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March 2014
Superior Audio Equipment Review

World Premiere!
NOLA Micro Grand Reference Gold Loudspeaker
Amazingly deep and realistic stereo image with top to bottom coherence.
Review By Ron Nagle

 

  If you are an Audiophile you must have heard the name Carl Marchisotto. He is one of the building blocks that have established Hi-End audio in America. If you are of a certain age you may also recall John Dahlquist and his innovative Dahlquist DQ-10 speaker from the nineteen seventies. (The DQ-10 was $395 in 1975) Given these facts you may have unknowingly seen/heard some of Carl Marchisotto's handiwork.

 

Biography
In 1976 Carl Marchisotto went to work for Saul Marantz and John Dahlquist as their Chief Designer and eventually he became Vice President of Engineering. During his fifteen year tenure he developed the DQ-8, DQ-12 and the flagship DQ-20 loudspeakers as well as the LP-1 variable low pass filter. Nola once was called Alon, with events far too long to tell Alón is now Nola. In 1991 Carl and Marilyn Marchisotto founded Acarian Systems, Ltd. It was under that banner that they produced the Alón line of loudspeakers. In 2004 Carl and Marilyn reorganized the corporate structure. And today they work under the banner of Accent Speaker Technology and subsequently they renamed their line of speakers, Nola. Accent Speaker Technology, Ltd. is now the mother ship hovering over a gathering of twelve distinctive Nola speaker models. At the top of the line is the four tower Nola Grand Reference VI. Gold At $298,000 you get four seven foot tall speakers. The main midrange and tweeter tower has twenty three drivers and the separate bass cabinet contains four 12" bass drivers each one flanked by a 3" flared port. What is important to know is that all of the Nola Gold series Speakers benefit by technology derived from the top of the line four piece 700 pounds per side Grand Reference Gold VI.

 

Etiology
NOLA Micro Grand Reference Gold LoudspeakerLast October while attending the Denver 2013 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest I interviewed Carl Marchisotto. At that time he spoke to me about his new speaker, he referred to it as the Nola Micro Grand Reference Gold. This speaker now occupies a place in a line of Nola speakers suitable for use in smaller sized rooms. My apartment living room will fit that description perfectly. Subsequently he very kindly offered to send me a sample of his new creation for Enjoy the Music.com. And as it happened between two holidays, Christmas and New Year's Eve I was graced by a visit of the three Marchisotto musketeers, Carl, wife Marilyn and daughter Kristen. Carl ever the scientist surprised me by only using his ears a tape measure and some music CDs to set up the speakers in my apartment.

 

Carl's Setup
Note: Since the designer carefully placed the speakers in my 12' by 19' foot room I did not move them. After trying several different locations, the speakers' position remained 7' from the short back wall and 31" inches from the side walls. The center space between speakers measured 56.25". In this set up we have an approximation of the acoustic "Rule Of Thirds". This means that the speakers are one third of the long dimension from the rear wall with approximately two thirds of the room in front of the speakers. Another way to phrase this is to say: The remaining two thirds represents the distance from the speaker's position to the wall behind the listening position. Mr. Marchisotto connected the Micro Gold speakers to the 8 Ohm posts of my Prima Luna integrated amplifier. He brought along a 14.5' pair of ($24,000) Nordost Valhalla speaker cables. Nola speaker demonstration rooms are usually set up using Audio Research electronics and everything is connected with a complete set of Nordost cables.

 

Object D' Article
The Micro Grand Reference Gold Speakers may be referred to as the Micro or Micro Gold speakers. These speakers share the trickle down design concepts of the larger Gold series speakers. The most notable design implementation is the way the tweeter and midrange drivers are mounted as an "Open Baffle Dipole Array". To accomplish this, the top one third of the Micro speaker's enclosure is open on three sides. The dipole ribbon tweeter and the 110 mm dipole midrange drivers are positioned on the front panel in a left and right mirror image. The tweeters are positioned off center closer to the inside edges of the speakers front panel. In opposition the midrange drivers are offset toward the outside edge of the front panel. If you look into the open top section of the enclosure at the Ribbon tweeter there is a printed label that reads: Advanced Loudspeakers custom made for Nola. The tweeters are matched in pairs to each speaker in that they have consecutive Serial numbers 1019 and 1020.

The bottom two thirds of the speaker is a closed bass reflex ported enclosure that holds two 120 mm magnesium coned woofers. The literature states, in part that, "The twin 120 mm woofers are driven by massive Alnico ring magnets for increased definition". (But I can recall a time when the manufacture of Alnico magnets was banned in the United States!) These relatively small 120 mm drivers have Gold plated solid cooper phase plugs at the center of each magnesium cone. The literature further states that, "the solid cooper phase plugs are Gold Plated to provide damping by the soft gold layer". I guess that it takes no large stretch of the imagination to deduce that's where the word ‘Gold' in the name comes from. All four drivers are driven by a 3.5-way crossover. Every driver is wired with Nordost silver Teflon wire. At one point I E-mailed the designer and asked about the drivers he used in the Micro Grand speakers. His reply was that "they are not available commercially".

The stand mounted Micro's are scaled down to "apartment size" and the price is also scaled down to $21,000. My samples are finished in gloss black and measure 24" high x 9.5" wide x 9.5" deep. Each speaker sports consecutive serial numbers, they are #175 and #176 and each weighs 40 pounds. Departing from conventional mass loaded speaker stands the Micro's are allowed to move freely upon a captured roller bearing top plate. These two piano black purpose built speaker stands were designed by Kristen Marchisotto and are separately priced at $1,200. With utmost confidence the Micro literature states that "the bases use "custom ball bearing isolators that will further reduce coloration due to floor born vibrations". Apparently the speaker's construction is so carefully thought out that they do not need to be anchored to a heavy and inert mass.

 

Listening
At the risk of repetition I will refer to two oft sighted CD's in my collection. The first is my bass voicing reference, Gary Karr and Harmon Lewis, performing "Adagio d' Albinoni" This was originally on a Japanese Firebird label but it might be available via the Cisco Music catalog [GCD8003]. The bass test is not to see how deep the bass panels can go. But far more importantly can they reproduce the overtones echoing from the venues stone walls in concert with the wooden body of Gary Karr's century's old Amati bass fiddle. It is my conviction that it is not the low bass specification that is important but rather the accuracy of the harmonic structure of any bass frequency. The Adagio is a Musical dirge performed in a huge reverberant stone cathedral. It is a perfect low frequency resolution test. This Japanese cathedral voices a large sonorous pipe organ. At the same time you must clearly delineate the vibrating overtones of the wooden body of the Amati bass. Also the return echo of the low register organ pipes will scale the volume of the cathedral. There are moments when the organ produces a deep rhythmic pulse that sounds like a living heartbeat. The composition includes sustained bass pedal notes that holds the woofers for quite some time at a deep rumble. The resinous bowing sounds of the bass reverberations sighs a breathy mournful moan that tugs at your heart. The Nola Micro Gold projects a huge image that takes you to this stone vault and for a moment it sounds like flesh and blood crying out to you.

NOLA Micro Grand Reference Gold LoudspeakerMy mid-treble test disc is Basia (Trzetrzelewska) Time and Tide [Epic-EK 40767]. I use this disc to assess tweeter resolution in a similar way I used the Adagio d' Albinoni to test bass resolution. The first track is titled Promises, if your speakers have sufficient hi-frequency resolution the first line will appear deep in the center between the speakers. The track opens with the line, "Promises we forget about our promises" Like a telephoto lens the microphone pickup appears to zoom in on the center stage. Now Basia appears dead center at a very precise location behind the plane of the speakers. The words promises contain a pronounced double sibilance, something that sounds like, "miss-sez". The entire first track composition is rife with sibilant consonants. I have encountered many speakers that are poorly designed, not sufficiently controlled and smear the Ess sounds into a hissing noise. But the Micro Grand has exceptional hi-frequency resolving power making it very easy to hear the teeth and palate micro overtones that tell you this is of human origin. The Micro Grand mid and tweeter separates every tiny nuance in the phrasing to an extent I have not often experienced before. Each sibilant fragment is delineated with precision.

In addition the Basia disc contains high frequency studio reverberation that opens up a broad stage. This is one of the finer attributes of the Micro Gold speakers. This is very good; it is room filling good. The sound stage is much larger than you might expect judging by the size of the speakers. This wide staging was not expected because the ribbon tweeters and the midrange drivers are mounted on and firing from a flat front panel. But it is possible because they are placed in that "dipole array". The unexpected result is dimensional sound that is out of the box even with both speakers pointing straight ahead. Interestingly standing just behind the speakers the open top portion of the cabinet acts mimics a resonant cavity. The wide stereo image between the two speakers is totally continuous. The speaker position does not have a large physical separation but to get similar imaging in my room I invariably have to toe in stand mounted speakers. For a large symphonic performance this is a perfect fit. My eclectic listening included music from classic symphonies to classic Do-Wop (including the fabulous Nutmegs and the Dubs). Some of the older recordings seem to gain new life with infused with the same clarity that emerged while listening to my reference CDs

 

Addendum
During this evaluation I used three different amplifiers. The first was my Prima Luna Prologue integrated that uses KT88 tubes and pumps out 36 Watts per channel. The second amplifier was my Audio Research Classic 60 (Pentodes wired to run as Triodes) this is obviously rated at 60 Watts per channel. The last is my Sanders Bi-Polar 360 Watt muscle amp designed to power electrostatic panels at 1 Ohm. (I call it my utility amplifier) The Micro speakers have an 86db sensitivity rating and the Prima Luna amplifier drove them with the utmost ease. Most of my listening was done with the volume control below the nine o'clock position. At the request of the designer I swapped the Prima Luna for my ARC Classic 60 amplifier and up front I used my rebuilt ARC SP 9 Preamplifier. And at the very last I hooked up the Sanders solid state Amplifier and swapped out the Nordost speaker cables for a ten foot pair of Kimber 12TC. I can completely understand why the designer preferred my AR classic 60 pseudo triode amplifier. It has a nice warming effect at the treble end of the speakers' voice. But just like most things in audio there is a trade off, and that is less bass control.

Blame some of it on my room, the bass frequencies at around 50 or 60 Hz energize the room as the volume goes up. Unlikely but true the Sanders (Utility amplifier) was the one I preferred. Easy to understand because the tweeters can reach 100 kHz. Subjectively there seems to be more clarity driving the treble frequencies. The benefit is the sound stage seems larger with added detail. The overall balance shifts upward and the bass is better controlled. The only minor nit-pick I found is a slight tonal shift if you stand up from your seated listening position.

 

Wrapping Up
Spanning the weeks the Micro Grand Reference Gold dominated my listening I found both the voice of the speakers and the designer. From the very first, what impacted my pinna was the amazingly deep and realistic stereo image the Micro Gold speakers portray. They serve to defy the boundaries of my small room and transport me to symphony halls or into the recording studio where I can reside quite contented. Additionally I found a very fine mix of the highest quality parts and construction. In less competent hands they might go wrong, but in this case they all make great music. The speakers have a top to bottom coherence that reminds me of my old Quad 63 Electrostatic speakers.

The sound belies in every way their compact size. There is nothing Micro about these speakers. Every type of music acquired greater meaning and for lack of a better word, presence. My suspicion is that the Micro Gold may be used for all types of music, but I believe that the designer had a symphony in mind. In all ways this is one of the most well-conceived and executed speakers I have experienced and they just might be the very last speakers you will own. And to Carl the docent of speaker design, congratulations on a tour d' force performance. Remember to Enjoy the music and from me Semper Hi-Fi .

 

Reference System
Input: Marantz DV8400 Universal CD player, Music Hall Upsampling DAC 25.3 Magnum Dynalab FT101 tuner and Dynalab Signal Sleuth.

Amplifiers: ARC Classic 60, PrimaLuna Prologue 2. Sanders ESL.

In-house Speakers: Aurum Cantus SES 2, Onyx Rocket Strata Mini 4-way.

Review Components: Nola Micro Grand Reference Gold Loudspeakers

Nordost Valhalla speaker cables, 14.5 feet

System Connections:
Three meter Kimber speaker Cable 12TC, 3 meter, RCA, Wire World Eclipse-2, RCA, 1 meter Chord Silver Siren, 1 meter Audio Sensibility Statement interconnects, Audio Sensibility Impact SE 5ft. power cable and Kaplan Cable 6ft. 10 gauge IEC Power Cord.

Power Conditioning:
Richard Gray 20 ampere Substation, Islatrol Industrial 20 Ampere AC line conditioner, Alpha Core Balanced Transformer Power Supply, Audio Power PE-1 power enhancer, Triad 2-Ampere isolation transformer
.

Accessories:
VPI Magic bricks, Argent Room Lens, Room Tunes Panels, a comfortable chair.

 

Specifications
Type: Special 3.5-way floorstanding speaker design
Tweeter: Ribbon
Midrange: 110mm tri-laminate dipole midrange with Alnico magnet
Woofers: Two 120mm gold magnesium cone woofers with Alnico ring magnets
Frequency Response: 34 Hz to 100 kHz
Sensitivity: 86dB/W/m
Impedance: 8 Ohm nominal / 4 ohm minimum
Dimensions: 24" x 9.5" x 9.5" (HxWxD)
Stands: 2" x 11.5" x 11.5" (HxWxD)
Recommended stand height: 17 to 18 inches
Weight: 40 lbs per side
Serial Numbers: 175 & 176
Finish Options: True Piano Rosewood with True Piano Black bases is standard. Piano Black and other finishes available by special order.
Price: $21,000 per pair, Nola Stand per pair are $1200

 

Company Information
Accent Speaker Technology, Ltd.
1511 Lincoln Avenue
Holbrook, NY 11741

Voice: (631) 738-2540
Fax: (631) 738-2542
E-mail: info@NolaSpeakers.com
Website: www.NolaSpeakers.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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