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.
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.
Last 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.
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
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.
My 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
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
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.
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
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.
In-house Speakers: Aurum Cantus SES 2, Onyx
Rocket Strata Mini 4-way.
Review Components: Nola Micro Grand Reference
Nordost Valhalla speaker cables, 14.5 feet
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
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
Magic bricks, Argent Room Lens, Room Tunes Panels, a comfortable chair.
Type: Special 3.5-way floorstanding speaker design
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
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
Accent Speaker Technology, Ltd.
1511 Lincoln Avenue
Holbrook, NY 11741
Voice: (631) 738-2540
Fax: (631) 738-2542