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Martin Logan Electro Motion ESL Speakers


At the time that this review was posted it was over 3 months and I had not received a call back from Martin Logan. I had contacted them with questions about their product. I had left my info with a worker who said they would pass on my request. Not hearing from them is concern, especially since the cost of their product is high one would expect, and hope for a good customer relationship.

I did call them again and finally made contact with someone who took care of reviewer - I believe he was in marketing. He was unhelpful, cold and somewhat rude. I was extremely surprised that he held a non-existent consumer friendly, let alone press-friendly tone. My request to review more product was turned down since he felt the product I requested didn't require publicity, or review (it was the EFX). He simply made excuses for me not being contacting in the previous 3 months. Again, I was extremely surprised and have never experienced this in over 25 years of reviewing and dealing with companies. Especially since when I looked as where some of their product have been reviewed.

Although Martin Logan's products are excellent, and of high quality it concerns me that there is so little customer support - especially for such high end, and cost, products. If making a purchase, make sure you are covered by the place you buy from - don't expect much from Martin Logan.

This is a word of caution for the consumer

There are 9 models within Martin Logan’s ESL speaker offerings. With a price starting point of an incredible 80-thousand-dollar price tag; they also run down to a more affordable $2,500.00 amount.

Still, their lowest is way out of range for many. This technology offers so much and is still a very “high-end” product. But what does one get when investing in this expenditure? Is there a difference in lower priced simple speaker technology? Really…?

Reviewers have written that there is a sound difference between the ESL and common cone-based speakers. They also have stated completely positive reactions to these ESL. But why? What is the difference, and would most notice?

When the ESLs ordered arrived they came via UPS freight. The two boxes weren’t very large, but I was at first concerned about the weight because the delivery man stated he would not aid me in getting them into the house. The measurements of each speaker is 52.1" x 9" x 16.3 " (132.3cm x 22.9cm x 41.4cm), and the box isn’t that much larger. The specs state that each speaker is only 35.5 lbs so add another few for the box and you’ve got an easily lift-able item. Bringing them up the Unlike all other speakers I’ve reviewed these come with an adapter for each, to be plugged into an AC outlet. An extremely low electric signal is sent to the sound panel. Now this might cause some problems for some depending on where you’ll want to set these speakers up. It’s something to be considered when making your purchase.stairs and into the house was no bother.

Each easily came out of their packaging and was ready to set-up.

Unlike all other speakers I’ve reviewed these come with an adapter for each, to be plugged into an AC outlet. An extremely low electric signal is sent to the sound panel. Now this might cause some problems for some depending on where you’ll want to set these speakers up. It’s something to be considered when making your purchase.

To make things a little neater I used a wire cover option to gather both the AC wire, and speaker audio wire into one line.

The rear connectors for wire connection are nice but I didn’t feel were up to the standard of the rest of the design. In fact, they are, at least to me average. In design and construction is simply just fine and good enough.

The rest of the construct is tops. The panel itself is striking and eye pleasing. My only concern over time is a dust build up between the grilled panels. There is no way to completely dust the super-fine clear plastic sheet that reproduces the sound.

I connected the speakers to a Marantz SR8012 which has a 205 watts per channel – and believe me, there was no strain.

The speakers would be integrated with Martin Logan’s Motion 4i’s (surround) and Motion 6 center channel, in a 7.1 surround system.

Positioning the speakers is mentioned in the manual using a flashlight and the reflection of the beam to acquiring the best angle. I just hit and missed moving the speaker until I got a perfect place – about a foot from the rear wall and the same from the nearby cabinet.

My first attempt was strangely unsatisfying. For some reason the sound was flat, and muffled – lacking any highs what so ever. It was late so I just left it alone and went to bed.

The next day when I went to begin my assessment on 2 channel stereo something had changed – the speakers suddenly sang!

I don’t understand – perhaps it the speakers needed time to charge or get a charge. All I know now all highs were being produced and it was night and day.

The sound I was hearing was very different from all other speakers I had reviewed, and owned. To compare with the Orb Audio speakers first, simply because they have a single transducer creating the sound, and the ESL are a single electrostatic transducer. The ESLs display has wider audio color that completely kills the Orbs; and rightly so. Also, within the ESL lower body is an 8-inch low-frequency woofer integrated perfectly producing lower frequencies to complete the sound delivered.

But still… what is the sound like?

Well it hard to explain, but I would say it’s direct, and clear, precise, and truly separated in terms of stereo dispersion.

I have never heard speakers so completely and seemingly so perfectly balance within stereo imaging.

Most of the music I listen to was orchestral – classical, film soundtracks. I did also review pop and some rock. New Age as well. The results were astonishing. Much more was revealed than I had ever expected. Especially since just reviewing the Martin Logan 40 Towers.

First and foremost, the sound was absolutely crystal clear. Not bright, not sharp – but clear. There is a sense of reality to the sound that transcends it coming from a speaker. It’s real. Never did I hear background noise, or straining, colorization, or distortion.

In certain recordings layers were disclosed, even individual instruments were not more prominent. Many of the musical samples I used were from film soundtracks – composers like Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, Leonard Rosenman and others. Sounds, especially in electronic compositions came across with more detail that was previously hidden. Literally I heard sound not previously noted, and others that were less auditable – now much clearer and pronounced. Music in general was more detailed with layers that were previously slightly muted.

But in all, it was a sonic clarity and improved depth that made the listening experience more open, real, and cleaner.

The large panel spreads the sound from a wider source unlike a regular tower in which is higher, and mid-range sound are usually dedicated in the upper part of the unit. Although the lower bass is produced from the bottom region it never seems that way. Instead there is a one complete sound force seamlessly combined.

One thing to remember is that Martin Logan states there is a break-in period, so what I’ve been hearing is still under that time period. I would assume the bass driver will come into it’s own, louder and more powerful after that time. Still a complete sound spectrum is heard.

I do have a powered subwoofer with the system for true deep end reproduction – but enough is produced from the ESLs to hold their own.

In a surround sound set-up the performance was very dramatic. I found they completely disappeared… until needed. Yes, the sound, depending on the film’s mix, was slightly heard it more like “suddenly” came on when needed. This was especially true with effects and dialog. It was extremely dramatic in presentation and made for an extreme theatrical experience.

One of the films I used to test is LOGAN’S RUN. The mix is extremely wide and dynamic. Vocals are panned, music is truly separated and sound effects shoot from front side to side. It is a wonderful experience as how films were mixed. Another real test is a scene from THE EXORCIST where Carl is moving chairs to the attic. The sound begins in right surround, then to the front right, then ends with dialog in the center. It’s not loud but a great pan and slide of sound that did not disappoint with the ESLs.

In fact, the ESLs deliver such clean sound even less mixed stereo films sound better and delivered more separation and depth.

I found the position of the speakers is less forgiving that the company suggests. Yes, they have a narrower frontal spread (30 degrees over the 40 Towers 80 degrees) but still the pure cleanliness of the sound travels out better, and wider than expected.

There was no fatigue upon a longer listening. The tonal aspect is never annoying or harsh.

I was even surprised in playing MONO films – a phantom center was achieved with a great wide balance that detracted from either the left or right in terms of origin.

The ESLs integrated well with the 4i’s delivering an excellent transition of surround material. The thing about all these speakers is the transition of sound – it was instant and quick. Suddenly heard as if heard in a theater.

I’ve heard some people don’t like this representation of the sound. Some time it can come off as an unnatural sound. I personally don’t agree. In better cinemas the sound is balances in such a way it’s a bit of a surprise hearing delivered with striking energy. Now this is available at home!

Although the 4i’s delivered Martin Logan does have ESL speakers that are thinner and lighter to be hung on the wall that will make excellent surround speakers to totally match with these floor units. (Hopefully I will be able to assess a matching set-up in the future).

The best part of having these speakers is no sacrifice what so ever in having a 2-channel set up and home theater experience. These speakers equally fit into both, delivering a sonic experience unequaled; in a caliber, once considered impossible.

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