they image like gang busters. I usually expect to audition a speaker in my room for about 30 minutes and go back to my own system with the particular set of character flaws that my brain has become accustomed to. But I just kept wanting to try out different material to see how well the Nagas handled it, and suddenly I realized that we needed to end to session because it was late enough that the kids needed to catch one of the last boats back to Seattle. All in all a very impressive demo, and we never even got to roll tape through them!

For years I have wanted to be able to recommend a great sounding, reasonably priced, locally manufactured speaker. Well folks, the time has come. These are absolutely beautifully crafted, great sounding, compact, reasonably priced speakers. From Seattle!

Clark's got a few other tricks up his sleeve, like a special super budget speaker for the locals called the Thrasher, and some high end designs using an Altec 604 recreation and one that uses Feastrex drivers.

You gotta check out his web site - great stuff. I think we will have some of these speakers available for demo at Bottleheadquarters soon.

http://www.blumenstein-ultra-fi.com/
Dan "Doc B." Schmalle
President For Life
Bottlehead Corp.

Offline chrisby

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 36
    • commercial site:
Re: Blumenstein Ultra Fi
« Reply #1 on: July 02, 2011, 01:38:34 PM »
Dan,  errata?

FF85K  was a fantabulously silly good little driver, but has been discontinued by the manufacturer.  IINM, the particular model shown in the Orca and Naga would be the FE83En - still current even after a major revision to the "budget" full-range line.





 
Chris Bobiak
Victoria BC Canada

you don't really believe everything you think, do you?

Online Doc B.

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7801
    • Bottlehead
Re: Blumenstein Ultra Fi
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2011, 08:15:30 PM »
Dan "Doc B." Schmalle
President For Life
Bottlehead Corp.

Offline autoformer

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 30
  • S.E.X. with Orcas
Re: Blumenstein Ultra Fi
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2011, 07:26:39 PM »
I have a pair of Orcas on order with Clark which I plan to use with my S.E.X. amp in a small library room with a single REL T5 subwoofer.  By the way, the photos in Doc's post show the Orcas with the plywood finish.  Clark also offers them in lovely natural bamboo wood.
Jim Laurel

Online Doc B.

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7801
    • Bottlehead
Re: Blumenstein Ultra Fi
« Reply #4 on: July 26, 2011, 06:11:01 AM »
Yes, the new bamboo Orcas are a really nice upgrade in terms of visual aesthetic and they sound better too. I like the bamboo look so much I have asked Clark to see if he can come up with matching bamboo bases for our kits.
Dan "Doc B." Schmalle
President For Life
Bottlehead Corp.

Offline chrisby

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 36
    • commercial site:
Re: Blumenstein Ultra Fi
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2011, 10:41:10 AM »
I have a pair of Orcas on order with Clark which I plan to use with my S.E.X. amp in a small library room with a single REL T5 subwoofer.  By the way, the photos in Doc's post show the Orcas with the plywood finish.  Clark also offers them in lovely natural bamboo wood.

I had a chance to hear the little Orcas (natural BB ply version) a couple of weekends ago at a secret lab in Bothell,  and they were delightfully musical.  If there's any way to HP filter them on your SEX amp (say around 100Hz), when used with a powered sub, they'd acquit themselves more than quite nicely.  

Having experienced the sonic difference between bamboo and BB ply in other speaker enclosures,  they'd be well worth the extra few dollars.
« Last Edit: July 26, 2011, 10:43:39 AM by chrisby »
Chris Bobiak
Victoria BC Canada

you don't really believe everything you think, do you?

Offline Jim R.

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2194
  • Blind Bottlehead
Re: Blumenstein Ultra Fi
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2011, 07:54:31 AM »
Verrrrry interesting!

Wonder how they'd do in a 10.5' x 16.5' x 8' room with the stereomour?

-- Jim

Jim Rebman -- recovering audiophile

Equitech balanced power; uRendu, USB processor -> Musette DAC -> 5670 tube buffer -> Finale Audio F138 FFX -> Cain and Cain Abbys near-field).

s.e.x. 2.1 under construction.  Want list: Stereomour II

All ICs homemade (speaker and power next)

Online Doc B.

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7801
    • Bottlehead
Re: Blumenstein Ultra Fi
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2011, 08:13:44 AM »
I think they would work well. The little 3" drivers are not going to blow your hair back, but at normal comfortable listening levels they sound really nice with a Stereomour. Imaging freaks will really love them, as they do the holographic image thing really well. Clark has been taking his speakers around to compare with other speakers based generally upon similar ideas and he's been getting very favorable feedback.
Dan "Doc B." Schmalle
President For Life
Bottlehead Corp.

Offline autoformer

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 30
  • S.E.X. with Orcas
Re: Blumenstein Ultra Fi
« Reply #8 on: July 27, 2011, 11:27:53 AM »
Funny you should mention that, Doc.  Clark is building a matching bamboo base for my S.E.X. amp!  Should be a very nice match for the little Orcas.

Yes, the new bamboo Orcas are a really nice upgrade in terms of visual aesthetic and they sound better too. I like the bamboo look so much I have asked Clark to see if he can come up with matching bamboo bases for our kits.
Jim Laurel

Offline Jim R.

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2194
  • Blind Bottlehead
Re: Blumenstein Ultra Fi
« Reply #9 on: July 27, 2011, 01:05:43 PM »
my s.e.x. amp already has a bamboo ply base all ready to go.  I'll probably give it a bit more sanding and another couple coats of finish before I call it done though.
Jim Rebman -- recovering audiophile

Equitech balanced power; uRendu, USB processor -> Musette DAC -> 5670 tube buffer -> Finale Audio F138 FFX -> Cain and Cain Abbys near-field).

s.e.x. 2.1 under construction.  Want list: Stereomour II

All ICs homemade (speaker and power next)

Offline Japhy

  • Jr. Member
  • **
  • Posts: 28
Re: Blumenstein Ultra Fi
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2011, 07:39:37 PM »
I'd go for a set of used Herseys.  I'm using a set of Forte's in a modestly larger room and they sound absolutely wonderful at pretty respectable sounds levels I may add.  A used set of the small Herseys can be had for a reasonable price, and if you're into DIY'ing you can tinker with the crossovers to replace the old caps.....fun all around!

Offline Jim R.

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2194
  • Blind Bottlehead
Re: Blumenstein Ultra Fi
« Reply #11 on: August 06, 2011, 06:20:31 AM »
Japhy, I've had Hesys and currently have cornwalls (which are up for sale)  Totally different animals from the BUFs, and IMO, if you want the best performance possible from the klipsch heritage series speakers with low power SET amps, the ALK crossovers are a must -- they are reactively balanced so the amp sees a very flat 6-8 ohm load with a reactive component that wanders no more than 10 degrees from purely resistive.

-- Jim
Jim Rebman -- recovering audiophile

Equitech balanced power; uRendu, USB processor -> Musette DAC -> 5670 tube buffer -> Finale Audio F138 FFX -> Cain and Cain Abbys near-field).

s.e.x. 2.1 under construction.  Want list: Stereomour II

All ICs homemade (speaker and power next)

Offline Jim R.

  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 2194
  • Blind Bottlehead
Re: Blumenstein Ultra Fi
« Reply #12 on: August 08, 2011, 02:24:54 PM »
I've been exchanging emails wit Clark Blumenstein for a couple of weeks now but today I was able to have an extended phone conversation with him.  First thing is that Clark is a really nice, polite, down-to-earth and practical kind of guy and who has great passion for music and it's reproduction.

I like the way this guy thinks and how he approaches his designs and I learned a good bit about the Nagas' history, design choices, and the evolution of the design to what it is today and all I can say is that I'm saving my pennies as quickly as possible to order the complete Naga system (with a couple of minor customizations).  This will include the Nagas, the BUF subs, and the amps for the subs.

Clark was also extremely impressed with the Stereomour amp and it's sonics on his speakers, so I know that won't be an issue.

Clark, it also seems to me, takes an approach that starts with some physics and mathematics, which is where a lot of speaker designersstop, but then he builds, tweaks, rebuilds, etc. until he has things sounding just right, and in my world, this is the way to approach audioequipment design.

Only problem I see is that at some point I'm probably going to have to get a pair of Orcas as well, but that will have to wait until next year.

If  you're even thinking about some new speakers to go with your BH amps, and these are in your budget, I'd suggest taking a very close look at these speakers and at Clark as a designer/builder/artist.

There are some things about his design that sound to me as if they will not have some of the problems I've had with other BLH designs, namely resonances and phasing problems in the lower registers.

And for anybody goingt to RMAF, he said he'll be there but not yet sure if his speakers will be featured in any of the rooms.

Anyway, if you're on the fence and these look even mildly interesting, I'd really suggest having another look and or contacting Clark directly with your questions.

-- Jim
Jim Rebman -- recovering audiophile

Equitech balanced power; uRendu, USB processor -> Musette DAC -> 5670 tube buffer -> Finale Audio F138 FFX -> Cain and Cain Abbys near-field).

s.e.x. 2.1 under construction.  Want list: Stereomour II

All ICs homemade (speaker and power next)

Online Doc B.

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • *****
  • Posts: 7801
    • Bottlehead
Thrashers!
« Reply #13 on: September 09, 2011, 07:46:02 AM »
Clark brought by the "premium" version of the Thrashers yesterday afternoon. These are FE166s in so-gnarly-as-to-be-cool ported tower size boxes made of OSB. The drivers are isolation mounted to the front baffle - something I believe in wholeheartedly - and Clark has come up with a simple adjustable port on the front so one can tune the cabinet to taste.

We hooked them up to a Stereomour and also to a S.E.X. amp. Either one had plenty of power for anything but dance club levels and both seemed a great match to the Fostex driver. Bass was surprisingly available in good quantity, the midrange didn't seem to get muddled when the bass got loud like I've heard in other ported Fostex setups and of course the single drivers imaged like crazy. Clark is offering these speakers assembled for around $500 the pair (check with him on the exact price, materials prices these days bounce around like solar atoms). The deal is you have to pick them up from the factory in SODO, as shipping assembled wood cabinets is getting ridiculously expensive.

If you are looking for a super bang for the buck system with high end sound, this is a great place to start!

Oh yeah, and if you stumbled across an old solid state receiver or integrated amp at a thrift store and need some really inexpensive speakers that you can hook up and boogie with, Clark does a version of the Thrasher using the Pioneer 8" full range driver, for $300 the pair!
Dan "Doc B." Schmalle
President For Life
Bottlehead Corp.

Offline Clark B.

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 261
  • Enjoying Single Drivers & SET's since 2006
    • Blumenstein Audio
Re: Blumenstein Ultra Fi
« Reply #14 on: September 10, 2011, 02:50:58 PM »
Thanks Dan!

Yeah, after selling several "beta" sets, I'll be putting together the first "alpha" pairs of them for a local climbing gym in a few weeks.  The middle of this week I'll be going on my honeymoon then by the end of the month I'll be back, in my new shop (already as of this week), and looking to crank out my orders along side everything else that I make like "gang-busters."

The Thrashers are a whopping 90 liters internal volume and are meant to be a no hold barred introduction to the large ported box designs that give my Oniyanmas and Josephines and such great sound.  I've used this box type for years along side other cabinet styles as test cabinets for various drivers.  A "Large Ported Box" (LPB) is a very old speaker design type, just like the SETs they were meant to be paired with back in the day (for the most part).  LPBs have well known virtues and few but well understood compromises.  There are many iterarions of them, some audio designers dedicate their lives to the tabulating and classification "taxonomy" of this living history, but in the end, its all about building, listening and adjusting what you've got.  By keeping the port slightly mobile (user tunable), a variety of sound qualities can be achieved for different circumstances (for parties all the way to critical listening and also to be able to account for various room positionings).  

The two versions are:

V.1 - Pioneer BoFu with a tweeter - OSB and a more minimal design to keep costs down  These are meant for louder, bassier music in a typical younger person's living room or a shop or dance club environment.  At 89db, a solid state receiver with 50-100wpc is perfect and the drivers are near impossible to blow.  These are the true "Thrashers."

V. 2 - Fostex FE166En with the nicer "ACX" fir plywood and with a solid wood internal and external bracing lattice - something you just flat can't do unless the speaker looks weird and ugly but man does the bracing calm things down! (without the use of damping).   They are 95db sensitive - opening up the ability for a truly affordable and truly HE speaker to be used with the lower power SET amps in larger living rooms.  I use my pair of Thrashers at home with the same SEX amp that is just as happy to power Orcas in small-medium sized rooms or at my computer desk.  The Thrashers' large, open, dynamic sound is a gas.  They remind me alot of the C&C Abby, but with a slightly larger and more open sound (double the internal volume) however their design philosophy is totally different - Each speaker has a whole square foot that you can use to set your drink or potted plant down on without a care in the world!  

They are ugly but with great personality.  You might not be able to pinpoint exactly why, but you really want to spend alot of time listening to them speak...

For now, because the price is so cheap (~$500 or ~$300), and their size so large, they are direct sale, factory pick up only.  For me to ship them is available, but at an understood "pretty penny" (probably 3-400 dollars within the states) and a bit of a wait - I have to build crates for them like my other large speakers.  

I've had to do some rearranging of my shop and life this summer (esp. revolving around getting married).   There is an update coming to my website in the next month or so detailing the developments that have taken place in the mean time.  Like a 4000 watt, 4-15", 4-12" in OB and 2- supertweeter PA system I built last year for the Etsy.com headquarters.  The new and gobstoppingly awesome BUF Subwoofer model.  There are new wood offerings for the Nagas, Orcas, Subs, and cloth grills for the Orcas.  Matching bases offered for Bottlehead amps.  Discounts offered for feats of athleticism.  New Oniyanma offerings, customization options and my new status as a retailer of the Feastrex drivers (a great honor).  Oh, and the Thrashers being formally released.  A lot of everything for everybody.

But first, I've got to go on my honeymoon clear headed - A happy wife is a happy life :)

Expect to see alot coming out of my shop in early Oct.

Best,

Clark

P.S. It would have been nice to be at the DIY fest at Dave's place this year but I was off getting hitched that weekend.  So it will just have to be a sure thing next year...
« Last Edit: September 10, 2011, 07:24:21 PM by Clark B. »