Treefort: The Sound of Music Draws Speaker Maker

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Clark Blumenstein standing in front of his Orca speakers
  • Harrison Berry
  • Clark Blumenstein standing in front of his Orca speakers

Clark Blumenstein of Blumenstein Audio in Seattle, sees himself as an intermediary between musicians and their audiences.

"I'm an engineer between artists and their listeners," he said.

That's why Blumenstein was drawn to Treefort: To show off his high-end speakers, called Orcas. And if the reaction at the Press Lounge at the El Korah Shrine and Treefort Music Fest Artists Lounge in The Linen Building was any indication, Blumenstein's work has earned more than a few new fans.

Electric guitars and violins sounded as clear from the back of the lounge as they were six inches from the speakers. Bass guitars and drums twanged and growled, but never thumped or thudded. Fleetwood Mac and The Moody Blues filled the Artists Lounge without the volume setting on the stereo going above 50 percent.

The minimalist philosophy Blumenstein brings to his speakers is evident inside and out. The Orcas are shoebox-sized speaker cabinets made from bamboo sanded so finely it shone, with a single speaker made from abaca banana paper mounted two-thirds up the face of the cabinet. Inside, the acoustic features balance bass and treble sounds for sharpness and clarity, but always with the emphasis on having as few parts, electrical connections and apparatus as possible.

Many audio systems claim to offer the highest fidelity to the music they play, but Blumenstein said every speaker system makes choices for music listeners, whether it suppresses audio flaws or emphasizes certain kinds of sounds: Saying a set of speakers delivers the clearest sound suggests that clarity is what musicians want their fans to hear, which isn't always the case.

"The people that claim to be the least colored are often the most skewed," Blumenstein said.

Instead of claiming to have the greatest clarity or the most hands-off approach to what Orca customers hear, Blumenstein said his is a more experimental approach.

"I'm trying to discover what impact I'm having," he said.

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