NOLA Boxers in my space

So I picked up a pair of new NOLA Boxers undemoed because a) the price was right and b) they were piano black instead of that (for me) kinda garish cherry.

For years, it's been my blasphemous contention that speakers are going to be right as long as everything upstream is right. So I'd rather have an excellent front end and okay speakers, than great speakers hitched to an okay front end.

I have been gradually downsizing my system, and had Carver Amazing Platinums for almost 20 years, so am intimately familiar with the magic of that big sucker. Got the NOLAs, put them on some Dynaudio stands (the Stand 3, their most attractive one), and sat down to listen.

Rest of the system, by the by: First Sound Reference passive, PS Audio 250 Delta monos, Sony XA20 ES CD player. Didn't have a chance to hear them with my (now gone) Maplenoll Ariadne, but have a Thorens 2030 coming that I am very interested in hearing with them. (Will be putting a Grado Reference Sonata on).

I don't do a lot of audiophile talk but tonally, they were almost identical to the Carvers, which kinda didn't surprise me. The Carvers had a much bigger image, of course, because they're the size of a door, right? But once you remove the extremes from consideration (the Carvers go higher up and down), the heart of the music is, tonally, the same. This is good, because it means that the speakers aren't adding a lot to what you hear, just doing the window thing.

Even brand new (I still have less than 20 hours on them), imaging is pinpoint, actually better than the Carvers, which tended to present immense pictures that weren't all that precise, like Gerhard Richter, for you visual arts nerds. Image specificity is very good, and there isn't any of that box sound that I used to find so annoying in box speakers. The soundstage just sits there as the speakers vanish.

And this is, mind you, in a room that isn't at all set up. I just unboxed them, plopped 'em on the stands, placed them about 6 feet apart and firing straight ahead.

I don't really believe in audiophile recordings, but one disc I live a lot is "Flight of the Behemoth," by Sunn ))), and the track "Mocking Solemnity" in particular. It's a monstrous thing, as Sunn believe in the power of high-volume, low frequency sonics, presented as a big, multilayered, glorious drone. Most importantly, their stuff has bass galore.

No, the NOLAs weren't the equal of the 4 12-inch woofers per side on the Carvers, but there wasn't any real LACK of bass either. The sense of the song's immensity was present, along with the glorious atmospherics. Ran through some favorite jazz and classical discs, and the tonal qualities were preserved. And Bjork, in particular "Pagan Poetry" from "Vespertine" is a lush tapestry of sonic artifice. There's all kinds of stuff going on, and the NOLAs lay it all out there, while making Bjork's voice sound as glorious as it should. No tizz, no glare, no teeth-gritting artifacts.

These little babies strike me as very musical and neutral, which doesn't surprise me. I know that (retail) $1500 is cheap in audiophile land, but you can design an excellent two-way bookshelf speaker for that price. NOLA have certainly done so. For me, they're keepers.

Just wanted to put something up, for folks who might be wanting to know how these things work in the real world. Thanks for reading.
Nice write up. Enjoy them!
Carl makes amazing speakers. He has a gift for sure. I don't think he has ever made a bad speaker. Enjoy the new Boxers. That was a great review. Thanks!
Okay, I'm gonna be the bad guy here. "For years, it's been my blasphemous contention that speakers are going to be right as long as everything upstream is right. So I'd rather have an excellent front end and okay speakers, than great speakers hitched to an okay front end."

I'd be very much on the other end of that argument, but not so much since at the end of the day the chain is only as strong as the weakest link. And, in my opinion, if that link is the speakers you are going to sacrifice a lot of the benefits of the upstream equipment (and vice versa of course).

That said, if you've got a good front end and now that you've seen what the little NOLAs have brought to the table versus your larger and more expensive references, can you imagine what would be possible with good-quality source components and some of Carl's (or other manufacturer's) upper-end speaker offerings? Speakers, again in my opinion, make a HUGE difference for a multitude of reasons, and if these little guys get you this far can you imagine what the latest more-full-range offerings could potentially produce in your room? Yes, sources are extremely important but...

"I don't really believe in audiophile recordings." REALLY??? I mean, isn't that the ultimate source??? So plugging a crappy recoring into a really good front end is OK but speakers don't matter that much??? And does that mean you really don't hear the incredible differences a meticulously recorded performance can add to the listening experience? As an audiophile and music lover I find that statement more than a little confusing. I don't mean to say that in a condescending or audiophile snob kind of way, but if those incredible "audiophile" recordings don't make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up more than garden variety stuff then there's probably something missing somewhere.

Again, this is not to be disrespectful toward you or your listening experience, but at least some of it sure seems to run a little against the stream of what at least I have experienced in listening to well-recorded music on a good system, and I'd encourage you to explore some of the better speaker offerings out there more in line with what you've got invested in your electronics.

The OP did state that downsizing led to the change. Yes there are other more expensive monitor options, but sometimes downsizing can refer to both space and budget. Let the man be happy with a system he enjoys. The Nola Boxers have received nothing but raves in all the comments I have seen.

And while I don't have the specific Sunn 0))) track that the OP refers to, I thought it was an excellent choice for testing out his system due to the mazzive bass content in Sunn 0)))'s music. This means that he is pitting music aimed at any monitor's weakness against these Boxers to see how they hold up. Certainly got my attention. The types of things that audiophile recordings can reveal have been attested to in multiple reviews of the Boxer, so weren't in too much doubt for me. Whether Boxers could plumb the depths? Now there's a question I wanted answers to. And the OPs choice of Sunn 0))) was able to provide that answer.

Great review Kevvwill. Don't let the haters get you down.

And I hope everyone can enjoy as much sonic bliss as possible in the New Year.
There are many that have changes in listening environments that force a move from full range to monitors, regardless of price. I just went from B&W 803S to a pair of Nola Boxers I picked up yesterday.

And here's my story about Carl and Marilyn. I live close by his Holtsville production facility here on Long Island. I wanted my Boxers for this Holiday weekend and was dissapointed when I found out they might not be ready. Unbeknownst to me, Carl and Marilyn found out and stayed hours late the other night just to make sure he pleased a consumer. I was shocked when Marilyn called me at 9 PM at night to tell me to pick my speakers up the next morning.

I've had a day with the speakers and they are well worth the price. I will sing the praises of Carl and Marilyn for years to come.
No worries, Soix. Audiophile recordings are, generally, musically bankrupt, aimed at demonstrating sonic purity (such as can be attained with wires and stuff), rather than musical ones. Back when I was reviewing, and would hit CES shows, I wouldn't even enter rooms that were playing audiophile recordings. Such things don't make anything stand up except my legs, heading for the exits.

And you misunderstand me. I have been prattling around with this hobby for more than 35 years, and have had speakers in my room from the likes of ALON (before they were NOLA), Thiel, Vandersteen, Sound Lab, Apogee, Magnepan, you name it. The Carver Amazings that I downsized from were better than ANY of them. Tonally, the Boxers are right. I know they aren't the totems that many seek, but please don't presume that I haven't been around the block and back, or was just born yesterday, so to speak, in this audio business.

Now. What I was searching for was a) tonal qualities similar to what I had with the Carvers and b) something that worked in the space that the speakers were going to occupy. The Boxers are that speaker. Were I searching for the ultimate in speakers, I would have kept the Carvers and been done with it. But in my world, I don't want things to be big and intrusive. Not any more. The days of air-bearing turntables, pumps, fully treated rooms and giant audiophile snakes are over for me. I even looked for (shudder!) a good-quality in-wall speaker, but couldn't find one that moved me.

Speakers are indeed the most obvious manifestation of the Audio System (tadaaaa! let the heavenly hosts sing). And I am more than respectful of, and happy to allow you to have your view. But I have heard too many speakers in mine and other systems not to believe that if everything else isn't right, the speaker isn't going to be, no matter how good it is. Because ultimately, it is the speaker's job to make sound out of what it gets from the rest of the system, right?

A fuller-range speaker gets you more extension. But tonally, a smaller speaker should be as right as a larger one.

Now, I know that bookshelf speakers don't have the Dudus Audiophilus stamp of approval. But the fact of the matter is that a good bookshelf/stand speaker, which the NOLAs are, will deliver 99% of the music that matters. No, they aren't huge, and people don't walk into the listening room and say "Whoa," as they did the the Carver Amazings. But they play music. And isn't that the point?

As for WHAT I choose to listen to, again, music, and MY musical tastes, is precisely the point. But where we differ is that I am not an "audiophile and music lover." I am a music lover who understands that nice sound quality can get me closer to the music that I love, whether it's Wu-Tang Clan, Bjork, Melt-Banana or Brahms.
Well put Kevvwill.

Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthin' Ta F' Wit
only on an audiophile forum could someone write a long review explicitly stating how pleased they are with a pair of speakers and be told that they should "explore some of the better speaker offerings out there."
Wu Tang Clan. Nola Boxers. Audiogon thread.

Never thought I'd see that combo. "Even if I'm smoked out, I can't be scoped out".

Thanks for sharing, Kev.
Ha! Rumadian, "Kids That's Rich" from Raekwon's "Vatican Mixtape" really is a great recording of the male voice. His style has characteristics that the recording, whatever the artifice going on in the background, does an amazing job of capturing. And the bass line is just insane. An all-time head-bobber.

And yesterday, I lost about a half-hour to the amazing "Snuffbox Imminence" by Ghost, one of the best super-trippy Japan bands extant. Like Acid Mothers, only without Kawabata shredding. On Drag City.
if raekwon ever hopes to break through to the audiophile market, he's going to need to lose mary j. blige and get diane krall on a remix.
Borjk? Glorious? Never heard that before.
Bjork is definitely a galvanizing performer. She absolutely kmocks me out, even as I admit that her latest recording is pretty sucktacular. Latest from both she and PJ Harvey broke my heart with the stank.
Not to derail this thread (I like Nola Boxers BTW) - my heart sank when I head PJ Harvey's latest album. Bjork's album isn't as bad, but it's not happenin' either...

I threw up in my mouth when I saw that ToneAudio put PJ Harevey's album as one of the best of the year - actually just about everything they listed is pretty terrible...
I know, right? And it isn't even that it isn't what PJ Harvey has done before. It just isn't good. I love the fact that she and Bjork don't sit still, creatively, but be good, dangit!

Speaking of PJ, if you don't have the "Rid Of Me" demos recording, it's worth tracking down. There's some pretty amazing, raw musicmaking on that one.
To get back to the essence of the thread, I am exactly where you are. I have been in this hobby/obsession for more than 30 years. I started with Tymponys and have had everything from those to B&W to Apogees.

I have had the Boxers for only one week, but find them incredibly accurate. They lack bass and an REL sub is definitely in my immediate future. They image far better than anything else I have owned, at ten times the price.

My listening room is not big and I understand that in a larger setting, I would not be as happy. I also have fairly good electronics. Leave it to say these are an incredible value at $1500.
You will find, Dmm53, that they break in rather nicely. I have about 50 hours on mine, and they're getting even better. Smoother, mostly, and I have never had a speaker disappear so completely. What a little gem.

I must say that I don't feel the need for a sub, though, which is good because aesthetically, that isn't an option for me. I'm finding the bass very satisfying, even as I realize it's never going to reproduce an earthquake. I wonder if the power that I'm feeding them has something to do with that? The 250 Deltas are bass monsters, for sure.

Glad you like them. The Boxers strike me as one of those rare audiophile products that's underpriced, and deserve consideration, irrespective of that loaded "for the money" qualifier.
I am extremely interested in these Nola Boxers and have been for a while now. Kev and Dm's comments only further my intrigue. Does anyone have any experience comparing them to the Master Merlin TSM-Mmi's?