Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2009

Issue 69

Another great sound was coming from Nola. Three times. The Baby Grand Reference, the Micro Grand Reference, and the impressive at any price but it's $1500 Boxer standmounted speaker also sounded great, being driven by an open reel deck really!) from United Home Audio and a flea-power Jolida amp.

Two-Channelin' at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest

Neither drizzle nor a cancelled flight could keep Paul Bolin from his appointed rounds in Denver.

by Paul Bolin | November 16, 2009

Nola paired the aforementioned ARC electronics, including the Reference 210 monoblocks, with Carl Marchisotto's Baby Grand ($55,000/pair) and Micro Grand ($14,000/pair) loudspeakers, and a complete set of Nordost Odin cabling and Quantum power-conditioning products that must have cost the gross national product of Peru. Marchisotto also brought along open-reel two-track master tapes. The sound was breathtaking in its spatial sweep, timbral rightness and dynamic wallop. As impressive as the Baby Grand was, what was more eye-and ear-opening was how little the much smaller Micro Grand ceded to its big brother. These are loudspeakers that demand to be included when the best of the best is being discussed. While the Baby Grands won't fit in my listening room, Marchisotto and I discussed the possibility of my reviewing the Micro Grand with and without a pair of Nola's Thunderbolt subwoofers.

Nola loudspeakers. This room sounded great!

Reel to reel in the Nola room.

Nola Micro Grand Reference speakers in the front.

Jolida, Inc. with Nola Boxers

Colorado Audio Society / Rocky Mountain Audio Fest Live Coverage

Another great sound is coming from Nola. Three times. The Baby Grand Reference, the Micro Grand Reference and the "impressive at any price but it's only $1,500" Boxer standmounted speaker all sound great-- especially as they are driven by reel-to-reels from United Home Audio and a flea-power Jolida amp.

I thought this room had very dynamic, open sound, with great clarity on the orchestral music being played. I detected no boxy sound whatsoever. The source was a refurbished reel to reel tape deck by United Home Audio, the amps were ARC Ref 210 monos and the pre was the ARC Ref 5, and the speakers were the Nola Baby Grand Reference ($55k). A very impressive room. - Steve

RMAF Day 2: Saying Yes to Nola

In the large speaker ranks the name Nola needs little introduction. Open baffle designs like its Baby Grand always attract a great deal of interest. Music is reproduced on such a transparent and impactful scale that even the most jaded can't help but be impressed. However, Nola Designer and president Carl Marchisotto certainly hasn't lost his touch with small speakers either. The Nola Boxer had its premiere at Rocky Mountain and what a musical two-way compact it is. Even being driven by a modest if tuneful 12Wpc Jolida tube integrated, the sound was unerringly musical and spacious with the same characteristic air and openness that is part and parcel with the larger statement Nola designs. Not much more than fifteen-inches tall this stand-mounted monitor appears built to Nola's rigorous standards throughout. It incorporates a low-mass 6½ inch bass/midrange driver with laminated pulp cone -- the high frequency driver is a high-resolution silk dome tweeter, the bass driver is loaded by a rear firing twin-flared port for low distortion and noise. The 90dB sensitivity combined with an 8 ohm impedance which makes the Boxer an easy to drive. The crossover is a shallow slope design that incorporates a shock-isolation system to minimize the effects of vibration The construction employs only point-to-point hand wiring of a proprietary low loss oxygen free copper. Bass response is a reported 44 Hz which I couldn't confirm during this first low-powered listen. However, with higher powered amplification, who knows? But I have a feeling the little Boxer packs even more of a punch. Price: $1500. - Neil Gader

RMAF: Nola Audio

One of our favorite companies, Nola showed three speaker models this year; two of them new and one that's been around for a couple of years which we were the first in the world to review and which won one of our top awards last year - the outstanding Nola Baby Grand References (top rear).

New were the $1,500 per pair Boxer (left), a 2-way stand-mounted monitor that deviates from Carl Marsicotto's signature open baffle designs. This is a pored enclosure that incorporates a low-mass 6½ inch bass/midrange driver with a laminated pulp cone for low coloration and high speed. The tweeter is a high-resolution silk dome that uses a diffraction ring. The bass driver is loaded by a rear firing twin- flared port for low distortion and noise. Over the years Nola speaker's main priority has been the best possible mid-range quality, but bass from the small box has been extended to 44 Hz in order to provide a full sound. Rear connection is by a pair of high quality all metal gold-plated 5-way binding posts. These connectors are fixed directly to the cabinet, thereby omitting the sonically deleterious effects of plastic connection plates often used.

The all-important crossover is a shallow slope design with excellent phase characteristics we are told. The construction employs only point-to-point hand wiring of very high quality components. Capacitors are 630-volt high purity polypropylene types and only air core inductors are used. Resistors are close tolerance 2% metal types. Wiring is proprietary low-loss oxygen-free copper. The crossover also incorporates a shock-isolation system in order to minimize the effects of vibration for a cleaner sound, another trademark of Nola designs as pointed out in our reviews of their other speakers. The 90dB sensitivity combined with an 8-ohm impedance makes the Boxer easy to drive.

Dimensions: 15½ inches H x 8 inches W x 11.5 inches D
Bass/Midrange: 6½ inch laminated low-mass cone
High Frequency: 1 inch high-resolution silk dome
Response: 44 Hz to 28 kHz
Sensitivity: 90 dB
Impedance: 8 ohms
Finish: True Piano Finish Cherry Wood / Black Cloth Grill

Also new (they showed a preproduction model last year) and in keeping with the open baffle philosophy is the $14,000/pair Micro Grand Reference (front of top picture), Carl's effort to bring a large percentage of the $55,000 Baby Grand's performance to a smaller size and much smaller price. Carl says the driver complement consists of two magnesium woofers, one alnico magnet open baffle midrange and one open baffle true ribbon tweeter in a 3½ way design. The driver array utilizes a 45° mirror-imaged array for the midrange and tweeter while the twin 120mm cast-frame magnesium woofers operate in a rear vented enclosure. The 110mm cast-frame alnico magnet midrange operates as an open baffle dipole. The open baffle ribbon tweeter eliminates any type of extra diaphragm, as the ribbon is the diaphragm. The moving mass of this design is about 25 times less than any type of dome tweeter he continued, and provides the natural reproduction of a wealth of musical detail. The lack of an enclosure in the midrange and high frequencies eliminates a large source of coloration.

The 3½ way integrated crossover system is built on three separate boards and utilizes top quality audiophile-grade passive components throughout. Inductors are flat wound oxygen-free copper types and capacitors are 630 volt polypropylene units. The crossovers are hard wired (no printed circuits) for maximum quality. The Micro Grand utilizes a built-in double platform base with ball bearing isolators to further reduce coloration as is used in the Baby Grand Reference. As we found in the review of the Baby Grand's, they work. The bases are finished in a true Piano Black. "The Micro Grand is is ideal when state of the art sound quality is desired for smaller venues", Carl concluded.

This is open baffle. Mikey Fremer of Stereophile can be seen listening with us.

RMAF Day 2: Speakers under $20k: Higher-Priced Models

Nola Micro Grand Reference, $14,000/pair

Perhaps the easiest way to grasp what the Micro Grand represents is to picture it as a miniaturized, stand mount version of Nola's much larger and more costly Baby Grand Reference floorstander. Where it counts most, some of the very same driver technologies are used: a custom Raven ribbon tweeter, an Alnico-magnet-equipped open-baffle midrange driver, and a pair of magnesium woofers. The sound in two words: expansive and expressive. - Chris Martens (The Abso!ute Sound)

RMAF Report: Speakers Over $20k

Nola Baby Grand Reference

A speaker that I know considerably better -- and that I also will review -- was in Room 2021. For several shows in a row now, the $55k, open-baffle, ribbon/cone hybrid Nola Baby Grand Reference has been making wonderfully lifelike music. This year, at RMAF, an improved version (with better ribbons) driven by ARC electronics and sourced by a tape machine playing back The Tape Project's second-generation dubs of mastertapes was simply marvelous -- so open, so sweet, so clean, so continuous. If there was anything about it I could criticize, the BGRs might have been a little less transparent in the bass than in the mids and treble. But I don't know for sure. - Jonathan Valin (The Abso!ute Sound)