Howard Popeck interviews Carl Marchisotto at Nola Speakers
October 7, 2013
My involvement with music started at an early age. I studied piano for 12 years while growing up. My Mom would take me to the Metropolitan Opera. My parents had a deep love for music and I got to hear a lot of "live" music at an early age.
What are the current design and materials limitations that confront all intelligent skilled speaker designers today?
I think at this time there are many choices in materials and design with little limitation placed on performance of "all out" statement designs. The choice of materials and priorities in performance lie with the designer. However, this is not true as much at the lower end of the price spectrum, where the use of the most exotic and effective components and techniques can not be afforded.
So in practical terms...?
While a very satisfying musical performance can still be produced -- it's not at the same level of capability as the "all out" efforts. There is no "free lunch". Nevertheless many concepts and techniques developed for the "all out" designs can be "trickled down" to the great benefit of the more affordable designs.
Well... for example, the concept of the short dipole line source first developed for the Baby Grand Reference has now been "trickled down" to the much more affordable KO model. However, the remains a large difference in the implementation quality level of these two designs.
Do you have any particular priorities, other than the obvious one of sound quality, when you approach the design of a speaker concept?
Regarding sound reproduction, we are of the 'midrange first' belief. That is, most of our effort at any price level starts with the midrange and then we extend this up and down the frequency range. So even our entry level $1500 Boxer bookshelf provides very good midrange performance.
And with regards to cosmetics...?
We take pride in providing a world class high gloss polyester finish on all our models. This finish will last indefinitely and is of the same top quality on our entry level Boxer as in our most expensive models.
I'm curious about the gestation process you go through designing a new speaker system. How do you normally operate from, say, a clean sheet of paper? Though this is probably never the case because you're always building on your previous efforts.
Designs gestate in my head for a period of time. I have the ability to "hear" designs in my head before they are built. This process could take from months on one hand to years on the other for the most ambitious designs. Then when I am happy with what the design sounds like in my head, a single pair of prototypes are built.
I spend many hours optimizing the performance of these prototypes by testing all the acoustic, electrical and magnetic options available and practical for this design. When I am happy with the performance of the prototypes, the product goes into production.
My approach, I believe is quite different from the common approach which is more like, decide on a nice shape and size for a cabinet and then load the cabinet with very expensive components and then the job is done. This more common approach often yields speakers that reproduce sound in lieu of music.
What are your feelings about the whole digital/analog controversy?
Analog and digital have different strengths. My priority in judging technologies is which one sounds more "real." The limitation with analog has to do with the storage medium -- whether LP or tape say, and is not inherent. Digital involves taking an analog signal apart, processing it and then restoring it to analog. The best digital recordings I have heard run the signal analog all the way (using tube electronics) until the final step of inputting a digital recorder -- therefore using the least possible digital processing.
Analog storage media are least compromised through the middle frequencies, and to this day in terms of life like believability, they out perform the best digital. This is especially true in the ability to portray subtle emotional content in voices and instruments.
With current storage media, digital's strengths are dynamics, low frequency response, easy storage and repeatability. We also prefer the sound of the best tube driven CD player to any downloads we have heard -- finding the downloads deficient in believable "body" in the images they produce. However, digital is a much younger medium than analog and has not yet reached what is possible in my view.
Thank you Carl
Thank you Howard
An interesting guy driving an interesting company. We hope to get back to Carl later this year to see if he'll kindly agree to let us quiz him in a bit more depth.