Rocky Mountain Audio Fest 2012

RMAF 2012 Show Report
Grand Nola

Posted Oct 18, 2012
By Art Dudley

Near-holographic imaging -- an audio ideal for some hobbyists! -- could be heard in the Nola suite, where the company's new KO loudspeaker ($9800/pair) was demonstrated with Audio Research amplification, Audio Research CD player, and Nordost cabling and Quantum QX4 EMF-control devices. The 3.5-way KO uses aluminum-cone woofers and is described by designer Carl Marchisotto as offering 90dB sensitivity and a nominal 8-ohm load.

Some audio systems sound like X-rays of the music, very detailed and finely edged. Others like very fine photographs or high-def movies of a performance.

In this room with Nola's new KO speakers with their spacious, unfettered, boxless, open baffle soundstage, sounded as close to a real, live performance as we heard at the show.

Driven by ARC amps and a small fortune in Nordost Odin cable, this was one room we didn't want to leave. Another Carl Marchisotto masterpiece. These simply smoked many other speakers we heard well over the KO's $9,800 asking price.

The Absolute Sound Magazine, issue 230. Feb 2013, Jonathan Valin: BEST SOUND / HIGHEST VALUE AWARD NOLA KO

"These are wonderful." - Jonathan Valin

The Absolute Sound Magazine, issue 230, Feb 2013, Neil Gader: BEST SOUND / HIGHEST VALUE AWARD NOLA BOXER

"WOW!" "How much are these?" - Jim Hannon


NOLA's Carl Marchisotto has done it again with his new KO loudspeaker. The top of the Boxer line, this $10,000 loudspeaker was producing some of the best sounds of the show. The can fill a very big room too

RMAF 2012, Coverage by Jim Clements
Posted by Jim Clements on October 16, 2012 at 6:48pm

Nola had the KO's at the show this year ($9,800/pr). They are the new speakers at the top of the Boxer line. The open baffle design is one of my personal favorites and these are built to a more domestic scale than some of their larger models. The KO's really got the midrange right.

RMAF Best of Show? - $10K NOLA "KO" destroys most regardless of price

caesar, posted 10/14/2012.

As a music lover, I was hitting the hotel carpet pretty hard looking for the handful of speakers that could transport me to that transcendental State of Flow. Now it is very easy to blame the hotel room walls , windows, poor room size, and to come up with other excuses of why speakers sound like crap at shows. But music lovers can easily cut through the malarkey: they are listening to the musical whole rather than to sound. Of course tastes differ. Of course we have had previous experiences have shaped us. Of course, we all have biases. But let's face it: some designers are just damn better than other in taking the detail and embedding it in the musical whole than others. Some designers are just better at making their speakers sound more natural.

Listening to my own music, such as Quincy Jones' Walking in Space and Brubeck Live at Carnegie Hall, it was very easy to tell apart a good audiophile speaker from a music lover's speaker. To me, the Nola KO was an easy winner. Carl's genius is to capture the music's realism and naturalness. Yes, the YG was alright. It was very dynamic and its cabinet is quieter by a whole lot, but who cares about that artifact when you want the musical whole? Yes, the $50K Vandersteen, with even more expensive ARC electronics than Carl used, excelled in resolution and other audiophile terms but lacked that magic. The new Wilson speaker with uber expensive dCS was just throwing too much detail into my face, but the Maxx 3 with Yoshi/ Joshi/ Doshi ???? amps was pretty good, yet it seemed that it was still designed for audiophiles looking to check those dreaded terms off their list as they seek that "Deeper Understanding" -- The $30K Rockport with BAT and Playback Designs was very good, but did not have the openness that made me let go and forget ...(Great to see BAT with a new amp, by the way, as I was starting to get worried about them.)

If I had to make a decision on the spot of what speaker to live with over the next 10 years, would I choose the $10K Nola over the MBL 101? No. Out of what I heard, I think MBL was more real sounding and was able to transport the listener in a time machine better than anything at the show -for the same reasons as Carl's speaker: which is to get that damn speaker out of the musical experience and to fool you into thinking you are at the original event...

Now I know those who believe in "high fidelity" religion will tell us what they like in a matter of time. Nothing wrong with that -- as I said, all tastes and goals differ. One man's paradise is another man's hell -- And with no Magico at RMAF, there will not be Magico Derangement Syndrome on the part of the press, so it will be interesting what the elites will have to say. But the music lover off the street could have walked into the NOLA room, camped out for 3 days, and not missed a whole lot in the show. And for $10k, which is NOT CHUMP CHANGE BY ANY MEANS, the KO outdid many others at multiples of its price and was a clear winner.

I definitely did not hear everything. Any other speakers a music lover may enjoy?

mep, posted 10/14/2012.

Ok. I'm fresh back from RMAF and I'm a little blown away from seeing Caesar's post about the Nola speakers. When I came home today I was blabbing to my wife about the only thing that RMAF that gave me a serious case of "I want it." I took damn few pieces of literature from the show because frankly, I didn't want any of it. It all ends up in the trash over time and I'm tired of brining trash home. The ONLY piece of literature I brought home was the literature for the KO speakers. I was even dumb enough to show it to my wife thinking she might be even remotely interested.

So imagine my surprise when I fired up my computer and saw this thread. Caesar beat me to the punch in proclaiming how good these speakers are. I think they are phenomenal. Best sound of the show for me? No contest, it was Carl's room. And maybe just maybe I should caveat that statement more than a little and say best sound at the show that is remotely affordable by men earning less than 7 figures a year. The MBL room sounded incredible with its incredibly priced gear. Last year at RMAF I didn't give a damn for the sound they reproduced in their room with basically the same gear. This year was a different story.

But back to the Nola KO speakers -- I think they are very special. I think I get the point that Caesar was trying to make about the way the Nola's sound compared to the way the big Wilson's sound. In all fairness to Wilson, cramming such a huge speaker into a tiny hotel room and expecting wonderful results is a little like wishing a 3-legged nag could win the Kentucky Derby. For me, it was too much speaker and not enough room. Carl actually had a much bigger room to display and play his gear in. Even though I'm fresh off of the ARC trail with not so fond memories of hearing my right bicep tendon snapping as the VS115 was falling off the Fed Ex scale, the sound the Nola KOs were making with the ARC Ref 5SE and REF 75 amp (and whatever ARC CD player Carl was using) was just incredible in my opinion. It sounded more like real music and less like real good hi-fi.

So Caesar, you and I are on the same KO wavelength. I love these speakers and I want a pair.

Nola showed their new-at-Newport Beach KO ($9800/pair), the top speaker in their Boxer collection, with the usual full suite of Audio Research Reference electronics, including the Reference 75 power amplifier ($9000) that I previewed a couple of months back as well as a full loom of Nordost Odin cabling and Quantum power products. The KO looks like nothing so much as a three-quarter-scale Baby Grand Reference, though it does not have the larger and more expensive speaker's ribbon tweeters, the highs being covered by four 1" silk-dome drivers. Like the BGR, it is an open-baffle speaker, save for the woofers. The KO produces a crazy-big and beautifully delineated soundstage on orchestral music, just like its big brother, and showed some eyebrow-raising dynamics from its pair of 7" metal-cone woofers, which operate in separate chambers. The KO is very refined, as are all of Carl Marchisotto's designs, and profoundly musical. Anyone looking for a gallon of performance in a pint pot should plan on hearing the KO as soon as possible.

Confessions of a Part-Time Audiophile

Posted on November 5, 2012

The $10k KO loudspeakers from NOLA were very popular at the show, and everyone I stopped and talked to had them in their top 5 for "best in show". I thought they were really interesting -- imaging in the sweet spot was sharp -- and the room was set up to show them off to their best effect.

This is one of those head-scratching moments at the show, though. If NOLA can pull this kind of sound out of its hat for $10k, why are we paying $100k for loudspeakers, exactly? I honestly can't answer that.

That said, my favorite NOLA loudspeaker is, and remains, the Boxer, which was on static display in the corner. That little guy is awesome. $1,500 -- a very convincing case for value, in my book. Oh, and it sounds fantastic. I came by this room twice and each time, I was happily impressed with the sound. And each time, I wondered if it'd be rude to see if the Boxers could be swapped in. Ah, well.

The always-sexy $13k Audio Research REF5SE preamplifier was paired with the new $10k REF75 amp to round out the demo package. That stereo amp, unlike its big brother the REF150, has those sweet vu meters on the front -- and, from what I'm told, a substantially sweeter sound. Dunno myself, but I am very curious about these two pieces.

Yes, those are wheels turning in my head. Leave me alone.