FAQ

Information about building processes, return/exchange policies, shipping information, and more.


Policies

+ Are there any products in stock, or are all items made-to-order?

I do keep some popular items in stock, but many of my clients ask me to make their system fully from scratch, because this is also a service I offer, understanding that this does involve a brief waiting period while their order is being built and tested before it can be shipped direct from the wood shop. Often times, I am able to ship out certain items that might happen to be in stock first, and then fulfill the remaining items in the order that they are produced and pass quality control.

If you want to order speakers and have them ship fast, please call (206) 407-8439 (or email info@blumensteinaudio.com) to check the limited quantities of inventory I may have on hand and ready to ship.

+ How long will I wait for my item to be delivered?

If you have ordered an item that needs to be built before it can ship out to you, this can typically take anywhere between 2-8 weeks. I am happy to provide you with an estimated time frame until delivery at any point along the way. I will always do my best to meet my own deadlines, but my delivery estimates are non contractual and non binding and cannot be used for any legal purposes. I focus my resources on the core build quality, friendly advice, and prompt, over-achieving customer support that have driven the word of mouth building this community for over 10 years. The finished products will last generations after they've been skillfully, patiently made at every step.

+ What are my shipping options?

Domestic: FedEx Ground or USPS International USPS Priority Mail International You will receive tracking information when your order is being packed and shipped. Rush shipping is also available. Contact me for a quote. Advanced notice is much appreciated.

+ What happens if my order arrives damaged?

I apply an industry-leading standard of quality to everything I make and ship, but there are minor variations between each cabinet due to the eccentricities of bamboo and wood grain and color. Each batch is slightly unique. However, the slight eccentricities do not affect the sound quality and make each piece slightly unique - just like my thousands of happy customers!

If your product is damaged beyond a minor variation in color, etc, please first take photos of both the box as it arrived and the damage incurred on your order.Depending on what you ordered, I may want to send you a replacement, arrange for shipment back to the shop for a repair/replacement, or make other arrangements. If I decide that your order should be returned, I will send you a shipping label to affix to the box for return shipping. In any case, rest assured that I will get your order fixed up good as new as quickly as I can.

+ Returns and Exchanges

I can accommodate refunds if you are dissatisfied with one of the product's performance within 60 days of receiving it. You will be responsible for covering your own return shipping charges and up to a 5% restocking fee - only to cover merchant services like credit card or paypal fees (that I pay when I accept your credit card, paypal or etc payment at the time you initially ordered). If the product is received back with damage, an additional restocking fee may apply. Once your returned item is received back at the shop, it will be inspected for damage before the refund minus restocking fee is sent to you.

Items purchased on sale, as b-stock, or custom items are non-returnable.

In the extremely rare case that your order arrives damaged from shipping, I will work with you promptly to get an exchange for new gear coming your way. Please take photos of the box as it arrived and any damage on the product itself for claim purposes with the mail carrier.

Exchanges on products can be made within 60 days of receiving them for products of equal value, or used as credit towards products of greater value. Restocking fees do not apply during exchanges. Please note that I do not exchange discontinued models towards current models.

+ Cancellations

During production: If circumstances arise that require you to cancel your order before it has been shipped, understand and you can do so. I chatge the same 5% restocking fee to cover the work that's been done on an order that is cancelled during late stage production, unless you cancel within 5 days after ordering, in which case the merchant services restocking fee may not even apply. The point is that I won't charge you anything for restocking unless I get charged by the merchant services.

Cancellations of custom items, customized orders, or custom requests, installation, or consultation services billed hourly, not sold through the web store are non returnable / non refundable under any circumstances.

I reserve the right to refuse service to anyone.

+ Warranties and Support

Subwoofer amplifiers are covered under the original manufacturer's warranty for up to one year. Speaker drivers have a 90-day warranty against defect from the original manufacturer. This warranty is limited to manufacturer defects. The warranty will not cover incidental or consequential damage due to defective or improper use of products. This includes but is not limited to overheating, broken componentry, and over driving the speakers. If any problems arise, I work with my supplier to exchange them. You are responsible for return shipping to the shop or the original manufacturer.

Non-Warranty Service: If non-warranty service is required, the product may be sent back to the shop for repair/replacement by contacting Blumenstein Audio directly for details, complete instructions, and service charges. You are responsible for return shipping to the shop.

Please contact me directly to initiate an exchange.

It is my policy to offer economical repair services on all my legacy products and assist and advise the customers in the proper maintenance of their cabinets, cables, no matter how old. Charges may be applied for out-of-warranty repairs so contact me directly for a repair quote from me or visit the maintenance products pages to explore your DIY repair options.


Design and Process

+ Why single driver/wide range direct radiator instead of horn loudspeakers?

While Horn speakers can also be traced back to the earliest days of audio, lets face it - unless they are very expensively/thoroughly designed, horns honk. The also suffer from a lack of integration across the entire frequency band. Akin to a comparison between a vehicle with a narrow powerband motor requiring multiple gears versus a single speed transmission given sufficient torque from the motor to drive at any speed without shifting.

My own body of work is classic-inspired but miniaturized, wide-operable-band Helmholtz resonator (bass-reflex) speaker and subwoofer designs I arrived at by generationally adjusting the enclosures over time to the actual power band properties of the speaker drivers that I have been receiving from my suppliers for years on end. I have also listened to my client's feedback in order to arrive at the drive units that I use in my production loudspeakers.

Every driver I currently offer as a production model has passed numerous conventional and unconventional tests for durability and sound quality under real world circumstances. I have found that when carefully tuned, with tank-like build quality, a properly made bass reflex enclosure can perform extraordinarily well with single driver or subwoofer speaker drivers.

The cables keep pace in sound quality with some of the best of the modern brands, yet have a higher quality build than is typical at these pricepoints, and an unconventionally supple feel to the hand - just like the speakers' smooth sanded, linseed oiled finish.

The unifying design philosophy I have is that each individual component I make will let another world of nuance come through any system that it is added to. By extension, a fully rigged complete Blumenstein system, including speakers, cables, subwoofers, and audio furniture and accessories is designed to work together both sonically and ergonomically in a more uniquely thought-out way than any other stereo system on the market is designed to be able to operate. The futuristic sounding and looking audio designs from traditional materials are also made to last.

+ What are the benefits of a smaller, handmade speaker?

The most important results of research and development are counter-intuitive to have actually worked out in these ways. For instance, over time the full range speakers have been able to become smaller yet more accurate and make more and better bass. The subwoofers have become more efficient and simultaneously smaller and also make more and better bass. The floor stands have become lighter weight and better sounding. The cables are more flexible, less delicate, but sound even more purist.

Furthermore, as all the designs have become smaller and simpler in production, they have been able to describe a more complex sound, resolve detail, and communicate musical to the listener like never before. This benefit is passed on to the customers in the form of reasonable prices. The pinnacle of an American design is to be historically informed, purist, and deliver competitive performance for the price.

I've seen this happen time and again across cross disciplinary studies. Less is More, when a fresh, simpler design concept discovers higher quality materials and careful production techniques that revolve around the primary sense in question - the sound quality.

The fullrange speaker and subwoofer cabinet designs prove that the acoustic environment and presentation of far larger loudspeakers can indeed come from compact wooden speaker enclosures, but the materials and construction must be of sufficiently high quality and balanced in strength in order to reliably attain ideal acoustic behavior. In the process of pursuing this goal, I arrived at even better sound quality than I could have ever imagined! In a sense, there is less to go wrong in a smaller but more carefully tuned speaker enclosure. Just like the way that small race cars handle the twisty bits with ease that flat out embarrasses larger, chunkier, messier race car designs.

+ I'm not convinced on why a direct, single driver is better.

Viable, great sounding full range driver technology already existed for almost 90 years by the time I started my own quest for the golden tone in commercial loudspeaker products 16 years ago. And the question seems to remain within the audio industry: Why not have the majority of the octaves covered by a single, musical, extremely talented direct radiator speaker driver?

Really: why not single driver?

  • The ear has a single full range Timpanic membrane
  • Microphones are generally full range diaphragms
  • There is a single pair of speaker wires coming from the back of your amplifier.

Why not hook up the unfiltered fullrange signal from that single pair of speaker wires to a wide range / full range radiator speaker driver of tasteful sonic design, and then only use the supporting frequencies that you must and in a fully intentional, minimalist, yet effective way in terms of the drain from the voltage of your amplifier? (Like the active crossover inside the Outboard Subwoofer Amplifier or the whisper of voltage needed to run the supertweeter found in the Triton).

I feel like the real race that needs to be run has been the same one all along - to convince the ear, brain, and heart (beat) that the music is entire, complete, and real. Almost 100 years into direct radiator speaker design, realistic sound quality still comes from wide range / full range paper cones, and wood enclosures. And so I went looking to natural, traditional materials and materials science for my next sources of inspiration.

Your amplifiers drive the full range speakers (Orcas, Marlins, or Tritons) in the high, mid, and bass frequencies simultaneously with extremely wide and even dispersion down to their lowest acoustic cutoff frequency of 45hz (Triton), 80hz (Orca), or 90hz (Marlin). Below that frequency, the sub takes over. Therefore, your main stereo amplifier is only "seeing" the power requirements of driving the bass of the full range speakers, which enhances overall headroom.

To drive the subwoofer, your stereo amplifier sends a small amount of voltage into the "high level inputs" of the active crossover of the Outboard subwoofer amplifier. This is a stable, minimal load that does not affect the sound of the fullrange speakers, which are still being run full range without any signal filtration.

This means that the your main stereo amplifier only has to deal with the wattage needs and electro/magnetic feedback/noise of one small, lightweight and utterly easy to drive fullrange driver and perhaps a whisper coming from a super tweeter. The true difficulty of driving the subwoofer driver and making the lowest of the low frequencies in a way that will blend in with the full range speakers is left to the more naturally capable paper cone subwoofer driver, rigid wooden cabinet built on the same platform as the full range speaker cabinets, and high quality subwoofer amplifier with an active crossover.

This is one of the main keys to the Blumenstein speaker systems' reputation for high efficiency and clarity in the bass - is that they are an easy load in the bass range by allowing the use of powerful, high quality subwoofers. (And also, by using appropriate subwoofer high level input cables - the Anchor Chain). Blumenstein speakers make ample volume with low power because of the way they use that power. Just the same way that turbo charging a race car can be done elegantly, or messily - and it seems that every manufacturer seems to have a different goal in mind.

My goal is to simply make the music more enjoyable, emotive, and enveloping for the listener. Blumenstein sound systems will take you to outer space - and back.

+ Why would I want a wooden speaker?

Instead of allowing the acoustic environment of the speaker cabinet to be slowed down by all those unnecessary design crutches, Blumenstein speakers are made of just wood, glue, and finish. But the finest woods we can source, the strongest glue on the market, and the finest, most traditional finish we could find. These simple, but highest quality ingredients, kept in balance, produces a totally natural sound free from the typical anomalies (frequency, phase, dynamic, and impulse response) that are considered to be par for the course handicaps to traditional speaker designs.

For instance, the necessity to attain a flat frequency response led me to use technically slightly less efficient single driver speakers, but mounted to stronger yet lighter weight, undamped, and therefore energy efficient cabinets. The end result is a high efficiency speaker that wakes up sooner and is better matched to the creamier sounding range of power output from your amplifier. Most importantly, because I am not using hot, trebly full range drivers to artificially up the average efficiency specifications, that means that my speakers are actually there all along - delivering on the bottom end.

As a rare treat from a single driver speaker design, the Orca, Marlin, Triton, and Benthic actually make bass - and gobs of it! But extremely clean, tight - and delicately room tune-able as it should be.

The point is that the unique high efficiency bass reflex cabinets, which produce inherently clean, clear, and pure midrange because of the materials and construction quality, are not then burdened with trying to cover up nasty mid and high frequencies with massive wads of speaker stuffing. And so the bass from these speakers is uncharacteristically powerful, "in room," and well defined.

But moreover, I am focused on making speakers that are appropriate for the human environment - your actual home. Yielding extraordinary results in normal situations and every day volume levels as well as the higher volumes needed in critical listening environments.

+ How strong are Blumenstein Audio speakers?

I have created a topology of strategic bracing and pre/post tensioning of the cabinet and driver parts, developed over literally thousands of hours and iterations across years of independent research and development that assures the specific strength to weight ratio of these cabinets can be attained reliably in my shop's day to day production processes.

I assemble the cabinets using the classic yet minimalist style of all-glue butt joinery, without added fasteners of any kind. This allows the pieces to assume their natural, unstressed positions during construction, and are allowed to cure in this acoustically harmonious arrangement once the glue dries. By gluing an entire cabinet at once, I am able to carefully control the amount of pressure that is placed on each clamp by hand, thereby tuning each speaker during construction — much like a musical instrument. This style of assembly also allows the cabinet walls to settle ever so slightly over time in a pre-calculated manner, as is absolutely necessary for the longest-lasting woodwork. The cabinet's overall construction and the parts used are extremely rugged, moisture resistant, user serviceable, even user repairable, generations down the road — much like a guitar or violin. If you are looking for speaker to last and even mature in sound quality and visual effect as a piece of furniture for generations, then look no further.

+ How precise is the machine on a handmade product?

I machine the speaker parts entirely in house with top quality hand-operated equipment following precision-made patterns — ensuring high accuracy, high speed, and low energy consumption. The use of hand tools also provides me with the best and most reliable quality control - a craftsman's eye.

The speaker designs are not only acoustically optimized, but mathematically optimized for the greatest yield from a sheet of plywood. Less than 6% of the speaker panels become scrap or dust, considering all of the production processes combined. This helps keep the price of the speakers down because I am not diverting my skilled time, nor am I unnecessarily wasting the expensive materials that constitute such a large part of the retail price. The wood I use alone cost up to 10 times as much as MDF, which most speakers, even very "high-end" ones, are made of. Yet, I could not make these speakers sound half as good without top quality woods and construction processes.

+ What goes into finishing a Blumenstein Audio product?

The industry leading quality of my woodwork comes by no mistake.

All Blumenstein wood products are rough sanded then polished through the highest grits in order to achieve their completely smooth surface. This is a vital step to do justice to a cabinet's potential to both look and last beautifully.

To finish the cabinets, I use Tried & True Danish oil, a polymerized linseed oil sourced from upstate New York. This finish was developed from a 200-year-old coach maker's varnish recipe, and I hand-rub and hand-polish it on the speakers in the traditional technique.

Without the help of any added dryers and solvents, this non-toxic finish gives the cabinet surfaces a beautifully understated shine.

For over 10 years, every step of my production has been done with hand tools or hand operated power tools.

The final stage is for the drivers to be carefully affixed to the speaker cabinets and then the speakers' sound is compared with the reference models. After so many different quality-control checkpoints, the only true "pass or fail" mark is decided at this point — when the speakers become audible.

Finally, the speakers are packaged carefully, and sent to music lovers around the world. It is my hope that the speakers can be of valuable service for many decades.

My work doesn't stop in the shop. Every purchase from Blumenstein Audio also comes with long-term support and setup advice. I welcome you to join this dedicated community of owners who know there is no substitute for the quality of Blumenstein products.

+ Are there any notable features of a Blumenstein Audio product I won't find in bigger, name brands?

With their unconventionally wide high frequency dispersion angle, the virtual point source fullrange drivers of the speakers produce a clear and unwavering presentation of the actual space a recording was made in and produce satisfying bass at high or low volume levels, with or without a matching subwoofer.

Paper cone full-range drivers with large magnetic circuit yields high efficiency, excellent detail retrieval, and powerful room presence.

Cabinets are carefully glued by hand with optimal clamp tension to ensure the ideal final tone is developed, which is critical in an enclosure with minimal sound absorbing material to sound so completely unstressed and balanced.

Solid wood flared bass reflex ports (not plastic) are sanded smooth on the inside to eliminate turbulence. This is the key to the unexpectedly powerful bass and lower mid-range presence for speakers this size.

Low resistance internal wiring yields the maximum potential for bass output from any amplifier.

Finished with hand-rubbed non-toxic linseed oil. This finish, unlike paint or lacquer, is easy to maintain by the customer for years to come.

+ What is a Waterline Cable?

Waterline Cables are designed for maximum performance and convenience to the exclusion of neither. Just like the speakers which follow the same simple, winning formula.

Waterline Cable introduced in 2015 challenges the current industry-wide paradigm of inconvenient, inflexible, and downright cheap copper with fresh sounding, hard soldered, ultra-premium alternatives with a velvety smooth and extremely flexible outer jacket for ease of daily use.

The production process of these cables is simple: careful hand solder terminations on selected lengths (even very long) of European manufactured studio/professional cable.


Speaker Placement

+ Is there an optimal location to place my new Blumenstein Audio speaker?

There are a few factors to take into consideration when deciding where best to place your sound system, each one unique to every room. Below are some rough guidelines to adhere to. I am happy to help guide you further; simply send me a description and/or photograph of your room—good advice is what you pay for being a proud Blumenstein owner.

Putting care into this decision can truly open up a new realm of performance in your speakers, and I encourage you to do some experimenting of your own when setting up your system.

In an ideal setup, you want to have the speakers and listening position centered left-right in the room, keeping the left and right sides symmetrical. If there's an opening / doorway on one of the walls, if possible, set the system up so that the opening is behind where you listen in order to keep the left and right sides the same in the front half of the room.

Adding even a little bit of absorption at the side-wall reflection points will improve audio quality significantly. There's no need to dwell for too long on tracking down the most acoustically absorptive material as most anything will suffice—tapestries, canvases, pictures, etc.

+ Orcas

Orcas are meant to fit easily into your space: computer desks, bedrooms, living rooms, restaurants, and compact home and studio environments. More outgoing customers have used them as a car stereo, as an outdoor speaker system, and as a shop stereo. Their height is sized to be able to sit next to vinyl records on a shelf. Subwoofers can serve as speaker stands for a compact floor-standing arrangement to save space yet with all the benefits of the audiophile-quality sound they can produce.

Floor Stands also allow optimal setup of the Orcas when alone or with a single or a pair of subwoofers. This is an affordable option for those wanting full frequency response on a budget.

A pair of Orcas alone can also make very satisfying bass for most music listeners, especially for those in a small apartment, studio, cubical, or other environments that discourage the lowest bass notes that can potentially annoy neighbors. In that case, their lack of the lowest bass notes is an asset because they can be listened to at overall louder, more pleasing levels without bother.

The most observant listeners notice as well that quite a bit of break-in helps them to develop their final character and true abilities to sound beautiful at low or high volumes, which happens some time between 100-200 hours depending on use (although they will sound great after 10 hours of play). The main changes that takes place in the sound of an Orca, Marlin or Triton during breakin is more, better, and deeper bass to accompany the slowly blossoming midrange and ever smoother treble.

For those who want a richer, warmer and sort of a "vintage" sound, the speakers can be placed almost right up against the rear wall which will bloom the upper bass region somewhat and make the speakers feel like they are a part of the room itself. For those who'd prefer a balance between detail and warmth, the presence of this lower midrange and upper bass is fine tunable by the distance of the speakers from the rear wall and less so via the horizontal distance between the speakers and even a little less so, their distance off the ground.

Orcas can also be set up very successfully into a nearfield listening situation, an arrangement which makes the room reverberation time much longer than the time it takes for the speakers' sound to reach the listener directly. The brain filters out the room reverberation and is left with a more direct connection to the music that is akin (but arguably superior) to headphones. The difference is that speakers make tangible, emotive, and jaw dropping bass that can really affect you. In nearfield listening, the speakers and listener are arranged in an equilateral triangle and the speakers point directly at the listener's ears. The listening distance can be between several feet away to under a foot away from the speakers. Most important is that the speakers and listener are placed out in the middle of the room, away from walls and other surfaces to achieve the full clarity of the nearfield listening experience. When setting up on a desktop, consider adding a set of Desktop Stands to angle the drivers to the height of your ears.

+ Triton

The Triton was designed to be mounted on dedicated stands, or a stack of Benthic Bass Units networked into 4 pair arrangements with Octopus cables. Given the larger size and musical presentation the Triton presents as compared to the Orca, a bit more space from side and rear walls will likely yield benefits in imaging and overall delicacy of the presentation. However, this does not preclude them from traditional bookshelf placement in small rooms. They will sound great wherever you put them.

In Large rooms: Since the Triton is a full sized speaker, even more space between each speaker and the side walls / rear wall may be needed to unleash their full potential. In the 16’ by 20’ listening space at the shop we have set them up to nice effect about 2’ from the back wall (as measured to the rear of the speaker) and at least 3’ from the sidewalls.

+ I want to use a subwoofer. What do you suggest?

Adding a subwoofer will allow you to enjoy a full frequency response and is very much recommended for those setting their speakers up in larger rooms or for those who enjoy listening to most modern music.

The Benthic Bass Unit is a compact subwoofer, designed for maximum flexibility in regards to placement options. Ideally, a single subwoofer should be placed between your Orca Fullrange speakers; two subwoofers should be placed as close to each speaker as possible: underneath or side by side.

If you need to place the Benthic Bass Unit on the floor, separated from your speakers, that is okay too, just be sure to keep it slightly behind or in line with the speakers and not in front of them.