In my audiophile journey, I had tried various speakers of different make and the electrostatic speakers are one of the unique one that held a position in my heart. The electrostatic loudspeakers or ESL in short uses stators that suspended a very thin diaphragm to produce sound when they are charged. Due to their dipole structure, ESL can provide soundstage beyond conventional box speakers. When one asked about ESL vendors, Martin Logan and Quad easily rises as the answers. Many had confused that Magneplanar is a part of ESL family, but on contrarily, they are build differently where voice coils are conductive wires or foil stripes that are mounted on the Mylar film. The films are then charged to produce sound accordingly.
Coming back on today’s subject, I was fortunate enough to received not one but two Martin Logan speakers for review. They are the current model Ethos and the legacy model Vantage. I will be touching on the Ethos for now and share the Vantage in another review.
Martin Logan Ethos
Martin Logan Ethos design is descended from Martin Logan's renowned CLX loudspeaker, the new Ethos features advanced XStat electrostatic technology and a proprietary Vojtko crossover topology. The loudspeakers also come with a 24-Bit Vojtko DSP Engine and 200-watt digital amplifier that are coupled to produce bass from a custom designed front-firing 8-inch aluminum-cone woofer. Many would claimed that using an active subwoofer will “slow” down its bass development and causing the effect of inconsistency in overall tonal balance. The claim is true as the electrostatics are fast speakers and to achieve full spectrum of coherent sound reproduction, the diagphram of the speaker panel will need to be aggressively huge. Like the case of Magneplanar, majority of its size is actually meant for the bass frequency while the “tweeter” portion is just a mere few inches in width.
For Martin Logan, they had spent tons of R&D to create total coherency in their sonic reproduction. Thus the need of a fast active subwoofer with specially design DSP is required. The Ethos unique radiator enhances bass output, much like a port, but without port induced noise and midrange resonance. Ethos' passive radiator utilizes a full woofer suspension design to achieve maximize linearity during massive excursion. This proprietary intelligent DSP engine also allowed them to utilize a smaller passive radiator to obtain the appropriate level of bass performance required to flawlessly blend with the electrostatic panel. Ethos foot print is small, slightly bigger than the German Physiks unlimited 11 and smaller than the Carbon mk4 I had. It is also available in 3 hand-rubbed, real-wood finishes; black ash, dark cherry & teak for its bass cabinet.
Setup & Listening
Connecting the Speakers up is pretty straightforward, just that you need an additional power cord to be attached directly to each of the speaker’s active subwoofer. Aside from that, the speaker terminals are as usual, serving the electrostatic panel, plus a bass tweak knob for adjustment at the rear. If you think that simply connecting them up and placing them at where you put your speakers previously will do the job, you are up for surprise. The speaker’s placement required toe in as instructed in the manual. I tried doing the normal route and the sound was totally dull with collapsed soundstage. But doing the right approach by shining a light beam to the reflective panels of both speakers from your listening position, and adjusting them accordingly to the instruction, the final sonic presentation was rewarding.
Due to its convex nature in its panel, this uniqueness made their sound standout from the rest. The apex of the panel produces haunting vivid mid and high right on your face when you set it up correctly. It’s so frontal on your head that for a moment I felt that Kasia Lins was singing just mere inches from my face. It’s that eerie, but in a pleasant way. When my friend visited my place, whom is a headphone audiophile, exclaimed that the sonic presentation is exactly similar to a pair of high-end open can headphone. He called that intense impression I felt referred to as “headstage”. With that correlation, when the Ethos was perfectly tuned in placement, the sound stage was somehow becoming like what my friend mentioned. Not in a bad way, instead it’s very much open with full-scale presentation, back and forth, with vocal focus expressively towards you.
The highs are revealing and separations can be demonstrated with ease. The mids are full-bodied and deliberately creating the razor sharp focus right on your head. On its bass performance, they were actually alright but lack the tight punchy sensation I preferred.
Listening to Martin Logan again since my last audition on its bigger brother Summit X years ago, brought back many joyful moments. This is a wonderful pair of entry-level speaker from Martin Logan and I recommend readers to audition prior to settling for the mediocre speakers. They are not cheap, but am sure it will give you the lifelike sensation you yearning for in your listening room.
- Vivid lifelike presentation
- Razor sharp imaging
- Huge soundstage
- Bass not tight and punchy
- Fussy in placement