Consumer Electronics Show 2011

Jon Valin's CES Blog: "Nola made its usual top-flight showing with the superb $55k Baby Grand Reference ribbon/cone hybrid that I reviewed last year. Driven (as usual) by ARC and sourced (among other things) by Greg Beron's fantastic United Home Audio reel-to-reel tape deck, the Baby Grands sounded fantastic -- fast, detailed, dynamic, deep-reaching, transparent, with a vast soundstage. Of course, none of this was a surprise, since I reviewed these speakers last year -- and loved 'em. What was a surprise, although nothing Nola's cagey designer Carl Marchisotto builds should surprise me anymore, was something else in the Nola room -- a skinny little three-way floorstander called "The Contender." Folks, if ever a product were appropriately named, this one is. It was almost unbelievable to hear the vast, detailed soundfield these little guys -- about the height of a six-year-old -- threw. On top of which, their bass seemed incredibly deep-reaching and articulate for such a diminutive transducer. My winner of Best Bargain Loudspeaker of CES 2011, The Contender is exactly what its name says it is -- a serious challenge to speakers in its $3k price range."

"Best Bargain: Nola Contender, Magnepan 3.7"

Nola's Contender
By Robert Deutsch · Posted: Jan 14, 2011

The first speaker I reviewed for Stereophile was the Alon IV by Acarian Systems, designed by Carl Marchisotto. I remember it as being a very good-sounding speaker, with outstanding bass, and the dipole midrange giving it an "open" sound. Through the years, for business reasons, the speaker brandname has changed (Nola is Alon spelled backwards), and the company is now called Accent Speaker Technology, but the speakers are still designed by Carl, and his wife, Marilyn, is the company's wife president. Carl's more expensive speakers still use the dipole midrange arrangement, but in the more affordable line he has turned to the more common unipolar approach, albeit with his own variations, like separate porting of bass drivers. The latest such speaker, introduced at the 2011 CES, is the Contender ($3400/pair), and it sound like... well... a real contender.

Positive Feedback ISSUE 53
january/february 2011

Nola Contender loudspeakers.

Nola Baby Grand Reference loudspeakers.

The Nola Contender.

Nola founder and chief designer Carl Marchisotto is known for his ultra high-end loudspeakers, but at CES 2011 Mr. Marchisotto explored the opposite end of the pricing spectrum, introducing his superb new three-way Contender tower-type floorstanding main speakers ($3400/pr.), which are indirectly based on the very popular Boxer bookshelf speakers announced at last years. But Carl didn't stop there; instead, he also introduced a matching Announcer center channel speaker ($1500/ea.), so that home theater enthusiasts can now put together a sensibly priced Nola surround-sound system, using the new Contenders as L/R main speakers, the Announcer in the center, and the original Boxer bookshelf monitors ($1500/pr.) as surround speakers.

Here's the deal with the Contender (and, by extension, the Announcer and Boxer): the speaker looks fairly straightforward and -- dare I say it? -- not particularly exotic, but its sound is flat out stunning. This is definitely one of those designs where A) God is in the details, and B) the whole is much greater than the apparent sum of the parts. As I said in a recent show report prepared for The Absolute Sound, the Contender "conveys the elusive sense and sensibility of music -- in all its intellectual and soulful beauty -- as few high-end speakers at any price are able to do." Truth. - Chris Martens