Blumenstein Audio Business History
Clark Blumenstein's interest in speaker design and manufacturing first took root as a fascination with the physics and cultural relevance of the variety of loudspeakers produced throughout history. This fascination germinated alongside the pursuit of a music history bachelor's degree at Whitman College in Walla Walla, WA. Later, Clark began an apprenticeship for three years at the world-famous high-end speaker company Cain & Cain Audio. There he studied under master cabinet maker Terry Cain, then under his widow, landscape artist Leslie Williams Cain.
Blumenstein Ultra Fi started out of a small home-based workshop with a primary focus on the research and development of small high-fidelity single driver speakers. The initial results were good. Clark began shipping them to a small, but growing number of enthusiastic clients around the globe.
Clark took a summer-long apprenticeship with Feastrex in Nirasaki, Japan. He studied under and ultimately assisted master driver makers Teramoto-San and Akiyama-san. Clark absorbed the intricate hand-making processes of fullrange drivers using handmade washi paper, exotic Alnico, Field Coil, and Permendur Field Coil magnetic circuits.
Clark resettled in Walla Walla making speaker for Fostex, Feastrex, and Pioneer Full Range drivers and subwoofers. He first focused on iteratively refining compact wide-band full range single drivers supported by either a subwoofer or a super tweeter. In short, he built many, many experimental boxes! His quest eventually became to miniaturize the extreme performance of larger and more expensive designs from Cain & Cain Audio and Feastrex into more affordable realms. He additionally quested after minimizing enclosure size and maximizing durability, non-toxicity, and sustainability. These qualities were crucial for ensuring the speakers could be enjoyed in ever more more practical (read: non-ideal) room placements while retaining superior overall accuracy in sound.
+ 2011-Present Day
Clark then migrated to Seattle and then most recently to Tacoma where, taking inspiration from the capacious waters of Puget Sound, he expanded production capacity and staff. In November 2015 he finalized what are now the Marlin, Orca, Triton and Benthic speakers, which are augmented by Waterline Cables and Blumenstein accessories. These commercially and acoustically successful designs now ship out by the batch monthly. All of our products, cables and accessories are still built by hand in house, by Clark and his employees, producing with custom made and off-the-shelf components, tools, and sustainable materials.
2018 Design Changes
We are now chiseling, sanding, and faceting our trademark solid Douglas Fir braces and are also oiling the interiors of each cabinet in addition to the sweeping changes made in 2016. Also, bracing orientation has changed in order to provide greater rigidity and therefore greater resolution, even with our new, thinner wood options for our most popular models. Limited edition Orca Special released, and front ported bass reflex cabinets are now the default option for all our fullrange models. Rear ported cabinets are still available via special request.
2016 Design Changes
To mark roughly 10 years in the business, we began shipping an entirely upgraded sound system design platform for model year 2016. People who have been following our brand for a while know that we really are careful product designers who do not make the flavor of the month.
All dimensions have subtly changed to fit our updated cabinet design formulae. Also, all plywood used in our re-tuned speaker and subwoofer enclosures is now 3/4" thick, and the internal bracing has been correspondingly redesigned to be even stronger and is now shaped to be better sounding in terms of internal reflections within the cabinet.
The new sound quality is even more delicately yet powerfully voiced, balanced in timbre, with infinite depth in the midrange and substantially more and better bass energy that is now fully synergistic and driving for the music.
Improved Ergonomic Household Furniture Design
Most recognizably, these new models are marked by the new "BLUMENSTEIN" brand on the front of the speaker, which is now from a new wood burning iron - a significant upgrade over the prior use of a rubber stamp and heat lamp.
The sonic improvements that our new products have been given are due to numerous upgrades given to the tools used on our production line, higher end parts used inside the speakers, and tighter methods of assembly that were recently developed.
Most notably we have upgraded our saws, soldering tools, soldering techniques, and solder. For the speaker internals, a number of upgrades were given - especially the fact that we are now using new high performance minimalist damping materials that are now made in house (time consuming to make, and tiny, but effective!).
In our woodwork and joinery, there is a new, curved profile given to the updated arrangement of our locally sourced, in-house milled Douglas Fir internal braces that serve as the skeleton of all our enclosure designs now - giving an even greater strength to weight ratio, and a mixture of curved surfaces, spaces, and angles - which is the ideal environment for shaping the standing waves inside the cabinets to give a new, more cohesive, clearer and deeper voice to our sound systems. New, larger, vibration absorbing feet inspired from high end skateboard wheels are now used on the bottom of all our cabinets and heavy components. New custom sourced sturdy black mounting hardware is used to mount all speaker drivers. Finally, improved sandpaper and finish product applicators top off the list of major upgrades to our regular production items.
The New Benthic Bass Unit Subwoofer design
The Blumenstein Benthic Bass Unit, is an especially improved model - as we are now using ideal golden ratio enclosure proportions - to voice the small, but important amount of lower midrange that the subwoofer makes. The Benthic Bass Unit is an acoustically pure passive subwoofer design - without any unneeded internal chambers - powered by a significantly upgraded, Neodymium magnet subwoofer driver and a New Modular Outboard Subwoofer amplifier.
Yes, we realize that the New Benthic Bass Unit driver looks 100% identical to the Ferrite magnet driver we used in our prior Dungeness subwoofer model but we assure you that the new driver does in fact have a new Neodymium magnet and sounds like a different speaker - much larger, significantly more powerful, yet even more detailed, subtle, and chameleon-like than the Dungeness or Orca Sub that we made prior to 2016.
The Octopus and Hydra series/parallel line array cables were added to our lineup to allow the use of multiple subwoofers and/or multiple full range speakers for highest end Modular Blumenstein systems.
The ultra high quality Hammock Line RCA-> Minijack cable was finally added to our lineup in December. This exciting new product is a wired remote control for your audio system from your favorite device.
Historic/Discontinued Speaker Models
Orca Deluxe (in chocolate finish offering)
While it is a great looking shade of bamboo, the higher temperatures it takes to "cook" a sheet of natural bamboo all the way to the chocolate color makes the fibers within the sheets too brittle for our extremely tear-out-sensitive joinery method, which made orders take longer to fill because we were having to make too many attempts to get perfect joinery for just the chocolate bamboo orders.
The currently still active material offerings of Natural, Caramelize, or Two-Tone Bamboo Ply, or Birch Plywood Orcas (now, just called "Orcas") are made in 3/4" wall thickness and are able to be joined and then polished flawlessly day in, day out in our workshop with no/extremely little tearout. We use top quality USA made saw blades and premium architectural grade bamboo and birch plywoods.
Orca "Classic" 3" Fullrange
The Orca "Classic", made of 1/2" bamboo and birch, were our most established design with over eight years of refinement, and are the original groundbreaking music makers that put our company on the map.
In early 2015, we decided that our designs needed to move forward and that we would replace the 1/2" Orca Classics permanently with the 3/4" Caramelized, Natural, or Birch Orcas. If you already own 1/2" Orca Classics and wish to trade up to 3/4" Orca cabinets, then just get in touch with us.
Mako/Mola 5" Fullrange and Mako 5" Floorstander
Designed as semi-compact loudspeakers for medium to extreme power handling from a 5" single driver, the Makos were our ultimate offering until the Douglas Fir cabinet bracing technology we invented for the Orca Mini (now Marlin) design was put into the Orca and eventually Triton enclosures. The sound improvements were disproportionally slanted to the Triton, Orca, and Marlin models and the Mako/Mola models were barely improved. Additionally, we realized that the large, heavy cabinets were too unwieldy for us to make by hand with our joinery method.
Our newer, smaller, modular sound system and cabinet design platform (Nov. 2015), has now superseded the sound quality of all our previous Mako offerings. Our new, smaller cabinets can more effectively be mechanically isolated from neighboring components and each other with our new vibration absorbing cabinet feet.
If you currently own Mako speakers and wish to accessorize your system, then please refer to our current offerings for subwoofers, and cables. Our new Seamount Speaker stands and Plinths can be custom sized for the larger mako Fullrange or Floorstander cabinets. If you are interested, just get in touch!
DUNGENESS - active
The Dungeness Classic, Deluxe, and Max were a series of active subwoofers with 25 watt amplifiers that we produced between 2013 and 2015. Our customers have enjoyed these amazing, compact high efficiency subwoofers, but over time we were asked to make an "ultimate" sound quality, even more compact, more powerful option, which is where our Benthic Bass Unit design has come in. Everything we have learned from the Dungeness filtered into the new Benthic Bass Unit subwoofer design.
Orca Sub - passive
The Orca Sub was a passive subwoofer unit shaped to slip comfortably amongst furniture and sound great. We liked many things about the Orca Sub, but ultimately, we moved on to the more compact shape of the Dungeness. The passive Orca sub too, has fed into the design of the new, passive Benthic Bass Unit, which far surpasses the performance of either the earlier passive Orca Sub or active Dungeness Models.
The Audio Bazaar
As designers, it is necessary for us to keep a small library of older and newer used gear of our own make and of other makers. We periodically move along some piece or another to make room for newer components. We don't always have time to formally list this stuff online, so just get in touch with us and let us know what your needs are and there is a chance we might have something we could part with! We are also generally open to gear trades as well - especially if they are items that were already on our wish list! Info@blumensteinaudio.com