Small Business Spotlight: Oswalds Mill Audio
Headquartered in the Berks County, Oswalds Mill Audio (OMA) sound systems are Pennsylvania-made through and through. Using Pennsylvania slate and hardwoods, OMA creates high-quality audio equipment that marries established sound technologies with modern quality and breathtaking design, resulting in a rich, vintage sound sure to satisfy any audiophile. In February, Governor Tom Wolf announced an investment in OMA through the Pennsylvania Industrial Developmental Authority (PIDA), which helped OMA purchase a three-building property to use as an event space and continue their passion for historic preservation.
What is OMA’s signature style?
Oswalds Mill Audio makes the world’s finest high-fidelity equipment, including loudspeakers, tube amplifiers, turntables, and audio furniture. We’re an outlier in audio systems — our product is simply something people have never experienced before. Our speakers are not one-off. They typically take six months to create, which means we need to keep a larger inventory than the average company.
Each one is designed to provide the best sound, while also having a signature style. I found the best of both worlds working with one of the world’s best sound engineers, Bill Woods, and a truly gifted designer, David D’Imperio.
To create our signature designs, it is often a very time-consuming process utilizing specialized techniques. For example, our Ironic speaker is cast in a 3D-printed sand mold that is then destroyed in the casting process. We also use a process for treating wood called torrefaction — this ages the wood, which makes it more stable and gives it better tonal characteristics.
How did OMA find Pennsylvania?
I let my life dictate what I was doing — starting OMA is what I consider “Plan D.” I have a degree from Princeton University and one from London School of Economics, and then I ventured into filmmaking, which is what eventually led me to Pennsylvania. One of the soundmen working on my film was from Pennsylvania and was working on renovating an old farm house. I would travel to help him fix things up, and a mutual friend took me to see Oswald’s Mill in the Berks County — and from there, the rest was history.
I was instantly captivated by the mill — this continent’s only known example left of an integrally built house-mill, which allowed the miller and his family to work and live in the same residence. Through fixing up the mill, I came in contact with countless local craftsmen. It’s these fine people who are now helping me build our sound systems.
What makes you proud to be a Pennsylvania business?
Everything we make is made with Pennsylvania partners. We only use Pennsylvania hardwoods, and our woodshop is in Bally. All of the slate come from quarries in Slatedale. The slate is cut by a Mennonite family with a Flow 5-axis waterjet near Kutztown, the foundry is in Temple — everything is so local that without these resources we wouldn’t exist.
I’m proud that we are able to make some of the world’s most beautiful products from the raw materials around us right here in Pennsylvania. I’m proud of where my product comes from. When you have the resources that we have in Pennsylvania, of course you’re going to be proud of it. It’s also helpful to be in Pennsylvania to easily send our sound systems around the globe, since 85 percent of our clientele is international.
With the added support from DCED’s PIDA loan, we were able to purchase a complex of three buildings in Fleetwood. The competitive interest rate enabled us to reduce the down payment, and we can work on creating a unique event space that is a symbol of historic preservation.
I’m excited for our new space in Fleetwood, and we are working on some new systems that will, of course, be made in Pennsylvania — including a mass-market product that will be affordable while providing premier sound quality.
Jonathan Weiss, born in New York City, studied international relations and political philosophy at Princeton University, and public international law at London School of Economics. After years of travel, Weiss changed direction and became a filmmaker. After discovering Oswald’s Mill in Eastern Pennsylvania, a vast restoration project, he embarked on a new direction in audio with OMA.