For the second year in a row, the award for Best Sound at the Show goes to Accent Music Technology Ltd., makers of the Nola Concert Grand Reference Gold ($197,000 per pair). On the third day of the gathering, legendary loudspeaker designer Carl Marchisotto, assisted by Audio Research electronics and a United Home Audio Phase 11 ($28,000) master tape player, put on the sonic equivalent of a Fourth of July light show. Voices and chords appeared all over the place: Michael Jackson called from offstage way over there; Santana toted his wailing guitar from deep right-center to main microphone; a member of an African chorus hovered spookily over Paul Simon’s shoulder; previously unheard saxophone toots emerged from deep in the mix of "Black Magic Woman"; Stevie Ray Vaughn’s guitar chords exploded and then wafted overhead. The whole time, my eyes were as wide as Little Joe’s watching Shane unload a six-shooter.
"While I was in the room copies of masters of The Beatles’ White Album were playing, and "Ob La Di Ob La Da" and "Dear Prudence" gave me the unmistakable sensation of sitting in the control room and watching the Fab Four play on the other side of the glass. The resolution of McCartney’s Rickenbacker bass guitar on "Prudence" alone was the stuff of which musical dreams are made. Eerie and spectacular in its immediacy. As good as the original Concert Grands were, Carl Marchisotto has made incremental yet plainly noticeable improvements to this outstanding, and unquestionably world-class, speaker system."
Best of Show
Best Sound (cost no object):
Nola Concert Grand Reference Gold loudspeakers, Audio Research amplification, and United Home Audio analog (tape) source components. This system could -- and at times did -- offer believable glimpses of the real thing, and who could ask for more?
"The UHA Phase 11 OPS tape deck was the most realistic
front-end I heard, and when combined with the awesome Nola Concert
Grand Reference Gold loudspeakers, Audio Research tube electronics,
and Nordost Odin cables, the sound was sublime."