Ohm Audio in Groningen is a richly-sorted audio store that is passionately run by Derk Broos, recently with the reinforcement of his son Luuk. The assortment of the store is anything but stereotype because here you will find unique brands such as Bricasti Design, Antipodes, Analysis Audio, Analog Domain and Lector Audio alongside more well-known brands such as Magico, Sonus Faber, and Magnepan. In addition to the extensive range of new items, there is also a wide and frequently changing selection of second-hand and demo items. Ohm Audio is also the official Dutch distributor for a range of brands such as Bricasti, Gigawatt, Antipodes, Analysis Audio, and Lector Audio.
The large listening room on the ground floor’ core system is usually equipped with Bricasti amplification and DA conversion in combination with Antipodes server/streamer solutions with a constantly changing choice of speaker. In addition to the main listening room there is also a smaller, well-filled, listening room on the second floor with a varying setup and finally, a huge stock room filled entirely with speakers of all shapes and sizes, set up in pair and ready to be transported to one of the listening rooms. This space actually seems even larger than the large listening room so imagine how many different speakers there are!
Naturally, pretty much any combination of components can be arranged in consultation in one of the two listening rooms.
Behind this unassuming facade is a spacious store full of tasty audio equipment.
Here’s Luuk on a fork-lift truck, unloading the crates with heavy Wilson speakers that I dropped off that day.
Above: an older photo of Derk holding a Transparent Audio speaker cable.
We started the tour in the listening room on the second floor. I was curious to hear the difference between Magico A3’s and S1 MkII’s and Luuk was kind enough to demonstrate this for me using the above system, consisting of an Analog Domain M75D integrated amplifier fed by a Bricasti M3 Roon endpoint and DAC. The speaker cables are AudioQuest Volcano.
While seated comfortably in the listening position, Luuk took care of the speaker positions and connections and then left the control of the audio selections to me.
Starting with the S1-MkII’s, I was surprised at the amount of bass coming from these small and thin loudspeakers. The bass is of the fast and articulate sort and certainly not thick or fat and it goes very deep. As is known, the Magico’s are extremely even-handed and transparent and have immaculate resolution. This, I expected and this was certainly obvious here. What I did not expect was that literally everything that I played sounded remarkably good. Not even known torture tracks sounded the least bit dry or hard. I think the room has a lot to do with these as the S1 MkII’s do need some support to avoid sounding thin. Well, in any event, that was well-sorted here.
Switching to the A3’s made a big jump in bass volume but not necessarily in bass quality. While not deeper, the bass was now certainly bigger and more voluptuous which for some may make a big difference but this extra heft came at the expense of an amount of transparency and articulation in the bass. Also, the soundstage was now less holographic and less clearly layered and with instruments less distinctly positioned. Although the A3’s are great speakers, it was instantly clear why the S1 MkII costs more than the A3 despite being a smaller system.
After having heard the Magico’s, the tour continued on the ground floor where the big system is. Currently, Sonus Faber speakers are set up but this could really be any make or model. As I’ll illustrate further below, Derk and Luuk have a massive collection to choose from!
Between the two listening rooms is an area larger than the largest of the two listening rooms which is filled entirely with loudspeakers. There are new and occasion models all waiting for their turn to be connected.
Interview with Derk Broos and Luuk Broos
HFA: How did Ohm Audio start?
Derk: Originally I am a 2nd-grade mathematics teacher. When I finished my studies I was able to start a job as a teacher right away, but I chose a job at Jan Rooken Hifi Studio in Groningen. At that time I was already working for Eringa sound in Groningen. I could always still become a teacher, that was the idea at the time. After about 5 years Jan Rooken passed away and the business unfortunately folded. Together with Jan Pieter Wip, I then continued the pro AV branch in a new company, Wip & Broos Mediatechniek. That company was sold in 2008 to the Computer Company Bossers & Cnossen, which also wanted to offer Pro AV to their customers. After a short period of working at Bossers & Cnossen, I left there and established Ohm Audio BV which has been around for 10 years now. The “Ohm” in Ohm Audio comes from Sanskrit, from AUM (Pronounce OHM), the primordial sound. Not the physical resistance symbol.
HFA: What is your company philosophy?
Luuk: I think we are on a par in terms of philosophy. Good, beautiful and exclusive audio equipment, sold by giving honest advice and at decent prices via fun listening sessions. We listen carefully to what the customer wants and reach a conclusion together. We are all about stress-free sales, no pressure and we ensure that both the customer and we are happy with the final result. We try to keep up with the market demands and stay future-focused although we do not sell record players as we consider that a very specific market.
Derk: The business philosophy is to be 100% reliable in the Hi-Fi and High-End Audio world. A lot of nonsense stories are distributed, a lot of mediocre equipment is sold, a lot of equipment that is far too expensive, and many appointments in the Audio world are not being honored. Ohm Audio BV only supplies and imports first-class top High-End audio equipment and also places this at customers’ homes. If a customer wants something that we suspect will not work out well, we will say so. Supplying only top-class material and being 100% reliable, that is what Ohm Audio BV stands for.
HFA: Audio is a passionate hobby for many people which makes it such an attractive business to be in. What is your primary driver?
Luuk: The great thing about audio is that everyone wants the same thing, but everyone takes a different route getting there. One plays records, the other CDs. One wants nothing but tubes in his system, the other prefers powerful solid-state amplifiers. Ultimately, everyone is looking to achieve the best sound in their homes and at a cost, they can afford. For one person the system may cost 100.000 euro, another person may be satisfied with a simpler and much more affordable hi-fi system. The nice thing about the audio equipment that we sell is that it is very exclusive and special. Every brand and every designer or technician is trying to achieve perfection in according to their own beliefs. This can sometimes be heard in a component much like with musicians, you can really hear the character. It is more than just technology and frequencies, you listen to equipment that has been passionately designed by their makers.
Derk: The motivation is to combine and optimize all aspects of the High-End Audio to get the best possible result. For example, we are an importer of Gigawatt from Poland. They make the world’s best power products. No voodoo or nonsense, just super thoughtful high-end power products. We see the power supply as the foundation of the High-End installation. You can spend as much as 100.000 euro on a system, but without a proper power supply, it will never reach its full potential.
Derk: As soon as an audio installation sounds good, and you start playing music, you should experience it something like watching a beautiful movie but with your eyes closed. For us, listening to music is the best way to relax that is possible. System on, lights dimmed, being quiet and listening (and seeing). That is why we do not include multi-channel audio and / or video. Ohm Audio BV only sells 2-channel pure Audio equipment and everything that has to do with it.
HFA: What kind of clients come to Ohm Audio?
Derk: Most people who come here are enthusiastic Audiophiles. Audiophilia is a kind of virus, which we hope the youth will also embrace.
HFA: Audio has been a big part of Luuk’s upbringing, I imagine. How did he end up helping in the store and are there nice anecdotes to tell?
Derk: Luuk is a young guy, and of course, he often heard systems that I used at home and was interested in it too. But like most young people, he wasn’t a real Audiophile yet. Due to circumstances, he ended up at Ohm Audio, and that goes extremely well.
Luuk: I know that when I was a little boy, I was introduced to music little by little, and Derk always had one system or another at home. Sometimes I came into the living room and Derk was into very experimental jazz listening and I did not know what to think of it. Could this be music? Although I still cannot truly appreciate some very experimental genres l I now have a very extensive taste in music and am open to getting to know new styles. Sometimes I run into music that I don’t really know but nevertheless sounds familiar and it turns out that it is a remnant of one of Derk’s listening sessions. I was still active as a delivery person in the city of Groningen, and I helped Derk occasionally if large, heavy speakers were to be delivered and I also helped other people in the area around our building for some extra money. Because of my now expanding taste and love for music, high-end audio equipment attracted me more and more. At a given moment I left my job while Derk was very busy with Ohm-Audio and I started to help him more and more and eventually, I was fully employed there. Slowly but surely I got familiar with the sounds, accents, and techniques and I can now hear clearly what the differences are between different devices and / or speakers and also articulate what I hear. There is still a lot to learn as the audio world is of course much larger than the equipment within our walls. But I’m only looking forward to that.
HFA: Is high-end equipment not becoming too expensive? Less than 20 years ago you could get a serious Mark Levinson or Wadia component for 7000 euro. These days, a similar device will command 15K and prices of 20-30K are no exceptions any longer. What is your take on this?
Derk: We see a trend of very expensive high-end audio equipment coming onto the market, with which we believe companies miss the mark. A set of 100,000 euro loudspeakers is difficult to sell, and its value often seems to be completely out of the blue. That is why our used products run very well. After about 5 years, about a third of its value is left, and then the purchase is doable for more people. We prefer to see brands that sound very musical, last a long time, are easy to repair and that you enjoy thoroughly. Take a brand like Lector Audio from Italy. Very good and musically sounding top equipment for affordable prices.
There are certain brands that according to me are going overboard with their prices but there are also brands that clearly show why that particular device or that certain loudspeaker must cost so much money. I think it has to do with supply and demand because if the equipment becomes too expensive, it would not sell. Equipment is still being sold despite the price. Therefore, I understand why many high-end brands would not consider exploring offering products at lower prices. Ultimately, consumers are increasingly working to find good audio equipment that suits them and that is still somewhat affordable, through research and based on their own knowledge. Because there are still plenty of brands that keep their prices decent and sound wise do not necessarily perform in an inferior manner compared to brands that are many times more expensive.
HFA: What would be a very nice and relatively affordable system to start with?
Derk: Ohm Audio BV operates in the ultra High-End audio circuit, and we do not actually supply entry-level systems. A set of beautiful Sonus Faber speakers, and a Lector CD player, DA Converter and Amplifier, and an Antipodes Streamer will command a sum of around 10,000 euros. But then you have an excellent system that will last for 20 to 30 years and can always be repaired properly.
It is a risk that the term “affordable” is taken out of context when you sell equipment that costs so much money. The problem with giving an answer to this question for me is that I actually like almost everything even if one system outperforms the other in certain fields.
Older 2nd hand equipment can be very affordable yet can sound better than equipment with a new price that is just as high. But if I had to mention something, then I would go for Magnepan in terms of speakers, Sonus Faber too, although this brand can get pricey with some models, overall, they provide very good value for money. In terms of amplifiers and CD players, DACs or preamps, I am personally always very happy with Lector Audio, but that is also because the Lector character suits me very well.
HFA: What would be the nicest system that could be built using components that are available from Ohm Audio?
Derk: We are the importer of a number of brands that we believe are among the absolute best, sound really audiophile, but without the common, so-called pure and transparent sound. Often you can indeed hear that it sounds great technically, but as an Audiophile, you risk completely missing the emotion that comes with listening to music. Listening to music is an emotional activity and not a technical or mental activity. We know enough top systems that don’t sound musical at all.
Derk: Our reference is a Gigawatt power group with a power conditioner, then the Antipodes CX + EX combination as a streamer, then the Bricasti M21 or M12 as a DA Converter and Preamplifier, and a Bricasti M25 or M28 as a power amplifier. When it comes to loudspeakers, that is more of a personal matter but I would opt for the Magico S3 MK2 or M2, or the Sonus Faber Amati Tradition, or if you like a big sound, the Magnepan 20.7. You can also do it easier by purchasing the excellent Kii Three BXT system together with a Gigawatt power group and an Antipodes Streamer. Then you have a top-quality installation almost without components. Very special.
HFA: How do you feel about the current market and how it is developing? What is the future?
I would like to see the market become more accessible and attractive for the younger generation. I don’t know anyone my age who is so concerned with audio as I am. They do not purchase a nice set of separates and they don’t sit in front of their system as I do. Mostly, they tend to do various things at once. Moreover, of course, the living space of the average person under 25 is a factor to take into account. These people simply do not have the space to set up a full system even if they could afford it. The future of the audio world is still very unclear to me and I really wonder how many people will still have an extensive audio setup consisting of separates in 2030/2040. I guess we will find out.
Derk: We believe that too much is being produced, and on the one hand, overly expensive equipment is being released on the market, and on the other, we see the cheap Chinese equipment that has been completely unloved. We can become an importer of 10 dozens of brands from China, of which it is normal that a tube amplifier of 2 x 50 watts with a remote, purchase costs 300 to 400 euros. That is of course absolute junk, very bad for the environment, and as far as we are concerned a governmental prohibition may be imposed on these. No more importing into the EU. We would like to see manufacturers forced to give their equipment a guarantee period of at least 10 years. Then we know for sure that the equipment is properly built and that repairs can still be done in the event of a problem. In that case, the equipment only becomes slightly more expensive. The expansion, not only in audio but in the world in general, is finite. Something has to change and this applies to the audio market as well.
Ohm Audio – Derk Broos and Luuk Broos