Nola and VAC Essence | PAF 2023

nola and vac essence

I talked about Kevin Hayes’ new VAC Essence line of amplification, which has started off with a pair of monoblock power amplifiers and a preamplifier with that “half-width” chassis aesthetic, when I covered the VAC and Von Schweikert room. Unfortunately they were on static display, but I was able to find the Essences at work in the NOLA and VAC room at the 2023 Pacific Audio Fest in Seattle.

Words and Photos by Marc Phillips

I was summoned to the Nola and VAC room, of course, by Dr. Vinyl. This was the first time that Dr. Vinyl, Carl and Marilyn Marchisotto of Nola, and I have ever been in the same room at the same time. Just a few months ago I traveled to Baltimore, at the request of the Marchisottos, to hear the Nola Baby Grand Reference Gold 3 speakers at Dr. Vinyl’s place. These $150K/pr towers were exceedingly musical and matched perfectly with a wide selection of amplification. They’d be the perfect choice for a first listen to the VAC Essence line.

baby grand reference gold 3

The first thing I noticed was the unusual speaker placement in the Nola and VAC room. The Nola baby Grand Reference Gold 3s were pulled well out into the room, and they weren’t that far apart. With the VAC amps, Nordost Odin cabling and Audiolab digital player, I heard a soundstage depth that was simply incredible. It’s not easy for big speakers like this to disappear in a room, but the Baby Grands simply vanished.

pacific audio fest

I told Carl Marchisotto and Dr. Vinyl that I had asked Kevin Hayes to review the Essence line stage ($7,000) and the Essence 80 monoblocks ($9,000 each), and Carl instantly offered up a pair of his Metro Grand Reference Gold 3 speakers, which are smaller than the Baby Grands but larger than the Champ S3s I reviewed. Carl believes this will be an excellent match, and I’m looking forward to having both Nola and VAC in my listening room ASAP.

nola and vac

nola and vac

valve amplification essence preamp

baby grand reference


1 Comment

  1. Really loved these Nola speakers, owned couple in the past… too bad we don’t have a dealer in where I live right now… very interested in the Champ S3… but always wonder how would it compare to Marten Oscar Trio…… which I think you both gave a good review on.. they are priced similar….

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