I'm definitely interested in what people have to say on this topic. I have the Totem Sttafs right now; they're a giant killer (in that price range). Nola are great speakers but I've also heard exceedingly favorable comments about Totem Forest speakers.
FWIW I auditioned the Forest signatures on excellent electronics (Macintosh) and even before burn in I was really impressed. A few days later I auditioned regular Forests on mediocre electronics (Integra) and wasn't so impressed. Not sure if it was the signature upgrade or the electronics upgrade or both that made the difference. But I can definitely vouch for the Forest Signature Edition. Never heard the Nola's.
Interestingly I also auditioned the Vienna Acoustics Beethoven juniors on very nice Conrad Johnson gear and found the sound not only impressive but very similar to the Forest Signatures - though for a couple thousand$ less.
I have heard both.
Forest with Jolida, Conrad Johnson, and McIntosh. Really liked
the sound, great imaging and vocals; a tad dark, but the sound
was rich and powerful. Good mids helped with the imaging. The
highs were really really smooth (reminded me of the Vienna's,
but with way better mids).
The Contenders were a major disappointment to me. Heard with
McIntosh gear. Bass was muddy, mids were recessed, imaging was
fuzzy and the highs had no sparkle. My experience was 180
degrees different from all the reviews I read (major
Just my humble, subjective, observations.
Thanks for everyone's comments and thoughts. Hopefully others will chime in.
I was especially interested in Mj's impressions. Wonder how much might have been due to speaker break in and/or the vaunted "synergy" (or lack thereof).
Mj - do you recall if the Mac gear was tube or SS?
The Mac gear driving the Nolas was SS (new integrated with DAC; the gear driving the Totem's was SS, other than the Jolida integrated). Interestingly, the Contenders were placed next to a pair of the new, Focal Aria 926 speakers (same Mac gear driving these). For the same price, I overwhelmingly preferred the Focals. I was listening to rock and electronica. The Focals had way more bass, imaged better, had that sparkly top end that I like (mind you, I didn't find these bright-and I have not really heard a bright speaker in a long time). Neither speaker was using "good" cable, it was by the foot Monster or something.
I found the Nolas to sound lifeless by comparison. I walked in prepared to buy the Contenders (based on all the pro reviews I read)...but found that they just were not incrementally better than my current setup. (certainly not for 3x the px).
I had the FORESTS (and ARROs simultaneously) in a prior system. They are fine kit, initially impressive, with a big "BUT" attached as follows:
(1) They are very "grunt" hungry to perform at their peak. "Grunt" is interpreted as high quality electronics (ergo $$ expensive) that produce both lots of high watts and very high current. I had to bi-amp them to maximize their performance possibilities. Frequently they are paired up with either PLINIUS, AYRE and SIMAUDIO (and other similar big) amps at the shows.
I would STRONGLY suggest that you scour the many posts on both A-GON and also on CanuckAudioMart ("CAM") about the Forests (and most Totems) being very power hungry beasts.
(2) They can sound lovely, but they have led many owners away to eventually selling them off because they can be very fatiguing.
They sound great at demonstration (higher) volumes; but even I traded them in to get something more "refined"(? ..the right words fail me) at lower listening levels; and especially with smoother music genres preferred (jazz, classical) as I age.
FORESTS frequently come up for sale on both AGON and especially on CAM. That is my take on why.
Akg - Thanks for the comments. I currently own Forests. Have had them since 2007. Ran them with a JoLida 502B initially then eventually went to Cyber 800SE 78wpc mono blocks. More power/current definitely made a difference but 78 wpc is not crazy high. Listen in the upper 70s to mid 80s db-wise most of the time. Peaks into low 90 db (C weighted, Slow response on a RS spl meter). Also use a Hegel 200 wpc integrated from time to time. Both amp systems sound really good with the Forests. And while admitting to a little early infatuation with the Hegel, I've come back to the Cybers as my primary means of amplification. The Forests just sound very good with these tubes, even in loud complicated passages. Personally, I think talk of the Forests being power hungry (I've read a number of posts here on A'gon claiming this) is a little over done. But that's not to say they wouldn't sound even better with some uber amplification that I don't have. My interest in the Nolas is whether they might represent a "step up". [Window shopping, really. Can't audition where I am located so interested in others' experiences.] Mjmch's experience might indicate otherwise.
when I went to go see the Nola's, I told the sales guy my
budget...he said "I have just the speaker for
you," and then showed me the (less expensive) Focals. I
said, "what are those Nola speakers?" thinking
maybe his payout was better on the Focals...he said
something like, "oh those are Nolas, you want to hear
them?" So, he swapped inputs...I put my tunes on, and
in 5 seconds I was just shocked. I said, "wow, kinda
dull." And he said something like, "yep, not as
good. That's why I didn't bother to show you to begin
This is EXACTLY the type of sales guy I want to do business
with..!! (he had all that reviewer hype that he could have
Mj - hope my closing line was clear. I meant that your experience with the Nolas might mean they wouldn't be a step up from the Forests. Now you have me curious about the Focals. Appreciate your additional comments about that audition.
(1) have a peek at the SPENDOR D7s if you are looking at quality 3 way floorstander contenders.
WHAT HI-FI 5 STAR RATING:
extracted reviews comments:
Precise and articulate presentation
Deliver a huge sound for their size
-- The finest Spendor speakers weve heard in years. When it comes to insight and precision, these floorstanders set the standard at this price
(2) higher up the food chain = REGA RS10s
I do not believe the Contenders would be a step up for you.
Akg - got it...check out Spendor.
Mg - message received.
Thanks to all.
Quite a diversity of comments here. I attended the Newport Beach Audio show in 2011, 2012 and 2013. I kept going back to the Nola Contender room again and again as it was doing music like so few other setups. The man in the room kept saying, "you again?". With an ARC CD player and integrated amp, the sound was simply phenomenal. For an $18k retail setup, only a couple of the 100k systems got my attention as this. Sometimes the setup man simply does it right. For $3500, I have yet to hear another dynamic speaker that comes close to this
.not even close
not Spendor, not Harbeth, no the VR series
.albeit with stellar components elsewhere required. I ended up buying the Boxers for my apt setup.
Ironically, one of the few other setups that knocked my socks off each time was the Totem speakers. The dynamics and clarity with mid-priced MBL electronics was simply stunning.
Yeah, the comments don't seem reflective of Stereophile's measurements, where Atkinson found slightly more mid treble energy. Certainly isn't a dull speaker. My personal experience is that it's quite detailed, in a musical way, not in a hi-fi way.
The most obvious, eye-bulging effect is how deep the soundstage is. That seemed to be the same observation one of TAS' reviewers found at the 2011 CES. Think it was J. Valin who said the soundstage was huge
if a speaker is "dull", it is not going to have a big soundstage, since that requires significant treble extension.
I said, "wow, kinda dull." Yep, that is what I also thought with the newer Nolas. Could not understand how they could not sound better than my Alon V MKIIs. My friend went to the audio show in Brooklyn and he heard the Nolas (higher priced models). He has heard my Alons for many years and never said more than the sound very nice. He called me and said that he found the last speaker he would ever need and if he could afford them, he would buy them. Go figure. I am not sure why they sounded dull in the dealer set-up and knowing what the Aalons sound like, I cannot imagine that the sound that Carl has designed is worse than the Alons. Unless he and his wife have gone deaf!
Bigkidz--remember that the Contender and Boxer speakers are closed box designs, not the open baffle designs Alon used to make. The higher priced ones are open baffled for the mids and tweeters and use a ribbon tweeter, that's why I far preferred them to the Boxer/Contenders and probably why your friend liked them as well. The Boxers/Contenders are good designs for box speakers, but once you have that open, pretty much boxless, sound in your head they can come off as duller in comparison, in my view.
Your Alon Vs are terrific speakers. One of the NJAS members has them, and has had a number of upgrades done to them by Carl to get the drivers closer to the Nola ones. He;s been very happy with the results, and I thought the improvements were quite noticeable as well. Might be worth considering if you get the upgrade bug.
Russ, yes, I forgot to mention that in my comments. I thought that the open baffle ones also sounded a little dull versus my Alons but they also were more refined. It is hard to say because I am using a DHT preamp and DAC versus what the dealer was using. Once I finalize the last few adjustments, I will contact you for a listen.
well, I have a pair of the Esprit (similar to the Elite and Viper speakers, but with only one woofer), and i can't say that their treble is better than the Contenders - with one caveat: the tweeters in more recent versions of the Contender do not have the mid-treble rise that the older versions have, and consequently, even though they sound fantastic, the older Contenders give the impression of more detailed. It's not the very top that gives the detail, it's the region between 2k - 10k that will make a speaker sound "bright" - or, conversely - dull. I have both older and newer Contenders and they don't sound the same, I can tell you that. One version of mine is from 2010, and the other from 2013. I like the 2010 version better. The difference is clearly the tweeter, which I had replaced when one blew in the older pair. It was OBVIOUS that the replacement tweeter and the original had different energy in the 2-10k band. All you had to do was play 1 speaker at a time, placed dead center in front of the listening area and play something with considerable treble, and on one speaker, the orchestra was sorted out in rows, while on the newer one, it was more "compact"- sounding and you could not hear flutes, piccolos, clarinets as distinctly tonally different from each other.
I heard the $27k ones at the New York Audio show, too, and they were crystal clear-sounding. And if you have $30k for the electronics to put in front of them, they'll sound spectacular.
If you don't mind stand mounted speakers, I would look into the Scansonic mb1.
There only limitation would appear to be quality of the amplification. Far superior to either speaker you are looking into. Sounded like they went down to around 50hz or lower. They are $2200 and an extreme bargain.
Mag , have you heard the Raidho speakers? If so, how much do the Scansonics sound like the Raidho?
Same family resemblance. Slightly less refined and I mean slightly.
A stone cold bargain. The price difference is huge. The law of diminishing returns is stretched to the max.
Thanks Mag, I look forward to reading a complete review of these.
Do you know anything about future reviews? I would imagine interests is huge given the amazing price and pedigree (coming from the designer of Raidho)