Located on the 4th floor of T.H.E. Show, Black Ocean Audio is a brand new operation out of California that might be one of the more interesting new finds at the show so far this weekend.

The boutique loudspeaker manufacturer is a labor of love for Nick Tarnofsky, who is based out of Seal Beach, California. Tarnofsky has a lifelong love of Linn loudspeakers, but never loved the limitations placed on the designs which are mass produced.

With that in mind, he reimagined the Linn LS-250 without the issues that he felt held the product back.

The Skinny

The result is a bespoke near field monitor named the Le Chiffre Studio; the design utilizes a .75 inch tweeter and 5.5 inch driver in a dual ported mahogany cabinet.   The crossovers are housed separately which allows them to be moved as needed or replaced with an active crossover or DSP if desired.     

Black Ocean Audio offers the Le Chiffre Studio with a choice of Bubinga, Walnut, or Purpleheart faces starting at $4500 including the crossovers in matching cabinets.    The Studio uses uses the Hiquphon OW-1 tweeter and SEAS treated paper cone woofer.

Black Ocean Audio Le Chiffre Loudspeakers Pair

Nick defines the Studio as the “Heart” model; a lively emotional listen with some upper midrange emphasis. What I noticed first was the lift in that range that brought vocals out in the mix and those who love a forward vocal presentation will find the Le Chiffre Studio a perfect fit.     

The presentation is smooth and a touch laid back so it will suit those looking for a listenable small room speaker or near field monitor. I thoroughly enjoyed the Studio; it’s definitely not aimed at those who want a razor flat tonal balance or accuracy for recording or mastering.

Tarnofsky then switched cables to the new “Pro” model that he calls the “Mind”; the speaker is brand new and not on his website yet but I have been assured that they are available for order right now.

The Black Ocean Audio Pro Series uses the same cabinets with revised drivers and a different tuning. The changes result in a wider frequency range with more low-end punch, and where the studio was a bit laid back and more colored sounding, the Pro is a no-holds barred reference monitor that puts a lot of emphasis on detail retrieval.

The first thing I noticed was the vocal timbre was as good as anything I’d heard in my two days at T.H.E. Show, and the Le Chiffre Pro exposed details in the track that had been a bit smoothed-over when listening to the same track via the Studio.    

Strings have good energy without crossing the line into fatiguing territory and piano also had good timbral accuracy. I find the piano to be one of the hardest instruments to reproduce well so this speaks highly for the Pro.

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The Pro starts at $6000 with the crossovers (again in separate matching mahogany cases) and is available for order now. Black Ocean Audio is a small shop so the lead time will depend on how many show orders he is fulfilling in the coming weeks. Don’t be surprised if he’s a bit swamped.

For more information: www.blackoceanaudio.com

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