Avalons will smoke Nolas
Please sir, no not really Goose. They are fine speakers as is the entire line of Nola speakers. Anytime someone says one thing smokes another, then beware!
You really must hear these speakers yourself to decide. I love the open baffle Nola sound over the Wilson sound, but this is a personal preference and Nola does not smoke Wilson. Avalon is different sounding and again does not smoke the other two. Just different and it all depends on what floats your boat! Must listen for yourself.
I heard the Baby Grand Nolas at RMAF last year. Walking down the hall outside the room, I was drawn in by the very dynamic and clean sound being put out, as they were really turned up with a track from Gladiator playing, a big sounding orchestral piece with which I was quite familiar.
Walking in, I was struck by how open and clear the presentation was, full of crisp dynamic attack and a good top to bottom balance. However, once I sat down, all the magic was gone. The very large baffle and array of drivers are mounted fairly high up compared to where the ear is situated when sitting. And because of the line array approach, all the goodness was now shooting overhead.
It looks like the Grand may not be subject to the shortcomings of its baby brother, as the array of mids and tweeters looks to start closer to the ground, allowing your ears to be on axis when seated. If that's the case, they'd make for one heck of a system that would offer up almost unlimited dynamics.
I also heard a few Wilson models at the show, and none of them sounded quite as good as the Baby (while I was standing at least). The Nola is one of the few open baffle speakers I've really liked. If they could only move that second woofer of the Baby to a position above the mid/tweeter array and bring the array down, to seated ear level . . .
Hmm well G maybe not completely --but having owned Avalons(Ascents and Eclipse) and comparing via my own demo disc on the Nola's my opinion starts with OK at CES--mind you with Nordost top of the line cabling! slightly harsh at RMAF to poor at last Newport--they were playing the Beatles at full volume--honky and boomy.
Mr and Mrs Nola need to up the Ante to get Moi onside--sorry to be the party pooper.
I call it as I hear it.
First, there's no doubt that Avalon and Wilson are well built, well thought out designs. They are quite different sounding. No one would confuse a Nola for a Wilson or an Avalon, etc. These are distinctly different sounding approaches.
Having carefully audited a long list of speakers at the price point, I went with the Metro IIs. If you've ever heard Quad 57s at their best, then add remarkably potent bottom end with very detailed top end extension that refuses to be strident or painful at high volume even with less than stellar recordings, then you have a Metro II. The upper bass/lower midrange, or the broad midband, is the heart of music. It's the specialty of the 57. There's little about either Avalon or Wilson that reminds me of the best virtues of a Quad 57.
There's no doubt that Avalon has better driver integration than the Wilson, IMO. However, the Nola is absolutely seamless. Remarkably so.
Another appealing virtue is their abilty to sound full range at low volume. They don't need to be pushed to deliver. I'll assume that the open baffle midrange has something to do with this. It's difficult for me to accept more conventional designs having become accustomed to a boxless midrange. I'll add that just about any incarnation of a dome tweeter irks me now after living with the ribbon in this speaker.
My room is 16' x 21'. I have them on the shorter wall, 6' out and 7.5' apart. They easily energize the space, far beyond my expectations. Before the Metro IIs I had Nola Viper Ref IIIs, which have double 9" woofers per channel. Somehow, some way, the Metros give nothing up to the Vipers in perceived energy. The Metros have as much kick and are faster. An upside is that I'm quite happy with 50 watts of quality tube power.
Good points Vladimir.
Nola's room at RMAF was good sized, and seemingly well treated. Like I said, when standing, the speakers sounded fantastic, no sense of overhang or room bloom, or funky reverb from bare walls and tile floors. Granted, it was a little larger suite than most people have for a dedicated room, but they are large speakers, and had no problem filling not only the room with sound, but the hallway outside as well.
It's just that the array approach, especially with ribbons, creates an almost laser beam dispersion in the vertical direction. As long as my ears were in line with the array, everything was there. But when seated on one of the provided banquet chairs (which put your ear higher off the floor than a typical lounge chair or couch), the diminished detail in the highest frequencies was immediately apparent. I was seated between 3 and 4 meters from the speakers, and from what I can remember, my ears were still below the lowest tweeter, perhaps in line with the upper woofer.
The fact that the array in the full on Grand Reference starts so much closer to the ground is a huge benefit. I've no doubt at all that the only shortcoming I could find in the Baby is thankfully absent from the Grand.
Interesting comments so far. I know the tweeter height relative to your ear position can be critical with some designs. I have the Avalon Ascendants currently but feel that I may be giving up some transparency on the upper end with this design. Show conditions can be troublesome and as mentioned I am using the basic rule of thirds with my current system with acoustic treatments and getting a pretty good sound with this set up. If anyone knows of a dealer that stocks the Nola Metro and Wilison or Avalon or other contenders I would like to know. Since I live in the Northwest my dealer options are limited. Thanks.
You're about to jump in the deep end of the pool. This is the price point were many of the more established designers begin to use their top shelf parts and materials in a system that touches their core statement of design.
At this level the only audition you can trust is over time in your own home.
You have been living with a system that pays close attention to time and phase. The other two systems your interested in are quite different from Avalon. Other established brands that share the same priorities with Avalon are Theil and Vandersteen.
The next level up at Avalon begins with the Indra three way but actually it's their venerable Eidolon Vision and Diamond. Avalon doesn't do the MKII, Special edition, yearly update. They are about to announce something in January 2013. I'd hold of for a few months if I were you and check their website.
I heard Nola Metro Grand quite a bit at my local dealer and have heard various Avalon, Wilson at friends' place and other dealer. However, I never heard Nola in the same system as other speakers so take this for what its worth. First, Nola's finish is nowhere nearly as nice as Avalon, Sonus Faber and is a touch better than Usher and to my eyes, nowhere nearly as nice as Wilson and Magico. However, having said that, if I could not afford Magico Q3, most likely, I would end up with Magico S5 or Nola Metro Grand. You definitely need tubes, or tube like electronics for sure. The midrange is full, rich,yet finely detailed and delicate and is as good as anything I heard even above its price point. You could not hear that it has ribbon tweeter and dynamic woofers. This is only true if you don't listen to it near-field. They really need some rooms to breath. The bass in punchy, fast and surprisingly deep for 2x 4 inches woofer. The bass quantity does not match Wilson Sophia but the quality far exceeds it in my mind. In comparison to Q3, the bass is probably the biggest complain. I could still hear slight wooden boxiness. I usually think of Magico as really having no enclosure sound at all (some of my friends think that I am hearing and addicting to aluminium box sound, rather).
For my taste, Avalon really does nothing wrong but is less exciting and just does not turn my head as much when I hear them for some reason. Wilson has bigger bass and slam but less detail and definition. The midrange and high while nice is not quite in the same league as Magico or Nola. Unfortunately I never tried Wilson or Avalon in my own room to really compare. I just hear them at show, friend's place and such but they just never interest me enough to really try. Personally, if I ever have enough money to upgrade beyond Q3,I would more likely pick Baby Grand over Q5 (easier to drive, more choice of amp) or Concert Grand over Q7 (Q7 would make a hole on my apartment's floor)!.Maxx3 and Isis just did not quite do it for me.
However, this is only as far as my taste and preference is concerned. I could see other people like Avalon or Wilson better for different reasons and they would not be wrong either.
I have heard the Nola Metros and the Baby Grands, as well as a number of Wilsons and Avalons. Ultimately, you really have to hear for yourself, each is different and has its strengths and weaknesses (mostly strengths--at this level, these designs are excellent). The one thing that stood out the most to me in hearing these Nolas as opposed to most speakers I have heard is a sense of space and airiness in the upper midrange and treble. Whether this comes from the open baffle design, the ribbon drivers or a combination of ingredients, it is quite distinctive and in my view very addictive. Goose, if you live near northern NJ there is an excellent dealer who can give you a good demonstration of these speakers, let me know and I'll give you the contact info.