Vol. 2
(Other volumes: 1  )

InterconnectTM is a forum for the opinions of Carl Marchisotto and will mostly consider the use of NOLA speakers and related matters. Hopefully it will encourage further thought.


This volume will be about some thoughts that are directly or indirectly related to loudspeakers with a dash of humor.


There seems to be a pervasive thought that has dominated the pro industry for a while and is now making inroads into the high-end audio industry. That is, "This speaker is so accurate that of course it sounds like crap - but there are two recordings where it actually sounds good." Of course, it's easy to blame the source for defects in the reproduction - after all, starting with the microphones it is all a compromise. There is to this day no microphone nor recording system that can capture the "live" musical event verbatim - even if we could play it back, which we can't. My take on this is that although recording systems are flawed, they are not totally inaccurate. Therefore let's say they capture 80% of the "live sound" and the remaining 20% is due to missing information and the artifacts that the recording system adds. So there is still enough information left for a playback system to portray a musical presentation, where the music signal overrides the artifacts in the source.

My conclusion is that loudspeakers that are extremely picky about sources are not super-accurate - but are themselves flawed. Logic would tell us that the music signal captured by a high quality recording system is much stronger than the artifacts and therefore playback through loudspeakers where the artifacts are stronger than the music signal indicates a flawed loudspeaker. Missing information, while it causes a loss of reality, does not cause bad sound, hence your ability to tolerate listening to your car radio.


The major value of measurements is to the loudspeaker design engineer during the design and development process. Measurements at this point in time cannot measure quality - only quantities. Just as we cannot measure the quality of wine - we have to taste it - we must listen to a loudspeaker to ascertain its quality. A microphone and computer do not substitute for a human head, two ears and a brain. We have found that often times, design changes that result in a better measurement can produce worse sonic performance. What is not generally discussed is the importance of the means that were used to obtain flat response. There is nothing wrong with flat response, it is a goal, but making a measured response flatter and flatter in the frequency domain by using sharper and sharper filters is counterproductive in my view. The additional ringing and etched detail these filters produce is not natural sound, but "Hi Fi" sound. I do a lot of listening to designs, while also using computer aided design tools to get the best overall result in the interests of reproducing the music. We are not of the school that it is all in the engineering. We still feel that high-end loudspeaker design is 50% science and 50% art. Just using all the best parts does not guarantee good results any more than giving the best ingredients to an inferior chef would guarantee a great meal. In the end it is the designer that is the most important part of the equation.


Basically small speakers work best in small rooms and large speakers work best in large rooms. This rule is loosely based on the laws of physics and is related to the dynamic low frequency output capability of the loudspeaker. It has to do with the fact that larger speakers generally incorporate larger and more powerful bass drivers that will activate room resonances to a greater degree causing bass hangover (especially in smaller rooms). Room bass hangover sounds identical to bass hangover caused by the loudspeaker itself. In larger rooms the resonant room modes occur at lower frequencies where they cause less coloration to the reproduction. What happens when the loudspeaker is mismatched to room size? A small speaker when asked to fill a large room can be overdriven at low frequencies when used with program material that has loud deep bass. However, if one's taste runs to chamber music or solo vocals, then the small speaker can still be used in the large room. A large speaker in too small a room can produce excessive bass due to exciting higher frequency room modes. In addition, larger speakers require a greater listening distance for proper imaging and this may not be possible in smaller rooms.


We make both types of systems. Generally point source speakers work best when you are closer to the speakers, say in a small to moderately sized room. Line source arrays (such as Baby Grand or Grand Reference) work best in large rooms. The line source offers the advantage in that it will be louder than a point source at the same distance away from the speakers. This property is a plus in larger rooms. Dipoles radiate little sound to the sides, floor and ceiling. Line sources radiate little sound to the floor and ceiling. When combining the two radiation patterns, as we have done in Baby Grand Reference and Grand Reference, you get absolute minimum room coloration throughout the mid-band.


Or, why do we generally prefer tube gear to solid state?

First of all, while much press will tell you that the "gap is closing" or this piece of gear "sounds like tubes" or it is the most "tube like" solid state, I disagree. While solid state gear has gotten better, guess what? Tube gear has also gotten better. Many people seem to think that solid state is correct and tubes just add coloration. This would, if you think about it, make the vacuum tube the smartest device ever invented by man. Quality tube gear, when played through our loudspeakers, adds just the right amount of harmonic richness to voices, a more "open" believable sound stage, just the right combination of high frequency detail and smoothness, "life like" dynamics and individual images that are 3-dimensional. Most important of all maybe is that tubes will maintain your interest in listening to music, and are never boring. This cannot be coloration. Of course, neither tube gear nor anything else made on this planet is perfect. However, when it comes to reproduction, my priority is midrange first and this is where tube gear reigns supreme.


We use hand-built, one at a time, basically artisan methods to build premium performance loudspeakers. These speakers are built in the USA in our Long Island, NY factory. In this way we have maximum control over the ultimate quality of the product. While the speakers are built in the USA, we do use imported components when they provide superior performance or if there is no US equivalent. We do not build our drivers but do design them. No one factory throughout the world has the same expertise in building bass, midrange and high frequency transducers. This is equivalent to saying no one restaurant serves both the best cowboy rib eye and the best linguine carbonara. We have one factory building our cabinets and this premium factory was chosen not based on price, but on the quality of product offered. Our premium high gloss piano finish, standard across the line including Boxers, is second to none and is easily of Steinway piano quality. The all-important crossovers are designed for each individual model. They are hand wired - no printed circuit boards are used as we found that these impair maximum quality - and use Nordost mono-filament silver wire and also our own oxygen-free low-loss copper wire, depending on the application. All connections are hand-soldered using lead-free silver solder.


A word about show demonstrations: it may seem to be common sense that all exhibitors at a show are on a level playing field. Upon closer scrutiny though, this may not be the case. Due to generally poor room conditions in a hotel room, when compared to your home listening situation, higher-end systems with extended bass response and bass dynamics are usually at a disadvantage. For instance, we have many times experienced very good sound in hotel rooms with only minor or no audible room problems when using Boxers, Micro Grand Reference or Contenders. We however do show our larger systems, such as Baby Grand Reference, at these shows as our first goal is to expose these systems to those who may not be able to find an audition nearer to where they are located. We do our very best with the limited set up time available - only one day in the case of RMAF, to demonstrate a good idea of what the speakers can do. We choose not to load up the room with exotic, expensive room treatments that we feel are unrealistic for our average customer. Room treatments, except for the natural plants we use, always have sonic side effects that can be detrimental to our sound. Our speakers are very high resolution and will reveal source, equipment and room limitations. However, we feel that even under these conditions, you will still be able to enjoy listening to music - which I think is the point.


Prices per pound of metals commonly used in loudspeakers:

Gold: $28,624.00
Silver: $288.00
Copper: $3.33
Stainless Steel: $3.00
Brass: $1.70

Aluminum $1.15
Bad for: Good for:
  • Aluminum wiring:
    While searching for a house, more than one otherwise perfectly good house was cast aside at the mere mention of the dreaded phrase "aluminum wiring."
  • Siding
    Oh, yeah, they make that out of vinyl now. Guess siding goes on the other list.
    (Huh! Look at that! Vinyl really is better!)
  • Two tin cans and a string:
    Just around the time aluminum cans replaced tin cans in the second half of the 20th century, young children stopped making "telephones" with two cans and a string. Coincidence? I think not.
  • Tanning:
    Aluminum is super-reflective, thereby making it an excellent tanning accessory. Of course, tanning leads to skin cancer, so I guess it has to go on the other list too.
  • Musical instruments:
    Most musical instruments were originally made of wood. Maybe now some are brass, or maybe silver. Not aluminum. Never aluminum. Can you imagine the screech of an aluminum trumpet?
  • Wrapping sandwiches
    I think we're onto something here. Now where'd I put that ham and cheese...?
  • Supply and demand:
    Aluminum is the most abundant metal in earth's crust. The most. Usually we spend more money on rare items, not on plentiful ones.
  • Silver bells:
    It's no accident the name of the song is "Silver Bells" and not "Aluminum Bells."
  • Periodic Table:
    C'mon? Atomic number 13?! Seriously?!
  • Baseball:
    Major League players use wooden bats. Aluminum? Only for Little League. You wanna play with the big boys, you'd better bring the wood.
  • * Dash of humor provided courtesy of Karen Marchisotto, Nola's intrepid IT specialist, and frequent commentator

    © Carl Marchisotto December 2011
    Cannot be reprinted without written permission