CES 2013: Nola’s awesome Concert Grand Reference

Carl & Marilyn Marchisotto of Nola Audio put on quite a show at CES. The huge guest room at the Venetian was almost not big enough to contain their awesomeness — they’d have been even better in a big ass Presidential suite a floor (or 5) up the Tower. But here, in this room, the 71″ tall monoliths have a thunderous presence that is irresistible. Top to bottom, the seamless coherence is outstanding and the bass … wow … just wow. Detail, power, authority, scale … yes, this was definitely on par with the Best in Show. At any show. Wow! Okay, so the sound field was enormous — but up close and personal listening might not be an option. It’s … big. And it deserves space. Just sayin’.

Relevant info: 18Hz to 46kHz, with an 8ohm nominal (4ohm minimum), with a weight of 275lbs — and yes, that’s each. Sensitivity is 91dB. The 12″ drivers on the bottom of the cabinet are subwoofers — and there are 4 of them. Four. That explains the bass! There are 8 magnesium 4.5″ mid-bass drivers in the upper, open-baffle, portion of the cabinets. These hand off to eight 4.5″ midrange drivers which in turn hand off to a 12″ long ribbon taking over at 1kHz. A ribbon super-tweeter covers the 10kHz-46kHz portion of the band. “The unique 5-way Unison™ crossover technology, implemented on six separate boards, to allow one pair of amplifiers or one stereo amplifier to drive the system.” Price is $197,000/pair.

These monster speakers were driven to tremendous effect by a 75wpc $9,000 Audio Research Ref75 amp. Yep. 75 watts. Ka-pow. Audio Research completed the audio chain and Nordost Odin cabling wired the lot together.


  1. I’m rather surprised at some of these responses. Top Gear spends the first 10-15 minutes of just about every show racing some $200,000-400,000 Ferrari or Lamborghini around their test track. The VAST majority of the British public can’t afford those cars, and yet people continue to watch. Why is that? Shouldn’t Top Gear just not talk about those cars? Let’s see them race a $20K Focus diesel vs. a Golf diesel! That’s what people buy! Wouldn’t that be fun? Wow, look at those 60mph power slides. Let’s see if The Stig can break a minute forty!

    People watch because those cars are interesting to see. When Clarkson, Hammond, and May pushed the MP4-12C, the Noble M600, and the Aventador to their limits, that’s fun to watch. Guess what, I’m never going to own any of those cars. That doesn’t mean I *never want to see or read about them*.

    Are you seriously so offended by expensive speakers that you’ll stop reading this blog if the PTA dares to post about something with more than a 4 figure price tag? What kind of attitude is that?

    If you think a speaker is outrageously expensive, don’t read about it. Some of us find this stuff interesting.

    • bravo! maybe some of the technology will trickle down to products we can all afford.

      • Actually the Concert Grand is something of a trickle up. They already offer this same basic tech in the (still admittedly expensive, but in the mortal realm at least) $15K/pr Micro Grand monitor, and they’ve since gone below that, minus the Raven tweeters, in the KO floorstander which otherwise has the Grand Reference style open baffle cabinetry.

        It’s interesting to see what NOLA comes up with when they push the envelope, I don’t understand the need to rake them over the coals for it. There are A LOT of brands that play in this price class, so clearly somebody is buying.

  2. Monet’s, Mona’s & big money Montages

    OK, PTA. I think we got it. Or at least I do.

    Shocked to say this, but I think I’m glad CES is over so we can get away from $$$$$$ and back to $$$ !

    So…what else can you introduce?

  3. If you were “Full Time Audiophile” then maybe. Must throw my hat in with the rest. Monet wasn’t in the business of selling copies of his masterpieces. These pages are much more compelling when you are illuminating objects of desire that have crazy compelling value, or are tantalizingly within reach. We read to learn about our next “must have'” rather than “won’t ever have” goodies.

    • Then CES show coverage is probably not your cuppa. Unlike every other show, the High End Audio Show at CES just doesn’t seem to be about the entry level. There’s a ton of stuff released throughout the year, but it’s CES where most of these brands release their flagship stuff. Which is what was on display, hence, is what’s showing up here … and everywhere else that audio at CES is being covered….

  4. Hey PTA, didn’t you go away from your initial statements in your “about me” at the beginning of this blog?

    I like good stuff, really good stuff. This review was a bit much. I usually don’t even read when we begin to talk at these lofty $$$$$ heights.

    A couple more of this ilk–
    I just walk away.


    • I think it’s possible to appreciate a Monet even if you’re not able to afford one, no?

    • Oh, c’mon, this is a boring old tune. Many major manufacturers offers speakers at $100-200,000. I bet you could quickly list 20 of them. At the high end, this is a luxury industry. You know, wines, wrist watches, yachts, and autobahn cruisers. Why not applaud Nola’s offering the excellent and “affordable” Boxer and Contender and KO speakers? They’re very good, but they certainly don’t play the music like the expensive models. Let’s be thankful that there are designers with Marchisotto’s experience, knowledge, insight, dedication, perseverance, and resources who serve the low end, as well. Can you imaging what it takes to actually design, engineer, construct, and manufacturer a speaker like the Concert Grand Reference?

      • The Boxer is one of my favorite all-time loudspeakers. Is that embarrassing to say in public?

  5. I second the emotion, $197,000 for a pair of speakers? I second the feeling about how so many drivers can coalesce in anything smaller than an air hanger?

  6. I’d be willing to bet that these Nolas sound terrific but $197K? Puleassssse. Add up the cost of the drivers, electronics, cabinets and you’d struggle to hit $20K. Now on the other end, the $200K end, you could perhaps opt to buy a Ferrari 458 Italia or Spider. Not that Nola is the only folks playing the exorbitant pricing game, all the big boys are. So why does Nola, Wilson, magico…et al does this? Simple…because that can. Many audiophiles find this out-of-coontrol offensive but apparently some of the more “well heeled” don’t. Capitalism at its finest.

    • I can’t argue the value prop nor the pricing scheme — $197k seems priced to avoid sales, if you ask me. Which may be what he’s saying — “These are such a PITA to make, that if you really must have them, then I need a new home.”

  7. I’d love to hear those one day. I’ve often wondered how they can sound coherent with such a boat-load of drivers and a complicated crossover.

  8. These prices are ridiculous. I’d like you to focus on “affordable” stuff. Just sayin’…

    • I hear you, but … just because I (or most) can’t afford a work of art really shouldn’t imply that we can’t appreciate it when we find it on the wall of some museum.

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