Blumenstein Audio Thrashers Speakers Get ready to rock!By Mark Marcantonio
One of the signs of a mature audiophile is whether they have a true garage system—not the wife’s old Lloyd’s faux-wood tuner/record player/cassette, but an actual receiver, disc player and speakers. Chances are the electronics are at least 20 years old, but the true pride is often in the speakers. Placement usually either involves a couple of L-brackets or, for the more adventurous, eyehooks and some length of chain. It can be problematic when the speakers are needed for an outdoor event away from the garage/workspace. I would not recommend taking your home speakers to the park gazebo.
Out of this madness comes Blumenstein Audio with what may be the most useful, multi-purpose and durable solution, the aptly named Thrashers. Blumenstein generously calls the finished look “industrial design.” In truth, the speakers look like something straight out of a Jeff Foxworthy special.
The review pair comes with an oriented-strandboard (aka chipboard) cabinet. Two cabinet upgrades are available: a fir plywood front or a complete fir plywood cabinet. Each cabinet measures 17 by 13 by 12 inches. The port and speaker jacks are mounted in the front panel below the 1-inch super tweeter, which is crossed over at about 10 kHz; an 8-inch Pioneer Bofu driver is also mounted in the front panel. With everything on just one side, there is less to worry about when inebriated friends decide to help move them about.
To make the review as real world as possible, I power the Thrashers with my 1980 Harman/Kardon 680i receiver, Magnavox DVD/CD player and 16-gauge speaker wire. I place the speakers on a shelf in my garage 6 feet apart and 5 feet off the floor. Much of the listening time transpires while I work on a home project, with plenty of contemplation and hopped adult beverages, and with the TV on mute during the World Cup. With their 92 dB rating, the Thrashers take precious little effort to play loud and clear, and they are designed to be manhandled, both physically and sonically.
The Thrashers sound like a quality budget set of nearly full-size speakers. Vocalists, whether Tom Petty, Melissa Etheridge, Roger Daltrey, or Rihanna, sound far more lifelike than if they were reproduced by the well-cared-for rack systems of yore. The crunchiness of vocals comes from the limitations of the recordings, not the Thrashers. Robert Plant’s eviscerating vocals during “Stairway to Heaven” are scary realistic. The front port helps deliver ample bass down to 45 Hz, even when placed against a wall.
One afternoon out of boredom, the teen neighbors bring over a mixed disc of hip-hop, rap and popular music. They listen to the first song and turn up the volume a couple of times. During the second track, they begin texting. Next thing I know, a car pulls up with three of their friends. The girls begin dancing to Rihanna, while the boys punch one another and act like bloodhounds. The spontaneous listening ends only when the neighbors are called to go to a ball game. The Thrashers are like the ultra nerds in high school who everybody ignores until test time and then everyone needs to sit near them in order to pass the class.
Upping the game with a Vista Audio i34 integrated tube amplifier makes the overall sound more sultry and sweet, and an SET amplifier would probably take it further, but why bother? Whatever the combination of factors, the Thrashers sound better than any $229 dollar speakers have a right to, hands down. For those few rare audio souls who have come across and rescued a tube amp awaiting the garbage truck, the Thrashers are the mates.
As luck would have it toward the end of the review period, I’m invited to a large picnic at a nearby park. Seizing the opportunity, I toss (well, not quite) the Thrashers and receiver in the back of my pickup and head for the park. Discovering the area doesn’t have any electrical outlets, I plug the Thrashers into my pickup with the speakers sitting on the tailgate, and soon the park is filled with music. Cranking up Frampton Comes Alive! brings out the air-guitar enthusiasts, and several people compliment me on the great sound system.
Sure, you could go to Goodwill and maybe find a pair of speakers that don’t suck for $50—but the odds of that happening are somewhat slim. Or you could get out the power tools, make a few trips to Home Depot and build your own pair. Hats off to you if you’ve got the fortitude for that exercise. I say send the folks at Blumenstein Audio a couple hundred bucks and break out the beer. Carry the Thrashers, slide them, dent them—it’s all about the sound and carefree portability, which these speakers offer in spades. Just a hint: Keep a pair of work gloves handy, as the Thrashers do shed splinters on occasion.
Publisher’s note: After auditioning the Thrashers with everything from an $88,000 pair of Pass Xs300s to my Sansui 771, I decided that I need them. Per Mr. Marcantonio’s suggestion, they are my new garage speakers. Rock on. —Jeff Dorgay