Having always been a fan of Harry Pearson’s reviews, I was pleasantly surprised to see a review by Mr. Pearson regarding a pair of speakers and amps that I purchased several months ago.
In November I purchased the Nola Micro Grands, McIntosh MC2301 monoblocks fed by PS Audio’s PerfectWave/Bridge DAC with my music server being a MacMini and Twonky. Wires, cables and power treatment are MIT’s Shotgun MA Speaker Cables, Magnum MA Proline Balanced Interconnects, MIT Z Powerbar and Oracle ZIII plugs.
While the “out of the box experience” was very good indeed, I knew the system was missing what I believed the system was in need of. In came Audio Research’s Reference 5 Preamp.
I have always had an affinity for smallish speakers and one of my favorite previous systems was Watt/Puppies with Spectral gear. I found bigger wasn’t always better and “upgraded” to Wilson X1s with great disappointment; a story for another time.
Having heard Nola’s fantastic Baby Grand’s at my local dealer, I was immediately taken aback by the sense of openness such a large speaker could obtain. What the X1’s provided in macrodynamics, I felt they sacrificed on mircodynamics (that I felt the Watt/Puppies were vastly superior), the latter ALWAYS, my first concern regarding choosing a speaker and system. This is of course listener dependent, but I was, to say the least incredibly impressed at how seamless the Baby Grands handled all aspects of what it was fed and given my new home and room, was very taken aback by the relative insensitivity of a required “sweet spot” necessary to enjoy the music. HOWEVER, I was not willing to spend the absurd sums of money “good speakers” are going for these days (we are in an economic crisis no matter what the readers of TAS believe) and having an affinity for smaller speakers, I said, “WTF” and went for the Micro Grands, with some trepidation. I understand I violated EVERY rule of an audiophile and purchased these things without a listen. I also had some misgivings on initial setup as my room is LARGE. In order to save some $ I initially was using the PerfectWave/Bridge as my premp, knowing after a few weeks of listening/burning in that I was missing what I experienced at my dealer. I tried and then purchased the ARC Ref 5, left the system on for hours, “burning in” and then went to work.
First, these “small” speakers produce an amazing sound stage, regardless of setup. These may be the easiest speakers I have had to setup. Sit just about anywhere in the room and the speakers produce their rich, realistic and precise soundstage. The magic of the Baby Grand’s are now in my listening room, without the outrageous cost and in some ways, I enjoy more what the Micros do than their larger more expensive brethren. They are not the easiest to drive, but produce such rich, clear sound, that it is easy to reach the limits of the MC2301s, which I have done on a few pieces of electronic and orchestral music. The image produced by these speakers is not bloated or distorted (something that I have witnessed in so many systems in an effort to produce good music) but real. While my former favorite gear, including Avalons and Watt/Puppies also produced a very realistic and enjoyable sound stage, I felt that the Watt/Puppy were just a tad edgy but still very listenable.
Can the Micros produce good bass? My room is large, where a speaker like the Baby Grand would probably shine and would be recommended over the Micros. I have constructed my listening environment into a near field one, trying to overcome the limitations and interactions a large room is sure to cause. The results have been spectacular. While the lower octaves may be just a little short of what I witnessed with the Baby Grands, I believe that is more a function of my listening environment than the speaker itself and I am soon going to attack the issue in force.
Are these speakers GIANT killers? My recommendation is DON’T do what I did, but take a listen for yourself. I think you will experience the same magic that Pearson writes about in the latest issue of TAS. My answer is a resounding yes.
Just my opinion.