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Martin Logan, a few comments.

Discussion in 'Home Cinema Speakers' started by uncle eric, Jun 7, 2002.

  1. uncle eric

    uncle eric
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    If I may, a few words regarding Martin Logan speakers discussed in the “Most Overrated Speaker” thread.

    Not long ago, I decided that as an installer, I wanted to specialize in certain “ranges” of Home Cinema / Hi Fi equipment. There were many reasons for my thinking, one of which being it makes my job a whole lot easier by (constantly) establishing the “value” pieces of both mid-range and higher-end equipment and concentrating my efforts in getting to know them well and therefore wring out every last drop of performance without too much effort. To this end, I’m lucky enough to beg, borrow and have offered to me, a wide variety of equipment to try out.

    A short while after Gordon Frazier came down for a visit, I managed to borrow a pair of Martin Logan Scenario’s for a period of around four days. I used my Denon AVCA1SE, and a (borrowed) Marantz 17KI Signature CD player. Interconnects used were Musical Fidelity Nu Vista.
    The Logan’s were some 6-8 months old and well run in by a close friend.

    My first observation was that while these speakers had a smallish footprint, their height made them fairly imposing therefore perhaps not welcome in every home. Having said that, I quite liked the way they looked.
    Along with these speakers I was given a 20-25 page instruction manual and was told to “get on with it”. Not really one for manuals, I put it to one side and positioned the speakers more or less where my own were, which was around 7-8ft apart, toed in and equidistant to my listening position. I won’t tell you what my reactions were during the first few minutes, suffice to say a swear word or two flew out of my mouth. The worst speakers I’ve heard in my room yet? Possibly! The result of my first attempt was an ill focused image with a dreadful soundstage and a very muddy mid-range thrown in for good measure. Disaster in fact.

    I then decided to take a look at the manual and found that the vast majority of it was in fact devoted to positioning, which turned out to be of the utmost factor for this, and by their very nature, most electrostatic speakers. After many hours and as many coffee’s I finally began to achieve acceptable results.

    By the end of the four days, my constant fiddling, moving and tweaking yielded reward after reward.

    The Logan’s were very engaging and offered a nice wide soundstage. I found the mid-range especially pleasing as it was smooth and detailed at all times. While the high frequencies were perhaps a little laid back, overall they were very detailed and delicate. I played a variety of music and felt they handled just about everything very well with two exceptions. Firstly, exchange the words “very well” with fantastic for its operatic and classical prowess. The Logan’s vocal abilities are amongst the best I’ve heard. Smooth, unflustered and very natural sounding with little or no simblance often picked up in the human voice. As for classical instruments, because my daughter plays the Violin I’m very familiar with its sound. I thought she was in the room.
    On the minus side, “Rock” performance, whilst not too bad was a tad down. During Queens, “I’m the Invisible Man”(one of my favourite demo pieces), it almost felt like the 8” conventional woofer in this hybrid speaker wasn’t quite keeping up with the electrostatic panel during periods of high dynamic contrast and fast transients. Somehow, the panel was outperforming the woofer. Controversial maybe, but that was my feeling.

    Other observations?
    Speaker positioning and seating are of course linked. Once positioned for the primary listening position, I found a move away from the prime seat fairly disastrous. When I sat a little too far to the left or right, a phenomena known as “beaming” was taking place. Beaming (when lateral dispersion becomes narrow) results in a smaller sweet spot which is often less desirable. This is fairly common with Electrostatic speakers and is usually countered, with some effect by bowed panel designs such as those used by Martin Logan. I also found that by moving slightly forward, the centre image collapsed into the Logan’s. Though this central collapse also happens with conventional speakers while moving forward, the Logan’s cut off point seemed to be a lot earlier than most.
    Another problem I had was with the overall design. Generally speaking, most will be aware, that where possible, they should try and keep speakers away from boundary walls, floors and ceilings in order that they avoid any number of acoustic anomalies (too long to list here). One of the main problems with Martin Logan ESL main speakers is that due to the nature of the design, the woofer ends up very close to the floor. Because some of the frequencies produced by the woofer are to a great degree localizable, at times, some voices sounded “slightly out of place”

    *Note, If you look at most other floor standers, the woofers are mostly kept at some distance from the floor*

    My last observation though purely speculative is I think highly logical so you will have to bear with me on this one. Electrostatic panels have a shortish lifespan compared to most conventional speaker/driver designs. In my experience I’ve heard folks replacing them at 5/6 years while some have lasted twice that period. Like all speakers, ML’s need to be run in. At some point during the ML’s life, overall performance of the electrostatically charged panel will reach optimum level. After this optimal point, the panel degrades gradually over time with the end result being its replacement. To my mind, after the peak, this degradation is a gradual process. Unless something drastic is done to these speakers, this is not a light bulb situation that just goes pop.
    How does this degradation effect their overall balance? How much does it degrade? To what extent is the degradation slope? etc etc etc.
    All the above is of course variable and would very much depend on each set up and the way the ML’s are integrated into various systems and equipment.

    To sum up. I concur that these are indeed fine natural sounding speakers. If you need speakers to throw down and sound good from the off, these are not for you. However, if you have the space, patience, a few aspirin and a large pot of coffee, they can sound very nice indeed.

    Eric
     
  2. Charlie Whitehouse

    Charlie Whitehouse
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    Eric,

    At last some words of reason about these speakers. It's far too easy on forums like this for people to rubbish products and put off prospective purchasers from even trying them. My advice to anyone considering these speakers - go and listen for yourself to some well run-in and set up ones and make your own mind up whether you like them or not. If heavy rock is your thing then they may not be the wisest choice, but classical music, jazz and most kind of vocals work really well.

    As for what shows up their abilities best, my own first choices would have been solo vocals and violin solo. It's what I use, having re-positioned mine, to make sure that they are back in the proper places. As you discovered, placement is everything with these. Millimeters one way or the other really make a big difference. As for the small sweetspot, it doesn't matter if like me it's only you that you have to please.

    On the longevity issue, having had to replace the electrostatic panels on my own Sequel II's after about 5 years, I can confirm that degradation is a gradual process, though it does accelerate, and you soon realise that you need to do something. In my own case, there was a reduction in the clarity of the top end, and it was obvious that the power amp was working increasingly hard to drive them. When you get the blue led's on with the KSA-200S, it's an indication that it is working at maximum bias, and it started doing this on an increasingly regular basis while delivering only moderate sound levels. Replacement of the panels was relatively painless. It cost me £450, which on a £3000 pair of speakers, I didn't consider too extortionate, given that they were good as new afterwards.

    After replacing the panels, the top end was distinctly 'fierce' and took a couple of weeks to return to their normal character which is admittedly a bit laid-back. But you can adjust this to some extent by playing about with the speaker rake and toe-in.

    It's also worth pointing out that on early ML's the electrostatic panels were 'fired up' all the time, whereas the newer models only fire up when they sense a signal being applied. The change was made to increase the longevity of the panels. With mine, I had this modification to only power-up on demand, after 3-4 years so it's entirely possible that their original state led them to expire in only 5 years. With the newer models 7-10 years should be possible.

    Anyway, don't be put off by the opinions of some. Go and listen for yourself. :D
     
  3. Guest

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    Now who's being mischievous :D
     
  4. stranger

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    uncle eric, may i go off at a tangent to pick up on something very close to my heart by pinching a bit from your last post(don't take that the wrong way!) wring every last drop of perfornce from the equipment you've got before upgrading youre hardware. the most enjoyment i get from my stuff, is getting the best out of it before upgrading. russ andrews advocates spending 90% on accs. and 10% on equipment, well he would wouldn't he? this is the opposite to mags. advice. the best bet imo is to exp. with tweaks etc. and make sure you are getting the best out of what you've got before spending on a h/ware u/g.to my mind this is what hi-fi enthusiasm is all about, don't just do what the mags say, read and inwardly digest the info. on the forums and experiment- you'll have a lot more fun and get more out of this wonderful hobby?
     
  5. Gordon @ Convergent AV

    Gordon @ Convergent AV
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    Derek,


    Great and interesting review...oh and my names Fraser......:D

    Going to CEDIA?

    Gordon
     
  6. uncle eric

    uncle eric
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    Thanks Gordon,
    Looks like you've also caught Chips misspelling illness.
    Derek? :mad: ;)
    Re Cedia, Sadly I'll be away on business. If you go, let me know if you see anything interesting. As far as I'm aware, the predicted flood of combined DVD-A/SACD players will not be happening (until next year perhaps). Apex seems to be the only one following in the footsteps of Pioneer with their budget combo player.
    Have a look at the new Faroudja Scaler/DVD player combo if possible.

    Best Wishes
    Eric
     
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    Uncle Derik,
    thanks for your review but i dont like the idea of speakers getting worser over time. spending 3 grand should be enough without spending another 4-500 quid every few years.
    i also dont like the idea of messing around with positioning.

    In my book, good speakers should sound good anywhere.
    sorry.
     
  8. garmtz

    garmtz
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    Indeed, some very good points raised here. I think placing speakers correctly is important for ANY speaker. I don't think there are any speakers that sound good "anywhere". ML speakers have a long break-in period and can sound horrible when placed incorrectly (for example, the Scenario speakers really need to be tilted more forward to sound really open). They have worse dispersion than dynamic speakers and can be a pain to drive. If you don't use top-notch sources, the results will also be less than ideal, to say the least. All true. But I am completely hooked to the very fast, neutral, "hear through", natural sound of these speakers when driven and placed correctly. They also really come alive in a surround setup, where their limited dispersion really pays off. Listening to most box speakers for me can be a disappointment, because I hear more "enclosure" and different units trying to work together. The ML models are hybrid speakers, but the integration between the panels and woofer is really good.

    There are some speakers I also really like. Among them Thiel, Tannoy (Dimension), Avalon (expensive) etc. but none of them seem to work as magically as the MLs in a multi-channel setup. But as always, different people, different opinions.
     
  9. Guest

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    Hooray, Garment and his decaying speakers are back :D :D
    Only joking mate. Nice to have you back.
     
  10. garmtz

    garmtz
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  11. stranger

    stranger
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    which garment are you letting slip? big sister is watching:devil:
     
  12. Guest

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    Anyone know any dealers in West London who has these on demo? I'm thinking of upgrading and the Logans are one of my candidates.
     
  13. uncle eric

    uncle eric
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  14. Charlie Whitehouse

    Charlie Whitehouse
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    A few come to mind that you could try...

    The Listening Rooms, 161 Old Brompton Road, London SW5 0LJ (020-7244-7759).

    O'Brien Hi-Fi, 60 Durham Road, West Wimbledon, London SW20 0TW (020-8946-1528) - right next door to Absolute Sounds.

    [EDIT] Late addition, nearly forgot....
    KJ West One, 26 New Cavendish Street, London W1. (020-7486-8262/3)

    There may be others... [/EDIT]

    A bit further out, my own local dealer in Watford: Acoustic Arts, 101 St Albans Road, Watford, Herts, WD17 1RD (01923 245250).

    HTH. :)
     
  15. Guest

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    Thanks Charlie mate. The nearest one to me is KJ West One. I'll give them a ring on Monday and set up an appointment. I trust Erics ears entirely but as one of my original candidates I'd like to give them a go. From the looks of things you seem very happy with your Logans.

    Mark
     
  16. Charlie Whitehouse

    Charlie Whitehouse
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    For information, Martin Logan has announced a baby brother to the Descent subwoofer called 'The Depth'. This one's a tad more compact and may have better WAF characteristics... :devil:
     
  17. rob_w

    rob_w
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    Sorry but just read through this thread,

    "If heavy rock is your thing then they may not be the wisest choice, but classical music, jazz and most kind of vocals work really well. "

    I've got to question why a £3000 speaker cant play rock music?

    This isnt a wind up, as I've always wanted some esl's, but surely an accurate transducer will portray all types of music properly?

    btw I also listen to a lot of heavy dance type stuff....


    Rob
     
  18. garmtz

    garmtz
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    In fact, I listen to a lot of rock and dance (Tool, Underworld etc.) and I think the MartinLogans can play this pretty well. They however do sound more "polite" with these types of music than with speakers with dynamic drivers. Less "slam" so to speak. However, the bigger the MartinLogan, the more drive. With the Prodigy, you will probably not crave for more dynamic slam!
     
  19. Charlie Whitehouse

    Charlie Whitehouse
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    Please note, I only said '*may* not be the wisest choice'. Garmtz is right. Of course these speakers will play Rock and any other type of music you care to throw at them. But, particularly with the older and smaller versions, although they are nominally rated at 200W per channel, in practice if you approach those limits, the sound 'hardens' and if you continue to push them, eventually the membranes start to hit the stators and you get very audible distortion. This still won't cause damage, other than to your hearing. We are talking pretty loud here, but if you want to reproduce head-banging levels on a regular basis, conventional drivers may work better, hence my advice. With the ML's, so long as you keep well within their operating envelope, they will work just fine.

    My Sequel II's were one of the earliest that ML produced. The design of the panels has developed over time, and the more recent models have improved in terms of their ability to meet their rated power handling specifications. I now use the Prodigy (c£11,000) as my main L&R and they have 300W per channel capability. The combo in my room is quite capable of reaching reference level and beyond.

    As in all things, if you are tempted, do go and get a proper audition from a reputable dealer that knows how to set them up. In the wrong room, incorrectly placed, with the wrong electronics driving them you would come away with quite the wrong impression.

    HTH. :)
     
  20. rob_w

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    Maybe I've read too many reviews of valve amps with esl's - they dont seem to output big power, and this could not help?

    My mates got hold of a pair of quad 57's, so I'm going to drag my sub over to his to have a demo..

    I'm pretty sure that above reference level is too loud for my ears anyway!

    Cheers
    Rob
     
  21. garmtz

    garmtz
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    Just keep in mind that the Quad ESL 57 is not al all comparable with the MartinLogan series of speakers.
     

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